Buying a Bike

Easily my favorite bike. How I miss it.


After 24 years riding the same bike, it’s time for a change. I don’t do this lightly. Technology advances passed me by, while I continued riding the well-proven Campagnolo Super Record and Dura-Ace six-speed index-shift derailleur on a steel frame.

As far as I’m concerned, there hasn’t been anything compelling since the mid-80s. Sure we now have carbon-fiber frames, freehubs, outboard bottom brackets, threadless integrated headsets, shift/brake levers, and pop type stems. Did I forget anything?

My bike works fine and is entirely serviceable. Is it so hard to reach down to shift gears?

The reason for the update is because the availability of components made in the mid-80s is about tapped out. Many cyclists have squirreled away mint-condition Campagnolo parts for show bikes. What a waste.

I’ve settled on a frame (more later), but the component group is still undecided. I’m leaning toward Shimano Ultegra 6700. After looking at Campagnolo, I decided it’s too exotic for my tastes. 10 speeds is more than enough. Do we really need 11?

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5 Responses to “Buying a Bike”

  1. G. Fire Says:

    Ray-I know your pain. I owned a lovely steel, all Campy record bike, custom-made in 1977 by Jeff Lyon, for 21 years. After finding it increasing challenging to maintain and ride comfortably, due to difficulty obtaining parts, I bartered it to a fellow former Pedali Alpini member in exchange for lifetime bike mechanic services. Based on frame geometry, and just because after riding for so long I thought I finally deserved the bike of my dreams, I bought a Colnago (Italian-made).

  2. Owen Emry Says:

    Hi, Ray. I think we have similar philosophies on frames and components. I ride a fillet brazed Ritchey frame from 1982, and about two years ago I began modernizing many of the parts. I like durable, reliable parts that I can obtain easily and can service myself.

    Dura Ace 7400 (and 7402) cranks are still readily available, as are the matching BB7400 bottom brackets. I like DA7700 (9sp) drivetrain parts (still readily available on eBay, etc.) and 7700 was the first DA group to become compatible with the rest of Shimano’s spacing. I’m sure the Ultegra 6700 parts would be a great choice, too.

    I’ve been using freehubs for a long time–they’re a great improvement, IMHO, but I’m starting to question the durability of the 8-speed (same as 9 and 10) spacing, as my rear wheel with DA7700 hub is clicking and popping when I stand–this just should not happen.

    I am starting to agree with Jobst that there is just not enough margin left (too much dish) and am going back to 7-speed freehubs. This will let me run 8 of 9 (or 9 of 10) so I can still use modern indexed cassettes with indexing (if desired) but yield a considerably stronger rear wheel. I find that I can shift a 7spd cassette by friction easily, but 9 and 10 are unforgiving and annoying to trim, so with a 9spd cassette I just suck it up and use indexing. The 9s downtube shifters have a fantastic feel.

    FWIW I am using a Chris King headset now and it is plenty durable, although I question the upward facing top cup that looks like a funnel for rain and grime. I’m happy to loan the CK installation tools if it helps. (I’m in Sunnyvale.)

    Good luck with the new bike!

  3. Ray Hosler Says:

    With more choices comes more complications. It’s a bit frustrating dealing with it, but that’s life. Technology never stands still. I just wish it wasn’t so tied to fashion.

    I bought a steel-hardened 6spd rear axle from Cupertino Bicycles and have not had any breaks since. The Campy 6spd axles broke on me every few years and I’m not heavy.

    My biggest gripe is index-shifting. Way too much effort goes into shifting technology. Electronic shifting: Give me a break.

  4. Bill Wohler Says:

    I’ve been thinking about retiring my 1985 Bianchi for the past couple of years as well. A couple of weeks ago, she explained in no uncertain terms that she was tired: the handlebar sheared off at the stem. Fortunately, this happened while I was still in the driveway!

    I have to say, I’m looking forward to being able to shift while standing and have that in-between gear that I’m always yearning for. And maybe a geometry that is more forgiving to my aging body.

    Can you suggest any good books, magazines, web sites, and so on to educate me on the process of the bike purchase? I’d like to do a little homework before hitting the bike shops, such as Veloro which you reviewed. A friend of ours suggested that one as well.

  5. Ray Hosler Says:

    Bill, visit several shops you trust and let them take you through the options. The back and forth discussion will speed things up and you’ll get an idea of who you trust and where to buy.

    You need to decide on steel or carbon fiber. There’s just no way carbon fiber can last as long as steel. However, it’s amazingly light and gives a great ride. I’m conservative, although I did make an exception and I’m trying a carbon fiber fork. We’ll see what happens.

    I’m not a fan of reading Bicycling articles when it comes to understanding how a bike rides. It’s kind of like wine reviews…a hint of raspberry, blackberry and tannin. Right.

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