Monday, August 12, 2013

Interesting bikes

Peter Egan is a writer with regular columns in Road & Track and Cycle World magazine.  I've been reading his columns and features in R&T on and off for over 20 years, and while I feel like the overall quality of R&T is not what is was, Egan's writing continues to be of high caliber.

His latest column talks about 'cars of occasion'.  He rattles off a number of factors that can take a car from just transportation to something that is a little bit more interesting.  After reading it, I started thinking about what makes a bike interesting and stand out from the crowd.  Bikes are generally pretty unique just by default, next century or big group ride you're at, try to find a bike like the one you're riding... you likely won't find one.  But, what makes for an interesting bike?  In my (perhaps not so humble..) opinion:

1.  You're bike is not made in Asia.  This may not be politically correct, and it's not to say that there is some really cool stuff coming out of China and Taiwan.  But... there is an awful lot of volume coming out of China and Taiwan, so if you've got something made in North America, GB, France, or especially, Italy... likely you've got an interesting bike.

2.  Steel and titanium frames.  Bikes made out of steel and titanium are made by working with fire.  These bikes are welded together, metal softened and flowed together, a very primal method of making frames.  This is how bikes were made 100 years ago and great frames can still me made with metal.  Extra points for lugged, brazed construction.

3.  Have a frame that is made by hand.  Workmanship is something that still exist today, perhaps not as much as years past, but it does still exist.  Handbuilt bikes are still a way to celebrate personal pride and workmanship.

4.  Campagnolo drivetrain.  You've got to really want a Campagnolo drivetrain to have one, it's not just going to land in your lap on the next bike you happen to buy.  Shimano and SRAM may be on every new bike sold in NA, but the history and heritage behind Campanolo is not going to be duplicated.

5.  Rare brakes.  Campagnolo Delta, Shimano AX, Mavic SSC, or any Magura rim brake.  While some of these older brakes can't match the power of modern stoppers (the Magura's a definite exception), these all have a mechanical beauty that only the most observant company will truly appreciate.

6.  Single speeds.  Doesn't really matter if it's a track bike with a front brake, a purpose built SS, or a converted geared bike, show up to a ride on a SS and people will be interested.

So... not a huge list, I'm sure I'll think up more.. but for now, it will have to do.