Last year I got myself a vintage road bike from the 70s. Bike, not motorbike.
It’s seen better days – and I got with the thought of restoring it to former greatness. Well, I got it into a state which doesn’t make me fear it will kill me when I ride it, but it’s still in a pity deserving state. It needs to be repainted completely, it needs a new headset, a better back wheel wouldn’t hurt (I already swapped the front one). I got it for 50 bucks, so my investment was minimal. I’ve got a proper, modern bike as well (an MTB).
Yet, I love it. (And I will finish restoring it to proper finish… One day.)
But that’s not the point.
The point is: I ride it. A lot. Not because I have to, but because I want to.
There are several reasons why 70s road bikes are ideal for bike riding in the city. And they are worth talking about.
Why vintage road bikes from the 70s? During the late 60s and 70s, there was a bike boom. Everyone seemed to want a road bike, so millions of them were sold. At the same time, bikes from that era were built to last and provided comfortable rides that are still up to class today.
1. 70s Vintage Road Bikes Have a Steel Frame That Makes the Ride Far More Comfortable
Modern road bikes are stiff – especially when made from carbon. 70s road bikes are from a different time of frame building – the steel frame flexes and can take the beaten roads in the inner city. At the same time, the riding position on most of these is less extreme than on modern road bikes.
2. A Vintage Road Bike Is Faster And More Maneuverable Than MTBs Or Trekking Bikes
When you want to be fast in the city on a bike, you need to maneuver a lot. Especially when you are not on your lazy afternoon ride through the suburbs but racing to a meeting in the inner city and struggling to be on time. And car drivers aren’t that perceptive for the lone bike rider who manages to squeeze through the jammed streets faster than them – being able to maneuver quickly is an asset for staying alive.
3. They Are Just So Much Prettier Than Modern Bikes
Bikes have become complicated mechanical objects – look at modern carbon or even aluminum frames – they look like they escaped from the drawing board of a formula 1 car. Heck, some shifters are now electronic. If I wanted electronics on my bike, I would have taken the car.
An old 70s vintage road bike on the other hand looks gorgeous – similar to a 60s old timer car. And just like with cars from that era, you can fix everything yourself. I’ve never had a bike before that people ask me about. And mind you – this isn’t a bike in great shape, quite the opposite. And it was neither ever a bike with great mechanical value – even when it was built. It never had a top of the line groupset; it was never built for the Tour de France. But it still is beautiful enough for people to stop and ask about it.
4. They Don’t Get Stolen
Depending on where you live that is an important point. I live in Berlin, Germany, and I’ve had several bikes stolen from me over the course of my life. The point here is not just that bikes getting stolen from you are expensive – the point is that many people don’t get themselves a decent bike because of the risk of it getting “lost”. And then they don’t ride at all because their ride is no fun. Or they have a decent bike but don’t ride it because they fear it will be stolen.
An old, decent, but not expensive vintage road bike won’t get stolen, no matter how well it rides.
5. You Don’t Need All Those Gears In A Flat City
Sure, if you live in the mountains, an MTB with 30 gears is great. When you live in a flat city like Berlin, you probably won’t use more than 5. Look at how many people ride fixed-gear bikes or single speeds these days. You get used to the old shifters on the downtube fast – and once you get used to taking one arm from the cockpit to do your shifting they are actually quite comfy. And shifting less but with precision becomes another reason why you can enjoy your vintage road bike.
6. They Are Built To Last
Carbon frames are not all that great for your daily rough ride: There are cases where someone dropped a tool on one and the frame cracked. Some bikes tightly locked to immovable object get stolen by someone simply destroying the frame (the thief will probably sell the parts on eBay – groupsets are expensive). The steel frame on a vintage road bike from the 70s, on the other hand, is built to last. And not just the frame – all the parts on my bike are original. I have breaks and shifters that have been working for the last 40 years. And all they needed when I got my bike was a little bit of oil.
7. (Second Most Important Reason) Vintage Road Bikes Are Almost As Fast As Modern Road Bikes
Modern road bikes with a decent rider are fast. But so are these old beauties. Sure, when you are up against a well-trained rider for a 200k ride over hills, you’d wish for something more modern. But when you are simply out riding your vintage road bike, you’ll be surprised how fast these get. Especially in the city, where racing is only possible in between traffic lights, the advantage of modern carbon race frame is close to zero.
8. They Keep You Fit
With a fun ride from A to B in the city – you will probably not take the car between spring and autumn. And the less you take the car the fitter you become.
9. (Most Important!!) 70s Vintage Road Bikes Are A Hell Of A Lot Of Fun
When was the last time you got something from the 70s and were able to use it just as well today? Well, 70s road bikes are a comfy ride in the city, they are beautiful to look at and to ride them is something special. The fun that they bring is hard to describe, but mine get’s me out in the evening for just a fun round around the block. Which turns into a longer ride through the city, just gliding through the traffic while enjoying the wind in my face.
When was the last time you had fun in traffic?