“Can old steel cut in in the high mountains? Yes it can!”
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.
EdEdwards on the Galibier summit