Vitus bicycles

Vitus bicycles DEFAULT

Forty years ago competitive cycling was enjoying a Golden Age. What is nostalgic now was transformative then – a fresh generation of international riders, new materials and methods for cycle manufacture, more efficient components, aero designs and specialised time trial machines.

An Icon of 1980s cycling was France’s Vitus 979 frame which exemplified many of the innovations of the decade which it outlasted to become one of the most successful racing bicycles ever. 

One of the last triumphs of the French racing bicycle, the 979 is instead best remembered for its participation in the globalization of the pro peloton.  This was the machine that the “Foreign Legion”— Australia’s Phil Anderson, Ireland’s Sean Kelly and Colombia’s Luis Herrera— rode to tête de la course of the Continental 
racing circuit. 

So pop-in a cassette of Kraftwerk’s Tour de France in your Walkman, and rediscover the 1980s when the Neuf Sept Neuf and the Foreign Legion ruled pavé and peloton. 


Although the first effort at an aluminium bicycle dates to 1890s, none had the strength and rigidity required of the competitive racing cycle due to ineffective means of joining the tubes by screws. 

The Second World War saw enormous advances in bonding alloy in aviation and the adoption of the technology to other applications after the war. By the late 1940s, alloy components were in widespread use on racing cycles. 

After TI Reynolds wrung the last ounce out of steel  with its 753 tubing in the 1970s, Italy and France adopted new advances from the aerospace field in bonding  alloy to finally produce an all-alloy racing frame.

In 1972 the Italian Alan led the way with a “screwed and glued” alloy frame which was the first used in pro racing.


Rival French efforts with bonded alloy frames were centered on Saint-Étienne where in 1886 where the Gauthier brothers built the first French bicycle, and the heart of the national cycle industry.  One of the many companies located there was Ateliers de la Rive, makers of the Vitus brand of cycle tubing. In 1970 the Bador firm, also of Saint-Étienne, acquired a majority share of the company and under a new President, Antoine Dumas, Vitus introduced the new Super Vitus 971.

Vitus/Bador joined forces with Angenieux-CLB, Péchiney (France’s leading manufacturer of alloy tubing) and America’s 3M Company (leaders in adhesive technologies and products) to develop a new process of bonding alloy tubes to precast alloy components without additional screws or pins.

In 1975-76 the first prototypes were designed and built by local frame builder Roger Roche.  It was Roche who developed the idea of fitting the lugs or frame ends into the tubing as a press-fit male-female joining socket. This not only reduced the labour of construction, but permitted the even flow of adhesive on the entire joint.  Here was a cycle frame not only built of novel materials, but constructed in a wholly new fashion, ideally suited for mass production. 

On 31 July 1978 Paule Defour (CLB) and Antoine Dumas (Bador) were awarded a French patent for a new method of dry heat activated epoxy bonding  alloy tubing to slip-fit cast alloy lugs, drop-outs, bottom bracket and brake bridge made by CLB.  Bador also patented a jig-based production process.

Bador assembled the frames from the outside supplied component parts and sold them as Vitus branded framesets or to the French cycle companies (and many foreign ones), cycle distributors and large retail outlets which “branded” them under their own names and fitted out by them as complete machines.


The timeless aesthetics of the Vitus 979 frame are owed to Roger Roche who turned the unique concept and materials into a perfect combination of traditional frame design and artisan craftsmanship and modern methods and materials.   Finally, here was an alloy frame that didn’t seem derived from the pipefitting trade. 

The Vitus 979 frame was new and distinctive.  Its conventionally sized tubes gave a traditional appearance offset by the quietly contemporary shaping of the cast alloy stays and fork, all rendered in a natural satin finish and contrasting with the anodised coloured or natural alloy main tubes. The fork was especially attractive with its oversized blades designed to blend harmoniously with the head tube.  The lack of painted finishes made the frame cheaper to manufacture and maintain as well as more durable. 

The advantage of aluminium, its light weight, was fully achieved in the new Vitus 979 frame which weighed about 30% less than a steel one. A 59 cm (c-c) frame and fork tipped the scales at just 1.8 kg or 4 lbs.  A fully fitted top-class 979 racing bike weighed about 18-19 lbs.

The Vitus 979 featured an aggressive geometry with 74° head/74° seat angles, a resilient short rake (1 9/16″) fork, short 16″ chain stays and vertical drop-outs giving a wheelbase of just 38.5″ and making for an exceptionally light handling machine. Provision was made for Allen recessed bolt short reach (38-47) brakes. This was all very forward thinking in 1979 and enabled adoption of the same alloy castings on later carbon fibre models.


Characteristic of the 979 was the inherent flex of the duralinox tubing which was conventional metric size and less laterally strong than steel tubing. This was more apparent in larger frame sizes and most frames were made 59 cm and smaller.  But this also gave it superb dampening qualities on bad road surfaces, making it popular on grueling day events like the Paris-Roubaix and the spring classics. 

… Phil Anderson was the first Australian to wear the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France, riding a PX-10DU 
(the Peugeot 979 model)…

What proved remarkably effective was the glue bonding although in hard competitive cycling, most teams replaced the frames each season. And it was said that powerful sprinters like Sean Kelly swapped out his Vitus frames every month or so before they “got soft”. 

The original alloy steerer tube, prone to vibration in hard braking, was replaced by steel by the early 1980s. One weakness of the original design, the cracking of the alloy “ears” for the seat post binder bolt, led to redesign of the seat post lug in 1985 to incorporate an internal grub screw to hold a newly designed 25 mm seat post. 


The Vitus 979 was introduced in September 1979 at the Salon du Cycle, Paris, so yes, the 979 came out in 9.79!  Motobecane, Peugeot and Bertin were among the first to offer it badged and sold as complete machines such as the Motobecane Prolight and Peugeot PX-10DU.

…Vitus created two aero models in 1982 by shaping the seat and down tubes to achieve an aerodynamic profile with an oval (“Arcor”) or lozenge (“Losange”) contour…

The 979 was an unqualified success.  In 1984, annual production hit a high of 17,000 frames a year and that May the 50,000th frame left the Bador factory.   In all, over 145,000 were manufactured by the time production finally ended in 1997.


Further enshrining the 979 into the 1980s era was its figuring in the “aero” craze.  Vitus created two aero models in 1982 by shaping the seat and down tubes to achieve an aerodynamic profile with an oval (“Arcor”) or lozenge (“Losange”) contour and the seat stays were flattened to give an aero profile.  These, however, were not successful and only produced for a few years. 

By the mid 1980s, the 979 was available in a ladies frame model as well as “lo pro” time trial designs for road or track. 

The 979 paved the way for bonded Vitus frames incorporating carbon fibre, first in the main triangle (Vitus Plus Carbone in autumn 1983), then all nine tubes (Vitus Plus+9 in 1986) which the same cast alloy components of the 979. 

A new design, the 992, with an integral headset and ovalised aero Duralinox tubing, was introduced in September 1991.

The Vitus 979 was the first dominate non steel frame in pro racing.  Ridden to its first professional win by Herman Van Springel on 18 May 1980 (Paris-Bordeaux) and its last by Sean Kelly on 20 April 1988 (Ghent-Wvelgam), the 979 proved itself with more wins than any single racing cycle for over eight years. 


If the 979 is remembered today, it’s mainly as being the mount of choice of cycling’s “Foreign Legion”, the new crop of international riders that burst on the Continental racing circuit in the early ‘eighties, including:

• Phil Anderson (Australia) 1981-1982 (Peugeot)

The first Australian to wear the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France, 7 July 1981, riding a PX-10DU (the Peugeot 979 model).

• Sean Kelly (Ireland) 1982-1988 (France-Loire, KAS)

The greatest Vitus champion who won 80% of his victories riding the 979 including seven wins Paris-Nice, 33 total wins alone in 1984 including Paris-Roubaix and most of the spring classics. 

•Luis Herrera (Colombia) 1984 (Varta-Café Colombia)

Riding a 979, the first non European and amateur rider to win a stage of the Tour de France 16 July 1984 Stage 17.

•Marianne Martin 1984 (U.S. National Team)

The first American and first woman to win the Tour de France Feminine in July 1984 riding a 979.


Size: 56cm

Model: Year 1987

Groupset: Shimano Sante

Finish: Brushed Alloy

Price: Whatever a dedicated enthusiast / collector will pay.



Vitus (bicycle company)

French bicycle manufacturer

Vitus is a French bicycle manufacturer best known for its steel cycle frame tubing, and its frames built with aluminium tubes joined to aluminium lugs by bonding - a construction method the company pioneered in the late 1970s.[1]


Compared to modern aluminium bicycle frames, early Vitus aluminium frames, such as the 979, offered more comfort because of the small diameter of the tubes.[2][3] As a result, the frames lacked some degree of lateral stiffness compared to their steel counterparts.

The Vitus 992 improved on the 979 design by pinching the aluminum tubes into an ovoid shape at certain critical places, greatly improving stiffness.

In the early 1980s, Vitus began producing frames using carbon fiber tubing, but did so in keeping with the company's method of using small diameter tubing and bonding lugs.

The company later expanded its product offering with carbon fiber semi-monocoque frames (made with more than one monocoque element), like the ZX-1. The ZX-1 was one of the first monocoque carbon fiber bikes made.

Since being purchased by WiggleCRC group Vitus bikes became a direct-to-consumer brand selling exclusively on Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle websites.

Frame tubing[edit]

Vitus also supplies tubing to other bicycle manufacturers.


It is based near St. Etienne, France. It has manufacturing in Cambodia.


  1. ^Bicycle Accident Reconstruction for the Forensic Engineer, by James M. Green, published by Trafford Publishing, page 6.[self-published source]
  2. ^[1]. Joe Young Custom Wheels, article "Rescue a Classic Bike". Accessed on 16 December 2007.
  3. ^Bicycle Frame Materials Comparison with a Focus on Carbon Fiber Construction Methods, by Craig Calfee and David Kelly.

External links[edit]

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Vitus 979 aluminum road bike with Shimano 600 and Dura-Ace componentsVitus 979 aluminum track bike

Thanks to everyone who has helped me improve the information on this page.

About Vitus

I haven't really found much information about Vitus online. I know they are an old company. Vitus is a well known maker of bicycle tubing. According to Sheldon Brown, Vitus is “France's leading manufacturer of high-quality frame tubing.” Many early aluminum bicycles used Vitus tubing. The frames labeled as Vitus were made and assembled by the French aerospace company TVT. Vitus made early carbon fiber bikes, originally using the same designs as their high end aluminum bikes. Later Vitus carbon fiber bikes used monocoque construction They have not sold to the US since the early '90s. The last few years that Vitus frames sold in the US, they were only available through one of the major mail order companies. Vitus bicycles were available in Canada in the late '90s. They then disappeared from the internet for a while. In spring 2005, Nashbar had new old stock Vitus 979 frames for sale. Vitus now has an English website. Vitus is currently a house brand for Chain Reaction Cycles, a bike store in the UK (which for some reason has a .com address). Based on the information on their website, Chain Reaction Cycles has reasonable shipping rates to the USA.

Vitus Bikes

Vitus Repairs

I have heard many rumors of trouble with the bonds on the bonded (‘glued’) Vitus frames, but I only know of two examples of problems with the bonding. The first reader who had one of the joints come loose says that Vitus fixed it for him, though he had to pay the shipping. The second was more recent, and was on on a frame that has been ridden 40000 miles, including many criteriums. The second reader had his bike repaired by Steve at Open Road Bicycle Shop in Pasadena. I also have many reports of bonded Vitus frames holding up over the years, including some that are still regularly ridden.

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