Marcel Bruneliere began the company when he started a mechanics
shop in 1925 in Machecoul, France, which specialized in farming
As a side business, he began producing parts
for bicycles at about the same time.
The following year,
he opened a bicycle manufacturing shop in some horse stables
on Rue des Redoux in Machecoul, which produced two to three
bikes a day under the brand name Marbru.
It was in 1930 that
Mr. Bruneliere first used the brand name Gitane on bicycles,
produced by ten people in the small workshop.
However, frame production would not begin until 1940, when
the company began producing complete bicycles. The company
was renamed Cycles Gitane in 1952, and began producing
motorcycles in addition to bicycles, quickly growing to the
producer of motorcycle engines in France. At the time,
Cycles Gitane began to sponsor bicycle racing teams as well
The firm made its first big impact on the professional
cycling circuit in 1957, when Jacques Anquetil rode a
Gitane to victory
in the French National Championships. This began a period
of prominence for Gitane in bicycle racing which would
peak in the early 1960’s, late 1970s/ early 1980s.
In 1960, the company name was changed
to the Micmo S.A. and was producing around 500 bicycles per
day. It also began
producing other sporting goods products, none of which
appeared to have been very successful.
By 1972, Micmo
was France’s number one exporter of
bicycles, sending over 185,000 overseas per year.
boom” in the USA is one of the major reasons,
where Micmo’s bicycles, under the brand name “Gitane”,
introduce an entire generation to European lightweight
racing bicycles at affordable prices. While the company
a full range of bicycles, the Gitane “Tour
de France” was
the lightweight leader for the company, featuring
frame of Reynolds 531 tubing, and French-manufactured
Simplex derailleurs, Mafac brakes, Normandy hubs,
Pivo stems, and Stronglight headsets, crank sets,
Flush with success, the Gitane brand name
became attractive to larger companies in France – namely
the Renault auto group, which purchased a 30% interest
in the company
in 1974, and then fully annexed it into its Renault
Factory Group in 1976. This purchase began the
second (and, sadly,
the last) “golden era” for Gitane racing – both
on bicycles and in motorcycles – with Renault
pouring resources into racing teams featuring Gitane
The Renault-Gitane team began dominating
the European cycling scene with Bernard Hinault,
brothers, and would led to the discovery of the
first big name in US
cycling: Greg LeMond.
But despite the success
of the Renault-Gitane team, economic realities in the bicycle
the end of the
bike boom necessitated a retreat from the free-spending
of the 1970s. In 1985, amidst a recession in
France, Renault reorganized and ditched Micmo-Gitane.
as Motobecane and Peugeot were facing similar
hardships and it there was even some question
as to whether
be able to maintain a bicycle manufacturing
To cut costs and increase productivity,
production facilities throughout in several other cities
were relocated to
a central factory in the Machecoul in 1986,
and by 1987, all bicycle
manufacturing was under one roof in the city.
In the USA,
the Gitane distributor went belly-up, making
Gitane nearly impossible to find since that
for a few
occasional buys by high-volume shops such
In 1992, Gitane, Peugeot, and B.H.
cycles combined to form Cycleurope. The merger instantly
of bicycles in Europe. The Micmo-Gitane
factory soon began producing bicycles under the brand
Raleigh (for French markets only) – in
addition to Gitane.
In 2000, Cycleurope
was purchased by a Swedish company, which
soon also acquired
making it a major
force in the
worldwide bicycle industry. Cycleurope’s
brands also include Crescent, Legnano and
Puch. Today, Gitanes are still
produced in the factory in Machecoul, but
are no longer available in the USA. Only
Bianchi is marketed in the USA by Cycleurope,
forcing Gitane and Peugeot fans to look
elsewhere for their
Today, Machecoul-produced Gitanes
are available only in France. Taiwan-made
now available in Australia.