de la Rive, a company
based on the outskirts of St Etienne, France, started making tubes in
1931. In the early post WW2 years their premium tubing was called Rubis,
and widely used by French quality frame builders. Around this time Urago,
in Nice, started using
DURIFORT - the tubing
maker's base set of plain gauge tubing for their "Debutante" model,
and "Vitus" a lighter double-buted set, for their better frames, alongside
Durifort continued as a set well into the 1970s by which time Ateliers de
la Rive had introduced
Vitus 171, a series of
double-butted tubes in chrome-molybdenum steel, with wall thickness
generally of 1.00 / 0.7mm. This was a quality tubing subjected to special
drawing treatment to improve the structure of the steel and to reduce
possibilities of fatigue cracks. Companies such as Peugeot used huge
quantities of this tubing. Later in the 70s/early 80s, the company
Vitus 172 - slightly
lighter than 171 - an extra-light series called
Super Vitus 971.
This used the same type of steel but was drawn into finer tubes with
0.9/0.6mm gauge walls. The steel type was called XC 35.
The base set at this time became known as
much later Ateliers revised its range to include
at 2030 gms, a plain gauge set for touring frames,
a D/B set weighing 1790gms for racing.,
Super Vitus 983,
at 1624gms, a "Course Professionel" set and Super
at 1507gms a "Course Professionel" Serie Extra Legere set. The SV980 also
appeared as "Profil Arcor" an "aero" shaped set weighing in at
1615gms, and the 888 series figured also as "Vitus Profil" - a P/G aero
set at 2030gms. Curiously Ateliers de la Rive never included the steering
column and head tube in these weights. The "buzz on the block" at the time
was that the SV980 set underwent some heat-treatment. The tube sets were
delivered with instructions about how to braze these tubes and how to
ensure that they did not suffer from "cold-shock" which could make them
In the later 1980s and early 90s Ateliers tried very hard to regain some
of the sales it had lost to companies such as Reynolds and Columbus.
Peugeot was the worlds largest user of Reynolds 501 Chro-Moly tubing set.
This had the effect of making Ateliers lose most of their sales of 181DB
tubing. The range was rechristened with names such as TXO, XO, GTI
and SM were introduced for road and track use alongside a range for MTB
and BMX frames.
The top tube set was TXO a chromium-molybdenum-vanadium tube set in
0.8/0.6 gauges with internal ribbing. The same steel, 18 MCDV6, was used
to make the triple-butted GTI tube set and the Olympic P/G curved tube set
for time-trial frames. 18 MCD6 steel, a chro-moly was used for the
XO D/B road and track sets and the 999 NEW P/G touring set. A new type of
steel 18MV6 - known as a silicon-maganese tubing SM, was introduced as the
company's base set. While some French manufacturers continued to use these
excellent sets, the Company did not take much of a slice out of either
Columbus' or Reynolds' sales.
In about 1993 Atelier de la Rive introduced a superlight tube set called
"Prestige", which as I recall was a heat-treated version of the 18 MCDV6
steel but drawn down to about 0.8/0.4 mms. This material did not do much
to stem the Company's decline until it stopped production of steel tubing
altogether around 1999/2000.
Since the late 70s, the company had had a joint venture with Bador and
CLB-Angenieux to produce the renowned Duralinox range of frames - frames
which were quite revolutionary in their time - and which sold well
as long as the likes of Sean Kelly rode and won on them. The last model in
that range the 992 actually introduced some 8 or 10 years ago the now
ubiquitous "lost headset" design.
The company changed owners very rapidly from the mid-90s onwards and was
owned at one time by Time and at another by LOOK.. From a height of 196
employees it reduced to around 20. The name is still alive in the
ownership of a very strong French cycle industry conglomerate, but now
concentrates like everyone else on TIG-welded aluminum alloy frames. They
might even be produced in France, but who knows?"
Norris Lockley on the
Classic Rendezvous Google group, December 2002