Old school cool or cutting edge, and does it matter? Really? Bet your @$$ it does.
I absolutely love this subject because, for the cycling enthusiast (of a certain age), it tugs at the heartstrings. Many of us want to be able to say the steeds of yore are just as good as today’s carbon fiber blinged out rigs, with their disc brakes and lightweight carbon fiber aero wheels, aero frames, hidden cables (or in some cases, non-existent)…
We want to say the steeds of the past are just as good. But we can’t. Because they’re not. And I know what usually comes next; “but steel”… I know. But steel doesn’t stack up to carbon fiber. Oh, a steel bike is comfortable and a little more compliant, but pound for pound, literally, when you factor in being able to get the thing down the road at speed, give me my Specialized any day of the week and twice on Sunday: once at the Byron City Limits sign, then again at the Durand City Limits sign.
After rebuilding my now 22-year-old 5200 and putting carbon fiber wheels on it, I absolutely love the bike. It’s fairly light (18-1/2 pounds), nimble, and quite enjoyable to ride (especially with the 25-mm tires that barely fit between the chainstays). I kid you not, compared to what the bike was when I brought it home at a whopping 22 pounds, the bike is outstanding as it’s currently fitted out.
But, given reliably good weather, I’ll take my Venge every time.
For speed, the 5200 just can’t keep up with the vastly superior Venge – and I can ride and have ridden both bikes with the same wheelset, so I know for a fact it’s not “the wheels”. Having put a bit more than 30,000 miles on each bike, I know exactly what the difference feels like when putting the power down. The Specialized Venge leaps in comparison. It’s not even a fair fight. Compliance? The Venge wins without breaking a sweat. For virtually every performance category you can come up with, excepting a crosswind, the Specialized will win. Every stinkin’ category…
But there exists a non-performance category where an old steed can make up a lot of ground in a hurry; there’s just something extra cool about a well-kept, modernized classic road bike, especially now that virtually every aero bike on the market looks like every other aero bike on the market. And the best news is, while there is a difference between the modern superbike and the classic in terms of watts required to get the bike down the road, there isn’t enough of a difference it can’t be made up for with a little more “want to” and some shorter turns at the front.
And that’s where my old Trek 5200 shines. It’s not the hottest, flashiest, blingy-est bike around, but there isn’t another like it within a half-dozen surrounding states.
And that flare makes up for a lot of performance shortcomings when stacked against a modern superbike. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face… or maybe that smile is because spring is right around the corner. Likely a bit of both. It was -1 F (-18 C) this morning.