What better topic to discuss on Throwback Thursday – #TBT if you’re not a social media uber-guru like myself – than the return of retrobike styling cues to modern bikes.
Old bike parts are becoming new seemingly on a daily basis. Bars, tires, and brakes are all going forward to the past.
I can’t say they make modern bikes work better, but they definitely make some of them look better.
In 1979 Tom Ritchey lost a race after his handlebar slipped. He went to the workshop and create the iconic Bullmoose bar/stem that appeared on millions on bikes through the 80’s. Probably millions, I don’t know for sure – but I’m sure you’ve seen this bar.
In 2015, Ritchey brought back the Bullmoose as a carbon fiber bar/stem combo, with a very cross-country oriented 6 degree back sweep. And last year, Nitto introduced the B903 Bullmoose with a more comfortable 15 degree backsweep, and 710mm width. I’ve got an old Rocky Mountain Hammer that wants to be my work commuter/beer bike, and this bar would be awesome for that.
For me, the most retro feature of a vintage bike, the thing that truly makes a vintage bike vintage, is the skinwall tires. Specialized Ground Control, Panaracer Smoke or Porcupine, Ritchey Megabite – all iconic, and all simply must be skinwall for the perfect vintage bike build. Check out my ’91 Blizzard clone above – it simply would not look as good with black sidewall tires and silver rims. Nobody makes silver rims anymore – everything is black. Why??
A few years ago, skinwalls started to creep back into the market. Surly – of course it was Surly! – brought a Special Ops version of the Pugsley fatbike with skinwall Nate tires and silver rims. It was beautiful. Then Ritchey brought back a skinwall Z-Max, WTB has a skinwall gravel tire, so does Schwalbe, and the Maxxis Ardent – it’s clearly a thing now.
You can build yourself a very retro-looking bike today, like this Niner ROS 9. Maybe I was too harsh earlier about all the parts being black today, because with these tires, those wheels are looking very good.
I believe 2004 or so when even the least expensive bike we sold at Redbike had disc brakes. Rim brakes were effectively dead. You could still get them on cheap bikes of course, but anything $500 or more had a Tektro cable disc brake at least. One of the last high-end bikes to come with V-brakes was the Kona Hei Hei Supreme in 2007 which sold for $6000.
You may be suprised to learn then – as I was – that Shimano still makes an XT-level V-brake. And just today I found out that the 2017 Brodie Bolt comes with V-brakes for $599. It looks great – like a mid-90’s Catalyst with extended seat tube and seat stays attaching up high. It’s a plain and simple 21 speed bike to get you around.
I don’t know why these old things are coming back, but I really like that it’s giving us some variety and more choices to customize. I think my Kona Explosif is going to get a set of skinwall Maxxis Ikons soon.