Steve Lodholz’s Peugeot UO-10
During the 1970’s there was a bike boom in the United States. A lot of the fuel for the boom came from local Schwinn stores of course, so a big portion of new cyclists rode out and about on American-made Schwinn Varsity and Continental models. Raleigh had good representation on the roads with great options for Anglophiles, Bianchi offered beautiful racing models from Italy, and a steady stream of quality Japanese bikes made by Panasonic, Nishiki, Bridgestone and others rolled out the doors of American bike shops.
What about the French? Record numbers of bicycles from Gitane, Motobecane, and Peugeot toured, raced and commuted to work on American asphalt.
This is one of Peugeot’s most popular models, introduced in 1977, the UO-10.
The UO-10 was a mid-range model for Peugeot, good for light touring, fine for trying a little bit of bike racing, not too expensive if it got stolen from a campus bike rack. The thick steel frame tubing made for a less expensive model than the light weight PX-10 racing bike (which was made out of thin-walled Reynolds 531 steel), while the aluminum rims and upgraded crankset made for a better ride experience than the entry-level UO-8.
Like a lot of brands in the ‘70’s, Peugeot sourced parts locally (for them). Local meant Sedis chains, Huret and Simplex component groups, Michelin tires, Wolber or Mavic rims, and miles of Vitus frame tubing.
Peugeot offered stylish designs and reasonably good value, but they had problems maintaining quality in the face of increasing demand. Paint and chrome was often done poorly, and rust was a common issue. Frame alignment and threaded fittings had to be fixed or worked around by bike shops. The French components that were selected for their bikes were often based on half-baked designs.
Nonetheless, people seem to have a soft spot in their hearts for old French bikes, and are willing to overlook certain quirks.
My early ‘80’s Gitane, for instance, came equipped with plastic shifters and a plastic rear derailleur. These parts worked so poorly (in Minnesota, a place so flat that one hardly ever had to shift gears) that they were immediately replaced on the new bike (and being a Gitane apologist, I never complained to anyone about having to do it).
For some of us, the chic looks of a Peugeot or Gitane outweighed any quirk. Allegiance to a famous racing team or a rider like Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault was more important than plastic shifters.