I didn’t ride my 25 year old Proflex bike entirely out of choice, today. I still haven’t got the wheels for my Boardman, a bike of a mere 4 years, back from the shop yet, having had new bearings and a pawl spring in the free hub fitted. The weather has, however, remained ideal for an older bike. Modern bikes are far better protected against wet weather than old bikes and also easier to repair. The Boardman uses sealed bearings which press in to the hub where the Proflex uses ball bearings in a Shimano hub which, strangely, is what Shimano still use in many hubs. The ball bearings can be replaced but the cups in which the bearings run also wear so back in the day we were always changing the whole wheel. Brakes which used the rim as a braking surface usually wore out before the hubs and I learned the skill of rebuilding wheels which has often proved useful. If I damage a rim with a rock strike it’s more economical to replace the rim than the whole wheel. For this reason and many other wear related issues I prefer to ride my 3 classic bikes when the weather is dry.
I thought it would be useful training and a lot of fun to ride 3 laps of the man made trails on our local hill, Healey Nab. The Proflex is in good working order at the moment. I’ve kept it well maintained but they do tend to need a little more attention than a newer bike. The cables are split like a road bike. This saves virtually no weight but allows dirt to get inside and cause gear change problems. It’s a hangover from the origins of mountain bikes in California, which started as strong versions of road bikes with a few concessions to off road riding, like wide tyres and handlebars. The Proflex has the addition of front and rear suspension but still has a stretched out road bike like riding position. By building my own fork to replace the poor original I’ve been able to raise the handlebars buy a useful amount of over 25 mm. This might not sound like much but small differences are often very noticeable. My Boardman has a bottom bracket 15 mm lower than on the Trek but you feel distinctly closer to the ground. On the Proflex, which has only around 75 mm of suspension travel compared to the Boardman’s 140/130 mm, you feel much lower still. The big difference comes when you ride it.
I completed 3 laps and on the main descent achieved times of 1 minute 26 on laps one and two and just one second slower on lap three. I felt to be going so fast with the tyres scrabbling for grip but was around 5 seconds slower than I was on the Trek and Boardman recently. Still the time isn’t important. If you want to feel the thrill of speed a 25 year old bike is an excellent way to experience it. I was taking more of a battering over the bumpy surfaces and wasn’t so able to concentrate on getting the power down. On the climbs I doubt there would have been the same difference. The lightweight Proflex, with it’s stiff suspension is a rather good climber. I noticed once more how many other riders spend their time standing around and not actually riding. They also seem to prefer to push back up hill whereas I was riding, which gave me a useful workout. Another good ride but sadly our long, dry period may only last one more day.