Sunday, August 26, 2012

Modern Versus Vintage

Several years ago, one of the better British cycling magazines did a nice comparison of Vintage bikes and modern bikes. They did all the typical comparisons like weight, number of gear ratios and stiffness. I think it came as no surprise to any of the readers of their pages that the modern bike won.

There is a lot to be said however for vintage bicycles. There are so many wonderful things that are going for them. For example, Steel bicycles have a ride which truly is incomparable. They don't just mute the bumps, they spring with them. You can feel the bicycle respond under your legs and arms - In that regard, Carbon and most aluminum just feel 'dead'.

Next on the list is the character of vintage bikes. My Colnago was put together by somebody named Giuseppi or Giani, or some other name that ends in 'I'. Additionally, it was ridden by Beppo Saronni to the World Championships and the Giro D'italia title in the early 80's. How many bikes can make the same claim!

I'm a 'vintage' kind of guy, so for the last 9 months, I've ridden basically nothing but the Saronni.

Unfortunately, I have also gotten to the point that I can't keep up on group rides, not even with the B group. Thats my fault, not the bike's, but I could not keep up nonetheless.

Needing to change something up, I decided to get the modern bike out last week and got it back on the road. I really did enjoy it. I can feel the greater number of ratios when riding. Its not about a highest or lowest gear, but the ability to finely match your optimum cadence to the speed the group is riding.

When I showed up to the group ride, my friend Stacey made a comment to the effect that the modern bike would be much better to which I replied that our group ride did not have any climbs and that was really the only place that it made a difference.

Well, I have to give Stacey's comment some credence. While the bike was surely not the only factor, I was able to hang with the 'A' group for the first half of the ride, and stay with the 'B' group for the finish. This was the first time all summer I've been able to do that.

As I drove home in the cool air, I struggled to think of why I was able to do what I was not able to do the entire summer. Was it the great temperature, the great group I was with?

Then I began to think about the bike. With more closely spaced ratios, I was able to stick to my optimum cadence much more closely - that could have had an effect. Then something hit me which was not mentioned in that earlier British bike magazine article- Riding my Vellum with its brake/shift lever combos is essentially brainless. Need a slightly different ratio, its just an easy click away. Upshift, Downshift, it is just as easy.

Sometimes riding needs to be a brainless activity. Sometimes it should be an activity where only your legs and cardio system are involved. It really is that factor that makes cycling such a beneficial activity to our bodies and our minds. Ride the modern bike and turn off your mind and just follow the wheel in front of you as you sweat out the stress of the day or week.

That still leaves a big question - Which is the better bike? I'm sure you have an opinion, but I'm undecided. Both have their benefits and both suit at least one person, maybe more.

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