As well being a fabulous 90s indie pop group from London, Saint-Étienne is a French city in the Massif Central. It was the capital of their bicycle industry, being the location of Mavic, Motobécane and Vitus. Another brand, Mécacyle, was based there, who were known for their famous Turbo frames, which featured a split seat tube, and perhaps had built the occasional frame for their neighbours, Vitus.
Well it looked that way: a supposed example of their co-branded frames made its way into the South Jakarta bicycle paradise that is Pancalen Cycles, where its origin caused a bit of confusion. Vitus never made frames like this. They were better known for their ‘glued and screwed’ aluminium frames.
Stevie Donhue from the most excellent Headset Press blog helped to shed some light on the situation: Mécacyle produced these types of frames for their Turbo models, which used Super Vitus 983 fork blades for the seat tube.
The rest of the frame was Super Vitus 983 tubing also, forming a seamless transition between front and rear ends. As it turns out, Mécacyle were formed by ex-employees of Cycles Mercier, and there are rare examples of Mercier-branded Mécacyles that can be found online.
So Mécacyle made frames that were rebadged for other brands. Whether this is actually a Vitus per se or simply branded to celebrate its tubing is a matter for the history books. The story of how it came to be restored by an Indonesian bike shop is much more personal.
This model was bought in London by Pancalen Cycles’ customer while he was studying and, like so many modern classics before it, had been ‘fixed’ — i.e.: had its gears snipped, and now he brought it to Indonesia to be returned to a more practical and original state.
Rangga Panji, proprietor of Pancalen Cycles, re-spaced a 7-speed Shimano rear hub to retain the 126mm spacing. In keeping with the French culture, a TA Specialites crankset and bottom bracket were installed, along with Christophe clips and straps.
The TA 3-bolt 46T 1/8″ chainring was ground down with a die grinder to fit a modern 3/32″ chain. The steerer was rethreaded to fit a JIS headset, yet accepted a 70mm Cinelli 1A stem. A titanium-railed Brooks B17 was the crowning glory, and now it’s more than a shadow of it’s previous self.
All reviews report these frames being an absolute joy to ride — if you subtract the massive amount of toe overlap. They would accelerate and climb superbly, given that short wheelbase. Descending may be another matter, but it looks ace, thanks to Rangga and Pancalen Cycles.