Monday, October 3, 2016

Can We Hope for "Interestingness" in Performance Road Bikes?


from the Monday Mailbox...
I have been enjoying the recent string of reviews of interesting and reasonably priced utility bikes. Any chance of something similar for the roadies out there? Seeing the same big-name brands again and again in bike shops and mainstream reviews is starting to get depressing and I was hoping LB could offer some alternatives. Obviously, you do a lot of road cycling and are drawn to fast, lightweight bikes. It would be great to see that side of things get some attention in the review section of this blog. 
Right. So I get asked this every so often, and it is true that I don't typically review roadbikes. To be honest though, I do not see this changing. Because here is the thing:

Reviewing bicycles involves a degree of commitment and due diligence, especially when the manufacturer goes through the trouble and expense of mailing the product back and forth for review. It also involves riding that bike in a way that taps into the performance potential it was designed for.

With transportation bikes, the parameters of all this are such, that I can seamlessly fit test rides into my everyday activities on a fairly regular basis - without it taking over my life, and without sacrificing the enjoyment of riding my own personal bikes as well. With performance road bikes, not so much. The milage I would need to put in, and the manner of cycling required to test such a bike with due diligence, is beyond what I can accommodate within a reasonable time frame without feeling that I am "sacrificing" my own preferences for the kind of ride I might want to do on a given day, as well as quality time with my own bikes.

So, while there might be the occasional review of a roadbike, it is unlikely to become a systematic thing here.

That said, I do agree there is a niche waiting to be filled in the print and blogospheric cycling literature that is precisely that: attention to roadbikes that provide some alternative to the usual suspects. By this I do not mean custom-made, or super-rare, expensive bikes. I am talking off-the-shelf, reasonably accessible, modern road-race bicycles. Just not from the same old tired repertoire of half a dozen big name manufacturers.

Which brings me to a perhaps more interesting topic: Do many of such bikes even exist?

In the past few years there has been an absolute explosion of interestingness when it comes to bikes for mixed terrain cycling, adventure cycling, randonneuring, and, of course, cyclo-cross. Small, independent, quirky manufacturers continue popping up like mushrooms, spoiling us for choice at various price levels.

On the other had, pure road racing machines seem to remain the realm of the bigger manufacturers. Moreover, when it comes to aesthetics and the "soulfulness" factor, it is as if they are stuck in the last decade (or even the decade previous), when the more appliance-like a bicycle looked, the better.

Does this reflect an underlying cultural difference, I wonder, between the kinds of cyclists who tend to be drawn to pure roadcycling these days, versus its various alternative forms?

Personally, I hope not. Indie brands such as Ritte, Honey, Aprire, and Mason do exist, if not yet in large numbers, and they are doing their thing. A few bigger brands, such as Condor and Planet X provide some interesting alternatives to the same-old as well. So perhaps there is hope for roadies yet, for something just a wee bit different, without having to go custom or spend a fortune. Judging by my interaction with readers, and by the locals whom I hear complain that all the performance roadbikes "look the same," I do think the demand is there. Manufacturers (and keen reviewers!), take note.



49 comments:

  1. Weird, I have been giving this some thought as well recently! And I keep coming to the same conclusion: There is simply less room (or need?) for creativity in the design of pure road racing machines. It makes things simple. But maybe also a bit boring... which is why I have my Fast bike and my Fun bike!

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    1. Funny, my fast bike *is* my fun bike. Well, most of the time.

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  2. These bikes are out there, but the commentor is right that group rides are a sea of carbon look alikes from the major bike companies like Trek and Specialized. I'm OK with it, because there's a reason that type of bike rides so well. I'm enjoying a Soma Smoothie that continues to surprise with its combination of speed, comfort, and rack mounts. I can imagine me altering it into a killer commuter for the mountains, or keeping it in the current form as a "racer," my long road ride bike. I think the angle for interesting road bike reviews is imagining what else you'll do on a bike, or how useful a bike would be in 10 years.

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  3. As so often happens when reading this blog I get easily confused….Not your fault, I'm always a page or two behind when it comes to most things. When I visit a bike shop I marvel at all the varieties of road bikes. They all look interesting to me and they always seem to change. When I go to road races all I do is stare at the parked team bikes or watch the mechanics fiddle with this or that as they're making adjustments. I'm not interested in racing (well, not really) but if I wanted to try it and invest in a bike there's certainly a wealth of options at my fingertips….By that I mean I can go to any of the half a dozen shops around here and test any bike I want. They've also got special fitting devices to make the bike fit my body. It's surprising how different the bikes can feel, one from another, so riding them is the deal. It's the transportation bikes which look boring and uneven to me. They're still mostly steel and look like they did in the 70's….When I couldn't find my perfect transportation bike at any of these shops I decided to have one built. It's perfect and lovely and been five years and almost 25K miles in five years but it looks very boring to most. The racers I know seem to have a different bike every couple years….They're so fricking available! No need to read reviews, just try one for yourself. Sorry, I'm probably missing the point of this blog entry.

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    1. I think it's mostly a matter of perspective, and aesthetic preferences. Yours are different from mine, and probably from typical LB readers. It's great that you enjoy contemporary mainstream offerings and are able to find what you need and like in your local shops.

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    2. "... a different bike every couple years......"

      Those are peasants. A proper stalwart consumer buys five bikes each year. You may wish to stand downstream of them, or you may not. These consumers do not place their no longer wanted bikes on Craigslist, they leave them at the curb. Since the trusty scrap metal man in his battered rusty pickup is not welcome in the enclaves where five figure bikes are tossed out, a great part of high-end bike production is landfill in two years.

      Last time I spotted one of these wunderbikes in the trash I stopped and looked. There wasn't a component there I would want or trust. After a good while I decided to peel the tires. Five minutes were spent deciphering the not very quick releases. The tires would not have come off with less than a tactical nuclear weapon. Could be the reason the bike was tossed. That bike could not have been ridden more than a couple hundred miles. I left it curbside.

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    3. I guess I've no aesthetic preference but rather an appreciation for beauty in all it's surprising presentations. To narrow it towards a preference would be cheating my senses and that makes me sad and tired ;)

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    4. Come on, Anon 10:02. Everyone knows, when something is wrong with the tires the bike is catastrophically broken.

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  4. For online reviews of road bikes from lesser known manufacturers all I can think of is road.cc, and even there not much. It does depend of course on how strictly your correspondent interprets the "road" in road bike. Would something as uncompetitive as, say, a Surly Pacer qualify or something as off-tarmac capable as one of the various gravel/adventure/all-road/[etc etc] bikes?

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    1. I guess my litmus test for "performance road bike" would be something like this: If you're a cyclist of beginner to average abilities, would Bike X hinder or help your efforts to keep up with other cyclists riding mainstream contemporary road race bikes?

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  5. Alright, I'll bite. What makes a bike interesting?

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    1. Yes, I think that's the point. Reviews are a dime a dozen, take a ride, look for yourself….Enjoy the process.

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    2. Reviews of some bikes are a dime a dozen; not all.

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  6. I wonder often if the aggressively racey marketing of road bikes today actually limits the number of potential sport cyclists. When I talk with acquaintances about taking long rides on multiuse paths around here, often the next question is whether I'm thinking of getting into triathlons or racing (which I am definitely not). It's like there is a disconnect between casual sight-seeinng distance cycling and performance bicycle culture, maybe they don't see eye to eye. As a recent bike shopper (for both my husband and I) even the short list of manufacturers you listed above helps! We are both having a hard time finding our next rides... we recently transitioned away from lugged steel bikes to 'modern' roadbikes for lightness, but I know I haven't found the right combination yet. I can't help thinking that if the bike for the purpose was a bit more accessible, then it would be easier for lots of people to see themselves trying out distance cycling without thinking that racing is the end-game.

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    1. This is an interesting topic in of itself and kind of a can of worms.

      The marketing of road racing bikes centers on racing. Racing imagery, jargon, attitudes & values. And on the surface that seems logical.

      However, I would say that the vast majority of cyclists who buy road racing bikes do not race, do not plan to race, never will race. They want a lightweight, fast bike that will make road cycling easier and more fun for them, rather than more effortful. And of all categories of bicycles available on the market, a road racing bike will often do that best.

      Ironically though, one could argue that manufacturers cannot stop making their marketing be racing oriented, as customers do want a bike that's capable of racing, even if they don't plan to race it themselves. So it's kind of interesting, because we get this schism between who the manufacturers pretend to be targeting versus whom they are actually targeting... What the solution is I am not quite sure.

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    2. I think that there is an inherent problem with marketing a bike without using the widest possible reference for the intended audience. How many everyday riders- or potential new riders- can they reach without some common frame of reference, across languages and cultures?
      Glamour sells bikes, too. How do you tap into people's sense of wonder and magic?
      It seems that so far, racing has been that common reference.

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    3. Marketing road racing bikes at people who will never actually race is not a contradiction unique to the cycle industry. Look at any car advert and you'll see completely unrealistic conditions and idealised drivers – passengers too! This doesn't only apply to cars which are marketed as sporty or racy, it applies just as much if not more to those marketed as off-road, all-terrain vehicles. How many of them actually ever leave tarmac? Very few. Even the "people carriers" and city hatchbacks are marketed as if they'll make every school run and supermarket trip a joyous adventure. It's the nature of advertising and marketing to distort.

      In the case of road bikes, it is arguably both less and more distorted; less because not only are the bikes designed for racing, are capable of it, but it is a realistic activity – far more so than the empty roads pictured on car ads. But more distorted because in reality your ability to race depends more on your body (and psyche) than the machine.

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    4. Race bikes are made for just riding along at 30mph, sprinting at 40mph, descending at 60mph. If you aren't doing any of that you don't need a race bike.

      If you are riding at half that speed, or three quarters that speed, and a race bike feels darn nice about 90%, maybe more, comes from wheels and tires. People just won't give themselves permission to use good tires or light wheels until they have a race bike to put them on. A related factor is people won't give themselves permission to stop carrying around twenty pounds of impedimenta until they have the race bike that makes that inconvenient.

      My main fast bike is 66 years old, an antique, not a vintage. It has a 1600 gram wheel set. Front wheel is completely original, rear has a set of new spokes. My tires are very good. All the time I get kudos for 'keeping up' while riding a 'tank'. The tank weighs 21 pounds. My wheels are better than yours if you didn't build your own or pay over $2000. Just get some good wheels for once in your life and find out how much fun your old lugged steel bike can be.

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  7. For sure, you're a fine connoisseur of your own tastes but to review performance bikes I'd like to see a few road rashes ;)

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    1. Indeed, I'll leave the road-rash street cred scene to better qualified parties.

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    2. Road rash is cleaned and bandaged, not photoed and tweeted.

      Velouria has no road rash because she has some sense. I've had road rash exactly once in 400,000 miles. My little brother has the palmares in the family, while beating Greg Lemond, Wayne Stetina, Andy Hampsten (not so often as they beat him) he picked up road rash worth mentioning twice. And why would anyone even think about the minor instances?

      Are you on public roads when you commit the shenanigans that lead to the road rash? Are you putting others in danger when you ride your bike beyond your competence? If so my question is are you over 15 years old? If under you need to grow up. If over you need professional help.

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  8. This is just such an interesting topic. The bike industry, like so many other industries, has a habit of taking good ideas way out towards the extremes. "Disc brakes can really be handy under certain circumstances." All of sudden disc brakes are everywhere and on everything. "Being able to ride a road bike on dirt roads can be fun." Now we have sub-categories of sub-categories on "adventure bikes". "Big, fat tires make snow and sand fun to ride on." Fat bikes now come full on carbon fiber with suspension built in...on a fat bike! If someone makes a road bike for the non-racey set, it will either be quite heavy, quite uncomfortable, have poorly functioning componentry, or be priced outside of what an average non-cyclist is willing to pay. The comfortable, not heavy, nicely outfitted, affordable road bike does not seem to exist from the big bike manufacturers. I think that bike exists from some of the smaller manufacturers but accessibility then becomes the issue. Most people will not buy a bike unless they can touch it, feel it and ride it.

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    1. The big impetus towards disc brakes comes from the fact that carbon rims don't work very well with rim brakes. That could be solved by abandoning carbon rims or by selling great rafts of new product. For most normal users who never even contemplated carbon rims getting stuck with the discs is not a good outcome. Selling product always wins.

      A major problem I am seeing with discs is that they need to get hot to break in. If the brake does not get hot while still fairly new that brake will have endless trouble, never work well. It does not take severe or extreme riding to get rotors hot enough to accomplish break-in. But many riders who claim they absolutely need the massive power, who will tell you how demanding their daily rides are, will never ever get the brakes hot. Those riders would be far better off with normal rim brakes. They have been sold a bill of goods and they believe in that bill of goods.

      When fat bikes first appeared the whole idea was that the tires are the suspension. Nearly all fat bikes I see are overinflated, no tire drop at all, and full suspension has become normal. This amounts to user error, but the industry does not care because they get to sell more and more stuff.

      Has anyone else noticed that electric shifting sounds like nailguns? Trying to ride a bike while nailguns are sounding off
      is not pleasant. I would describe all electric shifters as "poorly functioning componentry"

      Yes, the industry is given to extremes.


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    2. "Has anyone else noticed that electric shifting sounds like nail guns"

      Yes! Cycling beside an e-shifting rider for the first time was a little unnerving.

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  9. "but the commentor is right that group rides are a sea of carbon look alikes from the major bike companies like Trek and Specialized" <-- posted above by Clark

    I am somewhat of an oddity in my local road club in that I turn up to most club runs on an 'atypical bike' of some sort*, sometimes vintage, sometimes very modern, but often steel and still very much capable of performing when required. I help to run the clubs introductory ride (intro to group and club riding rather than first time on a bike) at the weekends and actually try my best to turn up on something that doesn't look flashy or posh so as not to give the impression that you need a carbon super bike to start road riding and racing as i think it sends the wrong message to people.

    I'm naturally curious and very sceptical of most magazine and mainstream reviews which can often simply give high scores to a product simply because it is either expensive or in vogue. I take great pleasure in trying and testing my bikes, frames, and components in what I would consider real world conditions, and due to the fact that I basically have to feed my curiosity by buying them myself I do tend to end up with a longer testing cycle than most "We rode it round for a weekend" style reviews, but it also means I do get very attached to some favourite components that can end up as default choices for me even on builds where they end up looking a bit incongruous!

    But back on topic, finding these more interesting and less mainstream choices can be quite hard for the casual shopper, but the more you look, the more you find! There are some fantastic machines out there that buck the trend but I think their riders are often a self selecting sample, as you only find them once you're relatively 'in' to the cycling scene, and understand a bit more about what you want from a bike, which is a shame as good though they are, the mainstream models are so dominating that I'm sure many people end up with them simply because it's either what was available in the local shop, or what their riding friends ride, when a more individual and suitable model would bring so much more excitement and joy.

    * as an example, my 'winter' club bike is steel, lugged, has an off-the-peg not custom frame, and was built only a few years ago. It's a brand most people have never heard of and it is sublime, fast, comfy, and versatile. Built with a modern(ish) 10 speed groupset and my favourite parts but unless you have a keen eye most people mistake it for a 30year old vintage bike, and get quite surprised at how capable it is, certainly no slower than my carbon and alu modern looking bike.

    I would love to see these bikes and other interesting performance bikes get more coverage online and in print, but I think sadly they will remain a niche product only found by those who seek them.

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  10. I think part of what may confuse a discussion like this is pinning down exactly what you considers a "Road bike"? Or Interesting? Surely, there are plenty out there but the slice or the pie between Big names and custom builders is awful thin and even then, what's in there may not be so interesting. Many times it's a variation on the same riff the big boys are laying down, but with slightly different component choices. I find it all interesting, that's not the problem; question is how compelling is most of it!? And within that small slice there's some pretty disparate design philosophies and types of customers.
    Honestly, for the big guys these high performance and value priced performance bikes are their bread & butter and they pour hours and lots of energy into maximizing the value to the customer in order to compete in this sector. Not sure why I would bother to look past the local big bike retail if I wanted something like that!? I venture to say if you were looking for something outside of that formula then Price and or Performance are not your primary concerns.
    As a somewhat serious bike aficionado, I tend to make esoteric choices, but sometimes it just does not make sense! I am contemplating getting my son a mountain bike so he can accompany me on some adventures, But what to get him? A Surly? that would run me better than $1,200. and while a great choice, maybe a little bit of overkill, when I can rock down to the Big Bike shop and get a very competent new Mountain bike for approx. $600. (give or take). A person buying a new road bike has pretty much the same sort of decision to make.
    I was in the big Bike shop this weekend, I guess the local road group was trying to drum of participation, so they were all there with their fancy carbon fiber bikes, totally Fredded out and looking quite pleased with themselves, I don't know why, but I just wanted to barf!. -masmojo

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  11. Your letter-writer might want to start reading Jan Heine’s blog, or even click on the Bicycle Quarterly ad in your sidebar and subscribe to the magazine. Jan’s definition of a performance road bike may be different than most, but the bikes he reviews are always interesting!

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    1. There is no shortage of interesting BQ bikes. But even Jan himself would not describe them as pure roadbikes. Performance bikes yes, but designed for mixed terrain for starters. I think the very point here, is that it seems the only way to get lots of choice in the interestingness department is to depart from the pure road category.

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  12. I own two road bikes: one is an old, first-generation carbon, skinny tube bike with relatively modest components, the other an up-to-date, cost-no-object wonder. The latter certainly feels faster, but my average speed in long, hard rides is exactly the same for both.
    One must conclude that the way bikes are reviewed in the cycling press vastly oversells the benefits of the latest technology.
    There certainly is a need for independent, down-to-earth reviews of road bikes.

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    1. Bingo! Well said,and who am I to San the Francisco...

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  13. Yes indeed. Road bikes, made for the road, period. Race bikes, made for racing, period. Simple. This conundrum has taken me to many sources for used classics simply because carbon-fiber and other assorted "plastic" bikes are...just that: plastic. I assume to be on track with the original post in that we are looking for more reality driven bicycling and the steeds that support our dreams. Steeds of a caliber beyond the workhorse daily rider, but less spirited than a race machine. I pine for the era of shiny chrome, Simplex, and toe-clips proudly displayed upon the Gintanes, Peugeots, and Raleighs of old. Someday a modern classic will mystically appear and all will be well again.

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  14. Any discussion about interesting bikes could start with the stable of classic Italian road bikes that your husband is collecting.

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  15. "here is a niche waiting to be filled in the print and blogospheric cycling literature that is precisely that: attention to roadbikes that provide some alternative to the usual suspects. By this I do not mean custom-made, or super-rare, expensive bikes. I am talking off-the-shelf, reasonably accessible, modern road-race bicycles. Just not from the same old tired repertoire of half a dozen big name manufacturers...."

    Here is a question I've always wanted to ask, but was never on topic till now. What advice would you give to someone looking to start a review blog?

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    1. The main thing I can say is this:

      Unless you have industry connections to begin with, you will need to establish yourself as a reasonably popular publication before manufacturers will lend you products for review. So start by reviewing your own bikes, friends' bikes, and, if possible where you live, floor models at bike shops (although let them know in advance that you'd like to test ride a bike for review, and are not planning to purchase it - they may or may not be okay with that). At the same time, grow your readership, and just basically give it at least a few months to make a name for yourself.

      I know of many cases where people try to start cycling blogs, with the belief that they'll get advertisers and review opportunities immediately. And when that doesn't happen, they get disappointed and stop writing.

      You do have to have an intrinsic motivation to do this stuff. Then stick with it long enough for the industry to trust you are here to stay. Opportunities will follow.

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  16. You don't have to review in this category, just let others who own and ride bikes from these various manufacturers share their insights. They are out there and, most likely, read your blog.

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  17. I have built every bike I ride, not from scratch, but from neat old bikes I have acquired. This is a part of the appeal for me. I have a penchant for mid eighties steel road bikes. Anything newer makes me itch. I like riding fixed gear creations that reflect my personality and the hot rod I never got to build. These bikes are neither pretty nor proud, but iconoclastic at the core.

    When the carbon crews come whisking by, I think they reflect a marketing statement as much as a passion for riding. This is an observation only, not a judgement. I wonder, if they settled into a more contemplative and less specification driven relationship with cycling, would they be less or more happy or just a different form of happy?

    Here's a bike I build and ride:
    http://www.ratrodbikes.com/forum/index.php?threads/sliver-finished-update.93412/

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  18. Most high level amateur Sports Car Racing used to be done with cars that could be driven around on the road for "Transportation" by enthusiasts willing to put up with a little more noise, vibration, and impracticality (more impracticality? There must be a better way of saying that...). But now a Sports Racing Car may as well be a fighter plane or a spacecraft as far as it being "Practical" in any useful sense of the word.

    Racing bikes are moving in that direction as well but we haven't quite reached the point where we're forced to abandon them as practically useless and irrelevant for anyone not actually racing. But how much farther do they have to go before we get there? They are almost disposable in practice and they become obsolete so quickly that keeping a collection of restored, 5 or 10 year old front line Pro-Level bikes in ride-able condition means not riding them.

    Racing inevitably moves things in that direction.

    If you go back 30 years you find Racing Bikes that were built to high standards of durability, function and beauty, that are flexible enough to allow you to set them up for fast, comfortable riding and maintain them for almost unlimited tens of thousands of miles. It reminds me of how you could once drive, with minimal modification, all sorts of really amazing Sports Cars on the street without being a menace or crippling yourself physically or financially in the process.

    Riding around on a 60s or 70s Colnago or Masi is like having a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 or a Lancia Stratos to play with, a best quality Gitane is the equivelant of an Alpine 110 or a Matra Djet. Hell, an old Raleigh Pro is just like a frikken Lightweight E Type Jag if those things mean anything to you. You can ride them for life and when you're done with them, hand them off to someone else so THEY can live a little of that dream. Today's Pro-Level Racebikes leave me cold and don't inspire any desire or fantasy. And like today's Fastest Racing cars, I wonder if they'll be just fragile novelties to look at on the wall if they have any afterlife at all. Even if they manage to survive structurally, you won't be able to set one up to accommodate an aging back or increasingly stiff neck(and I'm the stiffest necked OF ALL)enough to comfortably RIDE IT.

    It's hard to believe there's a type of bicycle I don't want any more of...

    Spindizzy

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    1. Aren't there quite a few non-mass-market road bikes and frames available? Rivendell Roadeo? Soma's lineup? Surly Pacer? Spectrum? Ritchey? Seven? http://gearpatrol.com/2015/10/27/best-handmade-steel-bike-makers/

      I realize that some of these are rather rarified, but so are the highest end Cervelos and Treks.

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    2. The comparison to race cars reminds me of something I hear every year in the Tour de France coverage: consumers can buy exactly the bikes that the pros race. That is pretty remarkable, and almost romantic in itself. My friend just came into a 12 year old carbon racing bike and really loves it partly because it was a bike that almost won the Tour de France. It's not that I don't find racing culture to be unromantic, I just find it unaligned with the way I aim to ride, so it's annoying that the expense and tech-advances expected for a performance bike are so race-driven.

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    3. Yeah, but there were only 4 REAL Lightweight E Types (alloy bodied) ever made. And each one is worth multiple MILLIONS today. There are plenty more 60-70s Colnagos around to be had, because first of all, they made plenty, and as you correctly stated, they last pretty much indefinitely with proper maintenance. These vintage race bikes can be had at very reasonable prices today. I'd love to own even a steel E-type, but I am pretty happy to have my Super Record equipped 40 yr old Colnago, (which btw cost me $500 about 20 years ago.)

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  19. You're romanticizing those bikes. I grew up in the 60's and 70's on the bikes you mention, and rode my Rossin racing bike for 20 years. Looking back now, the 42/24 low was adequate only I was so fit, the brakes were inferior, saddles not as comfortable, the bar tape too thin. They had loose bearings that needed overhaul every year, and I could go on. Since 2004, my road bike has been a Specialized Roubaix with Ultegra. It's better in every functional way and I have never overhauled or replaced a component beyond the usual (tires, cables, chain, cassette). I never even have to true the wheels. It's a terrific bike and I still love riding it. I only wish it could accommodate fenders, but my Rossin and a Raleigh Pro couldn't either. When I look at bike porn I want to see Cinelli and Masi and Hetchins, but I'd rather ride my Roubaix with its 30/27 low gear, STI, good brakes, Terry saddle, and low maintenance.

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    1. The 1963 Rickert I'm playing around with now has a Nervar Star set up 46x38 and a 14x28 in the rear for a 36x28 low, same as my modern Fondo bike with the Campy Racing Triple, well set-up centerpull brakes with Kool-Stop pads(which have been around since the 70s at least)that stop as well as the Campy dual-pivots on my Trek, a Brooks Swallow that's as comfortable for me as any modern saddle(of which I have a few) and I can put on as many layers of bar-tape as I want(3 layers of cotton right now, just like half the Pro's used to). I've got less than $300 in the whole bike including NICE Sew-ups and first class everything. And as far as overhauling bearings every year, I only do it when they need it, which for someone only riding a few thousand miles a year, means every 3 or 4 years. I do it more often sometimes just cuz' I like to.

      Old bikes aren't slow needy old things, they're just different, and I would argue, more durable and satisfying for alot of us that ride hard and don't enjoy the latest consumer commodity machine. The carbon Roubaix Comp in my basement hangs there with a BB that wont shut up no matter what I do and the bearings in the stupid hubs it came with don't last a year. I got the bike second hand with <1000 miles and a cracked stay from falling over into a pole. Modern guarantees nothing.

      Spindizzy

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  20. Impracticality (in sports cars) is better termed "exciting". As in it is always exciting to begin a journey having no idea at all if your chariot will cooperate with your project.

    In the old days of Alberto Masi and Colnagos built of steel by Ernesto Colnago, racers raced 200 days a year. It was a job.They woke up in the morning, mounted up, and raced. They lived in the saddle and they wanted a comfortable saddle. These days racers race maybe 70 days a year. If not on the injury list. Every time they go to the starting line the pressure to perform is enormous. And to assure the contract continues they want any tiny little edge they can get.

    The old racers expected the roads were beat up (the war was not that far in the past). They expected life was hard. They expected anything at all to happen in a race. The alternative to racing was, for many and maybe most, farm labor or fighting in the alley behind the bar. Farm labor is at least as dangerous as being a street tough. Racing was hard too, but there was glory and there was honor. Now we have a bunch of patrician gym rats racing. They whine if the col is too steep. If the pave is a little rough they need a special bike just for that. If it snows in the mountains they expect the promoter to re-route the stage. And they sure as heck won't do anything without their pharmacist and someone to put the fix in.

    Those nice Gitanes were mostly built by Bernard Carre. He didn't build frames that incorporated 200 client emails, 500 texts and three shop visits. He built two frames a day for thirty years. Thirty years after he is gone they are still great bikes. I hate to tell you this Spin, I just saw an S-Works on a bumper rack attached to the back of a 300SL. Think a minute of the cost of streeting a 1955 300SL. Especially if you are paying your garage man for all the work. That's who should have an S-Works. At this moment,
    if you are looking for an interesting bike, you are heading in the right direction looking at old Raleighs and Gitanes. There are a lot more of them available than there are Alpine 110s. Easier to find than a clapped out MGB.

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  21. Aren't you going to start racing? Because this is a racer's question you're asking, right? You must be riding with racing types at racing speeds if your own interesting bikes are too slow. I think a racing blog by you would be an excellent read.

    Walter

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  22. You're the Jay Leno of bicycles…..Can we hope for 'interestingness' with regard to performance bikes? Absolutely, that's what the market is all about, folks will go out of their way to appeal to the masses, but performance is performance…If you want to keep up with the pack and have an interesting bike just grab some spray paint and make your bike interesting! ;)

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  23. Just to add a few thoughts to this discussion....My perspective is as a former USCF Cat 1 racer, commuter, tandemist, and lifelong cyclist.

    There are lots of reviews out there of pure road bikes, both racing and racing-like. Up until recently, it was much harder to find reviews for the type of bicycles reviewed here.

    There's been a sea change in racing bike design over the past few years that among other things make pure racing bikes even better than they used to be for enthusiast-level (non-racing) riding.

    Bicycle handling even on pure criterium bikes has become less twitchy and more forgiving--modern race bikes descend much better than did race bikes from even ten years ago. Riding up mountains on a 13 lb. carbon race bike is dramatically easier than it is on a 23 lb. Ti brevet bike; deep dish wheels make it a lot easier to maintain momentum above 20 mph than is the case even with super-lightweight custom aluminum wheels from a few years ago. Modern carbon frames have stiff center triangles for much more efficiency in the constant accelerations that enthusiast-type riding (and racing) involves, but flexible front end and rear triangles for comfort--in my experience, even more comfort than that of well-designed Ti road bikes. (Which, by the way, seems to contradict Jan Heine's views on "planing".)

    Most of the bikes I own are Ti from small builders (brevet, Rohloff commuter, tandem) but not all road bikes from the major builders are lacking soul. Cannondale's Super Six EVO High Mod racing bikes are elegant in the manner of classic racing bikes, with horizontal top tubes and related aesthetics.

    Everyone seems to think that carbon bikes only last a year or two, but in fact they're fairly durable. I ride with a handful of folks who still ride carbon road bikes from 15 years ago, and who ride very aggressively.

    Because manufacturers for mainstream bikes come out with "upgrades" every year, there's a large secondary market for high end road bikes. Many of those bikes that sold for US$ 12,000 two years ago are now available for less than a third of the original cost--some unused, some lightly used. For non-racers, a $12k team bike from last year purchased for $4k can result in a type of magic in riding that for some of us will be more rewarding than what would be possible on less performance-oriented machines.

    To ride such a bike can be an epiphany if you've never tried it. Our hostess here seems to have had that type of experience when she got her Seven. There have been major improvements in bicycle performance since the vintage of that Seven. For example, that Cannondale that I mentioned earlier has been called by a handful of European cycling magazines "the best [meaning handling, acceleration, climbing, descending etc] bicycle ever made. I know well and love old Cinellis, Colnagos, Lightspeeds etc, but happen to have a 2013 Cannondale team bike tend to agree with the reviewers.

    Finally, the riding position on race-oriented road bikes may feel way too extreme at first, but after a few weeks starts to feel normal for most people, even people who aren't athletic.

    Mark

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    1. Tomas Szozda could pedal full force through any criterium corner. No one before or since could do the speed he did through a corner. He did it on whatever Soviet or East German or Italian frame he had. Some of them were good frames and some of them were pretty bad. When Szozda rode them they were fast.

      Have you ever seen old film of six day racing as it was practiced in the 1920s and 1930s? It was about acrobatics at 45mph on 60 degree banking. The talent pool for 6day was very deep because the only other sport that paid real money was heavyweight boxing. All the athletic talent was on the track. No one today does anything like what the 6day riders did. Imagine twenty Danny MacCaskills doing ballet in formation while diving from the banking at speeds up to 50mph. I have ridden some of those bikes, put in my hand by the greats who rode them. Some were impressive by any standard, some were so flimsy it did not seem possible they could have survived. It was all down to the rider, not the machine.

      The sort of refinements you are promoting don't exist. You can promote them until you believe in them yourself but they still don't exist. Modern deep profile wheels are zero compliance cartwheels and they handle horribly. They are made to be fast in a straight line and that is what they do. They don't do anything else well. Watch what Szozda did and tell me that would be possible at all pushing a giant fan blade side to side. Same principle applies to any cornering with those wheels.

      The stiff main triangle frame with flexible front and rear is an idea that has been around forever. Look at a 1936 Bates. There has never been a problem in any frame material making the main triangle immovably stiff. There has never been a problem getting a bike to descend fast, gravity does that quite reliably. If you did any racing at all you know that races are not won or lost on descents. Racers just want to get down safe. Most descend very conservatively. The peanut gallery loves it when someone descends with style but that is completely immaterial to what happens at the finish line. Speed and safety on a descent has very little to do with frame design, it is again all about the rider.

      I am quite certain the reviewers who claim to love the old Cinellis and Colnagos know next to nothing about them. If you knew anything you wouldn't group them with Litespeeds. I had the '73 Cinelli Speciale Corsa from new and put 100,000 miles on it. And would do it again. Doing that on a Cannondale sounds like purgatory.

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  24. I'd certainly take a look at Breadwinner bikes for the interesting factor….I think they have the right attitude.
    http://breadwinnercycles.com/2016/10/06/take-the-long-way-home-b-road/

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