Bike Mysteries

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.comCycles 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
i419.photobucket.com/albums/pp271/qeugeot/198 9fr/1989fr_2…

* “Touraine” was the name of a former province in France.

View Reza Amanatchi’s beautiful Peugeot Semi-Course bikes here.

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22 thoughts on “Bike Mysteries

  1. oz says:

    I was just recently given this touraine bike and its loaded with all kinds of goodies,not sure what there all called but it was purchased in france in mid 80s. Very nice shape.

  2. Josh says:

    I also have a Touraine that my parents bought in France back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I have it in the UK now and it is a decent ride. Replaced the rear derailleur which was cracked, but otherwise mine is much the same as the photo above, although the gear shift is on the down tube….

    • The Touraine is assuredly an interesting and uncommon find. I had for a time considered installing bar end shifters to replace the stem mounted component. But the bike was, as I recall, entirely original and I couldn’t bring myself around to the swap in the end.

  3. I recently bought a bike off a former marine that had the same writing. It said Mangalloy HLE Peugeot.. The bike itself is in perfect condition. The former owner told me he bought it in Germany 25 years ago and has kept it tip-top till now. It has actual racing tires on it. I am looking to add a few accessories on it and revamp it but don’t know where to start.

  4. Dan Ruddick says:

    Interesting read! I came across this while researching my Peugeot Pantera that looks very similar. Got given it a couple of years ago by a family friend when I wanted to start cycling in the city. Can’t seem to find it in the brochures, but has simlar decals etc. to the 1989 bikes (this one included), it’s black rather anthracite.

    Here are some other people’s:

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Peugeot-Pantera-mens-vintage-road-bike-/261090128796

    Would love to find out some more info!

    • I’ve never come across a Pantera before but from the photographs it looks like a very interesting model and likely one of the better quality Demi-course versions. Feel free to share a link to a photograph of your bike so we can capture it for others to see.

  5. Airy says:

    I’ve got still my “Touraine” since new, I was then 14 years old, a beautifull anthracite 1989 one, with white accessories. “Touraine” is the name of the area from the city of Tours in France, well know because of the Loire castles, thus this bike is dedicated to light touring, with a large and resistant lugage and light equipment. Aluminium Rigida wheels set with white sides hutchinson tube tyre. As Peugeot models changes almost every year at that time (colors and accessories) there was not so much sold. Moreover Peugeot remains not that cheap not like MBK/Motobecane. HLE (standing for Haute Limite Elastique=High Tensile Strengh) frame is not really heavy and still resistant. I ever travelled from supermarket to home once a week (2x10km) with a bit more than 150kg (me+utility load) on the bike without any problems (living alone with my mother who hasn’t car and didn’t drove anymore), and going school everydays,etc. Over years, only white plastic turns to yellow, and front headlight broke as the plastic get dried by UV. A fantastic bike to me, fast with large load!

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I very much appreciate hearing from you, especially because so little can be found about the Touraine model. First hand experiences are especially interesting for that reason.

  6. Agtar says:

    Hi! Airy,
    I just bought a Touraine off CL, as my old bike was stolen last week. I would be interested in emailing with you about it, as you have had one since new. I am at least the 3rd owner of this one.

    • What a really nice looking project! And it looks to be the same or similar vintage as the Touraine. If I recall correctly from the catalogs, those particular graphics are, I think, from about 1989. Thanks for sharing!

  7. jon says:

    Thank you for your article, which I found whilst researching information on one I was given, here in France. As a foreigner living here all the old things French people choose to discard, I relish in. You see beautiful bikes been thrown to the rubbish every week and a friend gave me one which was covered in 20 yrs barn dust with about 5kms (3miles) on it REALLY.
    Having a very expensive bike next to it , I can comment that it rides beautifully in its environment (France) but does struggle in Spain which I have put a bio-pace MTB set up on to compensate.
    There is a justified reason why the statement of “steel feels real “, it really has relived some back pains that an “ali “frame if not set up right will inflict.

    • For better or worse, steel has been – and continues to be – my frame material of choice. It meets my personal expectations in terms of aesthetics, it is repairable and durable, and as you’ve already pointed out, the ride quality for many of us seems to be superior.

  8. cfc7980 says:

    I just bought one of these from a guy on the Letgo app for 30 dollars. It needs some work but it’s in working condition. I couldn’t find anything about them other than this thread.

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