As a researcher one of the aspects of my peculiar hobby that I find most fascinating is that every bike that catches my interest seems to have a backstory, a mystery, or a challenging history that begs to be unearthed. Case in point: the Peugeot Touraine that I liberated from a thrift store yesterday morning.
My wife was doing rounds at the hospital; while I waited, I decided to drive down the road to see if there were any thrift stores in the neighborhood. Score! There was, in fact, and in one aisle stood a bike with road handlebars. I didn’t at first even recognize it as a Peugeot. It was a little dusty, the saddle was extended well above any sensible height, and one of the brake cables was hanging limply from the caliper. But it looked solid enough and came equipped with dynamo, rear rack, lighting, and fenders. As I grasped it by the top tube, I was startled that it lifted as easily as it did – especially given the additional weight-inducing equipment. The seat tube identified the frame as “HLE,” a Peugeot-specific Mangalloy steel, and in a moment of clarity the bike suddenly looked a lot different to me: I could visualize it cleaned up, and I checked to see which model was printed on the top tube. A quick glance left me thinking it was a Tourmaline – a model with which I was remotely familiar, and I knew it well enough to associate it as one of the better quality Peugeots.
I made a low offer; because the manager really wanted it out of the aisle, she said I could have it for ten dollars – if I took it with me right then and there (which really wasn’t an issue for me.)
It wasn’t until I got home and looked the bike over more carefully that I realized the model was actually a “Touraine.” A Touraine? What the heck is that?
I immediately began to research it. Initial Google searches revealed very little: a couple of bikes for sale in Europe, and one very nice example in Indianna, here and here. A fellow in Scotland has one. Hmm. Peugeot serial numbers are often a quagmire of meaningless numbers, a morass I’d been in before and pointlessly wasted many hours dredging through – only to find that when it comes to Peugeot, serial numbers seem to have been stamped completely at random.
Time to check the catalogs, then. Retropeugeot.com, Cycles Peugeot, and re-cycle.com both have excellent – though somewhat incomplete – links to Peugeot catalogs. More than once, these online resources have helped me to narrow my focus and locate indicators of model year and – occasionally – original specifications. The Touraine I acquired is a little confusing: it’s a ten-speed with Rigida Chromalux wheels that are suggestive of an earlier era, but the graphics are clearly late eighties, and the frame is not lugged. After searching all of the English-language catalogs available, it was soon clear that the Touraine had not been released in the USA, Canada, or UK. Neither had it been available to the Netherlands. But I hit pay dirt with the 1987 and 1989 French catalogs: there it was, listed under the designation “1/2 Course Randonnee” in 1987, and “Demi-Course Randonnee” in 1989. Later, I found a flikr gallery with a blue Touraine identified as a 1990 vintage. (I don’t have a French catalog from 1990, so I don’t know if the bike is correctly attributed or not.)
The graphics on my Touraine do match the 1989 catalog, although they seem to be placed on the seat tube slightly differently. The color options of anthracite ou violet (anthracite or violet) jibe with the gray hue on mine. But the builds are a little different: mine has a Sachs/Huret rear derailleur as opposed to the specified Simplex (Really? Simplex on a 1989?) My seat is black, the spec is white. And my fenders are painted white rather than what appears to be chrome or aluminum in the 1989 catalog.
So far, questions to the bike forums have really only created more questions than answers. I’m not sure what a “demi-course” or “1/2 course randonnee” refers to, for example, so I’m not clear exactly how the Touraine fits into the Peugeot lineup… a “sports-touring” bike? A light tourer?
So what I’m able to determine is that the bike was not available in the United States, except by special order – but why would someone special order a bike when there are clearly superior models readily available? I’ll keep digging.
Update, 9 January 2010:
My questioning paid off! This clarification from a Touraine owner in France, helps to shed some light on how this model fit into the 1987 – 1990 Peugeot lineup:
“Demi-Course” bikes are cheaper type of “Randonneuring” models. In other words these are made compatible for urban uses and for some distance such as few tens of kilometers. “Randonneuring” is a type of organised long distance bicycle riding, with rides typically covering between 100 and 1,200 kilometres.
For example : 1989 Peugeot Anjou
* “Touraine” was the name of a former province in France.