the guy said that they cost 20x as much as the "standard" ones when he put them on after I complained about the breaks initially. the person above suggests "aero" break levers -- are they wrong?
Not wrong, just opinionated. And the spelling is brakes, not breaks. I see that someone else already corrected you. I think I am on safe ground suggesting that, if you want to get involved with vintage (old) iron... you are going to have to get a lot more comfortable with doing your own wrenchin'. The LBS guy's will take you to the cleaners (bankrupt you), without remorse (regret) if they sense that you are really as clueless as you sound. I say that kindly. I already suggested Tektro brake levers as one source of quality, reasonably priced brake levers. And they are. Or you can keep your old school steel levers. Aero brake levers don't work any better, but they sure feel better to your hands. Your choice. Some of us for whom aesthetics (looks) are important, also feel that aero levers look much nicer than those old style levers that you are currently using. As for pads... no need to spend 20x. Don't even know if that is possible. Just about anything sold will get you stopped. More money gets you stopped slightly faster and work better in the rain. FWIW.