Bike Forums

Bike Forums (
-   Fifty Plus (50+) (
-   -   55: Vintage or Modern? (

Melliman 05-06-08 07:28 AM

55: Vintage or Modern?
In the mid 80's, I was a pretty avid cyclist - averaging about 125 miles per week - I invested in a nice Colnago frame with Campy SR / NR - my pride and joy - which I learned to maintain and overhaul. Then real life kicked in and out went the cycling hobby - the bike sat in a back corner of the garage, until I sold it to a buddy last year for $1600.

Well, health issure have appeared - high BP and cholesterol - and since January, I've been on a pretty rigid worlout routine, which includes weight training and cardio. The cardio has evolved from elliptical to treadmill to running in the park - my knees and hips are beginning to kill me - and now that the weather's turing here in Chicago, I'm getting the bug to ride. And buy a new bike, of course!

As luck would have it, I have an opportunity to buy my old bike back from my buddy. For both sentimental and practical reasons (the ability to perform maintenance), I'm strongly considering it, but I'm wondering if I'm not nuts to consider new technology (carbon, modern components, etc.). I plan on riding 60 to 80 miles per week - at a pace fast enough to elevate my heart rate - on relatively flat, pretty decent roads.

So, if you had $1600 or so burning a hole in your pocket, what would you do - buy back the old steed, or invest in something new? I'm not opposed to buying used. Thanks in advance for your replies.

Stevie47 05-06-08 07:44 AM

Many folks ride older equipment and of course the workout is just as good. Not to mention the sentimental value of it being your old machine. Heck, I still have my old Cannondale which I bought in 1983 and I ride it occasionally. That being said however, the new technology is definitely an improvement and for me, being a techie the new stuff is very satisfying. If you start riding with others you will really appreciate brifters over downtube shifters. I would think that having new stuff would be a stronger motivator to get out and ride.

As they say about free advice: it's worth every cent.

card 05-06-08 07:48 AM

It's the riding that will lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, not the age of the bike. Ride the one you want--or better yet, buy the old classic and if you still desire a CF model, buy that too.:rolleyes:

maddmaxx 05-06-08 07:51 AM

There are some really great bikes out there for about $1500.

What size wheels did the old mount have..........if 27 then tire selection is somewhat limited.
Better brakes on modern bikes (certainly easier to replace pads and adjust)

I'd get into test ride mode if I were you.

Retro bikes will just turn you into a grouch.

leob1 05-06-08 07:55 AM

I recently started to ride my 1979 Centurion, again. That bike and I will never part. Anyway, it was a very good bike when I bought it, it's a good bike for a 29 year old bike. But it does have it's shortcomings compared to today's technologies. It's heavy compared to todays bikes, it only has a 5 speed freewheel, it has downtube friction shifters. Although it has been maintained and upgraded some, it would be much better with at least an 8 speed, and brifters, and dual pivot brakes, and a carbon fork( If I could find one that would fit), and 700c wheels(it has 27in.), etc.
So if it was my money, I'd go for a new bike.

gcottay 05-06-08 08:18 AM

Welcome, Melliman.

I too suggest you do what would likely keep you riding over the long run, even as the rest of life keeps getting in the way.

Did you enjoy riding the Colnago Campy? If so, you might want to jump on the buy back and avoid the potential gotcha of finding a great new bike that turns out to be not quite right.

Jet Travis 05-06-08 08:19 AM

Melliman, I think this is a very tough call, but in some ways you're in the catbird seat. You have a lot of very good options. The ol' reliable will give you many hours of pleasure with an old friend, and a new bike could be a bit like a new romance.

I'm kind of lucky in that I still have the first real road bike I bought in 1983. I keep it relatively "period-correct" and ride it often. It's sort of like driving a nice Saab. But I also bought a modern road bike a few years ago, which is more like driving a sports car. The only problem is I could use a new motor for both of them.

One thought comes to mind--how are the wheels on the older bike? A nice set of wheels could add to the cost if they need to be rebuilt or replaced.

John E 05-06-08 08:19 AM


Originally Posted by maddmaxx (Post 6644748)
... Retro bikes will just turn you into a grouch.

Hey, I resemble that remark. :) I offer my personal counterpoint herewith:

I took up transportation and recreational cycling during high school, but got really serious about it as a car free UCLA undergrad. I have never taken a long hiatus, but have stayed with and loved the sport continuously through four decades. I have always ridden steel-framed bikes with non-indexed shifting and old school toeclips with straps, and these machines still feel right and look right to me today. I am not racing material now, but I never was, even in my physical prime when I completed a 12:18 double century on an early Nishiki Competition. I ride with a club on Saturday mornings and have never felt that my 10kg Bianchi, or even my 11kg Capo, is significantly holding me back.

My sole objections to older bikes are poor brakes and limited gear selection. New cable housings and salmon KoolStop pads solve the first problem, and 6- or 7-speed freewheels and/or triple chainrings solve the second.

buddyp 05-06-08 08:28 AM

I have a vintage steel bike and a modern carbon bike. Right off the bat I will tell you I ride the carbon bike a lot more than the steel one. Why? Because I don't give a crap about it. I rode it all winter thru the slush and salt and never once felt bad about it. Frankly, its disposable by design anyway. There's no way that its still going to be ridable in 30 years with the "integrated headset" (another way to spell designed for obsolesence) and the glued in aluminum BB shell.

As far as performance goes, I upgraded the steel bike to 9 speed triple back when campy first came out with it (97?). I love the 9 speed setup. The 9 speed triple is a great combo of range while still having close gears for hammerfests along with tremendous durability. The carbon bike has a 10 speed compact drivetrain. Right off the bat I will tell you I hate the 10 speed chains. They don't last and every vendor has the own special fussy way of joining the chain. I got 1200 miles out of my first 10 speed chain and I've never worn out a 9 speed chain in less than 3x that. I hated the compact at first, got used to it after a while, and now that my fitness has improved I hate it again.

Weight? The carbon bike weighed 18.5lb according to the mfgrs web site. The steel bike weighs 21lb according to my bathroom scale. How many of you aren't carrying 2.5lb of extra weight somewhere else?

Actual frame performance? Both ride well. The carbon bike is probably a little more comfortable, but its not like a night and day difference. The main difference is the BB on the carbon bike is really stiff and I do like that. BB flex and rust were the only real gripes I ever had with the steel frame and the carbon one does solve both of those problems.

In the end you need to do what makes you happy. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about with modern bikes, so I bought one. I guess I'm happy I did. It wasn't all that much money and I really like having something I don't have to worry about. I still have my garage queen to ride on sunny days when its not too hot (so I don't sweat all over it, which is what did in the first paint job).

BTW the OP's 80's colnago uses 700c wheels and short reach brakes. I'm not sure colnago ever made bikes with 27" wheels. In my lifetime they always came with sewups (700c).

MKahrl 05-06-08 08:59 AM

If you have grown accustomed to the looks of a steel frame Colnago your asthetic senses are not going to allow you to stomach the appearance of a modern bicycle, carbon fiber, aluminum, titanium, whatever. It's like the difference between a 1967 Alfa Spider and a modern BMW. Young people may be able to lust after a modern BMW but if you're old enough you just want to throw up.

The worst shortcoming the Colnago will have is a lack of low gears. If you live somewhere relatively flat that's not a problem but if not you can replace the front chainwheel with a triple (the front derailleur can handle it), and you'll need to replace the rear derailleur with something that will take up more chain (longer cage).

New brake pads, cables and housing should bring braking up to meet your needs.

cccorlew 05-06-08 09:15 AM

Go new. Maybe not carbon, but at least something with all new modern components. You'll be surprised how nice brifters are. Brakes have come a long way too. You'll like having more gears. You may want to look at a compact double. I measure my cycling life in going from 52-42 to 52-39 to 50-34 and have been happier every lowered gear. I honestly don't know how I lived through hills on my 52-42 13-24 set in my younger days.

Plus, 1600 for an old bike is nuts if you're actually going to ride it, and not just collect it.

buelito 05-06-08 09:19 AM

N+1 that's the formula you have to remember... N+1...

train safe

Cone Wrench 05-06-08 09:55 AM

Last year I bought my first new mountain bike in 20 years. This year I bought my first new road bike (high end carbon fibre) in 20 years. They are an absolute joy to ride. Whenever I finish a ride I can't wait to get out on the bike again. I love the new technology.

Tom Bombadil 05-06-08 10:03 AM

You know what the old bike rides like.

So I would make a quick trip to a couple of LBSs and ride what they offer for $1500-$2000. Then decide which one gives you the most joy & go with it.

BluesDawg 05-06-08 10:25 AM

Very tough call. I can't really advise you as I can't imagine how anyone could ever sell a mid 80's Colnago with Campy components. :eek:

BTW, not everyone agrees with the majority opinion that brifters are a big improvement.

BSLeVan 05-06-08 10:34 AM


Originally Posted by BluesDawg (Post 6645604)
Very tough call. I can't really advise you as I can't imagine how anyone could ever sell a mid 80's Colnago with Campy components. :eek:

BTW, not everyone agrees with the majority opinion that brifters are a big improvement.


I would offer that a mid 80s Colnago running Campy has value just because it exists. There have been many performance improvements (I'll concede that brifters are not universally seen this way), but what the Colnago has is not about "modern day performance." For your riding purposes, the Colnago would work just fine. Yet, there is nothing wrong with buying new if you want the performance advantages. One thing is for sure... you ride the Colnago and you'll have different conversations when you run into and chat with other riders.

Retro Grouch 05-06-08 10:53 AM


Originally Posted by Melliman (Post 6644633)
So, if you had $1600 or so burning a hole in your pocket, what would you do - buy back the old steed, or invest in something new? I'm not opposed to buying used. Thanks in advance for your replies.

That's really a question that only you can answer.

The nice thing about buying a whole new bike is that every part is brand new, every part has been designed to work with all of the other parts, and you get a new bike warranty.

The nice thing about buying a pre-ridden bike or a frame and a box of bike stuff is that you get the opportunity to put together the bike that you think will best serve your purpose. It might take a couple of tries to get there, but the process is part of the fun.

The logical side of my mind says buying a brand new bike is smart. My artistic side says to follow your heart.

Artkansas 05-06-08 12:49 PM


Originally Posted by Melliman (Post 6644633)
So, if you had $1600 or so burning a hole in your pocket, what would you do - buy back the old steed, or invest in something new?

Well, it's simple. That bike has memories that no other bike will ever have for you. If it still works for you, go for it. Otherwise, find something else.

genec 05-06-08 01:38 PM

I'd bet that "old" Colnago will outlast anything plastic...

The Weak Link 05-06-08 01:38 PM

Buy a new full carbon bike. That's my vote.

Let us know what you end up doing.

dck 05-06-08 01:52 PM

Stick with the Colnago. You may never again have the opportunity to own such a classic. You can always walk into any bike shop in any city or town and select a contemporary bike from a wide selection of models. FWIW, except for my Trek 7300 FX commuter, all my road bikes are vintage, the oldest being from 1962. I think they ride as well as any contemporary bike, the only difference being that they use downtube shifters vs. brifters.

sauerwald 05-06-08 02:08 PM


My story is similar to yours, I used to ride a bike a lot, then after graduating from college, I hung it up, gained weight and had a heart attack. I now commute on a bike most days, and feel far better than I did 6 years ago when the heart woke me up.
In my opinion, the most important thing about a bike is that it fit you - both physically and mentally. I would never feel comfortable on a carbon bike, but that's me. At the same time, I have, and love a bianchi of similar vintage to John E's bike (mine is a 1986 Campione), which I have upgraded to have modern indexed shifting - that bike fits me well. I also have a custom built steel, lugged frame bike which, for other rides, fits me too, and my workhorse, daily commuter started life as a steel touring bike. I think that it still has the original headset, but I don't think that any other components on the bike are original. It is hard to figure out where the bike ends and where I begin when I am on it. It is heavy (about 36lbs), slow, reliable, comfortable - very much like me in many ways :).

My advice would be - if the Colnago fits - then that is your bike and you need to bring it home.

tsl 05-06-08 02:48 PM

I'm in the N+1 camp. I really enjoy having two bikes with completely different personalities.

So buy the Colnago back and later buy something nice and contemporary. That'll give you a nice baseline from which to buy the third bike.

BluesDawg 05-06-08 02:58 PM

I think tsl hit it square on the head. You've been given a rare second chance, so don't let that Colnago slip away from you again. But later, get yourself something more modern, just for a change of pace. Then start planning the next one.
N+1 must be obeyed. ;)

stapfam 05-06-08 03:08 PM

Going to disagree with most here. At your increased age since you last rode the Colnago- you have lost a lot of fitness. That Colnago bike is old with old components that although they may have been top-notch 20 years ago- Will not cut it up against modern bikes.

In the last two years I have gone from a Starter bike- Giant OCR- To a top notch Bike- Boreas Ignis and got a Respectable bike in a Giant TCR. The Boreas is a dream to ride- but the TCR is not far behind. So I reckon that you can get a bike that is easier to ride- lighter to ride and with better Modern components than the 20 year old bike you are considering buying back. With $1500 you are getting into the realms of a bike that is going to encourage you to use it.

May be sacrilege to say it- but Your Colnago is an old bike- A lot has changed in the last 20 years and it has not all been bad.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:16 AM.