Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Space Ace Racing Bike: Peugeot PY-10FC

Peugeot PY10FC cover

It's a climber's dream come true. It's stiff enough to win a European field sprint. It's light enough to please any time trialist. It's comfortable enough for the Race Across America. It won't rust. There's no paint to chip. It's held together by glue. It's not cheap. It's Peugeot's top of the line: the 19-pound carbon fiber and aluminum PY-10FC. Bicycling, 1986

After Britain’s TI Reynolds wrung the last ounce out of the traditional lugged steel racing frame in the mid 1970s with its 753 tubing, France’s Vitus (Ateliers de la Rive) turned at the decade's end to developing new materials and technology for the bicycle by adopting new advances from the aerospace field, continuing the relationship that began when bike mechanics Wilbur and Orville Wright pioneered aviation. This combined carbon fibre, aluminium-magnesium Duralinox and epoxy materials, the French manufacturers Vitus, Bador (a French aerospace pioneer of carbon fibre) and CLB (famous for its cast alloy cycle components) and new methods of bike construction that was far cheaper and faster than traditional lugged construction to produce a radical new range of cycle frames both all-aluminium and "composite" ones with carbon fibre main tubes and cast alloy rear triangle, head and forks. The composite variant was claimed to be 30 per cent lighter and 8 per cent stiffer than comparable lugged steel racing frames.

Vitus designed and produced the 979 Duralinox tube sets, forks, head tubes and rear triangle stays, CLB produced the cast alloy internal slip-fit lugs, bottom bracket, fork crown, drop-outs and rear brake bridges and Bador adapted its aerospace methods of heat-activated epoxy bonding of the carbon fibre or alloy tubes and manufactured the framesets.

Developed in 1978, the first Vitus 979 all Duralinox frames were introduced in spring 1979 and marketed under the Vitus name as well as other established French makers' such as Mercier and Bertin. Meanwhile, development continued on the composite variant in which the three main frame tubes would be carbon fibre instead of Duralinox to provide a stiffer, more responsive ride. In this, the lead was taken by France’s largest cycle company, Cycles Peugeot, which not only had the worldwide markets and name to sell the idea but also the pro racing team to establish the carbon fibre/aluminum concept where it counted the most: the European professional peloton.

To Peugeot's separate racing bike unit, Prestige Peugeot (established in 1974) fell the task of adopting the new methods and materials to the most challenging and demanding of all bicycle types: the professional racing bike. The result was the PY-10FC (FC standing for Fibre de Carbone) which was first introduced in 1983 by the Peugeot-Shell Team two years after the all Vitus 979 PX-10DU was first used by then Peugeot-Esso Team. The new machine alternated with the Reynolds 531SL Peugeot Pro-10s.

Peugeot manufactured its own carbon fibre tubing rather than buy “off the shelf” tubing and this featured a special method of wrapping the fibres at specified angles to provide maximum stiffness while the 2.93 cm diameter was slightly larger than the tubing used on the Vitus Plus Carbone frames again to stiffen the frame and ensure the machine was comparable in handling to the Peugeot team's Reynolds 531SL framed Pro-10s so the riders could switch between the two types at will. To mate the larger diameter tubes to the standard Vitus lugs, a special double-male adaptor plugged into the carbon tubes and the aluminium head and bottom brackets. These appeared on the outside as 1 cm aluminium collars or frets and the whole arrangement made these Peugeot frames considerably stiffer and stronger especially at the all important bottom bracket.

For all its remarkable materials and methods, the Peugeot PY-10FC was both a very light racing bike (averaging about 18 lbs for a fully equipped team bike or about two pounds less than a comparable 753 or 531C framed machine) and a very traditional one in appearance and features. Eschewing the trend to aero or oversized tubing, it had conventionally shaped round tubes, seat binder bolt (unlike later variants) and 74.5 (head) and 73.5 (seat) angles (57 cm frame) whilst the combination of natural graphite grey carbon fibre tubes and satin finish alloy forks, head tube and rear triangle made it one of the most elegant and distinctive looking machines of the peloton. So as not to introduce stress points to the carbon fibre tubes, braze-on component mountings were eschewed so gear levers, front derailleur and bottle cages etc. were all of the traditional clamp-on variety although the original top tube brake cable clamps on the first 1983 team bikes soon gave way to epoxy-bonded cable guides.

Peugeot PY-10FC French ad

The PY-10FC was, along with the Vitus 979 Mavic SSC-fitted machines, the last bastion of the all-French racing bike. Indeed, unlike the British Reynolds framed Peugeot Pro-10s, it was entirely French save for the Weinmann brake set (Switzerland) and the Selle Italia saddle (Italy) with the cream of French component manufacturers represented: Stronglight, Atax-Philippe, Mavic, Maillard and Simplex and back under their individual identities with the demise of the Spidel combined branding.

The design was not without its faults. The combination of the very rigid main carbon fibre triangle with the more “springy” alloy ends and fork caused a lot of stress at the joints although fractures were few even in competition, the joints could eventually work loose. For this reason and to add to the stiffness desired in competition, the team variants of the PY-10FC had the bb shell pinned as well as glued to the tubes. Even so, most of these frames used by the Peugeot Team were good for about four months of heavy competive use before the stiffness diminished and they developed the "whippy" quality that was the one real negative of Vitus 972 frames, either full alloy or carbon fibre composite.

But there was no doubting that the PY-10FC was a superb racing machine and one ridden by one of greatest “grimpeurs” of the mid 1980s pro peleton, Robert Millar, to win the King of the Mountains title in the 1984 Tour de France and it was the principal mount of the Peugeot team 1983-1986 and also used by the reformed Peugeot-“Z” team the following year. The last time a Peugeot rider held the Yellow Jersey was in 1983 with Pascal Simon on a PY-10FC.

Peugeot's "Foreign Legion"

The advent of the PY-10FC coincided with the last years of the Peugeot racing team dominated by its French star Pascal Simon and a unique group of Anglo-Saxon riders, the so-called "Foreign Legion" of the continental peloton, who rose through the ranks of the Peugeot-sponsored amateur club Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt (ACBB) outside Paris: Allan Peiper (Australia), Stephen Roche (Ireland), Sean Yates (England), Phil Anderson (Australia) and especially Robert Millar of Scotland whose triumphs (King of the Mountains 1984 Tour de France, the first and only English-speaker to have done so and 4th place overall, the highest finish to date for a British rider) and trials (1985 Vuelta) were astride a PY-10FC and enshrining it in what was the glory days of British/Irish/Australian competition on the Continental racing circuit in the 1980s.

Peugeot PY10FC 1985

Team Bikes/Team "Replicas"

Befitting a cycle manufacturer sponsoring its own team (one of the very last in the mid 1980s), Peugeot always offered a Team Replica in its range representing the top-end in terms of frame and components and in team livery and, c. 1974-1982, built by the Prestige Peugeot division as were the actual team bikes. And with the exception of the famous Masi-made bikes for Simpson and Merckx in 1967, team members really did ride stock Peugeot machines but with differences in components:

Simplex LJ (Lucien Juy) 4000 CP/SP Team Edition Rear Derailleur
Most distinctive of the team components is this exquisite and very rare derailleur that was normally used in racing instead of the team replica spec'd Simplex SLJ Aerodynamic. This is a factory customised version of the Simplex 4000CP, the last top-end variant of the famed Delrin bodied derailleur, with drilling of the aluminium pulley cage plates, the alloy pulley axles, delrin pulleys and the tension plate reducing the weight to an extraordinary 145 grams. This particular example was sold to Robert Broderick by an ex Peugeot-Shell mechanic who said it was a "take off" from a team bike and used in but one stage of a race.

The front derailleur, an otherwise stock Simplex SLJA522, has also been modified per those used on team bikes with the "S" logo on the front of the clamping band drilled out.

Team machines used a variety of wheelsets, but most typical was a 32-hole Mavic SSC in either silver or grey finish. 28-hole wheelsets were used on the flats and time trials for lighter riders and 36-hole ones for mountains and rough surfaces. Grey SSCs have been fitted here but the hubs are the older Spidel decalled Maillard 700s when they should be the post 1984 version with Maillard silk screened on the hubs. A refinement that will have to wait acquiring these rare versions!

Brakeset: the Peugeot team changed over to aero cabled versions of the Weinmann 400 Carrera with the new sloted levers at the beginning of the summer racing season 1986. The earlier style has been fitted to my machine out of my preference for non-aero brakes.

Handlebars and stem: on team bikes, this was usually a Cinelli 1R stem and 'bars instead of the Atax-Philippe components on the team replicas sold to the public.

1985 Peugeot PY-10FC

A 1985 PY-10FC

Material: carbon fibre three main tubes, Duralinox Vitus 979 rear triangle, head and forks
Lugs/bottom bracket/fork crown/drop-outs and rear brake bridge: CLB cast alloy
Colour: Peugeot Racing Team livery: graphite grey carbon fibre three main tubes, polished and lacquered natural alloy rear triangle, head and fork
Size: seat tube 59 cm (c to c), 61 cm (c to t), top tube 57 cm (c to c)
Angles: 74 (head) 74 (seat)
Rear spacing: 130 mm
Wheelbase: 38.5"
Chainstay length: 16"
Bottom bracket height: 10.5"
Fork rake: 1 9/16th"
Trail: 2.20"
Weight: 18.7 lbs complete machine

Rear derailleur: Simplex LJ4000CP/SP Team Edition with factory drilled alloy pulley cage plates,alloy pulley axles, nylon pulley wheels and tension mounting plate. 145 g.
Front derailleur: Simplex SLJA522 clamp mount
Gear levers: Simplex SLJ5057 retrofriction levers, clamp mount
Chainset: Stronglight 107 42t x 54t, 177.5 mm cranks, French pedal threads 14mm x 1.25mm
Bottom bracket: Stronglight 701, titanium hollow spindle, French thread 35x100, 224 g.
Headset: Stronglight A-9 French thread 25mm x 1mm (25.4 tpi)
Stem: Cinelli 1R 110 cm
Handlebars: Cinelli no. 66 Campione del Mondo 42 cm with Benotto white celotape and plugs
Brakes: Weinmann Carrera 400 with recessed allen bolts
Brake levers: Weinmann drilled 501
Seatpost: Simplex SLJ6164 25.0 mm
Saddle: Selle Italia Turbo black
Pedals: Maillard CXC 700D platform black anodised
Toeclips and straps: Christophe chrome plated steel model 70 adjustible clips and white Christophe straps
Rims: Mavic SSC grey 700x20mm 32-hole sew-ups
Tyres: Tufo Jet-Pro
Hubs: Spidel/Maillard Professional low-flange 32-hole with Simplex skewers
Freewheel: Maillard Course zycral 6-speed 13-19 t
Chain: Sedisport Sedicolor 4DC silver
Accessories: T/A alloy bottle cage with anodised Cobra clamps and T/A Peugeot bottle

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