Yesterday, the historic track, Stalen Ros, in Ghent, hosted an annual vintage bike fare. A chance to visualize decades of cycling from the basic bikes to components. For riders longer in the tooth, a chance to see their own history before them, the items that were fascinations in our youth, that are collectors items and oddities today.
When you think about the state of modern bikes, the distance they have come in just a few decades is incredible. While the bare form remains the same, the details, geometry, components have brought about immense changes in what we ride.
Gratefully, I am not so old that I can remember everything. Handlebar water carriers with bottles that have corks in the mouth, preceded my by a long shot.
But, while modern cyclists roll out of a bike shop with 12 sprockets on their rear wheel and a three-ring front drive chain, giving them 36 gears in total, when I was racing, the maximum rear block was a five speed with a two ring chain set for a mere ten gears.
Vintage markets are filled with woolen jerseys, leather shoes and wooden cleats, and bikes with frames that look almost brittle in comparison to their modern counterparts.
It is stunning to think these were the very bikes used in professional races, streaming down mountain cols, hurling the sprinters to the line at breakneck speeds.
And there were enough bikes there to see lineage in development, especially if looking at the Eddy Merckx model. There was a collection standing side by side where you could see the changes in frame design over the models.