Friday, May 23, 2008

Why This Blog Exists, Redux

On my post a while back, Chic Cyclist (whose blog I enjoy) makes the comment:

I love my old bikes. I ride my old bikes. For several bikes that means changing out some of the old bits for newer technology. There are people who get very upset about this...a subculture who idealizes the "old". I'm personally all for durable technology, which may end up being a mish-mash of parts. What is your position on historical accuracy in maintaining old bikes?

That's a fantastic question, and one I've sort of side-stepped up until now. As far as I'm concerned, old bikes generally have two purposes: 1) as working machines, and 2) as artifacts of bicycle history. There are some bikes that can serve both purposes simultaneously, but I do not believe that every old bike has to serve both. There are plenty of bicycle museums and plenty of people who go a little nuts over "authenticity" when restoring their old bikes, and I think that's great. More power to them.

But this blog isn't for them. It's about making and keeping old bikes usable. It's about haunting garage sales and thrift stores and friends' garages, sheds, and barns for your next bike, rather than a) going to Sprawl-Mart for a $99.99 Huffy or b) going to an up-scale bike shop and spending $1,500 on the trendiest, latest-model racing bike. In order to make that old garage sale bike safe and usable again, yeah, you're going to have to put some new parts on it. It might even be well-nigh unrecognizable after you're done, but the point is to use it again, not to lock it up in the garage and occasionally take it out in the driveway and look at it.

I think Chic Cyclist is absolutely right in characterizing durable technology as sometimes a mish-mash of parts. Naturally, some parts of that technology are going to wear out faster than others, and by all means, to keep the whole thing working, you might need to pick up a newer or (gasp!) better replacement part. For example, derailer technology didn't reach its apex in 1977, so if you want to put a newer or better derailer on your old bike, why the heck not? The purists out there probably won't, and that's cool, too. Whatever turns your crank (I was also considering "whatever shifts your gears"). The point is to keep old bikes working, use them, and enjoy them, no matter how you choose to do it.

PS--My new axle for the Peugeot arrived via UPS while I was writing this post, so more on that later.


  1. Hooray! We're in agreement!

    My husband rode Paris-Brest on an early 80s Pinarello. At some point in the brevet series some guy rode up to him and discussed the few various pieces that are not original (the clipless pedals, the rear cassette, and the stem). Yet that guy was riding some carbon fiber latest-greatest bike.

    I'm all for keeping the Pinarello on the road! Yeay old bikes!

  2. Thom,
    Sorry about the lateness of this post...

    I agree that some bikes should be kept as original as possible, especially if they are unusual or rare. In other cases you may not have a choice if original parts are missing, or unavailable. FWIW I am in the process of desecrating several bikes at the moment, but at the same time I am attempting to restore a couple of others.

    Good thoughts and good work.