As a semi-professional bike blogger whose relevance decreases by 50% per year (at least according to a consultant I recently hired for $75,000), one of my greatest privileges is unfettered access to the Classic Cycles collection, which contains some of the finest bicycles in the world, and which I can borrow from on a whim:
Over the years I’ve sampled all manner of exotica thanks to Classic Cycle, and have even retained some for my own permanent delectation. These bicycles have served as the basis for an informal series here on this blog that I call “Classic Cycle Thursdays!,” and if I wasn’t such a lazy idiot I’d have tagged the posts or something for easy access. Oh well…
According to both the calendar and my seasonal allergies spring is undeniably upon us, which means it is time for me to welcome yet another piece of velocipedal history into my home, and this morning I took delivery of the latest artifact:
Every bike Paul Johnson of Classic Cycle has sent me has been significant in some way. The 1975 Teledyne Titan was the first production titanium bike. The Colnago Bititan was Ernesto Colnago at his most Colnago-y. And the 1950 Drysdale Special was old as fuck–though not as old as the bike Paul lent me for L’Eroica California back in 2018:
This latest bicycle is no less significant. However, it is only of significance to me, as in its heyday it was practically invisible in its ubiquity:
Behold, the Dockers® of road bikes–the 1989 Trek 1200!
So why is this boring-ass bike significant to me, and why did I choose it over some of the most interesting bicycles ever made? (Science fact: three out of five suburban garages contain at least one bonded aluminum Trek that hasn’t been ridden since 1994.) Well, I’ll get to that. But first, let’s take a closer look. The frame isn’t just aluminum, it’s ALUMINUM:
Made right here in the USA:
The components are 7-speed Shimano 105:
And yes, that’s the new Shimano 105!
Right down to the pedals:
The rings are Biopace:
The shifters are on the downtube, with both friction and index mode:
The brakes are of course dual pivot–by which I mean there’s one pivot on the front brake:
And another pivot on the rear brake:
See what I did there?
And while a bonded aluminum frame doesn’t offer much in the way of flourishes, you do get a pump peg:
And a chain hanger:
Finally, the rims come straight from the Matrix:
Right, so why this bike? Because I used to have the exact same one! I bought it used sometime in the 1990s, I’m pretty sure I found it in the PennySaver, and I took the subway all the way out to Belle Harbor to get it. I didn’t pay very much for it either, and the seller had clearly never ridden it because it had all the original everything on it, including the white bar tape and probably the reflectors, and I’m pretty sure he even gave me the catalog with it:
Check out the specs!
I already had a road bike when I bought this so this was my “second” bike for “training” and traveling with and running errands and that sort of thing, and you’d better believe I was quite pleased with myself for having graduated to owning two road bikes. By the time I got it anybody who raced or was “serious” was using STI, and I suppose it was sort of the equivalent of someone buying a rim brake road bike today, in that it was perfectly good (and in some ways better) but you could get it cheap because it had the stink of “obsolescence” on it. I was always quite fond of the bike–it rode more smoothly than the Cannondale I had at the time, I loved the simplicity of the downtube shifters, and besides tires and stuff like that the only thing I really changed was the chainrings. (Biopace was deeply uncool by then so I swapped them for more au courant 39/53 round rings, though I secretly always felt like there was actually something to the whole Biopace thing, and of course now misshapen rings on road bikes are back again and seemingly here to stay.) Inevitably though I began acquiring yet more and different types of bikes, and when eventually I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn we had a stoop sale so I put it out and sold it for at least as much as I had paid for it.
Sometimes when you sell a bike you wish you’d kept it. For example, I wish I had kept my old GT GTB:
Not because I enjoyed riding it (I really didn’t, it was extremely uncomfortable), but because they became collector’s items and people started paying stupid money for them when the fixie thing hit.
As for the Trek, I missed it for exactly the opposite reason, which is that it was a comfortable, fun-to-ride, non-precious, and boneheadedly simple bike that would never be worth anything because it was so common. In fact, I missed it enough that every once in awhile I’d poke around to see if anyone was selling one cheap. So imagine my delight–well, “delight” is maybe too strong a word, but whatever, let’s go with it–when I saw Classic Cycles actually had one:
Sure, it was on the bargain rack and not in the museum collection, but that was precisely its charm. Indeed I’m fairly sure the XTR RapidRise derailleur Paul also included in the package is worth more than the Trek:
I’ve got big plans for that baby.
As for the Trek, after getting it together I headed out for a quick ride, and it’s just as I remembered it:
Sure, the plastic toe clip snapped almost immediately, but I was probably going to change the pedals anyway:
Good thing it didn’t happen on the “gravel” section. Riding a road bike with skinny tires and rim brakes on gravel is extremely dangerous, since not only wasn’t the bike designed for it, but gravel didn’t even exist in 1989!
Everybody knows gravel was invented in 2006 when the first
Dirty Kanza Unbound Gravel happened, duh.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to many more jorts-n-sneakers rides on the vintage normcore bike…even if you aren’t.