If asked what we think defines a bicycle's essence, I believe that most of us - myself included - would say it's the frameset. Certainly the frameset, with other aspects - including components and aesthetics - being of lesser importance. It's amazing then, how much of an impact a makeover makes on a bicycle's perceived essence, as it were.
I'd be curious to know whether anybody even recognised the machine above as one I have already featured here. I probably wouldn't have. In fact, despite knowing they are the same bike, I have a difficult time thinking of them that way. And so, for those who have been following this unusual frame's adventures, I bring you the dramatic yet pragmatic conclusion of the Ralianchi saga.
Earlier I wrote about my neighbour Owen's unique bicycle. At first glance an iconic celeste Bianchi, it was in fact a Team Raleigh 753 frame, repainted in Bianchi regalia for local pro cyclist Joe Barr, who had raced for (Bianchi-sponsored) team Maestro in the 1990s. If you are interested in the full details, see this original post. But long story short, after acquiring the bike Owen decided to turn it back into a Raleigh. So he stripped the frame of components and paint, then refinished it himself and built it up with contemporary parts.
As I use the Crankbrothers clipless system, the SPD sides of Owen's pedals were incompatible with my cycling shoes, so I rode in my ordinary shoes on the flat sides. Considering that my previous experiences with this style of pedals had not been great, I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. The flat sides of the Wellgos stayed flipped up, provided an adequately sized platform, and were perfectly grippy under my street shoes. The Shimano brake/shift levers are my least favourite of all the component groups, but I find them manageable enough to use if need be. The only aspect of the bike that felt outright uncomfortable was the too-narrow saddle, but in the short run it too I could cope with.
Was it the overhaul of components responsible for this impression? Or does the Reynolds 753 tubing (about the controversial properties of which you can read in the comments of this earlier post!) deliver a particularly modern ride feel?
...Or is it the case that the look of the bike influenced my test ride impressions? It could be either, or - more likely - some combination of the three. And, of course, in the end, it hardly matters. As really it is about what the bicycle's owner wants out of the machine.