First road bike: modern or classic?

IanWT Posts: 4
edited August 2011 in Road beginners
Hello, forum newbee so I hope I'm not repeating an old topic. I'm looking at buying my first road bike and am considering spending c.£1,000 to £1,500 on a new bike or maybe less on a classic. I've seen a Colnago Master at £700 and wonder whether this might make a better buy?


  • Depends! Classic will be heavier and have a lower gear range (harder on hills) than a modern bike. Fine if you are doing most of your cycling at your own pace but if you want to do club or group runs, it mean you will have to be fitter to keep up with the guys on more modern bikes. See it in my own local group, an experienced rider with a lovely classic 80's Raleigh but he's pedaling square on a 42 tooth small chain ring while the rest of us are spinning in a 39 or smaller.
    MTB HardTail: GT Aggressor XC2 '09
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  • IanWT
    IanWT Posts: 4
    Thanks. Hadnt apprecited that this will make such a difference. I've noticed in my research that the older bikes have 52 tooth larger chain ring whilst modern bikes seem to have 50. Are there any advantages to be made here - or is a 50 tooth fine?
  • PeeDee
    PeeDee Posts: 88
    Hi Ian,

    Traditionally older chainsets were 52/42. Modern chainsets tend to be either 53/39 or 50/34 (aka compact).

    Unless you are racing on fast flat stages then you won't need a 53, a 50 will do fine for normal everyday riding.

    The important number of most riders is the lower figure, 42, 39 or 34. This determines the lowest gear, and so how easily you can climb hills. There used to be a certain macho pride in riding big gears up hills, but these days even the pros ride compacts on the mountain stages.

    The size of the bigger chainring is limited by how much slack your rear derrailieur can take up, hence a 50 tooth is the biggest you can usually manage with a standard cassette and derrailieur on a 34 ring.
  • IanWT
    IanWT Posts: 4
    Hi PeeDee, thanks again. I've also noticed that it's possible to have 2 or 3 chainset options (used to 3 on MTB) - are there advantages / dissadvantages for having 2 or 3 apart from the obvious more gears?
  • IanWT wrote:
    Hi PeeDee, thanks again. I've also noticed that it's possible to have 2 or 3 chainset options (used to 3 on MTB) - are there advantages / dissadvantages for having 2 or 3 apart from the obvious more gears?

    Chainsets come with doubles on road bikes, not triples normally. Some people prefer a triple as they then have a very easy set of gears to pootle along at. Good if you have absolutely no fitness, or are a lazy git, or just touring, but personally I don't even want a compact when climbing. 53/39 works just fine for me out in the mountains, so you should be fine with a compact or normal chainset.
  • PeeDee
    PeeDee Posts: 88
    On your original question: classic or modern?

    Equipment has improved hugely in recent years, so a modern bike (new or 2nd hand) will give you more bang for your buck. For example, carbon fibre is now commonplace, but was once only available on the very highest spec machines. Also, sizes and standards have changed over the years, so replacement parts for older bikes will not be easy to come by.

    However, if you enjoy the retro look, and are prepared to put up with some inconveniences to achieve it, then there there are certainly some very beautiful older bikes out there.
  • cougie
    cougie Posts: 22,512
    Most important thing is that the bike fits you. So I'd go for a modern brand new one as the shop can fit the right size for you. A lot harder to do that buying classics.
  • PeeDee
    PeeDee Posts: 88
    Hi MountainMonster

    Surely there is no right or wrong chainset size, it a personal thing. A 53/39 may well suit you perfectly, the question is will it suit Ian? You being as fit as a butchers dog won't help Ian get up the hills any quicker.
  • Keith1983
    Keith1983 Posts: 575
    With the budget you mention you will be able to get a more than adequate modern machine. I would maybe suggest going second hand but getting maybe a 3 or 4 year old machine, you'll get a cracking bike for that money that will be more than good enough for you and if you don't get on with it the reslae value should mean you don't lose a massive amount of money.
  • mcj78
    mcj78 Posts: 634
    You could always pick up a retro-styled frame (Colnago, Pinarello, Guerciotti from Planet X etc.) then spec your own groupset - i've seen a few 90s steel frames running the alloy Athena groupset & they looked amazing - if you don't need 11-speed then the alloy Veloce 10-speed groupset gets good reviews & also fits the retro aesthetic well.

    Personally i'd go this route but take your time & you'll end up with something that suits you - retro or modern, with your budget you'll have plenty to choose from.

    Moda Issimo
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  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 42,437
    There's no reason why you couldn't fit a 39 or even 38t chainring on 'classic' bike. I have just sorted out my old early 90s steel framed bike. It was previously a 7 speed with 52 / 42 chainset as that was what was normal when I originally had it built but I now have a 53 / 39 chainset on it and by taking one sprocket off a modern 10 speed Shimano cassette and using a 10 speed chain I now have a 9 speed cassette (12 - 28) at the rear giving me a nice low gear option (although I have to use the downtube shifters in friction setting as the indexing won't work - not a problem as the indexing had broken in any case). Doesn't really answer your question but hopefully clarifies a slightly misleading post suggesting that you can't get low enough gears on an older bike.

    As for the original question, I'm undecided - I use the old 653 steel bike for commuting and it will be my winter bike but ride a new carbon machine most of the time. I do prefer the new bike on the whole but feel a good quality older bike for less money could be a better option. Get both is my advise :wink:
  • markos1963
    markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    Quality will shine out so a Colnago Master is not a bad choice as long it's the right size for you. There is a guy in our club with one specced out with modern Record groupset and wheels and I can't live with him9it's all about the rider after all)
  • Monty Dog
    Monty Dog Posts: 20,614
    I have both a retro-classic (1983 Gios) and a number of modern bikes so really depends on what sort of riding experience you're after. The big difference between modern and older bikes is weight, drivetrain reliability and brake performance - older components don't quite give the same precision and braking performance can sometimes be best described as 'optimistic'. Bear in mind the Colnago is a classic and is unlikely to depreciate any further - keep it in good nick for a few years and you'll probably get your money back whereas a modern bike will be worth maybe half what you paid for it. Fit modern a modern groupset on the Colnago and it will handle and ride superbly too. If however, you want to get into racing and purely see the bike as a machine to serve that purpose, then just go for a Ribble or Planet-X and thrash it to death!
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..