Does a Bike Have a Soul?

Does a Bike Have a Soul?

by / / 173 posts

Does a bike have a soul? I can’t make that argument, I don’t think I do either, actually. But we do invest a lot of emotion, pride and dare I say love in our bikes. We form emotional bonds to inanimate objects all the time. My favorite old dead car had to sit in the driveway for another year falling further into rusty disrepair before I had it towed away. On an American call-in radio show Car Talk, a caller asked if the engine was a car’s soul and if the car had a new engine put in, did the car lose that soul? This led to a discussion of where else its soul might be and I was more than amused to have them suggest the soul resides in the headliner of the interior.

My Merlin, with its recently discovered hairline crack can’t go into a dumpster when finally put down. It would be like throwing your dog’s corpse into a dumpster. Hopefully there is a market for alloyed titanium and it can be recycled, re-smelted, reborn as a (gasp) golf club. Or does it go over the mantle? Or out to stud? Or a desperate last ditch back alley surgery?*

Do pros bond with their bikes? They can’t, they are on new bikes every other week. There would be a lot of weeping at the service course if they did.

I’m not quite in the market for a replacement but I could be heading in that direction and it brings me to conundrum number two: what are you buying when you buy a new bike? In the old days if you lusted after a steel Colnago Master you ended up with a steel bike made in northern Italy. You were buying into an Italian artisan fantasy aided by the fact that the coolest professional you liked rode a Colnago. Many years ago a American friend did just that and found out the Colnagos shipped to the USA were made in a second Italian factory, more the apprentice shop. My friend’s Colnago’s rear dropouts were misaligned by almost a centimeter, rideable but not the Italian ideal. Ernesto was not working on his bike. Truth be told, all these bikes were made on some sort of assembly line made by underpaid possibly bored workers. What coming out of a factory isn’t?

Now if I want a Colnago, there is a very good chance it will be made in Taiwan on an assembly line by underpaid possibly bored workers. The same factory will also be knocking out Giants and Scotts. The good news is the rear dropouts won’t be out by a centimeter. They will be close to perfect. My point, if I have one, is the euro-fantasy part of this is gone.

If you need your frame to have a soul there is still hope. I’ve been lucky in that my last two bikes were made in shops I actually walked in, looked at the racks of tubes, spent a little time breathing the air in there. My steel bike was built in a one man shop, a standard 60 cm frame but built for me for $350, a sum at the time which was outrageous to the non-velominati. My Merlin was second hand but I went to the factory and spent some time there helping to restore its luster and put on new decals. If bikes had souls they would be imparted by the builders who put a lot of effort and some love into transforming some uncut tubes into something as fantastic as a frame. The soul might still be there in the small shops like Cyfac in France or Moots in the USA where the person who selects the tubing might be the same person as the one who joins the tubes and worries over that frame’s details. But they don’t have souls or spirits, do they? Native Americans believe inanimate objects do. If a rock does, if a stream does, maybe a bike does. Or more likely I’m full of it, a frame is just a hunk of carbon or metal and it’s all a matter of design, execution and price.

If your Colnago EPS is built in Italy it would be in this place. Does this add or subtract to the euro-fantasy?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRt4p7M1QFw[/youtube]

*the little known bottom bracket-ectomy, where the old BB is milled out and a larger BB 30 is neatly welded in, voila, ridable bike!

// The Bikes

  1. @Pedale.Forchetta

    Moots ‘American Soul’ Vamoots.

    Man oh man, I’m finally understanding the frame sans bottle cages. That is mean and clean. Bel mezzso.




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  2. @Gianni

    @the Engine

    ooh – I’m awaiting moderation – haven’t seen that one before

    We are watching you…in your dank little room.

    It’s ok – my helmet is lined with tinfoil – you can’t control my thoughts




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  3. @jtw

    Absolutely, a bike has a soul. Complete anthropomorphism, but what’s life without a little embellishment? It’s a meaningful relationship, albeit one-sided. The sport is one of beauty and drama…if we couldn’t believe that our noble steeds were more than a hunk of metal or carbon, we wouldn’t be fans of the sport anyway.

    Thank you, yes, it might not even be a one-sided relationship, the bike doesn’t need to talk, just get us there as we need to go, translate the work into speed.

    @mxlmax

    Realised that that comment may offend. I apologise.

    I think you are safe here. Truly offensive things are thrown around here without any apology. I inherited a lot of fine jerseys from a cyclists I never knew who died in his 40s. I was happy to have them and take the man’s legacy out for a ride now and again.




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  4. No! There are ugly bikes out there, nicse ones, ver nice ones, thats it. Use them, enjoy them.

    Does my Mac has a soul? My car? My cameras? No!




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  5. Maybe. I always wanted a Colnago. I went by a shop a few years ago…a white C50 in the window. It really called to me. I heard it.

    Anyway, I’m geek for the logo and the name. It is actually a great ride.




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  6. Abso- fucking- lutely bikes have souls. Even plastic bikes that are cranked out of factories in towns who’s names are all vowels. Someone, somewhere poured over the design, and the materials to build it, be it steel, ti, carbon, plutonium.

    While a particular bike may not “speak” to you or you don’t have a connection to it, someone else will. And that is the bikes soul.

    “…..Soul is at home in the deep, shaded valleys. Heavy torpid flowers saturated with black grow there. The rivers flow like warm syrup. They empty into huge oceans of soul.

    Spirit is a land of high white peaks and glittering jewel-like lakes and flowers. Life is sparse and sounds travel great distances……”-Dalai Lama




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  7. @Red Atom

    All bikes have souls. Even mass produced supermarket abominations do if it they are ridden enough. The soul resides in the rider’s relationship with it.

    That’s it right there. If you think your bike has a soul, then it does. If you’re reading this article thinking “WTF?”, then it doesn’t.




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  8. @Gianni ahah! That’s true!




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  9. Up here in the NE there are a few decent indy shops. Parlee, Independent Fabrications, Seven, Serotta, none of them slouches by any means. Next year I reckon I will gift myself one of these fine frames and build it up.

    Whether or not she has soul, it’s unlikely. But, she will have a story. And any story worth telling should be told with rhythmic bobbing of the head and snapping of the fingers. Take a gander at The Bikes section, it isn’t about the marque on the downtube or seat tube, it’s all about the story. How she was acquired, how she was built up, why she was in such disarray before you got your hands on her, why you’ve been lusting for one the past 2 decades. That’s the soul the bicycle takes on.




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  10. I am highly skeptical of the presence of souls in humans.

    Bikes, cars, boats and motorcycles, on the other hand, can all have souls, but they are not born with them, or if they are there at birth, they are not readily obvious to me.

    It’s the adventures that you (and in some cases your predecessor(s)) share with the machine that give it a soul.

    In addition to my road bike (which, by the way, has soul galore), my wife and I have a hand built tandem. We watched various stages of it’s birth over the months that followed handing over the deposit check (aka conception). We met and got to know the craftsmen and admired their work. When it was completed, we rode off and guess what? NO SOUL.

    It rode well, better than expected, really. It turned heads, we could hardly stop with out admiring comments from tandem riders, non-tandem riders, and non-cyclists alike. Until after we had experienced adventures – some good, some not so much, the bike had no soul that I could feel. Now that we have a summer under our tires, the soul is beginning to emerge and I am sure that over the next few years it will blossom.

    The big exception to my thesis is the craft that you build (I mean build, not assemble) yourself. I have built boats possessed of fully developed souls before they even touched the water, but that’s a different matter altogether.




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  11. I’ve got that Colnago jacket those 2 thinner guys in the video were wearing.

    I’ve got a 1972 Colnago Super I used to race in restoration.

    I’ve got a 1976 Colnago Mexico I’m restoring.

    I ride a mid 90’s Colnago Master Olympic.

    I buy and resell Colnagos for fun.

    I’ve got Colnago soul!

    Those bikes are just a bunch of metal.




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  12. Similarly, can bikes or components be sexy? That adjective gets thrown around for a lot of different things, and I don’t really know whether a phone or car or whathaveyou can be sexy?




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  13. @DerHoggz would you give a bike a foot massage?




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  14. I’m not sure that bikes have a soul anymore. They used to, as someone has already said, when they were made of steel by an artisan. I do think, though, that my two bikes both have soul. My training bike shown below was custom made from Reynolds 853 and recently re-painted. My race bike, a Colnago C40, is 12 years old, has been crashed 5 or 6 times, driven into the carport once and the supermarket underground car-park once, and is still like new. I kinda think that these are the only carbon bikes with soul, mainly because of the legendary status they acheived under the Mapei guys at the height of their dominance.




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  15. @DerHoggz




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  16. I don’t believe in a soul, so I cant use that term. But I do believe in character. Some bike have a character I enjoy, some dont.




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  17. @Gianni if you’re hankering for the handmade touch…you could do worse than take a trip down here to Geelong & get Darren Baum to sort you out…




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  18. Hmm that didn’t work…




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  19. 3rd time lucky!!!




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  20. Here’s another go at posting the photo.

    Kypo




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  21. meh, I give up. It worked in the preview last time. Just go & watch this.

    http://vimeo.com/25698940




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  22. Those steel Colnagos were from a time when the aesthetic appeal of a bicycle was as important as function, and the parts that you put on them were crafted with the same goal.




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  23. @marko

    @DerHoggz would you give a bike a foot massage?




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  24. As a logical, critical-thinking engineering-trained mechanical designer I should be saying bikes don’t have a soul.

    BUT

    As someone who has been in love with cycling for 30 years (even if the love was distant at times) I can also say that there are things not logical about these man-made mistresses (and masters, for those of other genders or inclinations) we share our existence with.

    @Red Atom

    All bikes have souls. Even mass produced supermarket abominations do if it they are ridden enough. The soul resides in the rider’s relationship with it.

    @Jamie

    Bikes, cars, boats and motorcycles, on the other hand, can all have souls, but they are not born with them,…….

    It’s the adventures that you (and in some cases your predecessor(s)) share with the machine that give it a soul.

    These thoughts echo mine. My first good bike was an out-of-the-catalogue mass produced item that never really fitted properly, I rode for a season then, with my first post-high-school job I bought a Peugeot. That latter bike was in itself nothing special, but I put many many miles on it in the subsequent years, upgrading cranks, rear derailleur, wheels, putting in hours adjusting those non-cartridge wheel and BB bearings just so until they spun as good as anything Italian…a couple of years later, a new job and a feeling it was about time I upgraded, I bought a half decent replacement bike that was, in theory superior in every way (newer, lighter, STI etc)… but I STILL prefer the Peugeot. When the replacement was stolen last year, I was like, “bummer it’s an inconvenience” but I know, deep down, even though I haven’t ridden it for a long time and it’s badly in need of restoration, I would have been DEVASTATED if the Peugeot had been taken instead. I am never getting rid of it, and yet it’s a collection of semi-rusty tubes, dusty alloy and peeling stickers. But I have many miles, memories, and experiences on that bike; it certainly has more soul that my ex wife!




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  25. I agree with the notion that the bike in and of itself has no soul, but rather when connected with its rider it becomes an extension of the riders soul. The bikes soul is merely a reflection of the riders soul. For arguments sake let presume that rider and owner are synonymous in this case.




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  26. @Stefan

    No! There are ugly bikes out there, nicse ones, ver nice ones, thats it. Use them, enjoy them.

    Does my Mac has a soul? My car? My cameras? No!

    True, but this isn’t appleminati, autominati, or cameraminati, is it?

    I don’t think bikes have souls because people don’t have souls. But I do think they contain something that people do, which is something of another dimension that we don’t really know or understand that seems to live on after the passing of something.




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  27. @Stefan

    No! There are ugly bikes out there, nicse ones, ver nice ones, thats it. Use them, enjoy them.

    Does my Mac has a soul? My car? My cameras? No!

    Mac? No

    Car? no

    Camera? hmmmmmm




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  28. Every bike I’ve had has had a character, a personality, a temperament, and an element that goes beyond explanation.

    I feel something when I’m in the room with one – even one I’ve never met before. Even the fixies that the hipsters chop up and tool around on have these qualities to them.

    Some bikes I have a connection to that I’ve never had with any other bike – like my XLEV2 which now for the third time lays in disrepair as it keeps getting shuffled off the bottom end of the heap as it continues to flirt with retirement. That bike just always felt great to me – even this summer as I rode it with DT shifters, fenders, and old school brake levers, it felt great and was just an amazing ride.

    The material doesn’t matter, but if you have a handmade frame, it will have more personality than a molded frame.

    Bikes, like people, have good days and bad days. Sometimes they behave, sometimes they misbehave – like when you wear out a cassette and the chain starts skipping and you want the throw the little fucker in the ditch. And other days she carries you over the hills like they’re tiny lumps and on those days you want to give it your bed and sleep on the floor in deference.

    Do bikes have souls? I don’t believe in souls, so I reject the premise. But they have whatever I think it is that we try to convey using that word, so in the end, I suppose the answer is yes.

    A-Merckx.




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  29. @Red Atom

    All bikes have souls. Even mass produced supermarket abominations do if it they are ridden enough. The soul resides in the rider’s relationship with it.

    Yeah, or that. That would have saved me a lot of typing just now.




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  30. Not sure if bikes have souls, but I still feel guilty for turning my #1 Wilier in my #2 when I bought the Look. To make up for it I bought her (the Wilier) a nice set of Carbon Clinchers and turned her into my crit bike. She’s happy again.




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  31. Cinelli girl was left behind in another recent thread (Look Pro). Hard to believe she was left “behind”…




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  32. @frank

    Bikes, like people, have good days and bad days. Sometimes they behave, sometimes they misbehave – like when you wear out a cassette and the chain starts skipping and you want the throw the little fucker in the ditch.

    Word, I nearly Millarcoptered mine, for this exact reason. If I had more knowledge and experience, I would have realised the problem, so…




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  33. @DerHoggz

    Similarly, can bikes or components be sexy? That adjective gets thrown around for a lot of different things, and I don’t really know whether a phone or car or whathaveyou can be sexy?

    @Pistolfrom warragul

    Those steel Colnagos were from a time when the aesthetic appeal of a bicycle was as important as function, and the parts that you put on them were crafted with the same goal.

    There was a golden era right around the 1987-1989 time frame where manufactures figured out how to make beautiful, sweeping curves on their components, as opposed to ugly angular things. After that, they started worrying about weight. But for a few years, it there and it was beautiful.

    One of the first articles I wrote for Velominati was on this subject, called The Golden Era: Downtube Shifters and Delta Brakes. Haven’t read it in ages and I’m sure its complete shit, but its there if you want to read it.

    By the way, for those who say Delta Brakes sucked, they didn’t. They were just a motherfucker to adjust. When done right, they were amazing. The ones I’ve ridden are nearly as powerful as modern brakes.




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  34. @frank

    Every bike I’ve had has had a character, a personality, a temperament, and an element that goes beyond explanation.

    I feel something when I’m in the room with one – even one I’ve never met before. Even the fixies that the hipsters chop up and tool around on have these qualities to them.

    Some bikes I have a connection to that I’ve never had with any other bike – like my XLEV2 which now for the third time lays in disrepair as it keeps getting shuffled off the bottom end of the heap as it continues to flirt with retirement. That bike just always felt great to me – even this summer as I rode it with DT shifters, fenders, and old school brake levers, it felt great and was just an amazing ride.

    The material doesn’t matter, but if you have a handmade frame, it will have more personality than a molded frame.

    Bikes, like people, have good days and bad days. Sometimes they behave, sometimes they misbehave – like when you wear out a cassette and the chain starts skipping and you want the throw the little fucker in the ditch. And other days she carries you over the hills like they’re tiny lumps and on those days you want to give it your bed and sleep on the floor in deference.

    Do bikes have souls? I don’t believe in souls, so I reject the premise. But they have whatever I think it is that we try to convey using that word, so in the end, I suppose the answer is yes.

    A-Merckx.

    I like this (stealing it) — “…those days you want to give it your bed and sleep on the floor in deference.




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  35. @Mikael Liddy

    Some of you keep pasting the code in there without the closing tag; that’s why it doesn’t work. You need to include the “</iframe>” bit.




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  36. @frank The bike has a “connection” — a “frequency” — a “mojo” — a “what-the-fuck-hells-yeahuh” — a “value”




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  37. @frank fair enough, the first one was me copying & pasting the embed code as it was shown on the vimeo ‘share’ page, second one was me just right clicking on the video & selecting to copy the embed code & pasting it in to the message body.

    Weird one was the 3rd attempt where I pasted that embed code in the windo that comes up after hitting “HTML” button above the posting box, that showed the video in the post preview but nothing but text came up when I submitted it.




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  38. As long as lance Armstrong hasn’t ridden it, it has a soul. Otherwise it’s the whore of Babylon …..




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  39. @frank I’ll give this a shot, seems as good as an excuse as needed for some ridiculous Cipo porn!




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  40. huh, interestingly that last closing tag seems to disappear in the transition from the preview window to the post being published…I wouldn’t worry too much though Frank, my money’s on it being the rubbish browser my work’s IT department foists upon us.




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  41. @Onno1990

    If you have some small hairline cracks try to braze them. If you do it properly the brazed crack should be almost as strong as the new material. http://www.titanium-brazing.com/products.html

    Thanks man, I bet finding someone who can braze Ti is no easy matter either. Who knew it was even possible. You did!




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  42. I have many bikes, but as others have said, I don’t believe these bikes come with a soul. The soul of a bike (more specifically the bike frame only) is something that is ignited at a given moment in time when the bond between rider and machine suddenly spark into existence. It’s like that moment you first realize you’re in love with another human, or your first child is born. An epiphany of the connection sparks a previously unrealized appreciation and bond that forevermore causes a divergent set of feelings and thoughts each and every time you ride or even think of riding that specific frame. The specific build around the frame is nothing more than a metaphor for clothing – fancy or cheep it’s all irrelevant to the frame’s soul.

    Like I said, I have many bikes, but only two of them have a soul…




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  43. Ti and steel definitely have more soul than Al or carbon. Though my Scandium Merckx has a lot of soul, so much more than my Specializeds did, even though they were great riding bikes, they didn’t have the ‘sit and stare for hours’ gene.

    There’s just something about thin, straight tubes that fat, swoopy carbon just doesn’t capture.

    A modern take on steel… hot.




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  44. @JFT

    I have many bikes, but as others have said, I don’t believe these bikes come with a soul. The soul of a bike (more specifically the bike frame only) is something that is ignited at a given moment in time when the bond between rider and machine suddenly spark into existence. It’s like that moment you first realize you’re in love with another human, or your first child is born. An epiphany of the connection sparks a previously unrealized appreciation and bond that forevermore causes a divergent set of feelings and thoughts each and every time you ride or even think of riding that specific frame. The specific build around the frame is nothing more than a metaphor for clothing – fancy or cheep it’s all irrelevant to the frame’s soul.

    Like I said, I have many bikes, but only two of them have a soul…

    As above ….. I too am embracing the n+1 rule …… however only one of my rides has a connection with me and I a connection with it …….. its about the story behind it and hence why I feel more as one with my new bike than any others. Through a serious neck injury, my older Trek “USPS” edition …yes I said it, USPS edition ….lets not rant about FAN boys etc here … thats a whole other can of worms…… well it was deemed to large for me and in order to again get riding the task of searching for a suitable steed was on in ernest ……6 months of searching / researching / pricing this and admiring that, the final decision came down to one bike, my Fuji SST…. yes its mass produced, no its not a fine italian steed with eons of history…. but it fits like a glove, I was drawn to it time and time again while other bigger brands tried to woo me with there promises ….. I kept coming back to her …… so whether its a soul in the true sense of the word or a feeling you get when two become one, Im not sure..but regardless of this carbon steeds pedigree, its now part of me and part of my story… its no longer in a box, or part of a military style line up in a LBS somewhere…. its mine, its in the shed with covers on it when its not on the road … so, just maybe, by default, she has a soul afterall !!




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  45. @Pistolfrom warragul

    Here’s another go at posting the photo.

    Kypo

    Mighty fine bike, we need a bigger image to better lust up.




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  46. @brett If you tell me that Wilier’s yours I’m jumping on a plane to Welli for some Grand Theft Velo…Bel Mezzo indeed.




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  47. @brett

    I don’t think you can reduce it to material — rather, it’s a function of material x builder.




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  48. @Mikael Liddy

    @brett If you tell me that Wilier’s yours I’m jumping on a plane to Welli for some Grand Theft Velo…Bel Mezzo indeed.

    Not mine unfortunately.

    @Nate

    @brett

    I don’t think you can reduce it to material “” rather, it’s a function of material x builder.

    For sure, some carbon bikes have soul, that’s why I said ti and steel have more…




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  49. @brettOOOOO Daccordi, awesome. I can’t resist posting mine even though the photo is dodgy. Handmade, lugged Italian Carbon. Makes me want to ride. If you look closely enough you can see the model is Grinta. Kinda sort of the Italian word for Rule V, if you are loose on the translation and use your imagination.




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  50. @Gianni
    I would, but I’m embarassed that in my rush to photograph my newly restored pride and joy I, 1) left it in the little ring, 2) had the seat sloping, 3) had the handlebars at the wrong angle, 4) had the wrong bar tape, had the brake QR open(all since corrected) and took the delta brakes off and returned them to the guy who loaned them to me when I found out what they sell for now.Shame you can’t make out the tied and soldered spokes. Stuff it, who cares, here’s a bigger version…

    Kypo 853/Campag Record




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