Great message, John!!
I chuckle a bit when otherwise reasonable folks continue to argue that they can shift just as fast with downtube friction as handlebar mounted shifters. .. it defies not only reason but elementary physics (pivot your entire arm from
the shoulder a distance of a foot and a half in the same time and with the s ame effort as you can pivot your finger a distance of three inches? Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense). This is self-delusion working overtime.
Why expend so much effort promoting the illusion of the complete and utter superiority of the vintage bicycle? Doing so not only makes one sound like a member of a religious cult but it also leaves us less time to appreciate the
many solid qualities that vintage bikes do have to offer. Elegant simplici ty, long-distance comfort, durability, craftsmanship, aesthetic beauty, rich history... these are all qualities that so many vintage bikes offer honestly and unapologetically, we should spend more time focusing on them and give the mo dern bikes their due in those areas in which they excel. "Us" against "Them" is
a waste of energy.
To be fair, I do think we need to split the argument here... when we refer t o the bike as a whole, I think that we should keep in mind that the past decades have offered somewhat different lines of progress in the fields of framebuilding and componentry.
I do believe that for the most part components have gotten better... much of
what is out there is safer, faster, more efficient and more transparent to use. I feel far more comfortable in dense traffic with shifters that are u nder my fingertips, dual-pivot brakes with ball bearing pivots that stop faster a nd with less effort, clipless pedals that I can get into and out of easier, a helmet that offers at least some measure of protection, modern lighting, and
sealed bearings that allow me to spend more time riding and less time lubric ating and adjusting.
On the other hand, I don't feel that the strides made in the frambuilding world have produced the same number of benefits >to the causal rider< (pleas e note emphasis). Perhaps the lighter weight of modern frames really means something to a racer, but in the frames I intend to ride regularly I look fo r comfort, stability, durability and beauty (perhaps not in that order). The re are almost no mass-market bikes or race bikes being produced today that I view a s beautiful. I do not trust the long-term durability of carbon or aluminum (Titanium, well, maybe). Race geometry I could care less about... I want a bike to be stable and I don't need twitchy steering and steep angles when I'm riding slowly on a rough road with a handlebar bag full of camera gear. An d the relaxed geometry (and road-friendly qualities of steel) make even more of a difference as the ride gets longer... this is important because the primary purpose of my rides is pleasure, not a yellow jersey... and I don't have a professional masseuse waiting for me when I get home.
So in light of the above, what would be my ideal bike for general use? Well, I sampled a few modern bikes over the last ten years and I while liked the components I didn't care much for the ride qualities. My vintage steel bik es feel great but the vintage components and tubular tires suit me best only on
casual pleasure rides... commuting in the city can be a nervous experience.
Nirvana, for me, arrived last year when I put a modern Campy Ergo group on a
'97 RIchard Moon steel frame, this is a bike I can ride almost anywhere and any time. Well, once I get some better lights anyway.
Several folks have mentioned the disservice most bike shops are doing by pushing race bikes on thier customers. Someone else mentioned that this ha ppened back in the day as well. But let's not blame it all on the bike shop owners... we, as consumers, should do our homework when it comes time to dro p hundreds or thousands on a bicycle. Ah, but even when we do our homework, sometimes we still don't know what's really best, or we are seduced by dream s of what we would like to be. As a teenager, just before I bought my first "good" bicycle, I read Sloane's book from cover to cover. Several times. In an early chapter, he described the various types of bikes in turn, and it might be natural for the reader to assume that each was a step up from the last. Wh en I got to the final photo of the ultimate machine, a ten speed race bike, I decided that this was what I had to have. It did not matter that I was nev er to participate in a race. What a shame that I did not pay more attention to t he photos of Clifford Graves' Rene Herse that appeared in later chapters of the
book... lately I have wondered how different my present attitude about cycli ng might have been if I had bought one of those instead.
Bob Hovey Columbus, GA
Incremental performance is the *definition* of bike racing. It doesn't matter whether you finish .01 seconds ahead of the other guy, or .01 hour- So, boo-hoo for that poor ch ap who was *incrementally* slower than the race winner. I don't have to tell anyone here that 2.0 seconds over 20K is significant to many and incremental to many others. So, I'm saying that modern race bikes are indeed incrementally faster than the vintage steel- end of that discussion. But I'm also saying that incremental performance gains don't mean squat on our list because that's not why we like old bikes. What drives me crazy is when folks try to have their cake and eat it to by claiming that not only are our bikes cooler than modern bikes, but they're just as fast. Sheesh! Outsiders will surely think we're nuttier than we really are if we embrace that BS!
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