[CR]We are truly out of the mainstream

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Date: Fri, 3 Aug 2007 07:46:17 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Tom Dalton" <tom_s_dalton@yahoo.com>
To: haxixe@gmail.com, Classic Rendezvous <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Subject: [CR]We are truly out of the mainstream

Kurt wrote:

Agreed. The actual performance disparity between a '71 Cinelli (or almost whatever) and a modern comparable new bike is incremental at best.

Hmmm, I’m not sure I can agree with this one, Kurt. A couple of examples come to mind. A TT bike from 1971, all set up in go-fast mode with thinwall tubing, SL parts, and 24-hole wheels vs. a 2007 Cervelo TT bike with aero bars, a rear disc, and a deep-section CF front wheel. These are comparable bikes; they are the all-out speed machines of their respective generations. I don’t think any reasonable person would argue that a racing cyclist would be just as fast on the 36 year-old machine. How about specialized climbing bikes? Certainly the performance gap would be smaller, but it would still be there, and it would be appreciable in top-level competition. For a “normal” road racing bike the gap would be smaller still, but it would still be there.

The list can present all the arguments, valid, logical, and otherwise, that it wants about just how small the performance gap is, but is it really reasonable to argue that it isn’t there? I say not. We can argue that “for our purposes” an older bike might actually be the better choice, and might even be faster because it would be gentler to our old bodies and allow us to finish the ride, but aren’t we looking at a use of racing bikes that is quite far from that for which they are engineered (i.e. racing by young athletes)?

Kurt wrote:

A faster rider will still be faster irrespective of which bike two guys are riding.

Well, to the extent that the riders are equally comfortable on each bike, this is true, but in the context of this argument, this is a non-sequitur. That is, if the point that is being argued is whether the new bike is faster, it does not matter whether a given bike changes the performance gap between equally-equipped riders. What matters is whether either is faster on the new bike than on the old. In fact, to make this argument seems to point to the notion that the riders might both be faster on the new bike, but by an equal amount, which not only does little to support your point (that old and new bikes are equally fast), but is in practice only true when the riders are of near equal ability. The aero advantages or modern race gear are greater for faster riders. All those 18 mph types out there (like me) will not really benefit from their Zips, as I’m sure has been pointed out before, but that misses that point. We’re talking about racing bikes, so we need to talk about their use in racing.

Kurt wrote:

Besides would you rather drive that "inferior", skinny tired old V-12 Ferrari or the appliance-like but stogily competent Camry? The Ferrari is still faster, at least straight line. And the '60s mechanical watch will be accurate to within a few seconds a day, how much functional value is added by a little more accuracy? Really?

Absolutely. We don’t ride these old bikes because they are more practical, or faster, or anything of the sort. We ride them for reasons that are comparable to the reasons that people, the lucky few who can afford it, drive old Ferraris and wear old Heuers. Despite the obvious practical disadvantges, and despite the obviously superior performance of the modern alternatives, even those alternatives much further down the cost ladder, these things inspire passion and awe. Still we can’t use the capacity of these things to inspire us as an argument that they perform just as well as the new stuff. I’d take the Ferrari over the Camry and the Heuer over the Timex, but I wouldn’t kid myself that these are practical choices.

Tom Dalton

Bethlehem, PA USA

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