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  1. #1
    Tinkerer jamesl's Avatar
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    "10-speed" Pet Peeve

    When did "10 speed" come to mean any bike with more than one speed?

    I just recently started watching Craigslist looking for older road bikes and initially got excited when I would see "10-speed bike for sale." Now I've learned that phrase actually means "I'm too stupid or lazy to count the speeds, but I'm reasonably certain the bike has more than one -- and I don't know the brand or the model but I think it has knobby tires and we bought it at Wal-Mart."

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    peaced out deez's Avatar
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    It is Craigslist... its a bit like glorified dumpster diving.

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    In todays terms, 10 speed would indicate the number of cogs on the rear cassette, so if you have a triple on the front you would have a 30 speed, but nobody calls them that.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesl View Post
    When did "10 speed" come to mean any bike with more than one speed?

    I just recently started watching Craigslist looking for older road bikes and initially got excited when I would see "10-speed bike for sale."
    You're a little late. That just means the seller is stuck in the '70s bike boom era nomenclature. It means a bike has front and rear derailleur. Whenever I see the term "10 speed," I hear a Southwest Virginia accent saying it.

    As noted above, people nowadays mention how many cogs in the rear. But this is rarely used in the context of "10 speed bike."

  5. #5
    WNG
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    The generalized usage of that term goes to show the person's age. Old enough to experience the 70s era where any bike with 27" tires, derailleurs and a drop bar, was called a 10-speed racer. And not into cycling to continue to use this antiquated term.
    Don't dismiss such posts and descriptions though. As the seller could mistakenly lump a $$$$ road bike with the perceived junk from the 70s department stores and let it go for a song during a garage cleaning.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by WNG View Post
    Don't dismiss such posts and descriptions though. As the seller could mistakenly lump a $$$$ road bike with the perceived junk from the 70s department stores and let it go for a song during a garage cleaning.
    +1

    This is one of the things I look for on CL since it means the seller doesn't know enough to recognize crap from quality. Sure it means you have to wade through a lot of garbage, but that's imperative if you are going to find some real good bikes for cheap.

  7. #7
    26 tpi nut. sailorbenjamin's Avatar
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    I answered a free bike ad and asked the lady what kind of bike it was. She said she didn't know but it had "speeds".
    Oh well. Can't complain about a free bike.
    I have spoken.

  8. #8
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    "You don't want this Magna mountain bike? Well yeah, I've got another bike, but its in the back. It's an old 10 speed bike (actually 12 speed), it's old. Are you sure you want to look at it? This mountain bike is much nicer."

    Me, "That's OK, I'll give you ten bucks for the old, beat up, rusted Raleigh. Good luck selling the mountain bike."
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    Quote Originally Posted by WNG View Post
    The generalized usage of that term goes to show the person's age.
    It's only a 10-speed if it's got skinny TARZ and RAM handlebars.

  10. #10
    Tinkerer jamesl's Avatar
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    I've calmed down a bit. My rant was set off by a woman who claimed to have "several 10 speeds" that needed work and you could "make a little money" fixing and selling them. Turns out they were all junky department store bikes not worth a dime.

    I guess I shouldn't be complaining. One 10 speed freebie I got off Craigslist, all the lady could tell me was that it was old and had been hanging in their garage for years. Turned out to be an '84 Schwinn Le Tour Luxe. Aside from a broken rear derailleur it was in absolutely perfect condition. I can only dream about finding something else half as nice at twice the price...
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  11. #11
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    The joy/pain of knowing better is seeing how clueless many are. 10 speed can be 3 in front, 7 in back (logical, isn't it?) of an actual 10 speed. If they post pics, a savy buyer can immediately seperate the good from the bad. If it is description only, you can only say "Do you feel lucky punk, well, do you?"

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    Senior Member Bikedued's Avatar
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    I once fell for this, only it was an "Old Trek 10 speed." With visions of an early 531 tubed model I ventured forth into the teeth pulling game of. "will you please send me a picture?" After three or four days
    the pic that landed in my email, was of a 10 year old Trek 820 MTB. Although it was in nearly perfect shape, I passed. Of course this same type of ad landed me a PX-10, so I guess I shouldn't complain, hehe.,,,,BD

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    Guess I'm stupid and lazy, becuase I love calling all old skinny tire bikes "10 speeds". It's become what I think they call a vernacular or jargon. The language of the common people. The truly stupid call 'em "whips"

  14. #14
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    my normal response to a cryptic 10 speed ad is to ask the seller what it says on the frame--any decals or any painted words. you can usually get them to respond much quicker than asking for a photo and that will usually give you an idea of whether it is worth it to look further. if you ask for a photo, they may not have a digital camera or they may not know how to post pictures, or they just may not have the time to do it for a few days. that's critical time you can't afford to loose if it is a good bike.

  15. #15
    Rustbelt Rider mkeller234's Avatar
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    I have asked sellers to read the frame before and had one guy who wasn't able to do that, or maybe just didn't want to.

    The same people that call any geared bike a 10 speed seem to all ride 27 inch bikes too. I usually get excited when I see those ads because I automatically think 70's or 80's.
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  16. #16
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    Less common, but also a good one is the "skinny tire" bike nomenclature. I got a good bike from that once.

    I'm generally a little suspicious of the people who use the wheel size to indicate the size of the bike because that is what the X-Mart bike stores use. I will investigate those but I have yet to find a good bike that came with a wheel size = bike size ad.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Bikedued's Avatar
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    I usually ask for a pic mainly because it can kill two birds with one stone. You can possibly see the brand and model, while at the same time get an idea of condition. A lot of these poor souls fail to realize bikes have a brand and model names just like vehicles do, which is why it's just an "old ten speed" to them. Another one of my favorites is the "It was real light" used to describe a bike that was sold right before you responded. It makes you wonder what they actually had.,,,,BD

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    Reminds me of a time when a bike of mine was stolen. I had left it outside a convenience store unlocked. An old Schwinn Typhoon with a 2 speed kiciback hub and a Brooks pro saddle. I was in the store for just a minute and came back out to find my bike gone. This was in about 1980 when I was in College, and everyone rode a 10 speed.

    Anyway, whithin a couple minutes a police car is driving by and I flag him down. I tell the officers that my bike was just stolen. They said to hop in the car and they'd drive around and look. They asked for a description and I told them it was an old fat tire Schwinn, like the kind from the 1950's. They're response was, "Oh a 10 speed". No not a 10 speed I replied. I described it again, single speed, old fashion Schwinn. Theyre response once again, "A 10 speed".

    The "10 speed" was so ingrained in the minds of everyone by 1980, that every bike was refered to as a 10 speed. It was synomonous with "Bike".

  19. #19
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesl View Post
    When did "10 speed" come to mean any bike with more than one speed?
    I remember an article in Popular Mechanics* in around, oh, maybe 1967, about "ten speed" bikes. Far superior to "English racers", according to the article!

    I also remember when a few older people still refered to a bicycle as a "wheel", a residual term hanging on from the 1880s (when "wheelmen" meant "cyclists"). You probably won't see that in Craigslist.

    tcs

    *Anyone else remember the regular monthly column on bicycles in Popular Mechanics during the bike boom?
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

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  20. #20
    Forum Admin lotek's Avatar
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    english racer = 3 speed ala hercules, robin hood etc.
    10 speed. 5 cogs in the back, 2 chainrings up front
    5 speed 5 cogs rear, 1 chainring up front.

    And that's the way it was. of course there were the oddball 4 speed, and 8 speed bikes but they
    were few and far between.

    Unterhausen, can we say blacksburg? southwest virginia indeed.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    I remember an article in Popular Mechanics* in around, oh, maybe 1967, about "ten speed" bikes. Far superior to "English racers", according to the article!

    I also remember when a few older people still refered to a bicycle as a "wheel", a residual term hanging on from the 1880s (when "wheelmen" meant "cyclists"). You probably won't see that in Craigslist.

    tcs

    *Anyone else remember the regular monthly column on bicycles in Popular Mechanics during the bike boom?
    A lot of clubs had Wheelmen in their name. The club I rode with in my youth were the Chi-Town Golden Wheelmen. Sometimes we refered to ourselves as the Chi-Town FOLDEN WHEEL men.

  22. #22
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesl View Post
    When did "10 speed" come to mean any bike with more than one speed?
    Then under no circumstances should click here.
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  23. #23
    Big Wheel Pilot MrSpacely's Avatar
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    I think a few of us are showing our age. Yes, 10-speed bikes did in fact have ten speeds or two x five back in the day. They all did. If you must dismiss the "10-speed" then you'd better throw out the "mountain bike" as well. It's just a dumb term because so many people use it these days to describe just about any bike that has dirt tires of a given width. Which, by the way, were once referred to as "knobbies".

  24. #24
    Muscle bike design spec robtown's Avatar
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    I answered one ad for a bike near my office. It turned out to be a Centurian my size. When I asked her the price she said it was free! It was a good solid bike that I rode for a few months before selling (after a good overhaul).
    Many 10 speeds I see listed are non suspension MTB, usually low end.
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