1987 Gitane Vitus 979
It’s not a Gitane. While we’re at it, it’s also not a Cilo or a Peugeot or a Motobecane or Cycles France-Loire or anyone else. It’s a Vitus 979.
Vitus was a tubing supplier to a lot of different brands and offered this complete frameset as an option too. Somebody like Gitane, a bike maker with a dozen different steel models would label a Vitus frame as their own (usually omitting the giant Vitus decal on the top tube) and voila! Aluminum bike.
Vitus 979 framesets were made of small diameter 5086 aluminum tubing that was slip-fit onto aluminum sockets and then glued into place using a heat-activated type of epoxy. Bikes like this one were lighter, springier, and in a lot of instances, more comfortable than what steel bike brands had to offer
This bike and it’s parts were at the forefront of the mid ‘80’s road bike design revolution. We already mentioned the aluminum frame with its glued joints replacing the traditional lugged steel frameset. As for the parts…
The Look ski-binding style pedals had only recently gained a “foothold” among bike racers, replacing old-style toe clips and straps.
Indexed or “click” shifters, already popularized in ‘87 by Shimano and Suntour, get the Italian interpretation on this bike courtesy of Campagnolo. I believe we have Chorus Synchro II shifters here, the second version without the little auxiliary lever the first iteration had which allowed the rider to revert to friction shifting on the fly in case the indexing didn’t work. Campy did pretty well with the shifting on this bike considering that they didn’t produce entire drivetrains like their Japanese counterparts. Campagnolo had to design their indexed shifting without knowing whose chain would be used or what kind of spacing to expect the third-party freewheel to have. By about 1990 Campagnolo brought production of these parts in house.
Oh hey, how about the saddle on this bike? It’s not a traditional leather model by Selle Italia or Selle San Marco, which is notable given how traditional road bikes had been for so many decades. This is a Lycra-covered gel saddle mounted on a real racing bike, a Huracan Crono model that resembles the Selle Italia Turbo Bio model that was fairly popular in ‘87.
Complimenting the stripped saddle on this bike we have Benotto plastic handlebar tape. Popular in the 1980’s for some unknown reason, Benotto tape offered absolutely no padding and hardly any more grip than a raw aluminum handlebar. So if you wanted shock absorption you were out of luck but at least you could pick an option from among about 30 colors.
This bike is for sale from our museum collection. It’s a 56cm size, good for a rider 5’8” to 5’10” tall, and perfect for enjoying a retro-themed Eroica ride just a tiny step ahead of everyone else. Only $1499.