I like David White's attitude: There are lots of paths to happiness with vintage bikes, almost all bikes should be riders, and some "adjustments" for comfort or pleasure are ok.
There is, however, one line I generally don't cross: If I "modernize" a bike for daily riding (or, I've even converted a Raleigh Comp. to fixed gear), I try to keep the old parts kit complete, so I can sell the bike as nearly original as it came to me - or better. Now, that particular bike causes a bit of a twinge, because I sold the (ugh) Nervar Sport crankset to Fred Rednor, but the Comp. is of a vintage that almost any early 70s crankset could have come on any given Raleigh. Nervar, Stronglight, TA, Zeus, whatever fell off the truck at the receiving dock. :-)
harvey sachs mcLean "lucky to have a garage" va. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ One of the wonderful aspects of the vintage cycling hobby is that there are so many ways to enjoy it. As far as I'm concerned, there is no one ":right" way. Avid cyclists have always tended to upgrade bikes. Many bikes are historically correct (as distinct from "factory original") when built in many different configurations.
All of my bikes are riders. I admire museum pieces, but I'm not particularly interested in owning them. With that in mind, how I build any particular bike depends on many factors. How "original" is it when it comes to me? How rare is it? Etc. A truly rare and substantially original bikes, such as my Art Stump, I choose to rebuild to as original condition as I can, making only those minimal changes necessary to make it ridable (for example, new tires).
On other less rare or less original bikes, I may choose to make adjustments to enhance my riding comfort. For example, since I live in Vermont and flat roads are unknown, I like having more gear choices, so I may build a bikes that originally had a 5 speed freewheel, with a 7 speed. For me that doesn't fundamentally change the historic character (although I know there are those who would disagree) while adding measurably to my comfort and thus the likeliness that I'll select that bike to ride. I also really like modern ergo bars with the flat areas in the drops, so sometimes I use those on vintage bikes -- once again adding materially to my comfort -- but I use ones that are aluminum with engraved logos that at least have the general visual character of vintage bars. Like others, I also often use modern pedals on vintage bikes, keeping the originals for display and shows.
So in general -- the more rare and original it is the more likely I am to keep it that way; the less so, then I feel more free to change it. But I feel that by and large I do so with moderation. As far as I'm concerned this kind of flexibility is all part of the fun of our hobby. After all -- this is not quite the same as collecting stamps -- bikes are made to be ridden. So if modest "upgrades" make that more likely -- I'm all for it!
David G. White