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Old 04-19-08, 09:41 AM   #1
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In praise of the steel race bike.

Today I rode the training ride/race, where most people ride full carbon bikes, extremely deep dish carbon aero wheels and very expensive color matched helmets, shoes and kits for teams they don't ride for. Entry into this club is at least $5000 and there are some that have paid well over $10k for a premium membership. This is a serious group with many very fast racers, although they weren't going all out this morning.

There was a guy, probably in his early 30's, riding a vintage, downtube shifter, full Campy Cinelli, probably from the late 70's, early 80's. He had the whole retro kit, a leather hairnet over a campy cap, mesh back leather palm gloves, he even had a spare tube around his waist! Well this guy easily kept up with the group, in fact he could easily move up and through the pack at will. Many guys with the latest, most expensive gear fell off the back, but this guy held on for the whole ride.

You talk with most wannabee racers these days and all they talk about is the number of watts this unobtanium/carbon part will give you, but the proof is in the legs. The fact that this guy could easily keep up demonstrates that there has been very little functional improvement since the golden age of race bikes, the late 70's-early 80's, despite the new, expensive materials that bikes are made of today.
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Old 04-19-08, 09:48 AM   #2
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A full Campy 70's Cinelli and all that retro kit bought today is probably not much cheaper than a full blown modern carbon bike.

As for performance, motor is motor.
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Old 04-19-08, 09:55 AM   #3
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A full Campy 70's Cinelli and all that retro kit bought today is probably not much cheaper than a full blown modern carbon bike.
That's what I was thinking! But still it's probably a bit cheaper. A full blown carbon can easily cost $10,000.
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Old 04-19-08, 10:19 AM   #4
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The message I get from San Rensho's post is that it needn't necessarily have been a megabuck Cinelli, but that any quality vintage steel racing bike can still be competitive (with the right engine, of course).
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Old 04-19-08, 10:30 AM   #5
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The message I get from San Rensho's post is that it needn't necessarily have been a megabuck Cinelli, but that any quality vintage steel racing bike can still be competitive (with the right engine, of course).
Precisely, but it was actually a sweet, pretty high end Cinelli.
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Old 04-19-08, 10:34 AM   #6
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The message I get from San Rensho's post is that it needn't necessarily have been a megabuck Cinelli, but that any quality vintage steel racing bike can still be competitive (with the right engine, of course).
of course.

But put a pro on a vintage where the engines are all near their peak performance and I think they would be at a huge disadvantage.
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Old 04-19-08, 11:36 AM   #7
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There is a saying in both motorcycling & bicycling: "The slowest part of the bike is the rider."

Except in my case. All that's holding me back is my non-aerodynamic overweight water bottle.
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Old 04-19-08, 11:47 AM   #8
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Damn, now I feel bad. It's only $35 a year for a family membership in my club

But I agree with cyclotoine, apples to apples, a modern bike gives a huge advantage. I'll grant you though, Lance Armstrong, even retired, could probably kick my butt riding a 1900 shaft-drive Columbia

I've always been a recreational cyclist but I decided to try racing a couple of years ago. I figured if my running freinds could go out and run in 5K and 10K races and even marathons then I could do it on a bike. So I joined a racing club (not the club I'm in now) and trained and started out with a time trial series. The young CAT P-1-2 guys were finishing the course close to 21:00. The middle aged CAT 45 leaders were finishing around 21:30. I think the CAT 55 leaders were still well under 22:00. I figured the CAT 4 35+ guys would be slow pokes like me but nyoooo...the leaders were still under 22:00 ('cause they were all sorry ***** sand bagging expert mountain bikers or tri racers who didn't have a road rating ). My freind and I decided that the only way we could be competative was to enter as 10-12yo girls or over 65 women (and no, we aren't female ) so we gave up. The point being, any of those guys (or gals) could kick our butts on vintage bikes even if we were riding the latest and greatest (actually my freind was riding a full on modern aero time trial bike) but the difference between winning and loosing was a matter of seconds even across a wide variety of catagories so a modern bike would make all the difference if you were in that position.

Now even after I said all that, I still take my vintage bike on club rides - sometimes I keep up, sometimes I get dropped but it ain't the bike's fault either way so you're right in so far as for normal riders riding at a sub-racing pace, the technology hasn't changed so much as to prevent you from riding a vintage bike with a group on modern bikes.
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Old 04-19-08, 01:50 PM   #9
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This morning on the club ride a couple of people noticed I was on my "old" and "heavy" Serotta (86 Nova, but with modern Campagnolo). So 50 miles into the 60 mile route, I decided to show them what old and heavy could do by being the first person over the top of Windhaven hill (toughest climb in the Plano, tx area - but that isn't saying too much), by about a dozen bike lengths or more. This in a small group which included a Pinarello F4:13, a couple of titanium frames, a Griffin TT bike, etc. Tomorrow I'll be taking the Gazelle to the Tempo/Recovery ride. See if I can hold their "tempo" with the super record group.
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Old 04-19-08, 03:09 PM   #10
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One of my pleasures is dropping the Ti and carbon full kit club boys riding my pink De Rosa, with down tube shifters and toe clip pedals, and I'm an overweight old man.

The last time I rode with a racer, he just kept saying, today is my rest day, and how uncompetitive steel was in the peloton. For a racer, he sure wasn't competitive.

Not saying I can keep up with a Cat 4 even, but it sure isn't the bike holding me back.
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Old 04-19-08, 06:03 PM   #11
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This morning on the club ride a couple of people noticed I was on my "old" and "heavy" Serotta (86 Nova, but with modern Campagnolo). So 50 miles into the 60 mile route, I decided to show them what old and heavy could do by being the first person over the top of Windhaven hill (toughest climb in the Plano, tx area - but that isn't saying too much), by about a dozen bike lengths or more. This in a small group which included a Pinarello F4:13, a couple of titanium frames, a Griffin TT bike, etc. Tomorrow I'll be taking the Gazelle to the Tempo/Recovery ride. See if I can hold their "tempo" with the super record group.
I'll loan you my Raleigh Ltd.-3. It was made by Gazelle.


If you are racing, a new bike will make a difference. If you are club riding, no need to drop huge amounts of money. No need, but there may be plenty of desire to do so, if only because that's human nature. So don't worry about it.

I've ridden with plenty of people with 8-speed downtube shifters, barends, Nashbar frames, you name it. My first road bike was a 2005 Orbea with carbon fork, seatpost, seatstays, and full Ultegra so I know full well it's not the bike, it's the rider.

I sometimes take the Fixed gear bike on road rides. Not with the fast group, but then they often jack up the pace and leave me behind anyways.
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Old 04-19-08, 06:12 PM   #12
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as some of you have surely noted, the Furnace 508 is offering a pre-'83 class this year. No brifters, no clipless pedals, no nothing post-83. And, nothing but steel allowed. hombre-up. they leveled the playing field.

http://www.the508.com/divisions/classic.html
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Old 04-19-08, 07:37 PM   #13
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of course.

But put a pro on a vintage where the engines are all near their peak performance and I think they would be at a huge disadvantage.
Absolutely.

Not near enough room for SPONSORS LOGOS SPONSORS LOGOS SPONSORS LOGOS SPONSORS LOGOS

And without the SPONSORS LOGOS SPONSORS LOGOS there are other things you can't afford.
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Old 04-19-08, 07:43 PM   #14
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A full Campy 70's Cinelli and all that retro kit bought today is probably not much cheaper than a full blown modern carbon bike.
Well it's still an expensive bike in an expensive club.
If someone had kicked everyone else's ass in an old mid-level fuji then I'd be impressed.
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Old 04-19-08, 08:35 PM   #15
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.....there has been very little functional improvement since the golden age of race bikes.....
Yeah - if you don't count STI shifting, dual pivot brakes, and free hubs.
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Old 04-19-08, 09:04 PM   #16
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Yeah - if you don't count STI shifting, dual pivot brakes, and free hubs.
Pretty sure that while riding, the freehub is not a functional improvement. It's easier to change cassettes than freewheels, but that's about it. OK, a theoretical strength advantage.

Dual pivot brakes? Maybe.

STI: depends on the rider, I think. And the venue.

Probably wheels. Wheels are probably quicker.

But mostly, there's extra space for SPONSORS LOGOS SPONSORS LOGOS
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Old 04-19-08, 09:08 PM   #17
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Yeah - if you don't count STI shifting, dual pivot brakes, and free hubs.
BBM, I have freehubs on all of my mid 80's Shimano DA. Campy of the same era, not so much.

As far as the rest...brakes, try not to slow down, Brifters, try to pick a gear and stick with it. Knowing the road is important.

Seriously, I think brifters are a great step forward, safety wise, but I think new steel technology is even more important, performance wise.

I can't tell you how much I want a 54cm De Rosa Primato in EL/OS with diamente chain stays and a flat, steel fork crown.

Anyone?
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Old 04-19-08, 09:42 PM   #18
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Pretty sure that while riding, the freehub is not a functional improvement. It's easier to change cassettes than freewheels, but that's about it. OK, a theoretical strength advantage.

Dual pivot brakes? Maybe.

STI: depends on the rider, I think. And the venue.

Probably wheels. Wheels are probably quicker.

But mostly, there's extra space for SPONSORS LOGOS SPONSORS LOGOS
There are some races around here where you might be able to get away with DT shifters, but most crits, especially if there's a hill or two, you would be at a decided disadvantage without STI.
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Old 04-19-08, 10:00 PM   #19
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There are some races around here where you might be able to get away with DT shifters, but most crits, especially if there's a hill or two, you would be at a decided disadvantage without STI.
If one were racing, I can see brifters being an advantage. In fast group/club/rec rides, not so much.

I'm pushing 60, and I tend to pick a gear and stick with it. On climbs, I time my shifts. I think most folks would agree that you are actually a bit faster with DT shifters, because you tend to muscle through, instead of wimping out.
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Old 04-19-08, 11:10 PM   #20
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I'm pushing 60, and I tend to pick a gear and stick with it. On climbs, I time my shifts. I think most folks would agree that you are actually a bit faster with DT shifters, because you tend to muscle through, instead of wimping out.
That's ridiculous. Maximising your effort through proper gear ratio is not "wimping out", and it's going to be faster and more efficient than building up lactic acid by pushing too large a gear or redlining by spinning one too small. That's why a close ratio 10 speed cluster operated from the bars is such an ideal tool for racing or hard riding.

You know it's ok to like and ride old bikes for what they are. Comparing them to modern race bikes is a complete waste of time. If you do not appreciate modern technology you are probably not riding hard enough for it to matter. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Feeling superior to "dumb rich guys on carbon Nagos that you pass on your Varsity", is starting to sound like a classic & vintage urban legend and should be filed under, "guys who race guys who don't know they are racing".
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Old 04-19-08, 11:20 PM   #21
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That's ridiculous. Maximising your effort through proper gear ratio is not "wimping out", and it's going to be faster and more efficient than building up lactic acid by pushing too large a gear or redlining by spinning one too small. That's why a close ratio 10 speed cluster operated from the bars is such an ideal tool for racing or hard riding.

You know it's ok to like and ride old bikes for what they are. Comparing them to modern race bikes is a complete waste of time. If you do not appreciate modern technology you are probably not riding hard enough for it to matter. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Feeling superior to "dumb rich guys on carbon Nagos that you pass on your Varsity", is starting to sound like a classic & vintage urban legend and should be filed under, "guys who race guys who don't know they are racing".
If you want an argument from me, you'll have to change the subject.



I just rode 40 miles today on my vintage 6 speed Mondia. While my overall average speed wasn't really affected and I had a great time, all day long I was either pushing in too hard a gear or spinning out of not enough a gear. With 10 speeds, as you mentioned, you can match almost exactly the proper gear to your terrain. If you put identical motors on vintage and modern, it is silly to suggest the vintage is "just as good" or that modern "has no significant technical advantage". Apples and oranges.

Close ratio 10 speed with fingertip control on the drops and hoods is where it's at, and up until 2 years ago I spent a lifetime on DT shifters.
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Old 04-20-08, 01:42 AM   #22
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Maximising your effort through proper gear ratio is not "wimping out", and it's going to be faster and more efficient than building up lactic acid by pushing too large a gear or redlining by spinning one too small. That's why a close ratio 10 speed cluster operated from the bars is such an ideal tool for racing or hard riding.
I have not ridden modern but I don't doubt this is true. I see it on rides from the wrong side of the deal.

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Feeling superior to "dumb rich guys on carbon Nagos that you pass on your Varsity", is starting to sound like a classic & vintage urban legend and should be filed under, "guys who race guys who don't know they are racing".
They feel superior when they pass me, so I might as well enjoy it when I pass them.

And if you can't afford a good modern bike, you make a virtue out of necessity.

And if you're obsessed with classic & vintage, you make a virtue out of irrationality.
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Old 04-20-08, 02:42 AM   #23
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on a fast club ride, i somewhat agree with the op's premise- a guy with classic gear that's fit, motivated, tactically saavy & cunning is never to be counted out regardless of his equipment.
the differences between the latest/greatest and the best of the traditional gear is measured in increments-increments which can be minimised,& sometimes even erased by skill and desire but racing is a completely different story... all those increments begin to add up over the course of an event.
a major part of any form of racing is being able to respond immediately and directly to attacks and changing conditions.
even the smallest of dissimilarities can mean falling off and not being able to ride your own race and make the most of your strengths.
when your competition is all roughly equal in fitness and skill, having the perfect gear to select from is the only way to stay with the pack over any sort of distance and the ability to almost instantaneously shift from the hoods & jump in a bunch sprint is the difference between a high placing and getting snookered & shut out cold.

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Old 04-20-08, 06:18 AM   #24
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One of my pleasures is dropping the Ti and carbon full kit club boys riding my pink De Rosa, with down tube shifters and toe clip pedals, and I'm an overweight old man.

The last time I rode with a racer, he just kept saying, today is my rest day, and how uncompetitive steel was in the peloton. For a racer, he sure wasn't competitive.

Not saying I can keep up with a Cat 4 even, but it sure isn't the bike holding me back.
Any of you SEEN OFG? Fat old guy, my ass! Has great bikes, tho.
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Old 04-20-08, 06:50 AM   #25
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There are some races around here where you might be able to get away with DT shifters, but most crits, especially if there's a hill or two, you would be at a decided disadvantage without STI.
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STI: depends on the rider, I think. And the venue.
I think we said the same thing.

And on the subject of bike/rider relationship... I've seen a fairly fit 40 something on a recumbent do a club ride and drop younger, thinner guys ... going uphill. I suspect there was a big difference in quality saddle hours between them, however.

I have heard, however, that brand name placebos are 20% more effective than generic, so I can totally see the point about everybody riding the exact same stuff
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