Can old steel cut in in the high mountains?

October 19th, 2009

“Can old steel cut in in the high mountains? Yes it can!”

Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra
EdEdwards climbs the Col du Telegraphe on his Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra

It’s a question that’s featured in a couple of magazines in recent months, road and off road – can older generation bikes still cut it? The reports have been both scientific (based on PowerTap readings etc.) and more on feel, and an interesting enough read although with the unsurprising conclusion that newer technology was better. I wasn’t in a position to dispute this, but on a personal level, could a 42 year old on an 18 year old bike cut it on the classic Tour de France climbs in the Alps?

The bike was an Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra in 7-11 team colours with the original Shimano 600 groupset; the only modifications were an alloy compact chainset and a larger cassette (interestingly the short cage 600 rear mech was in theory unable to cope with the bigger rear cogs but did so comfortably in practice). Lengthy quill stem and no indexing, off I set.

My super subjective conclusions? It was a cracking week, the bike didn’t let me down at all bar a hamfisted overtightening of a seatpost binder bolt, easily solved. I covered Alpe d’Huez three times, Col du Glandon, Col de Croix de Fer, Les Deux Alpes, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier, Col d’Ornons, Col de Serra Alpe. Descending, never my strong point, was no more hairy than for anybody else. Climbing was more about rider than bike. Would I have been faster up and down on a modern bike with indexed shifting? Very possibly. But, modestly, with as much style and swashbuckling elan? Probably not.

Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra
EdEdwards on the Galibier summit


  1. CAS wrote,

    Great stuff Ed – what next for the man ( and bike) of steel?

    Comment on 19 October 2009 @ 21:50

  2. sinnett177 wrote,

    Great effort Ed, as CAS said a man of steel with a bike to match. Only surprise is no singlespeed, but as it’s the Alps!

    Comment on 19 October 2009 @ 22:25

  3. daj wrote,

    Thats brilliant Ed !! Well done!!

    Is this a warm up for next years event? ;o)

    Comment on 20 October 2009 @ 10:18

  4. DY85262 wrote,

    Fantastic, you now have me thinking more about my trip next year. Old or New! Mmmmm Can we read a more in depth account. Keen to learn about gears, routes accomodation. Welcome a PM Cheers in advance

    Comment on 20 October 2009 @ 19:19

  5. jonnyboy666 wrote,

    that is totally EDTASTIC!!

    Comment on 21 October 2009 @ 21:20

  6. ededwards wrote,

    Thanks all, it was a great trip with 550km covered in total and over 1,600m of climbing averaged per day. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone (PM me for details) – if you’re not fit at the start you will be by the end!

    Starting to think of where next and quite fancy the climbs that feature in the Giro, the Stelvio and Gavia in particular, and/or the Vuelta.

    Comment on 26 October 2009 @ 18:32

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