Dave Moulton

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Tuesday
Sep052017

Retro-Mod: Pickin’ n’ Choosin’

Going Retro-Mod has its advantages. Vintage lugged steel frames (Sometimes in mint condition.)  can be picked up at bargain prices, and the ride quality is often far superior to that of a modern CF or aluminum frame. So there is the money saving incentive, along with value for your buck.

A few ounces heavier maybe, but often that doesn’t concern the cyclist riding for exercise and pleasure only. Why not ride a bike that is a pleasure to ride? Going retro-mod you have the best of both worlds. The ride quality and handling characteristics of the vintage frame, with the wider gear range, and fingertip shifting, together with better stopping power the modern brakes offer.

Outside of vintage frame and modern component group, one can pick and choose, which saddle, bars and stem, and pedals. New or old school. Longtime friend and regular commenter on this blog, Steve Farner, emailed me this week to say he had switched back from clipless pedals to toe clips and straps, and also tubular tires.

Steve raced back in the 1980s when toe clips and straps were the only option. When Steve went retro-mod back in 2014, he didn’t actually start with a vintage frame, but rather had Russ Denny build him a brand new retro style Fuso frame, with a level top tube, standard 1 inch and 1 1/8 inch tubes. The only exception was the frame had a plain steerer and a threadless headset. (See above.)

On his switch back to toe-clips, Steve said, “I have found getting into and out of toe clips almost silent. I get into the pedal quicker than clipless, and as a bonus, if you miss positioning, you just push on the other side of the pedal, without your foot slipping off as it does with carbon shoe bottoms and carbon or plastic pedals. Just keep pedaling and flip the pedal later.

I am riding Giro Empire shoes, which use laces and fit like a glove. The slotted cleats I use are Yoshida Champ Cleats. Keirin (NJS) approved, modern cleats used by Japanese Track racers. They fit on Look Three-Bolt modern shoes, using only two of the bolt holes. I also kept my old Vittoria shoes from my racing days, the 80's, and have cleats for them, and sometimes use those shoes, which still work fine, just not as stiff.

But the Giro Empires get into and out of clips just as well as the old shoes, and being modern are stiffer soles and good to know you can buy them today. 

The pedals I bought are MKS Supreme Track pedals. (Above.) Again they are Keirin, or NJS, approved and are quite striking in appearance. I have kept Christophe Steel Toe Clips all these years, which don't break as easily as the aluminum variety. I also have kept my Alfredo Binda Laminated White (Bianchi) Toe Straps, which I think I paid $25 for in 1980, but sell for over $100 used on Ebay today!

I like them because they don't stretch, don't need the twist in the pedals to stay in place, and do not flop while in use. I use the Cinelli toe strap buttons, chrome in this case to match the pedals and clips, which I like better than others because you can pull the straps all the way through to set wherever you like on the strap.”

The other switch Steve made was back to tubular tyres. He said:

“The wheels I am now riding are DT Swiss 190 Ceramic Bearing hubs, DT Swiss S.S. round spokes, and Mavic Reflex Rims, 32-Hole. These are a nice, light, low-drag set that match the steel frame and set-up much better than the Mavic Ksyrium SL Limited I had on.

The ride is quite impressive! Kind of like the difference between driving a sports car and a Prius. No comparison. No wonder tubulars are still preferred by pros. You just have to know how to care for them, and fix flats. 

All together I like how the bike looks. I think if Russ presented this appearance to customers, they would be enthused to own, and most importantly, ride one! Because it is the ride that stays with the owner long after the B.S. sales pitch of modern bikes and equipment.”

Unusually, Steve’s bike is all new. Rather than go Retro-Mod he has actually gone Modern-Retro. 

 

Footnote:

Here is another related article on aligning slotted cleats.

     To Share click "Share Article" below.

Reader Comments (15)

I might add the tubulars I am using are 25mm width. I run 110 to 115lbs in them, and the difference in ride vs 21 and even 23mm width tires is remarkably pleasing and easier on me, especially over rough roads.

Another requirement was Cross-3 spoke pattern, a standard that seemed to be replaced with Aluminum radial spokes. I never liked the harsh ride of my Mavic Kysrium SL wheels. Radial used to be for Track, and I don’t understand how road shock can be absorbed radially. Anyway, crossing spokes was accepted for decades to control the ride quality of a wheel. Going back, I can see it still works.

Steve

September 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I've also gone back to toe clips for all my bikes, they just feel more natural to me. At 68 and riding solo for exercise and fun, I'm not looking for that extra tenth of a mph anymore. The extra weight of campy pedals and brooks professional on a vintage steel frame is balanced out buy comfort.

September 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Robinson

It turns out my bikes are retro-mod! I can only assume that those who build radial wheels haven't read Jobst Brandt. I don't bother saving a gramme here and there, I enjoy the steel feel and use a freehub and 7 to 9 speeds. I use toeclips but no cleats, I don't race, I enjoy cycling like this.

September 6, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

Likewise, I have 3 old bikes that I swap between.
Some I ride with toeclips & cleats, some modern.
All have Brooks saddles.
All use friction shift, because I swap hardware it is only way to keep things compatible.
All also use 700C clinchers, everything is now 25mm or 28mm.
Front wheels are mostly laced 1 cross ( I like the look) and the rears are 3 cross.
And I am happy, in the end that is all that matters.

September 9, 2017 | Unregistered Commenteredstainless

A bit of myth-busting:
Spoke crossing was invented for penny-farthing bikes in the 1880s and was not conceived to "control the ride quality of a wheel."

The sole purpose was to permit interlacing of spokes so that broken spokes (a frequent occurrence in those days) would be held in place instead of thrashing around and possibly causing a fall.

In my over 50 years of riding high-end racing bikes, I've learned that I can easily feel differences in the ride of a bike according to tire and wheel weight.

But, placebo effect aside, given properly spoke tension, it's highly unlikely that any of us have ever been able to tell one spoke pattern from another by feel.

And, by the way, on the topic of the supposedly superior ride of steel bikes: I've owned many Reynolds 531 and 853 and Columbus SL/SP bikes (and still own a couple of dust-covered steel bikes), bur all I ride now are aluminum bikes.

Again, I can feel small differences in wheelbase, but the aluminum bikes and the steel bikes otherwise feel the same, except that the aluminum bikes weigh a bit less and handle slightly more predictably on rough descents.

I do have a carbon bike, too, but the wheelbase is just a bit longer than my preference, so I rarely ride it.

September 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJot

Hi Jot,
Tangential spoking was invented by J K Starley http://www.starleybikes.com/history/
Starley continued to experiment with spoke technology. In 1874 his efforts culminated in the ‘tangent-spoke wheel’. It was James Starley’s greatest achievement. The tangent-spoke wheel followed the same load-bearing principles as the tension-wheel, but with cross-spokes the wheel was braced; and the force driving it was more efficiently transferred from pedal to rim. Spokes were angled; adjacent spokes were angled in almost opposite directions; the tangent on one side balanced the tangent on the other; spokes were laced for strength; each spoke could be individually tensioned, and the wheel could be easily adjusted to stay true.
Nearly every bicycle wheel made since 1874 had been built using the tangent-spoke method. The innovation would later be borrowed in the motorcycle, automobile and aeroplane industries, among others.

http://people.duke.edu/~hpgavin/papers/HPGavin-Wheel-Paper.pdf

I believe the myth you are thinking of tying and soldering spokes together on penny farthings and not tangential spoking.

http://yarchive.net/bike/tying-and-soldering.html

Tangential spoking is science in action.f

September 9, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

Peter,
Thanks for reminding me about James Starley. I wrote an article about him back in 2008: http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/blog/2008/6/2/james-starley-father-of-the-bicycle-industry.html
Dave

September 9, 2017 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Hi Dave, I see that I was using James Starley and J K Starley as if they were the same person, sorry. I have been to the Coventry Motor Museum, it has an excellent collection. Thomas Stevens, on the first journey around the world by bicycle, stopped off in Coventry to meet 'Brother Sturmey' and to visit the Starley memorial http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM5806 I will have to check it out next time I pass through. (I recently visited Weedon Bec barracks, where he stopped off to have a pint of stout after this, before passing through Towcester on his way to Fenny Stratford).

September 10, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

"No wonder tubulars are still preferred by pros. You just have to know how to care for them, and fix flats."

Question: Do the pros care for and fix tubular flats? If not, I would prefer them myself.

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSam

I pretty much agree with all said, apart from Toe clips and straps. I have clipless on my 2003 Mercian that I ride a lot. I rode clips and straps for years and never had a problem, but I have many mates in England that have. I like the looser feel with clipless and do think over time they are better on your KNEES. STI shifting is also a lot safer and easier. But then if you go that way you may aswell have the Carbon Fibre also. So Its all what you want and want to pay for I think the L'Eroica rides have revived the retro bikes and that is a good thing. With a stable of some 6 or so bikes all Eroica ready and having ridden the California Eroica three times I admit that I have enjoyed ever one.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Just a note on tubulars, flats, and the fixing of them: I've had great success using Orange Seal liquid latex sealant in my tubulars. I'm not particularly flat prone, but for the little shards of glass, wires, or goat head thorns that are prevalent here in Southern California, I haven't had any flats that couldn't be repaired in an essentially permanent fashion. I still carry a spare tubular strapped under the saddle, but the most important part of my rescue kit is a small 2 oz bottle filled with orange seal, along with a presta valve core removal tool. Doesn't take more than a minute or two to pull the valve core, squirt in an ounce or two of sealant, put the core back in, and give it a spin. Honestly, pumping it back up takes the most time.

I'm sure this post means I'll get a nasty sidewall gash on my next ride. :-) Until then, this sealant has pretty much eliminated any worries over the nuisance flats that seem account for 99% of my trouble. (That, and not riding over sticks and broken bottles.)

September 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCameron Murphy

Ha, very good Cameron!

I also discovered Orange Seal, and it fixed my latex and rubber (butyl) -tubed tubulars. It works better than Stan's sealant, and last longer. Also, they have the Endurance type, which lasts even longer. I take ignition pliers with, small and not only removes core but can be useful for other road repairs.
After adding sealant, you can't fold tire, as stuff will come out. So I leave fixed tyres open, with air, and so far they have held up.

Great idea that saved sewing tubs, which is why many won't use them. Especially with the base tapes so firmly affixed, and the fact that putting a patch on the inner tube changes the tire shape somewhat. Also, sometimes the patch doesn't always hold that well.

Cheers!
Steve

October 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Oh, and the ignition pliers are perfect for taking Quick Links, like SRAM (Power Links), Shimano, KMC, et al. apart quickly and easily.

October 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I spent years agonising over whether to switch from toe clips to clipless pedals. Having made the transition several years ago, I now realise that toe clips are not that bad after all. I can wear walkable shoes, albeit ones with more flexibility than some cyclists would like. So it's toe clips on my 21 year old vintage bike, and clipless pedals on my shiny new racer. Best of both worlds!

October 5, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpervertt

At 76 I can't see myself going clipless in this lifetime. And yes, MKS make very smart pedals of various kinds.

October 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony C.

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