Serendipity

Perhaps two summers ago I had several bikes out in the driveway. It was too muggy and hot to work in the garage or the studio, and although it wasn’t much better outdoors, at least I was in the shade and there was a slight breeze. I noticed that one of my neighbors was in his yard and he’d been watching me as I cleaned and lubed the bikes. His curiosity eventually got the better of him and he walked down to chat with me.

My neighbor is a tall, genial fellow, originally from The Netherlands and I love talking with him just to hear his accent. Even though he’s been here many years, there’s still that northern European speech pattern that has yet to wear slick. He wanted to chat about bikes and to gawk at the rides standing in the drive. Never a racer himself, he had nevertheless ridden a lot – and in a country that presumes cycling to be second nature, I guess that probably means he cycled a lot. I understood my neighbor to say that he’d a riding partner in Holland who was a pro and that the pro had eventually convinced him to purchase a higher quality bike.

It was at this point that my neighbor asked me if I’d like to see it.

Well, of course I’d like to see it!

We walked down to his garage, and there hanging on the wall was a tall, bright orange Peugeot. My neighbor originally told me he’d purchased it new in 1968 and that it was a PX-10. However, the tubing told a different story: the rear “socks” aren’t chromed and only the main tubes were 531. As we talked about these inconsistencies, he was clearly puzzled – but brightened after a moment.

“I still have the original brochure and bill of sale,” he said. “Do you think that would clear things up?”

Could it be? A Peugeot with provenance? Serial numbers for this storied company have pretty proven to be worthless for dating their frames, and decals are somewhat less than helpful other than to provide a kinda-sorta date range, having been apparently been applied until each version ran out, without regard to “model year.”

So we walked down to his basement office, he paused for a moment to consider, then opened a file drawer and pulled out a file folder with the brochure and sales slip inside. How cool is this, I thought! Decades later, and across a huge ocean and onto another continent, and this guy still has the original paperwork. Amazing.

Upon looking the documentation over, we discovered that he’d purchased the bike in 1973 rather than 1968, and that it was a PR-10 model, listed on the same catalog page as the PX-10 – essentially a slightly more economical version of their top end bike. Many marques did the same thing – the Paramount was available in several versions, and their racer was configured as a P-12 or P-13, with slightly different options.

So here  was an all original PR-10 from 1973 in remarkably good condition. He’d been to the local LBS to see if they could get it back into operation and (of course) told him that he really needed a new bike! He was further informed that the parts were pretty much trash. I think those who appreciate vintage bikes can be very thankful that the delusional bike shop guys didn’t start hacking off parts and throwing them away. My neighbor, in fact, took the bike back home and hung it on the wall of his garage, the Stronglight crank and Simplex derailleurs still intact.

I told him at the time that the bike would be a fairly easy job to get back on the road. Essentially, it needed to be cleaned and the headset and bottom bracket serviced. The cables, housing and brake pads needed replacing, and the Ideale 80 saddle could use a light conditioning of the leather. New tires and tubes, new handlebar wrap… pretty much a replacement of the “consumables.” And that would be that.

I also mentioned that I’d love the opportunity to photograph the bike in its current condition.

We parted after a few more minutes of conversation and, of course, did nothing more for a couple of years. I’d see him working in his yard every so often and shout out that I’d be by to photograph the bike sometime. Somehow there was always something else going on until yesterday morning. The neighbors were all having garage sales, I stopped at his garage to see if he was getting rid of anything that I desperately needed, and we chatted, once again, about his Peugeot. I asked if I could borrow it to photograph and have it back to him by lunch time.

He agreed, I set up in my backyard and made several images, and returned the bike as promised. I then spent an hour or so cropping and prepping the photos to add onto my flickr site, along with a few scans of his brochure and bill of sale. It was only at that point that I noticed the date on the receipt: 29-9-73. September 29, 1973 – thirty-nine years to the day from the original purchase.

Serendipity.

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2 thoughts on “Serendipity

  1. It seems like so many people place the PX-10 on such a high pedestal for “grail worthiness” and appreciation and I always wonder what brought it to that level (I also feel the same about Schwinn Paramounts). The Nervex lugs and standard black on white paint with the checkerboard down tube graphics bring weakness to their knees and they dutifully open their wallets to pay the asking price. But to me, well, I just shrug and move on. I don’t broadcast my opinion for the PX-10 much but then again, it’s not something I will apologize for either as I am much more interested in the other models Peugeot created that are far lesser known and not very far away from Peugeot’s top tier hierarchy.
    So, that being said, I appreciate this model for its originality and of course, it’s well documented history and wonderful condition/patina. I am also a sucker for almost any orange bicycle so this one hits the nail on the head for me. Who knows, maybe in the future, your neighbor will let you take it out (assuming it fits you!) on a double digit mile ride so you can feel the rush as well!

    • I presume it’s a sister to the 72-ish PX-10 that I just sold over the summer. I’ve a feeling this would ride just as nicely as my bike did. And yes, I believe the PR-10 would fit my legs just fine! Nothing quite like an orange bike!

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