Restoring A Retro 10-speed – final part

Today I finally put the final touches to the 1987 Peugeot Provence that I’ve been restoring over the last few weeks.

Every bearing has been cleaned and regreased, all the worn cables and gunky chain have been replaced, and the whole bike has had a thorough clean and polish. The bike is otherwise as it was when it came out of the factory 30 years ago, with the exception of the gearing and the stem.

All The Gears But No Ideas

The original gearing on this bike was a 52-42 chainring at the front matched to a 14-28 5-speed freewheel at the back. I thought that the 52t big ring was excessively high for riding a heavy bike over long distances, while a low gear of 42-28 probably still isn’t low enough for some of the tougher local climbs.

Plan A was to run a custom 42-28 double at the front, using a Spa Cycles triple crank with a chainguard instead of the outer ring. I was keeping the original friction gear set up so there were no compatibility issues. Unfortunately the chain guard I ordered didn’t quite fit so I added a spare 34t ring I had lying around and made a 42-34-28 triple.

The next part of the learning curve was that with a small 28t inner ring the original derailleur just didn’t have the reach to pick up the chain for upshifting. After a wasted evening I read up on what Sheldon Brown had to say about derailleurs and bought a new Sun Tour triple derailleur which works perfectly and keeps the retro look. The derailleur is higher than I’d like in order to prevent the derailleur cage catching on the chainstay but it works and that’s what matters.

The other major difference is the handlebars. I’ve often struggled with neck and shoulder pain when riding with drops. I’d always blamed having too long a top tube but after  reading through these very enlightening articles on bike fit from Rivendell Cycles it dawned on me that my reach problems are probably caused by handlebars that are too low rather than too short a top tube. The high stem isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the original, but the elevated drops are an absolute pleasure to ride. No discomfort, no rounded shoulders, and no pins and needles afterwards. I’m even able to ride in the drops most of the time, which I’ve never been comfortable enough to do on previous bikes.

As an aside, I really like the no-nonsense philosophy that Rivendell have about their bikes. They recognise that most riders aren’t trying to win the Tour de France and prick the little bubble of pretentiousness and self-deception that is involved in the marketing of many modern bikes. Mind you, as much as I’d have loved to have replaced my stock stem and handlebars with a Nitto Tallux and a set of Nitto Randonneur handlebars, I’m not prepared to spend more than twice the cost of the entire bike doing so.

The handlebars were wrapped with a few lengths of old inner tube for comfort. On the drops and tops I’ve double wrapped at the points of contact just to reduce any road buzz a little bit further. The only downside was that with the extra thickness underneath there wasn’t quite enough bar tape to finish off neatly, but I can live with that. The bike is going to be my daily do-everything machine and is never going to win any concourse prizes in any case.

I took The Peugeot out for a spin round the local lanes this afternoon and it was a joy to ride. The drivetrain was smooth and quiet, the fat tyres absorbed everything the potholed roads threw at them, and above it was a breeze to pedal along comfortably. It won’t win any time trials (although it is quick enough) but I’m certain it will do its job and carry me everywhere for a long time to come.


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