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Retro or modern?(21 posts)

Retro or modern?guido
May 4, 2002 8:08 PM
So you plunk down a few hundred on that 1978 Italian lugged frame with Campy Nuovo Record components, get it working like new, slap some fresh rubber on it and go out for a ride. What will you notice about the whole experience compared to a current day lighter-than-20# wonder, with carbon fiber all over it?

How would the two compare on a climb or descent? Long hours in the saddle? Drafting and taking pulls in a rotating pace-line? Sprinting for all you're worth, or honking up a hill out of the saddle? Time trialing? Maintenance? Durability?

Is the new better than the old, not only lighter, but stiffer in the right places, easier to shift and brake, more responsive and fun? Or have bikes lost something in their quest for lightness and convenience?

Is Grant Peterson right or wrong when he says "point and click" bikes aren't really as nice as "manual" bikes?
"you make the best soup in an old pot". character takes time! NmSpirito
May 5, 2002 9:33 AM
"you make the best soup in an old pot". character takes time! Nmguido
May 6, 2002 8:50 PM
Spirito, that's a good quote in this age of instant gratification. It takes time for a new technology, like aluminum in the late 80s or carbon fiber in the early 90s, to develope into an actual improvement over the older methods it seeks to overthrow. So the new aluminum and carbon fiber bikes, evolved from 10 years of rider feedback and CAD fine tuning, now equal or improve upon the ride qualities of steel, while shaving off considerable weight.

The question remains, though, how important is weight? In a cross wind? Going down a mountain? Absorbing road shocks and forging a straight line down the road? I have a hunch a little weight might perform better in most circumstances, except climbing a mountain. So an old 22#, bike, exquisitely tuned for long hours in the saddle, just might ride better than a new 16# one. Any empirical evidence to support either view?
interesting questions....Spirito
May 6, 2002 10:55 PM
older bikes are much better in winds as there is less sail area to be buffeted around. thats an easy one.

with regard to handling and ride i think materials and frame geometry have more effect than outright weight although i wouldn't discount weight being a factor. i just dont know how i would measure it or explain it either - i would call it more of a hunch.

May 7, 2002 7:54 AM
Pretty interesting.guido
May 7, 2002 9:15 PM
Here's what the writer said about weight: "An extremely light bike on a very tough climbing course will only save you about 18 seconds to 1:05 (in a 40K time trial), but if this lighter bike compromises your aerodynamics even a little bit, you will be slower by 15 to 54 seconds. Interestingly, lighter weight is more of a help to slower riders (i.e recreational riders)." (parenthesis mine)

In other words, a guy riding a 22# bike, hands in the drops, with his back flat, just might do the same times as a guy riding a 17# bike, hands in the drops but with a humped back, with the same effort measured in watts. So a heavier bike is only a minor disadvantage riding fast in a pack--until you come to a nice steep hill, the speed drops way down, and every ounce counts. Even then, a well brazed lugged steel frame on a pair of stiff but heavier wheels, might very well go up the hill as easily as a slightly less responsive bike that's 5 pounds lighter.

This pretty much fits with traditional knowledge. The most drag is the rider. Second to that are the wheels, which explains why those heavy disc rear wheels still work great on time trial bikes. Third, is how well the bike cuts through the wind, and fourth, what it weighs.

This all supports the idea that geometry and stiffness characteristics are more important than weight in how well a bike performs. So an old 22# bike from yesteryear isn't really much of a handicap alongside a modern bike.
Pretty interesting.SteveO
May 8, 2002 3:38 AM
"So an old 22# bike from yesteryear isn't really much of a handicap alongside a modern bike."

indeed. uneducated advocation of the criticality of 'lightness' in cycling is a peeve of mine.

I thank Ridelots who first posted that article for me; i've used it many times in my defense of the 'old' 'clunkers'.
May 8, 2002 6:17 AM
In my opinion, bike weight is one of the most over blown topics in the industry today. The important weight is the combined weight of bike + rider.

Consider the following:

22 lbs. bike + 170 lbs. rider = 192 lbs. total
17 lbs. bike + 170 lbs. rider = 187 lbs. total

Total difference = 2.7% Not enough to worry about.

Please don't get me wrong, I like light bikes. Before I buy a part I look at the weight (and cost) and make a judgement regarding value.

One thing worth noting regarding older SL/531 type frames, the stiffness of these is quite similar to the newer stuff. They are heavier however. Also, the older frames are very durable which is a nice bonus. Why everyone is looking for sub 3.0 lbs. frame is a mystery to me.

Ramble over.

Evidence: Lance, 14.5lb. carbon bike 1st place Tour de France.elsaltamontes
May 10, 2002 11:06 AM
but he's 1 of 6 billion people in the world. I like to ride, I like to race with my peers. But I also want a bike that will last, pretty to look at, and is not "disposable". How many of us really race? I mean really feel the need to out bike our cycling buddies? Maybe I'm a minority on this, but I like to ride. You win some, you lose some, but iyour bike will always be the winner if you take pride in it's craftmanship, design and overall character. I love my lugs. I love that I shook the hands of the craftsman that designed my bike. I love that I know it's not a fad and that I'll be riding it well into my 60's.

my 2 cents.
re: Retro or modern?...I would say...Djudd
May 5, 2002 10:06 AM
that I, like most others on this board find the actual difference between the two most intriguing. For example, I love riding lugged-out Italian steel with long campy dropouts and friction shifting Superbe Pro or Campy SR. I don't dislike carbon fiber or most of the new high tech innovations of the last few years (as a matter of fact I welcome them as they keep the price depressed on the older stuff). I just think there is a point of diminshing returns on some of this stuff. Lance, Jan and Gilberto need the absolute latest as quickly as possible. Me and my riding partners don't. The old stuff is esthetically more pleasing and, in most instances, more reliable, easier to fix and easier to maintain. Bikes have indeed lost something in the quest for lightness...a sense of proportion. I saw a guy, the other day riding a set of wheels that were paper thin like he was climbing the L'Alpe d'Huez or the Col de Madelaine against Ullrich. His choice, I agree, but wheels are wheels after a certain point. Mine get me around fine and look better.
true...and what many fail to realise is....Spirito
May 5, 2002 11:09 AM
that not far away as many of us may think all frames will be made by 3 or 4 companies. just like we had many different component manufacturers and now only really have 2.

frames of the future will be plastic. super light and strong and with many high tech innovations. the tooling costs will be so high that only the big companies will be able to afford them. but then popping them out will cost $10 or $15 in materials. i see them being made in 4 sizes and then labelled under many different names. they will have no flaws and be the same as the what champions ride.

only then will the now cheap and readily available old school classics be much admired, very expensive and hard to find. im not saying that we are super profound in our joy of older bikes but the possibilty of the above science fiction happening is not far off indeed.

i think one "old fashioned frame" builder replaces two that die old and relatively poor and are buried with their knowledge. that is not good for the art. cad-cam design doth make science of what once was art. renaissance will be expensive so i choose to be frivolous now. it just makes sense.

i still think 80% of cyclists would be served just as well by an old 12 speed. but consumerism is what it is....
sad to say but I think your scenario is right...Djudd
May 5, 2002 11:38 AM
we are closer to it than most would like to believe. There was a post a few weeks ago from a guy who started welding is own frames but wouldn't for others because Trek sued him for some reason or other. The purpose of the suit was to actually stop him from becoming a future competitor by tying him up in legal red tape. Scary because they succeeded. Think about the implications of that kind of stuff.
true...and what many fail to realise is....guido
May 5, 2002 11:22 PM
Today I rode with a new guy on the club ride. He was on a blue bike with no decals, 1990 Shimano components, aero brake levers and downtube clickers, and a Rolls saddle, the one with gold trim around the back. He liked it enough to repaint it and keep it going. He told me it was one of the first aluminum Treks. "Works great for me. I'm happy with it. Have no desire to upgrade or get a new bike."

There's a herd mentality in consumer culture to go after the latest stuff, to have what everybody else has, accept it as good and like it, whether it is or not. The SUV phenomenon taps into that big time, especially when you observe the Martha Stewart clones driving them--and what they look like after a crash.

Bikes are different, though. As Hummah Hah points out, bikes ride about the same as they did when the first safeties appeared over a hundred years ago. You don't need the latest stuff to have a great ride, or even hang with the pack. That's why a few here have gotten such pleasure from restoring an old bike and marvelling at how well it rides, comes back to life. Most people think of bikes as conveyances, but they're really sports equipment. The rider balances on it and pedals it along, "plays" it.

The problem is when this SUV mentality crosses over into cycling, especially with newcomers to the sport who know nothing about bikes, except that lightweight is good, more speeds is good and new is good.

Your scenario of the future is already coming true. Cars, electronics, appliances, clothing, are being manufactured by fewer and fewer conglomerates, with techniques that are too expensive for smaller innovators. Appropriately, Giant, possibly the largest bike factory in the world, has started the trend to plastic frames with their slant top tube design. It makes possible 4 sizes, greatly reduced production costs and inventories for the sellers. They legitimize their design by sponsoring a top class racing team.

Custom builders will surely continue being around, like Richard Sachs, or the guy you showed recently, Bohemian Cycles, who's frames are original and timeless statements celebrating the beauty of steel.
perfect plastic frames ridden by human clones.colker
May 6, 2002 4:18 AM
iiiiii!!!!! yup. your description makes total sense. old classics will cost a fortune.
Agreement here, however...rwbadley
May 6, 2002 10:03 PM
Following the tech evolution of (take your pick) cars, motorcycles, cameras, computers, etc... We find quantum leaps that create a more reliable, safer, easier to use product. This has indeed happened with the bicycle as well.

I am on my fixie (a 19 lb. bike) with ideal fit will I not have an advantage over a 19 lb. geared bike with more friction of drivetrain?
Possibly; until the uphill where my cadence may be lost. Or the descent where I get spun out at 28mph..
Or the stop sign at the bottom of the hill where I will rely on the single feeble front brake.
We do have this desire to improve our "stuff".

I ride an old Schwinn Tandem with my Son. The bike is 10 lbs heavier than a new Santana. The Santana has far better brakes, and most likely other advantages as well. The old Schwinn is a gorgeous black beauty, and rides so nicely I can easily overlook its minor shortcomings.
Would I like the new Santana?
I am sure of it.
Would it have the 'coolness' of the old Schwinn?
My opinion is 'not in this lifetime'.

I feel pain to see the masters of the frame dwindling in number. The art form is sure to be lost unless we support them. This support means we have to buy NEW bikes from the likes of Della Santa, Sachs, Serotta, Rivendell, etc.

The tough choice for me is there are so many older bikes on the market that were state of the art ten or twenty years ago. These works of art can be had for very little money. It seems difficult to part with $1200 for a new lugged steel frame, when I bought one similar to it for $100.

Yet, If I do not buy the new bike, my framebuilding friend is lost.

Does anybody have comment on this?

May 6, 2002 10:49 PM
im sure you support the master frame builders by riding an old frame and letting others see you and draw questions and maybe some interest. this does trickle on even though it may be small.

if we all rode trek 5200's then we wouldn't know there was an alternative.
I like nothing better than ...Humma Hah
May 7, 2002 3:12 PM
... grinding past someone with a fancy wheelset (happens most often with Spinergies), my shiny chrome steel rims carrying me smoothly up some big hill.

Not that this happens often, but it does happen.
20 lb modern versus 18 lb retro???Humma Hah
May 5, 2002 11:54 AM
Sir, roadbikes weighing in the range of 18 lbs were available in 1890. Of course, they were fixies, with no brakes, and with toe-clips. However, they did have composite rims (cellulose-lignin composite, i.e. wood).

Are modern bikes better? A little. Modern brakes are especially nice, and the shifters are better if you go in for that newfangled geared stuff. However, you gotta realize, even my old 40-something-pound singlespeed cruiser is 70% as good as a modern roadbike when it comes to overall performance. A good older roadbike is probably 95% as good, or better, in most respects. Buy new if you need to shave the last couple of grams, or like the satisfaction, or crave the refinements. Buy old if you realize that what really matters is the motor, and there's only so much you can do to improve on a design that was settled on at the end of the 19th century.
20 lb modern versus 18 lb retro???SteveO
May 6, 2002 7:02 AM
I'm on your page here...

I'm often intrigued by the analogies i hear (or read) which are an attempt to defend purchasing a high-end bike with high-end pricing.

'Well, a corvette outperforms an escort, and it costs 3X more, so it would be logical that a high-performance bike should cost 3x more'.

Well, when the bicycle exceeds 300 percent gains in performance (as a vette does over an escort) i'll accept that argument. In the meantime, i agree gains would be under 5%. It's Up to the individual to decide whether its worth an extra $2000 for such gains.
i dont think...SteveO
May 6, 2002 6:56 AM
Grant is intending to say that 'point and click' bikes aren't as nice as manual. I interpret his comments to be that such bikes (typically) are not beneficial to the average rider, and not as enjoyable to those who enjoy cycling as a recreation (as opposed to those who enjoy cycling as a sport). Personally, i agree.
May 6, 2002 9:31 PM
I should have gone back and read Grant's article before making a general statement. There's no question a 16# STI shifter 10 speed will outrun a 22# downtube friction shifter 6 speed, given comparable fitness levels of the riders. And there's a fine line between recreation and sport, if these regular club rides are any indication.

Seems like, when you're riding by yourself, it's recreation. If riding with others in a group, sport. That's natural, competition. You see it all the time on the interstates around big cities, for one thing, and I suppose it carries over into the weekend club rides, with everyone trying to keep their heartrates up.

Personally, I get more enjoyment out of riding just to enjoy the environment and discover new places, than add up the miles or go faster. Although improvements in performance are rewarding, they're always transitory. Maybe that's why so many ex-racers give up riding. I don't think people realize you don't have to knock yourself out to be fit and healthy.