My Trek isn’t quite a classic, but it’s close and it’ll do for this post. It turns 20 at the end of the year – next year it’s a classic. On one hand, I do feel a little sad that I’ve done so much to transform the bike over the last six years. On the other, it rides so much better today than the day I brought it home in 2012, I would never want to go back to what it was (even if I did hold onto the old, worn-out components).
From the gaudy, weathered, flaked, and gouged candy apple red/gold flake paint job to the rotted headset (and by rotted, I mean dangerous – the rust was the only thing holding the headset together), the beat up Ultegra triple components and the soon-to-be worn out chain rings, the bike had seen better days, long, long ago.
Even as good as the bike looks and handles now, there’s still that part of me that looks at the vast improvements as “Chip Foose-ing” a classic, and we only need to look as far as the cleaned-up front end of the bike as an example – new on the left, old on the right:
It’s not all bad, of course. Today, when I get the bike above 40 mph, I don’t get a speed shimmy (it’s been up to 50). The brakes work a lot better with newer pads. The triple is a double and shifting is so much better, it’s astounding. The new shifters are smooth as silk. The saddle is adjusted to within a hair of perfect (that required a new seat post because the old alloy post that came with the bike had notches that meant the saddles nose was too low or too high with a one-notch adjustment).
And while all of that is great, the best part is how much of the work I did myself, and how much I put into picking every new part to match – though I’m struggling with the brake calipers. On one hand, they’re all that’s left of the old bike. On the other, black 105 calipers sure would look sharp in place of the polished aluminum…
In the end, there is an overriding factor that will have me accepting and moving beyond my minor consternation over altering a classic: The bike is now spectacularly fun to ride. All of the old creaks that used to plague the bike, especially when climbing out of the saddle, are gone. Now, and only someone who’s ridden an impeccably maintained, high-end road bike will know what I’m talking about, the only sound when I’m cranking out the watts is the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of the tires on the asphalt. The Trek is as quiet as the fifteen years’ newer Venge – and the only reason the Venge shifts better is it has the next step up in components.
The bike I brought home was decent. The bike I made it into (with a lot of help from Assenmacher’s bike shop) is exceptional. I don’t care much for the pomp of riding an original equipment classic. While I can certainly understand those who choose the classics, I prefer the more modern accoutrements because the newer components look and work better.