Gitane was one of the first companies to develop bicycles
specifically for time trials. During the late 1970's, Gitane
began developing a bicycle which would be more aerodynamic
than the normal road bike. The bicycle that resulted was
radically different from other road bikes of the time and
paved the way to today’s “super aero” TT
Click on Thumbnail to enlarge picture
|Hinault aboard his 1st generation Gitane
||The 1981 TT's seatpost binder bolt
||1984-1988 TT Bike - Modern & fast
looking even today!
||2001 Francaise des Jeux
|Don Lofter's 1981 Gitane TT, in perfect
||Gitane Time Trial Frame - 1990's
||Hinault, contemplating another TT victory
||The 1981 TT's front end. Note the backwards
||Laurent Fignon, Tour Prologue 1986
In 1981, Gitane manufactured the first TT specific bicycle.
The bike was not made available to the public and was never
featured in any company catalogue. Only made available to
the racing team, Bernard Hinault powered the TT bicycle to
great results throughout 1981 and beyond. It featured ovalized
tubes made by Reynolds and featured internally routed cables
throughout, a feature which was revolutionary for the time.
It is unclear if the tubes were custom made by or for Gitane,
although it is clear that the seatpost was made specially
by the company. Also interesting is the crude seatpost binder
bolt, which literally would be “screwed into” a
shim slipped between the frame the custom “crushed” seatpost.
Also of note is the front brake, which was mounted behind
the fork for added aerodynamics and the bladed seat stays
and head tube. Few examples of this bike exist today. The
example pictured was used as a display at a New York City
bicycle show in the early 1980's, and is in near mint condition.
While this bicycle was available to Hinault during his time
trials, it is interesting to note that he did not use this
frame in all of his time trials. Also, Laurent Fignon did
not use one in his final time trial during the 1984 Giro
d’Italia, where he lost to Francesco Moser on the last
day’s time trial, thereby losing the Giro. It is unknown
if the bicycle was even available to the team at the start
of the 1984 season. Perhaps the team suspected that aerodynamics
did not play an important role in time trials?
After the debacle of 1984 Giro, Gitane introduced the second
generation of its TT bicycle in the Tour de France. Instead
of redesigning the entire bicycle, Gitane modified their
1981 TT bicycle to accept the new and more aero “cowhorn” handlebars
and a 650c front wheel. While most other companies came up
with designs which featured standard round tubes with sloping
top tubes and standard stems, Gitane used their 1981 aero
design with a smaller front wheel and a bar which attached
through a cutout in the head tube, attaching the handlebar
directly to the steerer tube.
The result was a hammerhead-like design which was remarkably
different than any other TT bicycle of the era and which
was ahead of its time. Even today, Gitane’s 1984 TT
bicycle does not seem that dated.
The essential design, under different color schemes and
stickers, was used by Gitane teams from 1984 through 1988,
with great successes along the way. There were versions which
used the standard 700c front wheel. In the late 1980's, Gitane
produced a “superbike” prototype, which was featured
at a few bicycle shows, but never raced (to my knowledge).
In the 1990's and through 2003, Gitane made TT specific
bicycles which were used by its professional teams. In the
early 1990's, there was a different version made for triathletes,
which used standard round tubes but was fashioned like an
mid-1980's “funny bike.”