Me neither and you won’t believe how historically important this bike is.

In this part of France there are lots of Brocantes a bit like a jumble sale on steroids. There is clothing, furniture, lighting, you name it you can find at these Brocantes. This is possibly why Sue refers to them as “tat shops”. I love poking around them, it’s amazing what you can find.

At my favourite Brocante I recently spied a rather smart looking brushed aluminium road bike. I had a quick look and it appeared to be a quality frame with aluminium tubes and lugs/dropouts. It had a decal on the frame VITUS 979 Duralinox a faded STRONGLIGHT decal across the top tube and no other branding. I had not heard of Duralinox 979 although I am aware of Vitus bikes which I thought was a recent creation of Wiggle/Chain Reaction parentage.

I thought about it for a while and then went back to negotiate a better price.  No luck there I had to pay full price € 198.00.

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Having now spent hours researching this bike on the internet, the decal is correct I have bought a Vitus 979. This was a very high quality early 1980’s French made all aluminium racing bike frame. It is an aluminium tubed frame with aluminium lugs that were glued.  My research suggests that it is a 1981 version. It has the top tube integral rear brake cable, original seat post clamp and only one set of bottle cage lugs.

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By 1978 Vitus, a manufacturer of cycle frames, was bought by a French company called Bador who, amongst other things, were aerospace component assemblers and had built up expertise of using 3M epoxy resins/glue for making aerospace components.  Using their knowledge of manufacturing and assembling light aerospace aluminium components a unique method of joining the tubes and lugs with 3M heat activated epoxy was developed. This made the Vitus far superior to the Italian Alan frames using no screws or pins at the joints.

Bador assembled a standardised range of frames which, otherwise identical, were “badged” and “decalled” for most of the principal French cycle firms including Motobecane, Gitane, Liberia, Bertin, Mercie and Peugeot. Vitus also sold them un-branded to local bike shops which makes sense as my bike has no stickers or headbadge.

The Vitus 979 is a historically important frame in the evolution of racing bike frame manufacturing. It is also one of the most prolifically used frames by professional cyclists in the 1980’s as it was very light and comfortable albeit lacking a little lateral strength at the bottom bracket.

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Prior to this frame the construction process of bicycle frames were tubes of steel that were welded/brazed at the joints.  The tube manufacturers like Reynolds and Columbus produced the tubing and raw materials and the frame makers performed their magic with lugs and paint finishing.

The Vitus 979 due to its’ highly technical process of joining the aluminium tube and lugs meant that the frames couldn’t be assembled by anyone other than Bador. Amazingly, Vitus were able to sell the frame to many teams and other brands retaining the Duralinox 979 badge.

I have taken the bike for a short ride and I have to say I am impressed it is certainly twitchier than what I am used to but it’s certainly no slouch and quite light. What is scary though are the brakes or lack of them I can only liken them to drum brakes on a car.

The Vitus frame became “the” frame of the early/mid 1980’s and because it was sold unbranded it was ridden by pro teams under different brand or just team names.  Sem-France Loire, Peugeot-Esso branded as a Peugeot PX-10DU. It was even re-branded by Vilier Triestina and used by the Supermercati Brianzoli-Wilier team in 1984.

Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche, Australian Phil Anderson and many others rode the Vitus 979 to many victories in the early and mid 1980’s.

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My bike’s Components

Not surprisingly, the bike I bought is mostly fitted with French componentry.  Albeit later versions from mid 80’s onwards would probably have had Shimano components. The likes of Sean Kelly and Stephen Roach bikes had the rare Tout Mavic groupset.

The brake levers and seat post are Campagnolo. The brake levers being pantographed “Eddy Merckx” which are apparently somewhat rare and can command a price not far off what I paid the whole bike.

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The wheels are Mavic G40’s and Mavic hubs. Research suggests that the Mavic G40’s where one of the first anodised wheel rims which meant that they required far less rigorous cleaning than the silver steel rims and stayed clean.

The groupset is also interesting. In the 70’s the French cycle components were dominant throughout the world. However, Simplex, Huret, Stronglight, Mafac, CLB and others joined forces to be known as Spidel in the late 1970’s early 80’s in an attempt to combat Shimano’s march on the component industry.

The front mechanism is a Spidel branded Simplex triple and the rear mech is a Simplex 550.

The gear levers are Simplex “Retrofriction” which were the chosen shifters in the day. Used by most of the peloton over any other brand including the Campagnolo offerings. I have learned that these are very sought after by those restoring 1980’s racing bikes with downtube shifters.The crankset is Stronglight triple and brakes are Spidel (Simplex).

This is a pedigree bike with many top end components and a classic frame of the era.

This bike will be my winter project I want to bring it up to concourse condition and replace any components that are not of the era, like the saddle and tyres and also replace the inner and outer cabling for the brakes and gears.  It will then be hung up taking pride of place on the wall of the dining room.

Did you or anyone you know have one of these bikes or did you drool over the adverts for them in the cycling magazines.

Do you remember downtube shifters before the indexing systems that we have today?

If anyone has any experience of restoring a bike of this age what would you suggest use to clean the chainset/groupset? And what if anything can you use on the aluminium spokes and frame to stop it oxidising after polishing. Drop me a message below.