Practicality vs. Sentimentality - Does it Bring You Joy?
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.
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.
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.
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!
My wife and I have 5 custom hand-built bike made by our friends Tom Teesdale and Jeff Bock in Iowa plus a 1981 Holdsworth Mistral, my wife’s Lite-Speed and a 1961 Hercules. Jeff calls these steel beauties “forever frames.” They each hold memories and we use most of them regularly. The Holdsworth has gone through a multitude of re-configurations (once as a 3-speed). Another has gone from a single to a 2×8 and from 700s to 650s. Velo-Orange products and our several friendly LBS help us maintain our frames and keep us on the road.
About ten years ago, I built my partner her first bike since she was a kid. I got my hands on a Fuji Espree Mixte frame, added some North Road bars, 700c wheels, and a 90’s mountain bike drivetrain (XTR 900 shifters/brake levers, XT 73x derailleurs, S-Works Strongarm crank, etc…), and of course a comfy saddle and new brakes. She loved it! Even though I built her a fancier Specialized Crossroads a couple years ago, she doesn’t want me getting rid of her first bike. It’s safe in a shed waiting for us to have enough room to keep both at home for her.
I ended up building up several older frames and it was fun. I bought. 2 new but very old school frames in a Soma Grand Rando v2 and a Surly Pack Rat. I like to tinker with my bikes and these give me plenty to do while still hanging on to classic charm and lines. I think keeping old bikes running is awesome. My 4 favorite YouTube channels for this are Old Shovel, Spindatt, 2nd Life Bikes, and Toasty Rides. I will probably restomod some older bikes for my daughter when she is older and for my wife. And I might build up something vintage for myself as well.
As a Post Script to my earlier comments;
Back in the day, “entry-level” bikes had “high-tensile” steel forks and frames while “top-level” bikes had Reynolds 531 steel forks and frames. True, entry-level bikes were several pounds heavier than top-level bikes, yet those entry-level bikes have that buttery-smooth ride you could be looking for.
I help run an all volunteer nonprofit shop in our community, with a couple of other ex shop mechanics. We take donated bikes and fix them up. Some are sold and some given to
social services for clients. We also do repairs and try to teach folks about their bikes. I’m a deep vintagista anorak and love bringing back old bikes to their former glory or better. I’ve been restoring vintage steel for almost 50 years and have about 20 bikes in running condition and try to ride them all during the year. I usually end rides with “man this is a great bike “
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