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Peugeot Road Bike Renaissance – RSR01 Ultegra Di2 Peugeot Review

Peugeot Cycles have returned to Australia; you can already get their e-bikes at stores across the country and their road bikes look likely to join the range. The legend and legacy of Peugeot bicycles stretches back to 1882 and many enthusiasts will know the brand from their racing bikes from the 1970s and 80s. Australian cycling pioneer, Phil Anderson, started his professional cycling career with Team Peugeot Esso Michelin and in 1982 won a stage of the Tour de France as well as the white jersey (young rider classification).

Phil Anderson Team Peugeot Esso
Phil Anderson Team Peugeot-Esso-Michelin Publicity Card (1980) source: velo-pages.com

Peugeot importer, Rick Krassoi, is as curious as I am as to whether the nostalgia and memories of classic cycle racing can propel these road bikes back into public consciousness. While there’s been an explosion of sports cycling in Australia in recent years, the long absence of this brand may mean many of today’s riders will be unfamiliar with the legacy, although the name Peugeot is well known through their cars. Beyond the Peugeot racing history, there is also an avid community of enthusiasts collecting and restoring old steel Peugeot road bikes. They are often rescued rom roadside rubbish collections or are spotted on ebay or gumtree. In the Australian Cycling Forums, the enthusiasts name themselves the Peugeot Appreciation Society and enthusiastically document their ‘finds’ and restorations.

Peugeot Australia Race Bike Collection
Sample of collectable Peugeot Road Bikes – Peugeot Appreciation Sociaty

Peugeot bicycles history in Australia

In the 1970’s, Cycles Australia imported Peugeot bikes and started assembling the French made frames in Australia to avoid the hefty import charges levied against complete bicycles. Around 1976, Cycles Australia got approval to build Australian made frames with Suntour components and sell these as Peugeots. The growth of bicycle production in Taiwan started to affect the viability of the Australian production, so by the 90’s Peugeot bicycles began to disappear.

Back in Europe, the CycleEurope group acquired the license to make Peugeot Bicycles and in 1992, and after the Peugeot family signalled a withdrawal from bikes, the license and production stopped in 2004. Six years later in 2010, bicycle production was restarted when CycleEurope (which produces Bianchi, Gitane and Puch) was able to renew their license.

Australian importer Sola Sport (formerly Netti Atom) started importing Peugeot e-bikes and in 2015 importer Eurocycles took over this distribution, also focussing on the Bosch powered electric bikes from Peugeot. I got excited when Eurocycles director, Rick Krassoi, mentioned the Peugeot was also making road bikes. Eurocycles imported the RSR01 road bike to test market interest. Will the nostalgia and memories of classic cycle racing propel Peugeot road bikes back into public consciousness?

Peugeot RSR01 Shimano Ultegra Di2

Peugeot RSR01 Road Bike on Review

The modern incarnation of the Peugeot brand is not built around a classic high quality steel frame, rather it’s a modern carbon fiber road bike with Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting. The name and the Peugeot lion logo are all that remain. Before we go any further into this review, it is worth noting that you can’t buy this bike in Australia, yet. The importer would love to hear from bike shops and cyclists who want a Peugeot road bike, though any availability of Peugeot road bikes in Australia is not yet certain.

Peugeot Cycling Nostalgia

The RSR01 I reviewed is the 2015 complete bike, although in Europe the RSR01 has been available as a frame-only option since 2013. The 2016 model will see some changes and the RSR01 frame will become more aerodynamic, but will be available as a frame only. The successor to the bike on review, the 2015 RSR01, will be the 2016 RSR03 which has different wheels (Fulcrum Racing 5) and Shimano disc brakes instead of caliper brakes.

The Specs

The 54cm bike I received is spec’d with a 909 gram frame (size 54) and a total weight of 7.4kg. The frame is a monocoque construction where the front triangle (top tube, seat tube and down tube, along with the headset and bottom bracket) is created as one section and is then bonded with the seat stays and chain stays. Conforming to road bike trends, the robust headset houses a tapered steerer to add strength and stability. Neat cable stops are set into the frame – these are the entry and exit points for the internal cabling of the brakes and shifting. A small criticism I have is the cosmetic quality of drill-hole just behind the bottom bracket. While the rest of the construction is superb, bike manufacturers tend to be a bit sloppy with this cable access point. The (ca.) 8mm hole was slightly chipped and far larger than necessary for the mechanical or electronic front derailleur gear cable.

Peugeot Tapered Headset
Robust Headset from the Peugeot RSR01

Tidy cable entry and exit points for internal routing

bottom bracket hole
Cable entry behind the bottom bracket

The front fork is labelled as a full carbon FFS weighing 378 grams. FFS is an unfamiliar brand, I assume it’s a brand-own fork as it integrates perfectly in style and design with the bike. I won’t wager a guess what the FFS acronym is meant to mean. The review bike came with a long steerer tube which extended well above the stem. This will allow the rider to set the correct stem height (with the spacers) and then have the tube cut so that the excess length is removed and it sits flush.

The Shimano Ultegra Di2 is supplied as a complete groupset with brakes, cranks, and wheels paving the way for reliability and ease of use at a more affordable price point than Shimano’s top level Dura Ace groupset. The 11-speed rear cassette has the very familiar 11 x 25 gear range while the front chain rings are compact with an “easier” gear range of 50 / 34. This will make pedalling up the hills easier, but will also present limitations to powerful riders who are comfortable with standard 53 / 39 gearing.

The reliable Shimano Ultegra wheelset is spec’d at 1640 grams a pair. While most wheel brands opt for light and trendier ‘exposed cams’, Shimano continues with the internal cam quick release which harks back to the 1927 design by Tullio Campagnolo and still works remarkably well. Lining the Ultegra wheelset is a set of 23mm Vredestein Fortezza TriComp slick tyres.

Shimano Ultegra Quick Release Cams
Shimano Quick Release with external cam

The stem, handlebars and rounded seatpost are courtesy of 3T; the Ergonova handlebars have a distinctive and comfortable flat section on the top which provides a comfortable grip. Moving the hands down to the dropbars is also comfortable, though the lever reached needed adjustment to ensure it was comfortable. The rubber hoods can be easily pulled back to get access with a 2mm hex tool to the adjustment screw.

Peugeot Road Bike 3T Handlebars
Comfortable flat section of the 3T Ergonova bars

A Fizik Ardea saddle was fitted on the RSR01; it is a good looking saddle but the first ride confirmed that it was completely unsuitable for me. I switched to my Prologo Nago Evo Pas which not only fits me well, but also has red highlights, so matched the black and red style of the RSR01 wonderfully.

Fizik Ardea Saddle
Fizik Ardea, nice… but not for me

Prologo Nago Evo Pas
The Prologo Nago Evo Pas Saddle is a great match for me and for the bike

The Style

The Peugeot is matt black with a distinctive red line following the top tube and seat stays. An ultra-cool style which can hold its own in the peloton of looks. Look closely and you will see that the chequered squares, which were the trademark design on Team Peugeot cycling jerseys, are subtly integrated into the red and grey graphics. A silver Peugeot lion adorns the headset and other subtle graphics add definition, repeat the model name, and show the French heritage (it was designed in France). In stark contrast to the thin steel downtubes and colourful graphics of race bikes from days of old, the less than subtle white PEUGEOT is printed on both sides of the downtube to announce the brand, loud and clear. Peugeot really need to get their brand recognised again to play with the established brands.

Peugeot Bicycle Designed France
The chequered squares salute the Peugeot racing heritage

The Ride

The first ride was not very nice and it is worth explaining what happened. The Fizik Ardea saddle was a bad fit and the saddle height and position were not quite right, so I was uncomfortable. Guessing that this was a comfort focussed bike, I had set the tyre pressure to 100psi, a little lower than my usual 110psi, which didn’t improve the ride and comfort. I also discovered that the Di2 was not properly aligned; when the gearing is even slightly out of alignment, it is frustrating.

In changing over to my Prologo saddle, I spent more time getting the geometry dialled in, fine-tuning the reach to the handlebars. Though the 3T stem was a bit too long, the 54cm frame was otherwise a close match. For the Di2 electronic shifting, adjusting the rear derailleur in the ‘setup mode’ let me correct the alignment along with setting the limit screws to get the gears running smoothly. I was not the first rider to test this bike so the chain was dirty and needed a good clean and lube to get it purring nicely. Finally, before riding I topped the wheels up to 110psi – all set and ready to ride.

3T Stem Di2 junction box
Long stem and plenty of height adjustment possible

Ultegra Di2 5800 brake levers
The lever reach was adjusted (inwards) for more comfort and control

My second ride was much better, I immediately felt much better setting out on the bike and this was where I can really begin to enjoy the bike and understand the ride characteristics. The 140km ride included plenty of descents and climbs so provided a good range of Australian cycling conditions. After this ride I was able to summarise the performance of the Peugeot in two words: confidence and comfort.

My test for confidence comes when riding downhill, and if I need approach the descent with caution because I am unfamiliar with how the bike will fare, or if I can let it go and feel in control. When I put new wheels on my bike, for example, it can take a few rides to get used to the handling before I am ready to put my foot down. With the RSR01 and Ultegra wheelset, the ride was very natural and I didn’t feel that I needed to back-off while leaning into fast corners.

Riding uphill there was a very clear difference between my own bike, an agile and twitchy Giant TCR, and the Peugeot which is far more compliant. On the Peugeot this translates into a more relaxed pace uphill and you are reminded that the journey is the goal. If you want a super fast and responsive bike, the RSR01 won’t be on your shortlist, though I was still able to get some personal records (PR’s) on Strava for some climbs.

While this bike is confident on the descents and competent riding uphill, it is the flats where the Peugeot road bike reveals its true nature. This bike is a delight on undulating and flat roads, ready to keep on riding for as long as its pilot still has energy. Serious cyclists who love to tally the kilometres, and have a tendency towards Audax randoneurring or other long distance riding, will appreciate the comfort and reliability. Even with the tyre pressure set to 110psi, it soaks up the bumps and delivers a smooth ride. This bike isn’t phased by debris; if you hit a spot of gravel or a stick, the bike doesn’t complain, it puts the wheels straight back onto the tarmac and leaves you feeling confident and in control.

The RSR01 frame is the same size as my own bike, though the top tube is more horizontal, rather than sloping. The wheel base is also two centimeters longer and coupled with a frame built for compliance, it adds up to a comfortable and forgiving ride.

A problem I faced with this bike was that I easily ran out of gears when pushing top speeds. Beyond 70kmh I couldn’t get anything more out of the pedals and had to rely on an aerodynamic tuck. On uphills, as a comparatively nimble climber, I usually had a few cogs left. Though the 50 / 34 tooth compact crank is not well suited to me, it will cater to riders in hilly areas who need more freedom in gears for climbing.

Electronic Shifting with Ultegra Di2

When the Shimano Dura Ace Di2 electronic shifting was first launch, Matt Bazzano of Shimano Australia set me on a Di2 bike at Eurobike in Germany. Shifting was a breeze, it made a nice whirring sound as it changed gears and hassle-free maintenance was promised.

11 Speed Shimano Ultegra Cassette
11 Speed Shimano Ultegra 5800 Di2 Shifting

The Ultegra edition of Di2 has the technology trickle-down advantage and a better price point. It essentially offers the same reliable performance with only the weight and materials changed so that it belongs just under the Dura Ace level. Transitioning from the mechanic to electronic shifting has taken quite a while for me to get used to.

With the Ultegra mechanical groupset on my own bike, I know exactly when to change up or down gears so that it is smooth and I avoid losing power. On the electronic shifting the timing has changed so I have to learn when to change up or down gears. Because of the ease of shifting, just a light finger tap to change gears, I was inadvertently tapping the wrong paddle to change from the big chain ring to the small. If felt that it was less forgiving than the mechanical system at times and may not change smoothly but instead deliver an amateur clunk. It’s just like driving a new car – there are differences and it simply takes time to adapt.

The battery life of the Di2 was also good;  over 500km and I was still getting a green light on the junction box. The integrated battery is hidden from sight inside the seatpost of the frame which is a far cleaner and attractive solution than an external battery.

Who is this Peugeot built for?

The Peugeot RSR01 will suit road cyclists who ride for pleasure and fitness. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or like to tackle long distance rides such as Audax, Grand Fondos, or multi-day bike tours, this bike will serve you well. In 2016, this bike will evolve into the RSR03 with disc brakes for a premium braking experience.

Competitive cyclists who race or are looking for the performance edge will miss agility and responsiveness. The 2016 edition of the RSR01, however, is a more agile frame and could fill the gap for hill-climbers and racers.

If you want to know more, get in contact with Eurocycles: eurocycles.com.au or 1300 300 607

Peugeot Australia

Christopher Jones
Christopher Joneshttps://www.bicycles.net.au
Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a design agency, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.
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