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A Bike is a Bike

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

A Bike is a Bike

Old 07-16-20, 08:17 AM
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big chainring 
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A Bike is a Bike

A few years ago I was in the LBS, the owner a too notch frame builder. I had a new to me vintage steel bike that I had just rehabbed. I was telling the owner just how amazing the bike rode. His response, "its got handlebars, pedals, wheels...it should ride well." Translation, a bike is a bike.

Two weeks ago I was out on a ride and joined in with a group. They were from a neighborhood that I once lived in, so we had some commonality. I was on another vintage steel bike. One of the guys quipped, "you do pretty well for being in an old bike." My response was, "to me a bike is a bike".

On flat terrain I cant imagine there is a difference in how my power is being delivered to drive the bike compared to a modern bike. And at the speeds we were riding, very little disadvantage to an old steel bike. On a hill, maybe I have a slight disadvantage with being on a heavier bike. Anyway I find it an interesting perception that a grand old steel bike would put me at a disadvantage or hinder my riding in some way.

In my youth there was an old timer that would show up to track races on his vintage track bike with inch pitch chain. And road races he had an older bike that looked antiquated compared to what everyone else was riding. But the guy had amazing endurance and speed. Not to mention some crafty moves and tactics. He was never to be discounted and often "stole" a prime ir two in a race.

Whats your perception? Is the bike a large part of the equation or is it a tool that is more or less equivalent from one to the other?
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Old 07-16-20, 08:27 AM
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Anyone else want popcorn?
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Old 07-16-20, 08:27 AM
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A bike is a bike, up to a point. There have been huge QoL improvements over the years. Integrated shifting is a huge improvement over downtube shifters. Braking technology has improved, which makes speed modulation easier and descents safer. Power meters have allowed those of us who aren't genetically gifted squeeze any possible performance gains out of our body through training. Improved aerodynamics have a measurable impact in time over the same distance vs a standard frame w/ all round tubes.

Different people will benefit differently from items in the list above. Some from all of them (if they're a racer, for example), some none of them (if they're the type that just goes out and rides w/o a care in the world). But you can't say that bike technology hasn't improved for the positive.
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Old 07-16-20, 08:36 AM
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I don't think the question is whether the technology has improved--it has. The question is whether it makes much of a difference on a flattish group ride. My guess is likely not.
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Old 07-16-20, 08:50 AM
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When it comes to looks, a bike is not a bike.
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Old 07-16-20, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
Anyone else want popcorn?
Are we talking popcorn... or popcorn? Because I'd be interested in popcorn, but not popcorn.
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Old 07-16-20, 09:03 AM
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I'm glad that is settled. No need to go anywhere else but Wally' World for my next bike!
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Old 07-16-20, 09:13 AM
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Quarantine fever
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Old 07-16-20, 09:13 AM
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I can pitch up to a Club ride for road bikes on my 29er MTB and beat a lot of the riders. Does that mean an MTB is just as fast as a lighter, more aero road bike? No, obviously not it just means I'm a lot stronger than they are. With the appropriate bike, I'm far faster. Same engine, different tools, different result. It is amazing how many Threads I am seeing on these Forums that cannot separate engines from bikes and focus on differing engines as somehow being equal and therefore negating the impact a bike has.

A very average cyclist who is not a gifted athlete may not appreciate much benefit from a bike that offers marginal gains - nor would they need or perhaps want to. In most cases it is simply down to quality, aesthetics and ease of use.

It's also pretty daft though to suggest that a bike that is scientifically proven to be faster due to weight or aero - or both - advantages is no better that one without those advantages because they saw a strong cyclist on an old bike beating weaker cyclists on new ones. That's an illogical assumption.

Weather conditions being equal, if you take Peter Sagan and put him on an 80's steel racing bike, ask him to do a 1km sprint and then put him on a new Venge, he will most definitely record a faster time. Similarly if you take Quintana and let him climb Mont Ventoux on an 80's machine and then on a new Trek Emonda SLR, there will be a time difference in favour of the lighter, more aero machine. Pro's are used to test new tech for this very reason, to find improvements.

Now while the Pro's can realise these advantages, so too can Elite cyclists and, yes, far more average albeit reasonably fit cyclists too - the differences will be less, of course since the average person cannot match the speeds at which stronger riders can hold thereby reducing the benefits, but we, as individuals can measure those gains via a stopwatch/Strava etc and decide if they are worth it according to our own needs, desires, goals.

If you want to ride an older, heavier bike, that's perfectly fine. If you do well on it competitively, fantastic. It doesn't mean other riders are wrong because they ride lighter, more aero machines and that the bikes make no discernible difference - put the same engine on different bikes and that human engine will be able to realise a difference. How much depends upon how strong/fit/fast that engine is.

Edited to add: A dream bike I want to own one day is a Battaglin custom steel. It won't make me faster. I would be better served racing the bikes I have now. It will be an amazing bike to marvel at and own however. Different bikes, different uses, different results.

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Old 07-16-20, 09:18 AM
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I have to agree. A bike is a bike. It's the cyclist that makes it something.

Some bikes do better at addressing the deficiencies of their motors though.
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Old 07-16-20, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
I don't think the question is whether the technology has improved--it has. The question is whether it makes much of a difference on a flattish group ride. My guess is likely not.
Depends what the point of the group ride is. Is it just a social ride? Yeah, it probably doesn't matter much.

Is it a hammerfest with all the leg crushing locals? Yeah, it probably does. Do you want to be riding next to the dude with downtube shifters in that town line sprint and see him take his hand off the bars to shift? I don't. I don't know what his skill level is and don't know if he's going to veer one way or another, endangering others. That's not hypothetical, I've seen the retro grouch show up on a ride and damn near take out several people because he couldn't hold a line well while shifting. And don't even get me started with the triathletes who try and ride in their aerobars in a group ride.

Like I said, a bike is a bike, up to a point. There absolutely will be times that it doesn't matter. There will, however, also be times where it absolutely does.
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Old 07-16-20, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy Somnifac View Post
That's not hypothetical, I've seen the retro grouch show up on a ride and damn near take out several people because he couldn't hold a line well while shifting. And don't even get me started with the triathletes who try and ride in their aerobars in a group ride.

Like I said, a bike is a bike, up to a point. There absolutely will be times that it doesn't matter. There will, however, also be times where it absolutely does.
You've got to be like Lance with the brifter on the right and the downtube shifter on the left.
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Old 07-16-20, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by upthywazzoo View Post
You've got to be like Lance with the brifter on the right and the downtube shifter on the left.
I'm willing to give someone who is paid to ride a bike a pass. The random dude who looks like he just got off his shift as a barista, less so.
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Old 07-16-20, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy Somnifac View Post
Depends what the point of the group ride is. Is it just a social ride? Yeah, it probably doesn't matter much.

Is it a hammerfest with all the leg crushing locals? Yeah, it probably does. Do you want to be riding next to the dude with downtube shifters in that town line sprint and see him take his hand off the bars to shift? I don't. I don't know what his skill level is and don't know if he's going to veer one way or another, endangering others. That's not hypothetical, I've seen the retro grouch show up on a ride and damn near take out several people because he couldn't hold a line well while shifting. And don't even get me started with the triathletes who try and ride in their aerobars in a group ride.

Like I said, a bike is a bike, up to a point. There absolutely will be times that it doesn't matter. There will, however, also be times where it absolutely does.
Somehow people managed to race BITD with downtube shifters and not crash all the time. Skill level matters. There are folks who are crummy riders even with brifters.

Besides if you had read my post, I made it clear that I agree that the technology has gotten better and that obviously includes brifters.
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Old 07-16-20, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by upthywazzoo View Post
You've got to be like Lance with the brifter on the right and the downtube shifter on the left.
Pantani did that as well, and look what happened to him.
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Old 07-16-20, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Somehow people managed to race BITD with downtube shifters and not crash all the time. Skill level matters. There are folks who are crummy riders even with brifters.

Besides if you had read my post, I made it clear that I agree that the technology has gotten better and that obviously includes brifters.
And cars used to have crank starts and manual choke controls. That doesn't mean I expect people comfortable with current technology to know how to properly use them.

Either a bike is a bike, and things like the technology going into the shifting mechanism don't matter, or that evolving technology is part of the bike. It can't be both ways.
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Old 07-16-20, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy Somnifac View Post
And cars used to have crank starts and manual choke controls. That doesn't mean I expect people comfortable with current technology to know how to properly use them.

Either a bike is a bike, and things like the technology going into the shifting mechanism don't matter, or that evolving technology is part of the bike. It can't be both ways.
No one is disagreeing with you that brifters are better. That was not the OP's question.
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Old 07-16-20, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
No one is disagreeing with you that brifters are better. That was not the OP's question.
But it's part of the equation. A bike is the whole of its parts. It's intertwined with the answer to the question "is a bike a bike?"

That's why my answer was "it depends."
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Old 07-16-20, 11:59 AM
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A bike is a bike on a flat group ride where you're not pushing any limits. If all your brakes have to do is slow you down a little, or bring you gently to a stop occasionally, then even the old crappy, pre-dual pivot brakes are fine. If you're riding in the flats, a 53/39 and 12-23 are fine. If you're in a group, you can run 36 spoke wheels and exposed cables without a problem. It's when you go beyond those limits that the improvements in technology matter.

I bought my favorite bike in 1997. Ritchey Road Logic, 8 speed Dura Ace. I ran 23mm tires and a 12-23 cassette. That worked great!
Then I started to do more climbing and so I switched to a 12-25. That worked better!
After 10 years, I tried 25mm tires. That worked still better!
After 22 years, and buying two other bikes, I realized I was only riding it on flattish rides, even though every time I rode it, I thought, "Yeah, THAT'S why I keep this one!" So I got a set of 7800 brifters, a 7800 rear derailleur, and a 12-28 cassette. And I started riding it more frequently again because it worked even better.
Recently, I replaced the 12-28 with a 12-30, and tried 28 mm tires, and lower pressures. That worked even better!!

It was a good bike as originally spec'd. But now it's a better bike. For me, anyhow.

Last edited by genejockey; 07-16-20 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 07-16-20, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Pantani did that as well, and look what happened to him.
What happened?
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Old 07-16-20, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by upthywazzoo View Post
What happened?
Died of a cocaine overdose, though I'm reasonably certain his shift lever choices did not figure into it....
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Old 07-16-20, 12:39 PM
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With a 34 in back and modern brake pads, a 40 year old bike might weight a few pounds more but will definitely keep a good rider in the hunt. I think young people don't really understand how much fun a lightly modernized classic can be.
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Old 07-16-20, 12:51 PM
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Assuming a rider is right handed you'd use the left hand downtube shifter to change the front derailleur a lot less often than using the right hand shifter to change the rear derailleur. Right? Or left?

Word salad is served!
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Old 07-16-20, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Died of a cocaine overdose, though I'm reasonably certain his shift lever choices did not figure into it....
Haha, I figured that's what Indyfabz was going to segue into.. Yeah the end of Pantani's life was tragic, but dude still has the Alpe D'Huez record, so there's that.
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Old 07-16-20, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by sced View Post
With a 34 in back and modern brake pads, a 40 year old bike might weight a few pounds more but will definitely keep a good rider in the hunt. I think young people don't really understand how much fun a lightly modernized classic can be.
Restomodding an old steelie is pretty great. That said--my first job really didn't pay enough to afford those kinds of expenditures. I think going all the way with upgrades results in a very fun bike.
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