Practicality vs. Sentimentality - Does it Bring You Joy?

55 comments by Scott Gater

A lot of us have attachments to items we own that don't make financial sense. I'm not a sentimental person, by and large. I have a few objects that I hold near and dear to me, but in the case of the house catching fire, my wife and I will grab the cats and the wedding album and that's about it. 

I bring up the idea of bonds and sentimentality and how it pertains to bicycles. We get a lot of folks coming to us to help keep their older bikes going. We've got the various bottom brackets and headsets to keep those older Peugeot UO8s and Schwinn Le Tours rolling along, handlebars to replace the going-on-40-year-old original bars, and all the fixings to make them unique to the rider. I'm curious as to whether folks are keeping them going in their original shape, setting them up as a commuter bike with newer components, or something in the middle like changing the bars and consumables for a spiffy and novel weekend rider.

gerard old bike restoration

The larger question of whether or not a bike should be restored to its shiny and new glory, simply spruced up and ridden, or hung on the wall? The answer is a resounding...."it depends"....

There are so many factors that goes into a decision like this. Does the bike have sentimental value, significant historical value, or is it just a fun project to work on? These decisions aren't easy especially when it comes to a budget.

There is no question that certain bikes hold more or less value to us as individuals - for example, Adrian and Igor have matching Campeurs that they used for their Denmark wedding tour. You can read about his and her Forever Bikes here. 

velo orange campeur touring bikes against wall panniers

A Peugeot UO8 is perhaps the best bike to use as an example here, as it is a re-occurring character at VO HQ. Peugeot made thousands and thousands of these bikes during the bike boom of the 60s and 70s. They were mid to low end of the range with Simplex shifting, Mafac brakes, and cottered cranks. They weren't anything special, but they were affordable, had cool graphics and Aztec lugs, and it got people on bikes - and that's what made it an icon of the era.

 

Would a UO8 be my first choice for a restoration? Probably not. But if a particular UO8 had significance in my life, like it was a beloved family member's, a first bike, or something of that nature, well that is a whole different story. Now that specific bike has significant sentimental value and that doesn't necessarily have the same price tag as a random UO8. I would absolutely argue that it deserves either a full restoration or moderate refurbishment to make it safe to ride - budget allowing. Replacing consumables like chains, brake pads, handlebar tape, and tires goes a long way.

velo orange bertin c37 with campagnolo nuovo record and mafac restoration patina

 

I see outrageous pricing for original Simplex derailleurs and hear stories online of collectors paying huge amounts of money for period-correct parts. Is it to recreate this bike from 1973 and then display it or is someone actually riding this bike? For a lot of people, it's a totally worthwhile exercise to go and take an older frame, fix it up, put a new saddle on it, new brake pads and cables and then go out and use it. But I think one has to admit that, like many things, bikes have improved over the last 50 years and to just blindly restore a bike back to its original condition may not be the best decision.

Do you restore old bikes for sentimental reasons? Do you restore them to stock condition or do you make them more modern? Let us know in the comments!


55 comments


  • Marshall Smith

    I have what I think is a 1990 Specialized hard-tail mountain bike that already had a rattle can paint job when I got it, so it’s hard to know what it is exactly. Since I’ve had it, it has become what I call my laboratory bike as it has had several incarnations. I first built it up to a 3 speed hub gear townie bike complete with rear basket, then a 3 speed trail bike ( basically repainted and removed the basket), then a DIY e-bike, then a cargo e-bike with an x-tra cycle added to the rear, then back to a non-cargo e-bike that I used to pull a dog trailer for a 75lbs dog, and now it has been restored to a mountain bike with all updated components, but instead of period-correct flat bars I put Velo-Orange klunker bars on it. As it is now, it is one of the best bikes I’ve ever had, and I have no intentions of making further changes beyond regular maintenance. It’s perfect for commutes, trails, and gravel.


  • Korina

    I came to vintage bikes for practicality; as a 5’4" rider I got sick of the tortured geometry needed to make a small frame fit 700c wheels, so I switched to a ‘90s mountain bike that I had gussied up into a classy, sturdy, all-road commuter/trekker (think Brooks B17 and VO Tourist bar, possibly the best upright bar made). Smaller wheels feel much more proportional and the whole bike fits me so much better than all the road bikes and one hybrid I’ve had since the ’70s. Cantis and quill stem work just fine for my riding.

    Now I recommend vintage mountain bikes to anyone who wants a sturdy do-anything bike; I tell them that they’ll put money into it, but they’ll end up with a better bike than they can buy new for the price.

    I understand why bike mfrs. don’t cater to us outliers (very tall and very short), but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.


  • Dan

    My father-in-law’s 1970s Peugeot came to me when they downsized in 2022. It was well appointed for commuting and in remarkable shape; it probably had not been ridden in 30+ years. It was super fun to strip down and build back up this bike; my first such project. Putting in the VO BB was so satisfying as it had taken me 3 days to extract the cottered cranks and old BB – this was the turning point in the build and I couldn’t have done it without VO. I ended up keeping the frame, handlebars, brakes, Pletscher rack, and seat. Built new wheels with a dynahub, nice lights, converted to fixed gear, new stem to bring up the bars. It’s like riding in a lounge chair and has supplanted my old Bridgestone as the daily commuter.


  • Jeff Barnett

    I have restored/reconditioned many vintage road bikes over 50+ years. I still have my Peugeot PX10 from 1973. I have learned now to always check the frame alignment before beginning. An out of alignment frame will never ride right. Also, get a new headset and maybe a new fork. Old headset/ fork connections are often impossible to tighten without binding or play.


  • John Rugebregt

    I’ve been wrenching on bicycles since the late sixties, but have recently taken it up again. It started with a couple of abandoned bikes from the neighborhood, then I found a white Peugeot mixte like the one my wife rode on a summer ride in the mid 70s down the west coast. Replaced the crank with a little bit later Peugeot cotterless crank, put on some nice vintage pedals, and replaced the tires, chain, Simplex derailleurs, and cables and covers. Gave it to my daughter who rides it around town when out with her kids. Shortly thereafter I picked up a Gitane like I rode in college before an accident mangled the frame. Stripped it down, painted it pearl white, cleaned up all the components and replaced tires, chain, cables, brake pads, bar tape and seat. It was a beauty when finished, but like my original a bit too large for me. So I sold it to a fellow who’d wanted for decades to replace the white Gitane of his youth. Now I pick up a mixte whenever I can, replace the drop bars with a VO porteur bar (sometimes inverted, sometimes not), add new VO brake grips, new tires and whatever else it may need, and end up with delightful bikes for city riding that I’ve passed on to several happy customers. I myself ride a Linus roadster that needs nothing more done to it, but I love bringing old bikes back to riding condition to keep them on the road.


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