Got a million to spend on a car? (I wish!) You could get yourself a spangly new Bugatti Veyron or a lovely 1973 Ferrari 365 Daytona Spyder. Want a nice road bike and you have £1000 to spend? Well you could spend it on a lovely 1981 Campagnolo Super Record, or you could get a brand new Merida Lite 94. All of these options offer basically the same thing. Both of the cars are fast and pretty and both of the bikes will get you from A to B and will help you go fast on the road. But they both feel very different.
Lets forget about jewellery and cars now and look purely at bikes.
You will always have performance on your side if you buy a modern bike (not necessarily brand new, just modern) the modern alloy or carbon frames will always be stiffer then a 30+ year old cromoly frame which in turn means better pedalling efficiency. With the stiffness the modern frames offer, you loose something that’s important to many and that’s comfort. A cromoly frame will take the vibrations and trail buzz and absorb it, thus stopping it from transferring to your butt! Plus older style road bikes are often shorter making them more comfortable on a longer journey. With the exception of performance where the older bike (and car) will lose out in many ways, why else would you spend the same amount on an old bike as you could on a new bike. The reason isn’t that obvious until you see a proper vintage bike in the flesh. Modern bikes use welded frames and often cut corners on the smaller parts to enable the manufacturer to up spec the bike in the more obvious places like carbon forks or an uprated rear mech. On older road bikes the frames are hand made using hand finished lugs rather then using a machine to weld the tubes. On some of the higher end bikes the lug work is simply art.
Compare that to a weld! there really is no contest. The drop out are often equally as impressive as are the fork crowns. The chain rings are often pressed into amazing patterns like the Raleigh Heron chainring which came on a vast array of Raleigh bikes and still looks brilliant. Comparatively modern chainrings fit a basic 5 arm pattern and are designed purely for a purpose, usually with little thought going into aesthetics.
I think that older bikes are potentially more stylish in many ways and have a wonderful hand made finish that can’t be beat by the majority of modern machine made bikes. However we need to be realistic, if you regularly ride 100miles with your buddies you probably don’t want to be wearing out a vintage bike and struggling to keep up on the hills thanks to the extra 10lbs of weight your carrying due to your steel frame and several lbs of fancy brooks saddle.
Also part of the appeal with older bikes is that they’re different to the modern norm even if the difference isn’t better. People will often comment on the beautiful paintwork of vintage bikes but, the paint work on modern bikes is amazing with the brilliant colours and eye catching graphics. They can certainly draw as much attention as a hand detailed lug and from a greater distance.
I seem to be struggling to come to a conclusion and its hardly a surprise if you were to look in my garage you’d see a 2010 Cotic hemlock with full suspension, bar mountain fork lockout, hydraulically adjustable seatpost and hydraulic disc brake, a 2008 Ns Society again with all the bells and whistles but with a slightly retro styled steel frame. A 1989 pink and white Claud Butler awaiting restoration, a 1971 Raleigh Tomahawk waiting for his new owner to be old enough to use it (he’s three months old!) a 1986 Raleigh fixed wheel road bike with lots of new parts and a completely original 1979 Peugeot course.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has some retro/vintage bikes and some modern bikes, it’s not because I’m indecisive it’s because I think that each bike has its place. When I’m out on the Quantocks blasting down a treacherous rocky descent at 30mph I’m glad I have all the latest kit keeping me upright and in control. However when I fancy cycling from Newquay to Perranporth for a pint at the watering hole there’s something satisfying riding a thirty year old road bike that has a long history and still works like new, it’s beautifully simple in the execution of its task and looks great propped up against a bench on the beach.
My opinion of every bike having its place should explain why we always try to have a full range of bikes available at RE:SOURCE where we have everything from full suspension bikes with discs to a lugged ten speed road bike from the early eighties, and of course everything in-between! So pop on down and see if there’s anything that catches your imagination.