Peugeot UE-18 – Real Men Ride Mixtes
“Mixte” in French translates pretty close to “unisex” which is to say a mixte is a step-through bicycle frame that is designed to be ridden by either men or women. They’re often marketed in the USA as a woman’s bike but if you spend some time in the Classic and Vintage Forum at Bikeforums.net you’ll soon learn Real Men Ride Mixtes.
Pronounced ”MIX-tee” by most people you can always pronounce it “MEExt” as the French do, when you’re feeling existential or you just want an excuse to wear a beret.
The defining characteristics of a mixte are the dual (and smaller) top tubes that run direcly from the head tube past the seat tube and connect at the fork ends which gives you three sets of stays:
A typical woman’s bike has a single top tube (that may or may not be curved) and joins at the seat tube.
I had been admired these sporty, classic mixtes I kept seeing on several different websites for over a year when I spotted this red Peugeot UE-18 on Craigslist:
I met the seller, spent all of 10 minutes looking at it, paid him and put it in the back of my truck. On the way home I stopped at a Starbucks and started yammering at some poor barrista about my new bike. I suspect she thought I was insane.
It’s an early 80s, low/mid level “touring” bike that came loaded. Other than the gel saddle this one was in its original state. The bonus was the crazy, Porteur city style handlebar that looked like something right off of a Rene Herse. They’re narrow to accommodate riding in traffic.
It had some light surface rust here and there, grime, and shot tires/tubes. The paint was in good condition for it’s age, just a few minor scrapes and scratches. The decals were mostly crisp and clear. I was stoked as they say because I knew with some effort the bike would shimmer rolling down the street on a sunny day.
When I got home I started taking everything apart, down the the nuts and bolts. Fortunately all the rust removing tricks I’d learned were proving to be effective and with a little Mothers 5101 Mag & Aluminum Polish
everything was sparkling. I greased the headset with Mobil 1 Grease and then it was time to upgrade some of the components.
I replaced the low-end, Peugeot branded Simplex derailleurs with a Suntour Cyclone Mk II set. The original wheels were functional but didn’t clean up very well so I went ahead and replaced them with new ones and added new tires (27×1-1/4″). I also replaced the 5 speed freewheel and chain with a Shimano 6 speed Hyperglide and chain. The hideous gel saddle gave way to a Brooks B68 saddle
. Then it was off to my local Richardson Bike Mart to replace the cables and housing and fine tune everything.
Since the headlight runs from a generator (and is not very bright at all) I elected to archive it for now while I look for a more powerful, battery operated one that looks proportional. I left the tail light on the fender but I plan to replace it too.
I’m delighted with the result. It has a sporty, yet comfortable sitting position friction shifting is smooth and remarkably precise. I am especially enjoying the lack of a top tube.
In fact, I liked it so much that I bought a Fuji Grand Royale mixte from an acquaintance shortly after buying the Peugeot. Talk about obsessed. When I add it all up I’ve invested a tidy sum in this Peugeot but I still spent considerably less than I would have on a new bike with similar appointments. And more importantly I am delighted with the result and would (will) do it again.
Final note: If you’re interested in a mixte but can’t find a used one or one that fits or you just want new you might check out the Soma Buena Vista , Velo Orange VO Mixte or the Rivendell Yves Gomez frame sets. They’re shiny, new and come in mens sizes. If it’s a complete bike you want then consider the “women’s” Trek Belleville and the “ladies’” Electra mixtes ( Electra’s website is insane so I can’t link to the specific bike, so you’ll have to dig for it).
And for more on vintage Peugeots be sure to see the Retro Peugeot site.