Hello Group, A blacksmith-built boneshaker from the 1860's was meant to be ridden. If I were lucky enough to find one of these at a price I could afford, I would happily place it in my collection next to my other vintage bicycles. If someone were to refer to it as an "ornament," I would not take offense. Ornaments, like functioning objects, have a job to do. I would not ride the boneshaker (except, perhaps, in an occasional parade, and then only if it would cause no damage). I have lots of bicycles that I can ride.
Now I am the fellow who quoted Keats on this list not so long ago (Beauty is truth, truth beauty," etc.). I received one lone congratulations from a fellow member, so I am sure I am in the minority here. But it seems clear to me that there comes a time when a "utilitarian" object passes into history, and deserves to be preserved.
Recently I lucked into a 1973 or 4 Fuji Newest on eBay. It was described as "near mint" condition by the auction house that was handling the sale. I drove several hundred miles to pick up the bike myself to assure that it would not be damaged in shipping. When I saw the bike, I could scarecely believe my eyes. It had been purchased new some thirty-four years ago, ridden approximately fifty miles, then moved to a spare bedroom of a well heated house, where it spent the next few decades leaning against a wall. The paint and chrome are nearly flawless. The bike came with the original unused Fuji tires (the owner used a second custom set of Campy wheels), owner's manual, the clamp-on Sugino water bottle cage and bottle (which, thankfully, the owner had never attached to the bike!), warranty card, etc. (The only thing missing is the original sales receipt, and the son of the original owner is looking through his Dad's papers for it now). Now I have at least ten or twelve vintage riders, all ready to go. Why in the world would I want to start putting wear and tear on this virtually pristine time machine? When I am dead and the next guy gets the Fuji, the decision to ride or preserve will be up to him.
At some point every object passes into history. We can debate at what point each of our individual bicyles reaches this point. The desire to preserve is not a loftier, or "better" impulse than the one to get on the bike and ride. It is a different impulse. Preservation and the joy of riding a vintage bicyle are not mutually exclusive, and I suspect most on this list fall somewhere on the continuum.