The majority of bikes I come across here in the Perigord area of South-West France are low end ten speed racers typical of the ‘bike boom’ of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Even these cheap bikes have a certain charm to them, but are not necessarily for everyone. I was keen to do something a little different with a bike, and when I came across this Olympique I knew it was a good candidate. It’s a nice looking bike, but nothing special in quality or equipment – I wouldn’t want to mess with the configuration of a higher end bike.
I believe this brand was built by Gitane at the time, with the spec of this bike originally being identical to Gitanes ‘Tour de France’ model. Olympique was also the name used for Gitanes top model, so Gitane may have had rights to it (although things like that seemed to have mattered a lot less in ‘70s France than in today’s more litigious world.)
Although the bike is likely to have been built in the late ‘70s, the style is more classic, reflecting the ‘50s or perhaps even earlier. I wanted to try and capture the spirit of a pre-war path track racer. The racing bikes of the belle epoch (early twentieth century) predate derailleur gears and drop handlebars, having fixed gears and moustache handlebars. I chose to rebuild this bike as a singlespeed, as a fixed wheel bike is not for everyone and is a more involved rebuild process. Path track is an English term that refers to early grass racing tracks or ‘paths’. Bikes of the day would be dual purpose, ridden to races, perhaps with panniers and mudguards, which would them be removed in order to race.
The first step was removing the gears and double crankset, replaced with a 46 tooth single. I re-dished the rear wheel to correct the chainline and fitted an 18 tooth singlesppeed freewheel, giving a relatively easy gear suitable for most terrain.
I swapped out the drop handlebars for moustache bars, and the Mafac brakes for CLB. The levers are from the ‘50s, and the callipers more recent, but they have a timeless quality to them. I’m very happy with the finished bike, I really like it’s retro look and I hope it brings it’s new owner many miles of happy riding!