Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Re-thinking my indifference to speed

Even the briefest examination of this blog makes clear that my brand of cycling has very little to do with going fast.  For me, it's all about comfort and the beauty of the bike itself.  Of my seven bikes, two seem to have been built to be fairly quick; the other five are solid, steady and not particularly speedy.

For those times when I want to get where I'm going quickly, I'll hop on "Lucky," my 1970s Corsaro 12 speed, or "Binshou," a Nishiki mixte 10 speed.  All other times find me on something you'd call a "city" or "commuter" or "touring" bike.

Today, I had the chance to ride a bike that was manufactured to be light -- by the standards of the 1980s -- and I was startled at the different experience it offered.  I stopped by Vintage Bicycle Supply in Sacramento to see what was new... or old.  When I picked up this Centurion Le Mans 12 speed, I couldn't believe how light it felt.

Granted, after pulling my Raleigh Superbe in and out of the garage, many bikes would feel pretty light by comparison.  But this bike felt lighter than my lightest by a long shot.

I left my Raleigh at VBS and took the Centurion for a spin through the park.  The tiniest effort resulted in speed.  Pushing it even a little, I quickly found myself going as fast as I was comfortable going on two wheels. 

It was a blast.  I may have to re-think this whole "speed doesn't matter" thing.  I mean, you're still not going to see me in a Lycra spacesuit astride a carbon fiber bike, but I will have to acknowledge that maybe those road cyclists tearing up the bike path may be on to something... going fast is fun.

The Centurion Le Mans dates to the early or mid 1980s.  Its lightness comes from Japanese-made Tange CroMoly steel. Mike at Vintage Bike Supply has it tuned nicely.  It shifts smoothly, brakes effectively and handles well, despite being about 20 pounds lighter than my Schwinn or Raleigh.

Mike's asking $150 for this ready-to-ride beauty.  You can find it and other classic bikes here.


  1. Riding fast can be fun but the question would be: "Why do you ride?" I ride for fitness, so I hop on a carbon fiber bike and ride 50 miles or more when I have time. And I wear the lycra, etc, etc. For just tooling around with my kids I have a mountain bike with a padded seat and I wear casual clothes. But if I was going to make a short commute in business attire or casual biz attire, I'd hop on one of the bikes you have in your fleet.

  2. DWB, I appreciate the validation of my mellow fleet.

    I was amazed at how different this bike felt and it's somewhere near 30 years old. It occurred to me that compared to today's road bikes, this "light" bike is as heavy as my 1970 Schwinn feels compared to it.

    Not sure that sentence works, but you know what I mean.

  3. What is frightening is I do know what you mean.