Friday Group Ride #475

Friday Group Ride #475

It’s 2019, and sentiment is in recession. All the forces of progress are chipping away at the value of physical things as we convert long, personal letters to terse emails and frivolous tweets, family photos to cloud-stored media streams, and the durability of goods to cheap, cheerful, disposable stand-ins.

My mother took her china set to Goodwill.

In the summer of 1973, it was something my parents bought themselves, an extravagance meant to launch them into their adult lives. China might even have seemed like necessary equipment in an age when dinner parties and nicer things were the province and aspiration of every middle class couple. Letting it go clearly pains my mother to think about, but we are practical people. We were poor before we were not. Still, we have a hard time dispensing with the trappings of our risen social status.

She has held onto the English tea set given to them as a wedding gift in 1969, but it sits in a high cabinet. You need a ladder to reach it.

Similarly, I have had some nice bikes, and I talk to people all the time who own these things, bikes they rode in the ’80s and ’90s with 1″ headtubes and 19mm tires. The hot-shit rides of those moments in time. They weigh 15-20% more than the average road bike today, but it’s hard to say the riding experience was less ecstatic then.

It’s too easy, I think, to deride the march of progress as planned obsolescence. I’m not sure we’re that cynical. What we are, I believe, is restless. We tinker. We obsess. Like ants in a mound.

I have a hard time not sounding (even to myself) like a Luddite, someone who believes we were better people when we rode heavier frames and wrote each other letters. Except that I suspect it’s true. I don’t want to wring my hands over it all the time, but if we’re not wringing our hands, we’re probably wasting time and money over new things we don’t need, right? Like a set of antique china.

This week’s Group Ride asks, do you own any bikes whose time is past, but you’re just not willing to part with? Do your bikes have more value to you than they do to anyone else, i.e. are you sentimental about them? Do you have a hard time letting things go if you feel they have value, even if there’s no good way to realize that value? Has your attitude toward your bikes and their value evolved over time?

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20 comments

  1. TomInAlbany

    I’ll find out tomorrow. Local school district holding a big recycling extravaganza and the local bike rescue will be in attendance. For four years running, I’ve not been able to get my old bikes out of the basement.

    They must be too heavy to carry up the twelve stairs I carry everything else up…

  2. MidTNBrad

    I generally don’t have a problem getting rid of physical things in my life that I no longer want or need, but my 1999 Litespeed Tuscany was sitting in my garage unused for several years and yet I couldn’t let it go. It was one of the first things I bought myself when I got my first taste of disposable income. Even though I have a hot, late model carbon fiber steed, I decided to replace the groupset on the Tuscany a couple years ago, clean it up and get it out on the road. I now ride the Tuscany in the spring and fall and just to switch things up during the summer. I get a smile every time I take that bike out.

  3. Phil Kent

    “Bikes whose time is past” I don’t know what you mean, I still ride my ’85 ‘ Raleigh, ’68 ‘ Legnano and I am putting together a “49” Carlton.
    I had one of those fancy new 1995 De Rosa’s but I sold it…..it was just not as fun asthe older bikes…. steel is never obsolete

    1. Neil Winkelmann

      The steel bikes I have owned have broken through use. Just cracked. Never had that issue with carbon.

  4. Quentin

    As a teenager I bought a brand new 1986 Raleigh Olympian. It was not a particularly high-end bike, but it was the bike that really got me into the sport in the few short weeks before the bike was stolen from the bike rack at the high school. I had so many good memories of my brief time with that bike that when I saw one like it in nearly new condition for sale about 8 years ago on Craiglist for $100, I couldn’t help myself. I proceeded to make some modifications such as replace the drivetrain with an internally geared hub and install commuter tires and a luggage rack. It has pedals with toe clips, so it’s my go to bike when I want to go somewhere wearing regular shoes. It probably has only 200 miles on it in the last 5 years. I frequently see it and wonder whether I really need to hold onto it, but I’d have a hard time letting it go.

  5. Michael

    Absolutely – ALL of my bikes are past their time, as am I. They are all deeply loved (not just liked or wrenched upon). My 1972 Raleigh Comp is a single-speed (not fixie) commuter with flat bars, and I set myself a $20 limit on fixing it up when I found it, but I would be at least as bummed if it were stolen as any other bike I ride. I ride it every single day. I do buy new bikes – I am not afraid of carbon or aluminum or any other material – but I buy them when I see they will open up some new realm in cycling, not just for a step up in the speed. So, a coupler bike opens up travel, a gravel/cross bike opens up long dirt roads but also bikepacking. Road endurance, mountain, et cetera. I like the current move toward more versatile bikes. If I needed a new bike, I’d buy one of those, but I have those types of riding covered by older bikes already. I could reduce the number of bikes in my garage if I did buy a new one, but I don’t see a need to say goodbye – sentimental, I guess. I have enough room…

  6. scottg

    My go fast bike is a ’86 Ellis Briggs, a friend learned frame building there
    On nice sunny one water bottle days, I’ll take the Claud Butler New All Rounder 1954,
    my Cirque de Cyclisme bike, many fine memories attached to that bike

  7. AG

    I hang on to my wife’s ’80’s steel Miele racing bike (Canadian). It’s shined up and hung on the wall behind my desk at my office. When we would visit her father, I would clean-up and take out his ancient green city bike on rides along the Ottawa river. He thought I was nuts, but my wanting to ride the bike I think was a weird bond between us. It was the only thing I asked for when my wife was going through his things. It’s now in our garage in Los Angeles. She says these old bikes take up space and we should not hold on to them. I have a shed full of older bikes that I bought over the decades, and I would sell all of them before I sold those two bikes. So yeah, I guess I’m sentimental, but not because I think older bikes were better or cooler, but about the memories infused in them.

  8. Stephen Barner

    I have more bikes than I will admit to owning, far more than is appropriate for my storage, but I’m in no rush to get rid of any. Most cover a 30 year span that ended a couple decades ago, and I can’t say there’s more than a subtle difference between one Italian steel racing bike and another, but each has something unique about its heritage or history that makes a connection for me. My highest performance bike is still old enough to wear Klein decals, if barely, and I do like its extra snap and speed, but it’s not enough of a difference to keep me from pulling out some tubular-shod legend and enjoying the recovery of skill in making friction shifting work.

    I have a couple of true ‘gravel’ bikes, largely because I need to ride five miles to reach pavement, but for the same reason, all my bikes become gravel bikes, including those with 21mm sewups. I have an aversion to driving to the start of a ride. The bike that consistently racks up the most mileage each year is a 1984 mid-level Bianchi, from one of their Italian factories. I can just squeeze fenders onto it with 28mm tires, and its geometry makes for a fun, spirited ride that helps me exorcize the demons of stress over the 18 mile commute into work.

    I have to admit to a respect for the guy who has one fast road bike, one gravel bike, one mountain bike, etc., in the same way as I learned to respect the blue collar guy who consistently walks out the door at 5. But that’s not me. The track bike that I bought brand new in 1973 is going to stay at least until I can no longer ride, even if I only take it out a couple times a year.

  9. Aar

    Well, I tend to think my S-Works Roubaix SL3’s time is past at 8-10 years of age. It still has more value to me than somebody else since I ride it for solo training rides and on my trainer. Not much sentiment about bike goodies since I switched to Shimano (from Campy).

  10. Alanm

    Bought a steel Mercier Kilo TT track bike on line for $300 about 20 years ago when buying online was still something you had to think about. Tig welded, quill stem, bullhorn bars, no name wheels and parts. I ride it with my wife on rail trails and occasionally do loops at a nearby park when heavy rain keeps me off the roads. That bike will unquestionably outlast everything else I own, and me.

  11. Dan Murphy

    I bought a Masi Gran Criterium in ’79 to replace a stolen bike. In the late 80s, I lusted over the Serottas with those sexy tubes and red/yellow paint jobs, and finally bought one around ’90. When the shop owner expressed interest in the Masi, I didn’t think twice about it and we worked out a deal. The bike was going to a good home, and honestly, I knew I wasn’t going to ride it.

    Fast forward to 2016.

    After riding a Merlin since ’97, I bought a Seven Evergreen with two sets of wheels to expand my riding possibilities. We were going on a 6-month trip and I wanted that flexibility. So, now I have the Merlin and an IF ‘cross bike that have been barely ridden in three years. Thing is, I won’t get squat for them, especially the ‘cross bike with cantis. Yes, they’re worth more to me than they are to others, and I’ll keep them.

    I won’t even mention the ’03 Santa Cruz Superlight that I haven’t touched in 5+ years……

  12. Brian Ogilvie

    I got back into cycling in 1997, at the age of 29, on a Trek MultiTrack 730 hybrid. I still have that bike, which I ride occasionally for errands and lend to visitors, and I occasionally think of turning it into a single-speed bike or setting it up for winter riding. I’m loath to get rid of it but it is getting some use.

    The one bike I should probably get rid of but that has some sentimental attachment is my Surly Long Haul Trucker. I got it for long-distance riding and light touring because I was quite fat at the time, and it served me very well. Since I lost weight, the Trucker has been replaced by a sprightlier Boulder All Road 650B. It spends most of its time in the basement, where I do ride it in the winter on rollers.

    Otherwise, I ride all my bikes, with the exception of a Bike Friday Tikit, which I need to sell (I have no sentimental attachment, but I need to do a recall repair before selling), and a Raleigh Portage 650B touring bike, which I bought in hopes it would work for my wife. She hates the handling, but before getting rid of it I want to see if it works for me; it could be a handy spare if I find a problem with another bike just before setting out on a ride.

  13. Lyford

    I have no issue with the weight of steel or friction shifters, but given the pavement quality here a bike that can barely fit 23s just doesn’t have much appeal any more. There’s no romance in getting beat up, no matter how elegantly.
    The bikes that once made me happy are now making someone else happy.

  14. Hautacam

    My bikes are all old, heavy, and out of date — like me. So we are well matched. I plan to ride them until they break or I can no longer get spares. My motor is the weak link in this chain, not the bikes.

  15. Doug

    What could have been better for the young folks like me than watching Greg Lemond, Bernard Hinault battle it out in the mid-80’s on Full Campy Record bikes?

    10 years later I was married, moving to the Chicago area, with 1 too many cars, and I had a decision to make: Sell my beloved Monte Carlo, or spend thousands to get it emissions legal… Fortunately I took the first choice.

    With money in hand, I walked into my employer (a bike shop) and ordered a full 1997 Record Group. All those parts were lovingly installed on a mint condition Waterford 1200 frame set with Kestrel Fork. I finally had my dream bike that I could put miles on and imaging racing up the Champs next to Bernard and Greg, sprinting for that win.

    More than 20 years later, hundreds of races, 10’s of thousands of miles, that Waterford has only changed with the installation of a Specialized Hover bar and threadless stem adapter to enable my now much older body to still enjoy the feel of my dream bike. It now lovingly hangs on the office rack with a light shining on it from above, only to be taken out on the nicest of days when there is no threat of moisture hitting that wonderful steel frame. In the Winter it becomes my best friend as hours are spent pedaling away in Zwift world, with plenty of protection covering it’s tubes from sweat.

    Indeed, she’s a special bike, I’ve riden contemporary bikes, and they are a wonder, but they still don’t compare to the ride, the feel, and espcially the imagination I get when I swing a leg over my beloved Waterford.

  16. Steve Courtright

    Yes, I have an old Colnago (SL tubing and a flat crown) that does everything my newer bikes do. Maybe more to the point, a colleague just returned from a place in the world where people have nothing, yet the people there are happy and grateful for each day. My young adult kids, I believe, are doing something (actually many things) better than my generation – namely, putting value on acquiring experiences and human connections in place of acquiring things. It’s arguable whether that is the new norm or not, but I feel the shift, and it seems a correct response to my generations attitudes. My shift involves placing less value on things as well, and especially the newest, shiniest bikes, as awesome as they are to ride.

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