Building a Minimalist 5-speed Peugeot

Author: Harv

Back in August 2005 I blogged about a Peugeot that I found in the trash near my house. It is a 1972 model UE-8, which is a fully-equipped touring version of the ubiquitous UO-8 that was very popular during the bike-boom of the early 1970s. I stripped off (but did not discard) the fenders, rack, dynamo, lights, and kickstand. The original rear Simplex derailer had broken jockey wheels which made the bike unrideable. I believe this is why the bike was trashed. I replaced the rear derailer with a Shimano SIS which I had stripped off of a kid’s mountain bike that I had previously retrieved from the trash a couple of months before.

Being a minimalist, I stripped off the front derailer and ground the teeth off the large chainring (which serves as the spider), leaving me with the 44 tooth ring. The low gear was still too high (I live at the top of a 2 mile, 8% grade hill) so I replaced the original Maillard freewheel (14-24T) with the Shimano freewheel from the same kid’s bike (14-28T). Bottom gear is still high, but I can easily climb my two mile hill.

I replaced the drop bar with a flat bar and Tektro brake levers. The Tektros are the only modern part on the bike. Grips are Italian motorcycle items. For the rear shifter, I used a handlebar mounted friction front shifter left over from another project bike where I eliminated the front derailer. The original shifters were the downtube type. I used the downtube shifter mounting boss to anchor a cable-stop that I fabricated from aluminum.

I cleaned up and rebuilt the original track-style pedals and attached a pair of Christophe chrome toe-clips that I have had since the early seventies, and added leather straps. Cranks are the original cottered type. I modified an automotive tie-rod extractor to make a cotter press for servicing this crank. That cute bell on the left side of the handlebar that you see on the above photo is the original aluminum French bell that was mounted on the stem.

I polished off the surface rust on the Rigida chromed steel wheels and put on new 700c x 25mm Hutchinson tyres and new tubes. Interestingly, all references to the wheels on this bike (as imported to the U.S.) have specified 27 inch x 1-1/4 inch and not 700c which was used only on French domestic bikes. I lucked out, the 700c wheels are much preferred. I replaced the brake shoes with severe-service items. The bike does not stop as well as a modern bike so I am working on improving that. The front cable hanger is steel and flexes noticeably. I think a cast aluminum hanger will help here.

I have a new Selle Italia saddle which will be mounted shortly. I decided to not repaint the bike despite the chips and scratches. I cleaned and rubbed-out the original metallic green finish, leaving the decals intact. I carefully waxed over the decals and paint. I painted the spokes with a silver finish. I added brackets for an LED headlamp and tailamp as well as a triple-plane reflector to satisfy the California legal requirements for night riding – which I do frequently. I used hose-clamps to mount a water bottle cage and an Adel clamp to mount the period Zefal frame pump.

So, for very little money plus some take-off and found parts, I have a minimalist urban 5-speed bike with that classic lugged-steel ride, retro-grouch friction shifter and toe-clipped pedals. I can meet up with like-minded souls at the Rose Bowl (Pasadena) retro-ride with one of the oldest bikes present (and the only one with cottered cranks and steel wheels). I can continue to service the hubs, bottom bracket, pedals, and headset indefinitely (no cartridges) and replace freewheels, chains, derailers, and shifters with parts from trashed department-store bikes.