Your Forever Bike

As I was pouring myself yet another pot of confinement coffee this morning, I got to thinking about my now ‘old’ (6 years) Colnago C59 and the fact that it remains on the top shelf up my bike wall. I think I want a new bike, of course, but I’m not even sure if the new one would replace the C59, or the 10 year old Bianchi underneath (the ‘2nd bike’). And then I recalled a blog article I wrote years ago on something Colnago likes to call the ‘forever bike’.

The article was a review of a little documentary by journalist/writer Rob Penn, on putting together the bike that would take him into the sunset. From a glance at his website, he’s still on it after 9 years.

This concept of the ‘forever bike’ was one of the things that directed me to my C59. First, it was made it Italy ‘in Ernesto’s basement’, but more importantly, the frame has a pretty classic geometry (although mine is sloping – you could actually get a flat top tube version).

Version 2015: I’ve already changed nearly everything once

It could very well be that this bike will start to look dated soon, but I don’t feel like it has yet, and the ride is as good or better (after 5 years of tinkering) as the day I bought it.

Another reason I’m thinking about the ‘forever bike’ is because stuff is starting to get old on the frame, so I’m finding myself considering updating the drivetrain, for example. This is when decisions have to be made because Campy Record costs €1500 or more. When you start getting into that level of dough, you begin thinking that maybe it’d be better to just quadruple that and buy a new bike. Okay, quintuple. Luckily for me, with the covid economy the way it is, neither is a possibility, and my Colnago is my Forever Bike whether I like it or not.

I know that there are some out there reading this who are wondering if I’m writing in a foreign language – lots of cyclists buy a new bike every 2 or 3 years no matter what. I know others who buy a bike and simply ride it till it breaks or falls apart. Is there anyone out there who intentionally bought/built up their bike to last a lifetime?

29 thoughts on “Your Forever Bike

  1. Even if i buy bikes, normally I keep the old ones. Right now my excuse is my son. With little changes as stem, he can ride my bikes already. Like my old LOOK KG 361 from 2001. Laurant Jalabert rode the same model. So the limit is space and wallet. Luckily business runs ok. Next he gets my cyclocross bike and I NEED a new gravel bike for bikepacking

    • I checked that Look out just now. It’s a nice looking bike. I guess the big question is what your excuse will be once your son is out of the house!

      • Hmm, there are two options. He stays with the canyon shop where he works on Saturdays. Then he will want to ride canyon. Me not, i am more the boutique guy. If he works somewhere else maube he will still like to ride top of the shelf, scond hand. Third option, I will be to old for carbon and need a titanium update… when my wife whats me to be creative, why not in reasons for a new bike…

  2. I bought a lot of bikes in the last nine years, but I’m a little bored with the new offerings. Other than disc brakes, which are a huge improvement, I’ve built my Venge into a beautiful, formidable lightweight aero bike… I’d have to go Pinnarelo F12 to beat it, and that’s just too much with kids. I didn’t plan on building my forever bike when I bought my Venge, but that’s what I ended up with, and that’s good enough for me.

    • The Venge is a mean machine. I have a few American friends who ride them. I saw an F12 at a shop near Ventoux a few weeks ago, so I understand your comment. Yikes.

  3. Gerry, my latest purchase (Canyon Aeroad disc) will turn 3 in January. The move to disc and electronic shifting were “much-needed” upgrades, as the industry made us believe (and I actually am very happy with those two). But now I see no reason for new bike. I really don’t see the point of going from 11speed to 12speed. (Even 10 to 11 didn’t do anything for me.) And the new Aeroad that finally came out after many years really doesn’t make any improvements (yes, 30g less by reducing material on seat post and handlebars). That said, I have been wondering to upgrade the Shimano Ultegra to Dura-Ace or eTap, but hard to justify gaining a few 100g in the Chicago flatlands for several thousands $$. So I will just stay put 🙂 Perhaps I’ll treat myself to the Kickr Climb…

    • I’m wondering the same thing about 11 vs 12, Jan. The Campy groupsets have all actually gone UP in weight with the new 12 speed set-up. I didn’t need the other gear before and I really don’t need it if it’s going to push my bike up even further over UCI limits! My question right now is, if I buy Record 11, will I be able to get parts, etc. for the next 5 or 10 years. I suppose so, but haven’t really stuck with an ‘old’ groupset long enough to know the answer. Not even sure if I still buy a new Campy 11 groupset.

      And good point about ‘the flat’. You’d probably want aero more than gears where you are. You do travel (or used to!) to Europe, though, so you’ll just have to keep a bike over here (if you don’t already) 😉

  4. So, maybe switch to decaf? Anyway, we’ve talked about this a few times, so it comes as no surprise to you that I don’t see any reason to replace my 2011 Canyon. In fact, now that I’ve revived my 2003 Marinoni, I think that could be my forever bike, if I had to choose. That steel frame is just surprisingly comfortable. It could do with a new groupset, yes, but that sort of keeps it fresh. Also, I’m with Jan and what he mentioned in the last sentence: I’d be much more willing to invest in a good, or even great, home trainer. I believe we’re only at the beginning of the technology curve, both for the hardware and the software.

    • The Marinoni has a new lease on life. And now that you mention it, I am sure that my next forever bike will be a steel one! Trainer? I’ll see how long Covid appears to be lasting and go from there. Maybe we can get a 2-4-1 deal!

  5. Okay, lets try this a second time Gerry. Your post was very timely.

    I’ve been working on this project all year but things went left instead of right.
    Just like you, my bike is vintage Italian, top of the line , 1st generation Dura Ace Di2 and I was in need of my Forever Bike. Once you ride top of the line from any Manufacturer , how do you get new without buying top of the line again. We all know that top of the line in anything will be North of $10,000 Cdn., so I am doing the next best thing as my bike was starting to wear. You know, scratches on the rear derailleur due to spills, old 10 speed in need of an upgrade, shifters starting look their age. The original paint and clear coat was starting to also its age.

    Stripped the bike down to just the frame, contact a specialty shop in Toronto called Velocolour to discuss a custom paint job, get new decals with some traditional markings like the name of the bike, get some custom personalized decals added, remove others that make the bike look redundant with the same name on all parts of the bike. I then proceeded to get my LBL to order me a whole new Dura Ace Di2 Grouppo without the brakes and a bottom bracket as this can be reused, get a gold chain thrown on and ordered a new Deda Bar with Internal routing for cleanliness. This gives me a fresh new bike at half the cost of a top of the line. Can’t wait to show you what it looks like.

    • That sounds nice, Pierre! Any photos of the paint job at least? I like the idea of the internal cable routing, by the way. This could be a nice upgrade. Did you get bar/stem integrated? I suppose so, now that I think it through.

      Will the weight come down significantly?

      • Hi Gerry, actually the frame is in the shop waiting to get started. I won’t see it until early December and then it has to go to the LBS. For the Internal, it will be be through the handlebars and it will come out through a hole on each side of the bar near the stem. no wires to feel where my hands are. The Junction box will be located in one of the bar ends where my charging cable will plug when charging, both levers connected to one port the other is for the battery. I will also have D fly connected which will allow me to program for gear changing preferences or auto gear changing when terrain changes. The Dfly system is programmed through Bluetooth. Not sure how that will work yet.The battery is being moved from the non drive chain stay to the Internal seat post. All Di2 wires will be internal in the frame except for the rear brake cable which has its grommets located on the bottom of the top tube. I can technically connect through the stem with a Deda stem tube adapter but not really worth it since we are talking about maybe six inches of distance between those two locations. Not sure about the weight but my Deda bar is alloy instead of Carbon as the price difference for a few grams wasn’t worth it basically for the same functionality.

        Okay, lets try this a second time Gerry. Your post was very timely.

        I’ve been working on this project all year but things went left instead of right.
        Just like you, my bike is vintage Italian, top of the line , 1st generation Dura Ace Di2 and I was in need of my Forever Bike. Once you ride top of the line from any Manufacturer , how do you get new without buying top of the line again. We all know that top of the line in anything will be North of $10,000 Cdn., so I am doing the next best thing as my bike was starting to wear. You know, scratches on the rear derailleur due to spills, old 10 speed in need of an upgrade, shifters starting look their age. The original paint and clear coat was starting to also its age.

        Stripped the bike down to just the frame, contact a specialty shop in Toronto called Velocolour to discuss a custom paint job, get new decals with some traditional markings like the name of the bike, get some custom personalized decals added, remove others that make the bike look redundant with the same name on all parts of the bike. I then proceeded to get my LBL to order me a whole new Dura Ace Di2 Grouppo without the brakes and a bottom bracket as this can be reused, get a gold chain thrown on and ordered a new Deda Bar with Internal routing for cleanliness. This gives me a fresh new bike at half the cost of a top of the line. Can’t wait to show you what it looks like

        • It Can still happen as I’ve taken pictures along from old bike to frame etc… and have requested pictures along the paint process. BTW, to answer the forever bike question, I couldn’t believe the price of a top of the line frame. It was something like $6500.00 for a Bianchi frame to $8500.00 for a Pinarello F12…Yikes. I like my way better now…..

  6. Forever is a long time. So is a lifetime. Things change over that kind of period, not the least of which being the rider. I’m on the wrong side of 50 years of age and I increasingly see the appeal of bikes of a different style. Why drive a muscle car like the 20-somethings when you can have a tricked out luxury touring car? It’s not necessarily wrong to ride a racing bike into your 8th decade, but I think your back (and other miscellaneous body parts) will thank you for something less… aggressive.

    My 9 year old Trek Madone (Has it really been 9 years? Yikes.) works well enough, especially with the modest upgrades in wheels and crankset I’ve bought. But a classy randonneur sounds better with each passing month and I’ve been window shopping (or at least internet browsing) a great deal!

    • I thought about ‘forever’, too, when I first read it on Colnago’s FB page. Maybe they mean ’till you don’t want / can’t ride a racing bike anymore’? I know plenty of guys in their 60s who still ride aggressive geometry, but not too too many in their 70s. So, ‘forever’ could be 18 years for me.

      I’d love to know what a ‘classy randonneur’ looks like. Hopefully you’ll have a blog article to show me!

  7. Having laid out big money (for me) on my latest bike there is no chance of a replacement except when an electric bike becomes a necessity of old age. With a titanium frame, a rohloff hub and a belt drive, it is comfortable, silent in the top seven gears and maintenance free. Who could ask for anything more.

      • I sent that before I meant to. The suggestion is 60000 to 100000 miles. When you think how many fans a fan belt does on a car, they should be fairly indestructible on a bike as long as they are kept clean. I am expecting mine to have a longer life than me. I shall pass it on as a heirloom

        • Ignore that last reply which turns out to be rubbish as far as the distance goes owing to my aged brain not functioning properly. 20,000 miles looks like a top limit and only if the belt is not used in mountain bike conditions. Grit and salt will shorten life. Reading some comments makes me think that the cogs might go before the belt but it is not clear how badly the commenters treat their bikes. At my gentle pace in usually good road conditions, I am still happy that the belt will outlast me (especially if I meet the woman who came round the blind corner on my side of the road again)..

  8. I love the Aeroad I bought this year and barring any misfortune I’ll be riding it for many years yet. Every now and then when I hit the (rim) brakes on those carbon wheels I think maybe I should have gone for discs, but apart from that I ride and I’m happy. Hell I’m even happy on my almost 20-year-old Trek 5200 as well.

    But a forever bike? That’s gotta be titanium, right? 🙂

    • I think most of us are happy on any bike…because it’s a bike! Titanium, yes. I’ll have to do some soul searching one day because I’ve had my eye on a Ti maker in Italy for many years now, but I also would love to have a steel frame (eye on a French maker for that one). There’s not enough wall space or money for both!

  9. Pierre, are those prices for only the frameset? I suppose so. €4000 seems to be the going price for ‘superbike’ framesets here, although I’ve never priced an F12. I did see a full bike the other day for €12,000 though 😉

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