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This weekends ride, a vintage steel road bike. (With a review.)

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This weekends ride, a vintage steel road bike. (With a review.)

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Old 05-14-12, 03:09 PM
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Hill-Pumper
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This weekends ride, a vintage steel road bike. (With a review.)

I had a chance to ride an old vintage steel road bike this weekend. My boss wanted me to do some maintenance on it so he could ride with his wife. Of course it needed a test ride, so I did just that. Since a lot of riders here can pick up similar bikes used on craigslist, I thought that I would do a review. The bike I was riding was an early 80's Centurion Sport DLX. It has a 6 speed rear cog and standard double up front. My ride was 23 miles of chip sealed road, and rolling hills with a total of 1000 feet of elevation gain.

I'll start off with the things that I liked about the bike. First, it has been 30 years since I have ridden a lugged steel frame. I forgot how smooth and compliant of a ride that they have. The frame and fork had a little flex, but nothing that felt like it was going to break. Second, was the Vetta saddle. It was a slice of heaven that supported all the right spots. I may look for something along the same lines for my road bike. Third, was just the cool factor of riding a piece of history. I can't really put it in words, but it was just neat.

Now for the things I did not like. First and foremost, the stem mounted shifters. Bifters have spoiled me, and taking my hands off the bars every time to shift in rolling hills sucked. Also, the shifters are not indexed, so there is often readjusting to get the gears right. All this is a safety factor that must be considered if someone wants a bike like this. Second was the platform pedals. This is an easy fix, but I missed my clipless after my feet slipped off the platforms.

There were a few things that surprised me though. I found that the six speed rear cogs provided me with reasonably good gear selection. The spread between gears was greater then say my ten speed rear cogs, but nothing that I could not manage. Also, the geometry did not feel did not feel out of date. My riding position was comfortable as my modern road bike. My thoughts are that if someone wanted to update a bike to bifters, that the bike would feel as good as many modern road bikes. At some point the cost would become prohibitive, but worth considering in the right circumstances.

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Old 05-14-12, 03:12 PM
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did you begin to feel... that steel... is indeed... real?

steel is real yo!
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Old 05-14-12, 03:15 PM
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Hi-ten would be real steel, followed by cro-mo. I think a lot of us that ride vintage steel would take those stem shifters over a set of brifters, ...i.e. yo, stop shifting all the time and man up, stand up.
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Old 05-14-12, 03:23 PM
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Funny, a few of us were talking in another thread about how much we enjoyed riding our old steel bikes. The combination of traditional geometry and the material itself does give a beautiful ride, there's no doubt about it. Personally I found myself comfortable again with the downtube shifters within a very short time. Obviously not as convenient as Brifters, but then again, with only a six-speed block on the back I only change gear about half as often, anyway.

And I don't care what anyone says, these things look like bikes should look. Much as I love my carbon road bikes, they just haven't got the elegance and class of a frame like that.
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Old 05-14-12, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by FrenchFit View Post
Hi-ten would be real steel, followed by cro-mo. I think a lot of us that ride vintage steel would take those stem shifters over a set of brifters, ...i.e. yo, stop shifting all the time and man up, stand up.
LOL! I ride a steel SS/fixie to 18 miles a day to work and have to stand up at every stop sign, every red-turn-green traffic light, every hill/grade, and yes, it's called manning up. Shifters? What are those?!?

Seriously, the Centurion is a very nice ride. I used to work in a shop that serviced and sold those. It reminds me of my older Bridgestone 300 and 400, albeit, they had sloped fork crowns that were not only good looking, but a bit more stiff laterally and significantly more rigid and thicker than the steel used on the older racing bikes of the day that were more than noodly, but those bikes were built for commuter comfort, and I must have ridden 10k miles on my first BS 400 before deciding to scrape the paint off the front fork and rear seat stays and braze on some cantilever bosses to make my own CX bike.

Vintage steel is sometimes such a pleasure to ride. Just think what it'd be like to ride steel, but with brifters? Hmmm... doesn't that give you food for thought?
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Old 05-14-12, 05:36 PM
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I put brifters on an old Bianchi (well, it's a low-end steel Bianchi from 1992, so it's really nothing special) and yeah, DT shifters suck in comparison, but they're much cheaper & easier to maintain for the average joe. It's not a complicated upgrade except for having to stretch out the rear dropouts.

I should polish it up and go see if I still like it. I haven't ridden it in years and my wife's hounding me to get rid of it.
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Old 05-14-12, 06:49 PM
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I completely upgraded my old steel columbus tubed Bianchi with modern shimano ultegra/105 and it's a dream to ride. Comfy, fast, looks great, and its 100% reliable. It doesn't jump off the line or float up hills like new carbon or aluminum bike but it chugs along at 25mph quietly, comfortably, and it's very stable. The entire build including bike was under $600 (though it took some pretty clever shopping)
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Old 05-14-12, 10:55 PM
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Even though some may disagree with my assessment of the stem shifters, we all can agree that steel has some great ride qualities. I grew up on a bike with down tube shifters, and I am sure with practice I could master them again. The one thing that did happen on this ride is open my mind to the possibility of steel for a future bike. I have not decided which material it will be, but steel has some advantages that I will consider. I live less then an hour from the Co-Motion factory, so I may have to go down there and talk to them when I get the chance.
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Old 05-15-12, 01:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Hill-Pumper View Post
The one thing that did happen on this ride is open my mind to the possibility of steel for a future bike. I have not decided which material it will be, but steel has some advantages that I will consider. I live less then an hour from the Co-Motion factory, so I may have to go down there and talk to them when I get the chance.
The next time I can justify a new bike - it'll be a while, I have five already - I have promised myself a custom frame in Reynolds 953 stainless.
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Old 05-15-12, 05:47 AM
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Just finished putting 6510 brifters on my 1988 Schwinn Circuit, along with making it 8 speed. Keep it at work so when I have some free time I can ride there too.
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Old 05-15-12, 06:27 AM
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100% with you, I love Steel.
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Old 05-15-12, 07:44 AM
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I have to admit that I actually like stem shifters! I guess it would be a pain if there were a bezillion gears to choose from, but with 5 or 6, it doesn't seem like much of a hassle at all.
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Old 05-15-12, 08:03 AM
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I like stem shifters so much I was going to retro a more modern bike with those ergo shifters that connect to the bar, but too pricey for 20-30 yr old technology. The real problem with stem shifters is they make using a bento box impossible unless you tuck it under the seat or have one that hangs down the sides, yuk,...and I like to keep my eye on my snacks.

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Old 05-15-12, 08:23 AM
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I love my steel bikes. I'm have a set of SunTour Bar-cons I've been saving to replace the down-tube shifters on my Shogun.
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Old 05-15-12, 11:45 AM
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Brifters on a Reynolds 853 frame is pretty lovely. Lighter than Hi-Ten or Cro-Mo, still comfortable and lively (click the Shwinn in my sig).

I did try out a brand new Specialized Allez cro-mo w/ DT shifters a couple years ago and I almost bought it on the spot. Indexed instead of friction, but other than that, light, comfy and fast. Dunno if Specialized still offer it, but even w/ the lower grade components, it was a blast to ride.

For your boss' old bike, he should throw some clips & straps and a rack to carry picnic lunches.
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Old 05-15-12, 02:20 PM
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Well all this steel talk has got me excited. I looked a little deeper into steel frames and it looks like the Gunnar Roadie might fit the bill for a future bike build. My wife is eying my current road bike as her future bike, so maybe this can happen.
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Old 05-15-12, 04:41 PM
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Glad you enjoyed it! I love my classics!
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Old 05-15-12, 07:56 PM
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I'm in the Steel is Real! camp.

My current daily rider is a Puch mixte that I just started riding this week. Seat's a little high, and I'll fix that if I ever find the right size wrench. Otherwise, it's a fun ride. It looks pretty rough, but honestly, that's not such a bad thing in a city commuter. I'm planning on putting on a rack and fenders.

For longer distances I have a LHT. Again, a really nice ride. Last weekend I rode about 15 miles in some hills and, for the first time since I got the bike in Feb, used the granny gear. (It's nice to know it's there if I need it.)
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Old 05-16-12, 01:27 AM
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Nice centurion you have there.

I have an 84 Schwinn Tempo, similar to my old Centurion LeMans from my younger/thinner days. I tried a friends new road bike that is aluminum and I didn't care for the ride of it. Steel and chromoly just feels smoother to me!
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