The Legitimate Classic Racing Road Bike and It’s Relevance in Today’s High-Priced Carbon (Fiber) World
So there we were, Sunday morning. The sun was up in all its glory and the high-priced carbon fiber was on display (with the exception of Diane’s alloy tandem)… but I wasn’t on my Venge – and I honestly thought I should have my head examined as I pumped up the tires on my 23-year-old carbon Trek 5200. The Trek doesn’t fit better than my decade-and-a-half newer Venge, but the Trek does feel spectacular in its own way, even if you can feel the difference between the more modern Specialized aero bike and the old round tube Trek.
Where the newer high-end aero bikes matter is at higher speeds. Call it above 25-mph. The old round tube bikes are mainly fine and dandy below that, but at the higher speeds they tend to be more work contrasted against the modern-day aero bikes. It’s not an exaggeration to say you can quite literally feel an aero bike cut into the air. I’m not even talking about a headwind, with enough miles on a standard round tube bike, you’ll literally feel an aero bike cut the air better (it’s actually quite satisfying, especially putting in a long ride on the classic, then switching immediately to the aero bike for another bonus jaunt).
The second big difference between the two bikes is the bottom bracket stiffness. It doesn’t take a specialist to notice the size difference of the bottom bracket shells between the two bikes. While the Trek was unquestionably legit as a race bike in its day (one of the winningest frames in State cycling history), technology has passed it by. The Venge is stiff in response to watts to pedal while the 5200 frame bends slightly against the effort. The difference isn’t obnoxious by any means, but it is absolutely noticeable.
As for how the old school road race bike fits in today’s world, while it’s heavier, twitchier, and slightly slower, there’s no reason it can’t be useful in even the fastest crowds. The only issue would be if you’re on the bottom end of the “fast scale” and you’re having to work really hard to keep up. I struggle a little bit and take shorter turns up front on the Trek while I can push the pace and take longer turns on the Specialized.
Beyond that, I think the Trek is a “classic beautiful”. The Venge, on the other hand, is straight up badass on carbon fiber wheels. I still have a tough time picking which bike I want to ride from time to time, but only on any other day but Tuesday. The Tuesday night big club ride is reserved for the bazooka, opposed to the hunting rifle.