I love fine old bike frames. I believe that many of the older frames have nicer riding qualities than newer ones, partly due to better tire clearance permitting the use of reasonable tires, and partly due to the fact that their design has not been complicated by the CPSC and the cover-your-ass syndrome that has caused modern forks to lose the flexibility that older ones had.
In addition, fine lugged steel frames were often hand made by craftsmen who get close to the hazy line between craft and art. (No, I don't want to get into where that "line" is...) The extreme example would be "bespoke" custom frames built for a specific rider.
So I appreciate the frames both as a rider and from an aesthetic point of view.
The parts, on the other hand, have no great attraction for me.
The parts that get bolted onto the frames, however, are generally _not_ works of craftsmanship, much less art. They were mass produced on factory assembly lines thousands or tens or hundreds of thousands at a time, with no individuality whatever. A Super Record rear derailer is pretty, but has no more "soul" than one of the bearing balls in a Huffy's bottom bracket.
A bike with a Super Record derailer doesn't ride any nicer than a bike with a $15 Shimano Tourney, and won't shift as well.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not coming out for wholesale "parting out" of classic bikes, but neither do I hold with the view that it's blasphemy to use modern parts on fine old frames.
There are some bikes that should not be messed with, but should be preserved pristine for posterity, as museum-type exhibits. This would include the high end road bike bought in 1975 by a well-to-do dilettante, then hung up in a cool dry place the first time one of the tubulars punctured. There are still some of these bikes out there, in basically original condition. They should be preserved if they're rare and choice models. Similarly, bikes with an important history behind them, associated with a specific rider/racer of note.
Such bikes should be hung up as objects of worship, and generally should not be ridden, excpet perhaps in the occasional concours d'elegance when the sun is shining.
On the other hand, if one has the opportunity to buy a fine frameset that has already been denuded of its parts, there's no obligation to kit it out in "period correct" parts that are functionally inferior to less expensive modern parts. When I'm building up a bike with the intention of actually _riding_ it, I want stuff that works well.
The eBay Gios in question is a fine example of this. It is not all that rare, not that pristine, and has already had its parts recycled. I bid on it mainly because I have a hard time resisting a tall frame with a short top tube. This sort of frame, now pretty much extinct, happens to fit my body type unusually well.
In addition, I've never owned an Italian frame (aside from my Picchio
tandem, which I also bought as a frameset, and outfitted with modern
Another great example of this is my Raleigh/Baylis Professional.
I've loved the look of these early Pros since they were new, but could not afford one back in the day. This one is actually "better than new" because the replacement bottom bracket is a nice investment-cast unit, replacing the broken stamped shell, and becaue Brian's paint job is better than the original. There's no way this is a "period correct" bike...it isn't even the original colour (this was one of the silver-blue ones originally, but it was the "mink" paint scheme that I had fallen in love with.) Yes, I could have set this up as a 12 speed with "period correct" parts, making it "original" to the eyes of anybody but an expert, but it would have always been a "fake." Instead, I built it up to suit my riding style, with parts that I like and had available. Now, if somebody wants to own a "period correct" bike with all original parts, even if it's a garden variety Peugeot UO8 or a Schwinn Varsity, I don't have any problem with that. However, that is not the _only_ legitimate approach for those of us who love great old frames.
As for me, I don't have much interest in bikes that I can't ride. I sometimes do think about an authentic oldie, but then I think about going back to clips and straps, and substandard brakes and can't get into it. If I'm going to update the pedals and brakes, it doesn't make much sense to obsess about the crummy old derailers either.
The most "classic, authentic" bike I own is my '61 Paramount. This came as a 10 speed, and when I bought it it appeared to be original except for the tires and the handlebar tape. I rode it that way for a while, but I didn't like the gearing, didn't like the position with the original Titan stem (too long for me) and found the brakes scary.
I've done a somewhat weird conversion of it, turning it into a fixed gear with block chain. I had picked up a 26 tooth Campagnolo 151 chainring for cheap, and had other stuff aroune. It's much more fun and rideable for me now, though I'm still not happy with the somewhat lumpy wheels. I did, however maintain respect for its "integrity" because I've done nothing irrevocable to it, and I've saved all of the original parts. If I or someone else wants to restore it to "stock" condition sometime in the future, there will be no obstacle to this, but in the meantime, I enjoy riding it from time to time.
Sheldon "Best Of Both" Brown
| It were not best that we should all think alike; |
| it is difference of opinion that makes horse-races. |
| -- Mark Twain |
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