Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Tale of Two Peugeots: The PGN-10 and the PSN-10

Discussing my two favorite Peugeots from 1985

1985 was indeed a great year for a lot of things. Back To the Future came out, as well as one of my favorite movies of all time, The Goonies. I was born that year so that is probably the best thing that ever happened! All joking aside, that year also introduced two very unique models from the Peugeot bicycle factory. 

Second and Bottom: The PSN-10 and PGN-10. Image courtesy of cyclespeugeot.com

At first glance the PGN-10 and the model above it, the PSN-10, look like your typical 1980's road bikes. But look closer, and the differences start to become clear. These bikes have quill seatposts that adjust from the inside of the post rather than from a seatpost binder bolt. Plastic Stronglight headsets would now seem like a quirky idea but were the rave on many 80's french bikes. Even Bernard Hinault promoted his line of plastic headsets. As strange and as prone to catastrophic failure as these design features seem to be, they are highly functional and have been free from any defect over the past 30 years. I'm sure that the seatpost has a weight limit, however riding these bikes it's clear to me that I haven't reached it. The Sachs Huret shifters and derailleurs on my PGN-10 are the cleanest and smoothest shifting of all the bikes that I own. In the following article I'm going to do my best to give a concise review of both bikes.

Kitt From Knight Rider, my PSN-10

Meet Kitt, My Campagnolo equipped PSN-10.

This is easily one of the most comfortable steel bikes that I own, only below "La Poderosa" in it's ride quality and handling. It took a lot of work to get this bike to ride the way it should. Even after having taken it all apart and greasing every single bearing the bike felt whippy and noodly. I researched this and it turns out that its a pretty common issue with this Peugeot model. To counteract the "whippiness" I replaced the 40cm handlebars with some 43cm Sakae FX handlebars I had lying around. The Modolo Speedy brakes that originally came on the bike were not centering correctly, so I replaced those with some Tektro takeoffs from another bike, purchased from a seller on eBay. The original Vetta saddle that came on the bike was dried out and as hard as a brick. I had an extra Brooks saddle that I was saving for a very special bike. I decided now it was the time to use it on my new bike, which I will refer to as Kitt.

The Ride:

Today I took Kitt for a 40 mile spin around the countryside, just to see if I like the bike enough to use it in my next bike rally. This bike definitely has it's talking points. For one thing, I have never ridden this far on a bike without clip-less pedals. The fact that I was able to ride 40 miles in the 97 degree heat and still come out okay means that this bike was mostly comfortable on all it's points of contact.

There is a bounciness to the Super Vitus tubing that resembles titanium or carbon in it's ride quality. Compared to other steel bikes that I own, this Peugeot can absorb road shock without compromising energy transfer through the frame. All this makes for a lively, springy ride, especially when the roads start to get gravelly.  

One might assume that a stiffer yet springier steel frame makes for a faster ride. I did not have a cycling computer to see how fast I was going. Furthermore, I felt I could have lowered the stem a little bit more to assume my usual aero position. The fact is that the speed of this bike still remains unknown. It certainly felt fast, however I know from experience that feeling and reality are two different things.

There was more stiffness in the front fork on this bike than on my other bikes. I  can attribute this to the Stronglight headset being made of Derlin plastic and therefore not transfering vibrations as efficiently as a steel one would. I will have to make sure to wear padded gloves the next time I take this bike on a long ride. 

One thing that helped the ride on this bike tremendously was switching out the stock saddle for the Brooks. I find that any bike with a Brooks saddle rides way better than a bike without one. Despite the odd seatpost and plastic headset, when all the pieces come together this bike works magnificently.

My PGN-10

I was fortunate enough to get this bike with very little use on it and very low miles on the frame and components. The only thing that I had to change out was the wheelset, because the seller put 27" wheels on the bike that didn't fit. I had some 700c wheels with Shimano 600 hubs lying around my garage that I replaced them with. 

This bike rides great with all of it's stock components. Not even the saddle needs replacing. This bike shifts well even while climbing, and I can hardly feel the transition from the large to the small chainrings when I shift. The Reynolds 501 tubing absorbs road vibrations well and in my opinion is more compliant than the Super Vitus as it isn't as bouncy. Since I have owned it I have not had to take it apart and overhaul it like I did with Kitt (My PSN-10 or the black bike, for those of you just tuning in). 

Reynolds 501 tubing makes for a light but strong frame on the PGN-10

The only thing that this bike needs is better handlebar wrap. Again, I can probably work around this by wearing padded gloves when I ride. I haven't done super long distances on this bike yet, however I have done 14 to 20 mile rides on it. From what I have ridden on it I can say so far its a great bike. I may go with this bike for my next rally, I don't know, I haven't decided yet. What do you think? Which one should I choose?

These bikes are somewhat rare finds but are common enough that I decided to do an article about them. If someone comes across a bike like one of these Peugeots, they are keepers, especially if they are the right size. For a long time I couldn't get my hands on a Peugeot, now they seem to be coming out of nowhere. I have been involved in buying and restoring old vintage bikes for a while now, and I am just starting to get some really cool bikes into my collection. Now that I have worked out all the kinks on mine I am definitely not getting rid of them.  I hope to hold on to mine as long as I can and maybe one day my son will enjoy them as much as I do now. Stay tuned for more articles like these and subscribe to my posts for more updates.

Some Notes on maintenance and care:

Do not overtighten the quill seatpost. It may lead to a bulge in the seat tube or failure of the seatpost. Get it snug tight until the seatpost no longer moves.

Derlin plastic can decompose if exposed to bleach or anything that has chlorine. Do not store this bicycle near pool chemicals as this will deteriorate the headset and cause it to crack. Do not clean the bike with hot water or mineral spirits and rather use a biodegradable cleaner like Simple Green. 

To be fair, many road bikes of this era had quirky features, such as odd seatpost binders, Italian and French bottom brackets and headsets, plastic derailleurs, etc. These were even more evident on higher end bikes than others made during that period. With proper care, I believe these bikes can last another 30 years without problems. However, once something breaks it can't be replaced. Keep that in mind when looking to purchase any vintage bicycle. 


  1. I pulled my PGN-10 (bought new in 1986 for $325) out of my parents attic this spring to start training for my first triathlon. I hadn't ridden it in 16 years plus. I put new tires on, rode about 500 miles and did the 14.25 mile bike course in 45 minutes. I'm torn on whether to get a new bike or keep racing the Peugeot.

    1. would say keep the bike. You were averaging 19 miles an hour! That is a respectable speed on any bike. The good thing about triathlons is that they incorporate three disciplines, and not everyone can be good at the bike leg of the race. Instead of debating whether to get a new bike, hone up on your swimming and running, and try to keep that 19 mile an hour average.

  2. My dad bought a Peugeot in 1984 while he was in college and handed it down to me in 2011 when I started at the same school. It remains my first and only road bike, and I love it to pieces. I don't know much about the technical aspects of the bike, but it's perfect to me. Loved reading your blog.

    1. Thanks for your comment. It's pretty cool how one bike can be handed down through the generations. It shows the quality and durability that these bikes were built with.

  3. I've come across the chance to buy a PSN-10, branded as a 'Mont Cenis', in Reynolds 501, but can't find much information on it. I did read, however, that Peugeot did switch from Vitus to Reynolds for the PSN towards the late 80s, so it makes sense I guess. Worth buying do you think?

    1. From what I have heard around the Peugeot forums the "Mont Cenis" model is a good bike. I would buy it if the seller is asking a reasonable price for it. It is essentially the PSN-10 with Reynolds tubing instead of Vitus.

  4. I have a 1985 PSN-10 in great condition with original everything, including first generation LOOK pedals. I washed dishes all summer so I could buy this bike. I love it but I do not have 18 year old legs anymore and the gears are too difficult. Do you know where I would look to switch the back gears? Also any recommendations of other changes to make this a good gravel rider? Do I need to change out the Mavic rims? Thanks, JB.

    1. Hi JB,

      I actually someone put 700c x 32c semi treaded tires on a PSN-10 and use it for gravel grinding. To answer your question, it can be done although I honestly don't think the bike will hold up well long term to the beating it will get on gravel roads. You can switch the original freewheel on the bike with a bigger one, and you might get away with the 28t cog on the rear without having to change the derailleur. Anything bigger than that and you'll need a long cage mountain bike rear derailleur. Check amazon for 7 speed freewheels and research the current freewheel to see which freewheel remover you will need to buy. I think some of the PSN-10 models came with Maillard Helomatic hubs on the rear, in which case you will need to replace the the entire rear wheel to change the back cogs, because the tool needed for Helomatic hubs is obsolete. In all truth there are better bikes out there for gravel grinder conversions. I would just enjoy the Peugeot as is and save my pennies for a good cyclocross bike. Thanks-Johnny

  5. Thanks Johnny! The bike has the helomatic hub so it looks like switching this will be challenging. Good advice on leaving it and enjoying it as is. Maybe some incentive to get those 18 year old legs back - the biggest gear in the back is a 22.

    1. Yes back then most bikes came with large gears like 12-23 tooth freewheels and 53/42 chainrings. The old school setup worked great for flat roads but many couldn't spin up climbs as effectively as they could today. I still ride this setup on my Woodrup and I can still stay on top of my gears, even while climbing. I am very dependent on my 42t chainring and only use the 53 for long stretches of flat road where there is a tailwind.