On the popularity of vintage charmers

If I can make a wildly unsubstantiated generalization, which is one of the things we do best here, I’d like to say how pleased I am that so many young people today seem immune to the materialistic trappings that were rampant in the days of my youth (that would be the much-missed 70s and 80s).

Why buy a fancy new and expensive bike when you can have what we shall call, for lack of a better term, a “crappie”? I mean that in the nicest possible way. I do.

Or this old Schwinn:

I admire those who will forage around at yard sales and pawn shops until they find that perfect, beat-up Nishiki. I wish I was more enlightened when I was in my teens.

I get thinking about this whenever I see that used-bike yard sale at 13th and Charnelton that pops us every few weeks, especially in the warmer months.

If you recall, this is where we bought the vintage mountain bike that we used for Sharrow’s Xtracycle. Whenever I see this sale up and running, I stop to browse. For one thing, it’s a good lesson in the law of supply and demand.

For instance, a few weeks ago I spotted this fairly nondescript mid-1970s Peugeot.

They made millions of these, so why did this catch my eye? Well, there was the sticker shock:

$229? But the other reason this bike stopped me is that I used to own one very much like this. It wasn’t this exact model. Mine had a better crank, thank you. And mine was red. But I bought mine at a sporting goods store, brand spanking new and shiny. I was 13 or 14 years old, I think.

As for its price, $110 seems to stick in my head. Adjusting for inflation, that would amount to about 400 bucks today. Which seems about right.

Still, reselling it 35 years later for 57 percent of it’s original retail price — that’s not bad. But then, I guess this is our lesson in supply and demand, as there seems to be an outsized demand around here right now for the retro “10-speed.”

Hey, remember when road bikes were actually called “10-speeds”? I mean, accurately called “10-speeds”?

It’s a term that has become lost in the mists of accelerating cog bloat. What are we up to now on a high-end road bike, 11 cogs on the freewheel alone?

Yes, Campagnolo came out with the 11-cog cluster a couple of years ago, meaning a road bike so equipped is now in possession of 22 gears (some of which certainly overlap, but then, some likely did on a 10-speed, too).

On a related note, I happened to be in Hiron’s drug store the other day and noticed that we are now up to six blades in a razor cartridge.

Are you aware of this arms race? You’d think we might be hearing more about this alarming escalation in the news.

The Cogs vs. the Blades. It’s like a gang war. After much tedious research into this mindless acceleration, I plotted the data from the late 1960s onward. Here is how it graphs out:

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but this does not appear to be a sustainable path.

Anyway, what was I talking about before? Oh, yeah, old Peugeots. Supply and demand. Right. So, besides the folks who just have an affection for something old and French, what do you suppose is causing the surge in demand that’s running up the price of a rickety old Peugeot?

I have a hunch:

Cool retro fixie. Now don’t start getting touchy, people, I’m not going to make fun of fixies. (Fixie people get really defensive sometimes. They are sensitive souls.)

I just want to say that I really wish I still had my old Peugeot. I don’t remember what happened to it. I must have sold it. But if I did still have it, yes, I’d make a fixie out of it, too. Just like this one, which is also very much like the model I had.

I spotted this fixie outside of the Kiva downtown. I had just come out of the store and was packing up, getting ready to go home. Then a guy came out of the store and started unlocking the bike. I told him how I used to have a bike like that back in the mid-’70s. (Wow, I’m starting to tell geezer stories.)

Then, not being able to help myself I asked him about this:

The brake and the lever were not actually attached with a cable. (If you’ve been reading here long, you may recall that we have seen this very thing before.) I was curious, so I said, “What’s with the pseudo brake?”

He laughed. “Yeah, it is a pseudo brake!” Then he went on to explain how the brake lever was missing a spring, and he had to figure out how to fix that before he could hook up a cable, and then …

I didn’t get the idea that it was high on his list of things to do. And he rode confidently off brake free.

And thus I was left there, an old guy nostalgic almost to tears, coveting a fixie that was built from a bike very much like my first 10-speed.

I sighed, finished packing the tampons and the diapers into my bag and headed for home.

And with that sad and pathetic tale, we’ll sign off until next time.

6 thoughts on “On the popularity of vintage charmers

  1. I had the Peugot PX10 which I purchased for about $200 in 1973. It came complete with sew ups. I sold it on ebay thru Blue Heron last year for $400+ to someone in the Midwest. It was ride worthy, but it was mostly for the frame.

  2. Love the killer twist at the end. Good story.

    About that graph, though. I can’t help but think that you need to normalize the graph, with the 1971 level for both cogs and blades equaling “100” like they do with comparisons of stock indexes (or you could to a double-y-axis graph, with cogs on the left and blades on the right). The resulting graph would show that while cog densities have doubled, blade densities have TRIPLED! Stop the madness!

    The nerd madness.

  3. When I was an undergrad I had a 70’s road bike that got the “flop and chop” to the bars, but kept it’s brakes and drivetrain. I bought it sometime around the mid 90’s, and I think it was more like $70… probably a low point for the price of 70’s bikes.

    I wonder if old mountain bikes are next?

    these folks kind of look like hipsters:

  4. Old mtb bikes for sure. I’m still riding my ’94 Schwinn Mesa (back when Schwinn’s were good) that I bought when I was 14. It’s now an Xtracycle, has gone through several wheels and drive trains, and has been converted to drop-bars, but it’s sorta the same bike. I had to weld the fame back together once to keep it going, but it’s a trucker!

Leave a Reply to Eugene Bicyclist Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s