When my 1976 Peugeot AO8 was built and sold I was all of twelve years old and don’t believe I ever saw a Peugeot bicycle until I was an adult as in my small town you could buy a CCM from the hardware store or a Raleigh from the bicycle shop and it was not until I was a teenager that nicer Japanese bicycles started appearing in our local shop.
One can only imagine what it was like for people who were accustomed to the usually conservative looking Raleigh and CCM bicycles of the day when these bicycles started appearing in huge numbers; they came in bright orange, vibrant green, electric blue, red, bright yellow, a dazzling shade of purple, as well as in black and white.
And they were French.
Peugeot was founded in the late 1800’s by Jean Pequignot Peugeot and by 1955 Cycles Peugeot was producing 220,000 bicycles a year and in that year the automotive division sold their 100,000th automobile. Peugeot also produced motorcycles, trucks, and airplane engines as well as artillery shells during the first world war.
By the late 1950’s sales of bicycles had plummeted across Europe as the car gained wider popularity and it was not until the late 1960’s that cycling saw a resurgence in popularity and started what has been called the bike boom. Peugeot was so busy they had trouble meeting demand for their bicycles and quality often suffered but despite that, many thousands upon thousands of these “boomers” continue to be ridden into the 21st century.
Peugeot also made some of the finest racing bicycles of all time and was the most successful team in the history of the Tour De France, winning a total of ten times, and the riders who took them to victory are equally legendary.
The French really knew how to make a comfortable bicycle that was designed to handle rough roads and country riding, the non racing models all had longer wheelbases and higher volume tyres in a 27 inch (export) or 700c size as well as the 650B size which was very common in Europe and a size that only became popular here in recent times.
After experiencing financial troubles in the 1980’s and after mergers and sales of naming rights to Procycle of Canada (they stopped making Peugeots here in 2001), Peugeot has risen from those ashes and since 2011 has been selling through it’s parent Cycleurope.
So some 37 years later this old Peugeot has been reborn (once again) and is sporting new fixed wheels and tyres, modern pedals, a new old saddle, and should be able to carry me well for a good long time. I find that simple and inexpensive bicycles can give one a little perspective when it comes to looking at how much we spend compared to the pleasure we receive… the smile for mile I get when I ride this bike is pretty hard to equal.