The Best Drivers' Cars are 50 Years Old

The Best Drivers' Cars are 50 Years Old

Quite a few people were surprised at the 2017 Concours de Machines when Peter Weigle’s bike was the lightest by a big margin. With a steel frame and mostly metal components, the Weigle weighed just 9.1 kg (20.0 lb) fully equipped with wide tires, fenders, lights, a rack, even a pump and a bell. To date, no carbon or titanium bike has been as light, while being similarly outfitted for real adventures.

As impressive as that weight was, for the Concours, being light was not enough. In this competition for the best “real-world” bike, the contestants were ridden over hundreds of miles on very challenging courses, including rough mountain bike trails, with more than 5,000 m (16,000 ft) of elevation gain over two days. Not only did they get penalized if something broke, but they also had to perform well. Any bike that didn’t maintain a high average speed incurred further penalties.

The Weigle was one of the fastest bikes in the event, bettered only by bikes that were ridden by strong amateur racers whose power output gave them an advantage. How can this bike be so light and perform so well, when, at least on the surface, it lacks the latest technology?
Car enthusiasts probably aren’t surprised. Ask ten motoring journalists which cars are the best to drive, and they won’t point to the the latest carbon-fiber supercars, though they are amazing technological achievements. Instead, the best driving machines trace their roots 50 years back, but they have been honed to the nth degree by small, dedicated companies.

Top of the current crop is a Porsche “reimagined by Singer”. This small Californian company takes air-cooled Porsche 911 – 25-year-old cars built to a design introduced in 1962 – and replaces almost every part with a hand-made component that is outwardly similar, but has been improved in every way possible. The price tag for these “used cars” starts at $ 350,000. And everybody who has driven one says it’s worth the money. That is reflected in the two-year wait list if you want one. (I’d love to experience driving one!)

If you just care about the driving, and don’t need things like a roof or a trunk, the Caterham 7 is supposed to be even more amazing. For me, the most surprising part is that this is a car introduced in 1957 (as the Lotus 7)! You have to be an expert to distinguish the latest model from one made decades ago, but the Caterham also has been refined, with new engines, modern tires, and numerous other tweaks. And yet the basic concept is the same as it was 60 years ago. On paper, it’s archaic, but in practice, it is said to offer a performance that belies its age.

On a ride with the BQ Team, we talked about these cars and wondered: How can they be better to drive than the latest supercars? On paper, it looks like a Lamborghini Aventador should be the far better car. It’s developed by a huge engineering team and made in an advanced carbon fiber production facility. How can small companies like Singer and Caterham, that most people haven’t even heard of, make cars that are better to drive?
I think there are a few reasons for this:

  • Refining the same design over many years allows small manufacturers to make each car better than the last. The big makers have to introduce new products all the time. Then they spend the first few years ironing out the bugs. Once the product approaches maturity, it’s time for the next model.
  • The cars from the small makers sell to an educated clientele, so they don’t have to play the “numbers game”. They can give up a little in horsepower, 0-60 times and top speed to focus on what really matters: performance and enjoyment on real roads.
  • Without large overheads and the need to compete on price, every part can be the best in the world. For example, the Singer Porsche’s shock absorbers cost more than some brand-new cars. Small makers can choose a part that is 10% better, but costs 30% more, knowing that their customers will appreciate it. For big companies, it’s more cost-effective to spend that money on marketing, and keep their per-unit costs low.
  • These factors outweigh the small advantages that modern materials may offer in theory.

There is a direct parallel between these cars and randonneur bikes like the Weigle or my René Herse (above). Like that Porsche or the Caterham, they may look like classics, but they, too, have benefitted from decades of development. Every part has been refined until these bikes offer a performance that is hard to match. “Modern” mass-produced bikes may be lighter, stiffer or have more gears – impressive “numbers” – but none offer superior performance across real-world terrain.

With so many beautifully designed and meticulously crafted details, it’s easy to overlook that these bikes are great to ride. Or as a journalist put it about the Singer Porsches: “They may be engineered to perfection, but they’re also engineered to be fun.”
If you are in the Boston area, you can see Peter Weigle’s amazing Concours bike at the New England Builders’ Ball this weekend, on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017.
And the full story of the 2017 Concours de Machines is in the Autumn 2017 Bicycle Quarterly, including an article by Peter Weigle on building the bike and going to France for the Concours.
Photo credits: evo magazine (Photo 1), Natsuko Hirose (Photo 3), Caterham (Photo 4), Maindru (Photo 5).

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Comments (54)

  • canamsteve

    I did enjoy my 1971 MG Midget 🙂
    I once took my motorcycle across the English Channel to France. Of course it was a wet day, and I was not all that pleased when I rode off at Calais into a driving rain storm. But I had a faired bike with heated grips and was wearing a full rainsuit. Unpleasant but not uncomfortable. There happened to be a Caterham on the ferry as well, and in the exit queue I glanced over to see the driver sitting there with a very large puddle in his lap. I felt lucky 🙂

    September 22, 2017 at 1:49 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I think as an only car, I’d prefer the Singer Porsche, too. 😉 But I bet the Caterham driver had fun on his or her trip even in the wet.

      September 22, 2017 at 8:03 am
    • John.J

      My best moments in automobiles were when blasting around the back roads of New England in my friends Midgets and Sprites in the mid 1970s !

      September 22, 2017 at 11:15 am
      • SteveP

        We rode from London to Paris (bicycles from Marble Arch to the Arc de Triomphe) a couple of weekends ago. Biblical rain in England the 1st day – no matter the equipment you were soaked to the skin. Things got better after that 🙂

        September 23, 2017 at 3:01 am
  • Peter Chesworth

    Cateram Seven a wonderful anachronism. Perhaps old cars are better drivers cars because they are lighter and have a more immediate connection with the road. No airbags, thinner pillars and thinner tyres, manual gearboxes and no power steering give a greater feel. My old Renault 12 was terrific fun. How does this relate to bikes? Maintain a physical connection and reduce complication.

    September 22, 2017 at 3:36 am
    • psyfalcon

      Lighter weight, and lower limits.
      Those modern supercars are so fast and so hard to see out of. Meanwhile, for modern fun to drive cars a lot of people would pick a Subaru BRZ, Miata, or Fiesta ST. 200 horsepower, 3000 lbs or so. Of course, thats still half a ton more than the old cars, but at least they don’t feel 8 feet wide like the supercars.
      Motorcycles though, are probably in a golden age. You can get whatever styling you want off the showroom floor and anything between 20 and 200 horsepower with fuel injection and ABS brakes. The fastest of them still suffer from being too fast for any public road, but the two narrow tires still gives you a feeling of being at the limits.

      September 22, 2017 at 9:13 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Motorcycles though, are probably in a golden age.

        The same most definitely applies to bicycles. A bike like the Weigle was not possible to build 30 years ago. Today, we have so many choices and so many great parts…

        September 22, 2017 at 10:13 am
    • GAJett

      How does a Lotus 7 / Caterham relate to bicycles? Well they are both based on a tube frame and both can be either bought “off the shelf” or you can buy the parts and assemble it yourself.

      September 23, 2017 at 8:06 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        There is even the Donkervoort, made with a fillet-brazed frame, which allows using lighter tubes than the TIG-welded Caterham. Bicycle technology through and through!

        September 23, 2017 at 10:50 am
  • svenski

    The Porsche 911 is a really difficult example, as the original Units, produced before ca. 1980 have a name for being horribly difficult to drive and being totally unforgiving in critical situations. These cars have cost many lives of inexperienced drivers. I don’t know what the contemporary makers do to remedy this, but the overall concept of the car seems much less balanced than, say a René Herse Bicycle is in comparison.
    Greetz, svenski.

    September 22, 2017 at 5:28 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I think that is the reason Singer uses the 1989-1994 Porsches. They have a different suspension geometry that makes the cars easier to handle for unskilled drivers.

      September 22, 2017 at 8:56 am
  • Matthew J

    Not exactly new technology – at least not the engines in any event – but some of the new electric cars deliver an amazing driver experience.
    Not enough to actually get me to buy a car, but fun for the occasional car share trip nonetheless.
    As to your greater point, certainly agree. Give talented designers and engineers free range to create and the product will most often be superior to one compromised by the demands of squeezing maximum profit from the market at large.

    September 22, 2017 at 5:29 am
  • jon h

    great post! thanks, Jan. it is fun to think about this – i’d say downtube shifters are like points in a classic distributor – there is a sweet (perhaps mysterious) science to learning to set the dwell (sort of like the wonderful intangible qualities of Peter’s bikes) and mechanical components (analog) are certainly something that you can keep running with less fuss (if you have good mechanical skills and a few basic tools). still – i think electronic ignition (digital) is hard to top in terms of performance and i personally wouldn’t trade my Campy 11 integrated shifters for the best (Simplex) downtube shifters – to me integrated shifters work better and offer more performance albeit they are not as bulletproof & are more difficult to work on compared to classic downtube 🙂

    September 22, 2017 at 6:15 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You can easily put Ergopower on a bike like the Weigle without changing much… To me, those are minor details compared to the optimized handling, full-coverage fenders, lights that illuminate the road evenly, etc.
      By the way, the Singer Porsche and Caterham both have electronic ignition. Nobody wants to fuss with distributors when it’s completely unnecessary and doesn’t add anything to driving experience. The point is not to reject modern technology – far from it. It’s all about using modern technology to improve the driving/riding experience, but not see modern technology as an end in itself.

      September 22, 2017 at 7:44 am
    • Matthew J

      The point of the article is the cars in question are the best drivers cars, not necessarily the best cars whatever that may mean.
      I can think of many cyclists who years after having done it thrill to the memory of having executed a perfect double DT shift with one hand allowing them to sprint to the head of the group.
      On the other hand, I’ld wager the vast majority of people forget forever their brifter shifts within seconds of having made it.
      Sure, if you are paid to win bicycle races are just really like knowing you got from point a to point b a few seconds faster than some other amateur in your age and weight class, maybe brifters are all that.
      But if you ride for the pure thrill of riding, perhaps the only thing better than a matched set of DT friction shifters is one DT shifters for the rear cluster and a seat tube mounted lever der for up front.

      September 22, 2017 at 6:16 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        I think both have their place. Most of the time, I enjoy the interaction of moving the lever just the right amount until the gear klicks into place. Sometimes, it’s nice not to think about shifting at all on my Firefly, and just push a button and get another gear.
        I am sure the same applies to cars. I enjoy the manual gearbox on mine on the rare occasions that I drive it, but I can see driving around a track and being so focused on the car’s responses that a gearshift would be a distraction.

        September 22, 2017 at 7:34 pm
  • Shu-Sin

    On a side note, should I have already received the fall issue of BQ? I can’t find a distribution date on the website and I’m anxious to read about Les Concours.

    September 22, 2017 at 8:03 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You should have your copy soon. Depending on where you are, they are arriving as we speak (write). Thank you for your patience. If it doesn’t show up in the next two weeks, let us know, and we’ll investigate what happened.

      September 22, 2017 at 11:00 am
    • marmotte27

      If you live outside the U.S… for me in France it takes about three weeks from the day the shipping is announced for my issue to get here. I still do tend to check my mailbox more eagerly while I wait…
      As for the topic of the blog post, the word ‘lean’ springs to my mind. Those cars and bikes are lean, pared down to contain everything that’s needed to function in the most efficient manner but nothing more. It’s a concept that we would need to apply to our whole lives in the face of climate change. Sadly, even in the bike world that’s not what’s happening. Utility cycling is being denatured by heavy electric bikes, when what we ‘d need is more Urban Bikes, more Frances Smallhauls and the likes for commuting and shopping…

      September 23, 2017 at 4:01 am
  • Toby Whitfield

    It is also all tradeoffs. For a rinko bike to also ride long distances, having downtube shifters simplifies disassembly and also encourages shifting hands on long rides. Less convenient, but there are useful benefits. Also, I believe the Weigle uses 10 speed indexed shifting (though BQ 61 is still in the mail for me as I’m in Canada), so that is pretty recent technology.

    September 22, 2017 at 8:12 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Yes, the Weigle uses 10-speed indexing. I wanted 11-speed, but the latest bar-end levers no longer can be converted to downtube shifting. Generator hubs and LED lights also are pretty recent technology. It’s not about refusing modern technology, but about using it intelligently.

      September 22, 2017 at 8:59 am
  • Grant

    I’d like to add another reason why modern supercars are not super-fun. At a given speed, they don’t feel as fast due to the isolation and obscenely high grip and power. Isn’t the whole point of driving fast to feel like you’re going fast? This is the genius behind the Mazda Miata. It’s a throwback to the lotus elan and other British roadsters: a relatively shoddy car with as many shared parts as possible, including an econobox engine. The secret is that it’s loads of fun because cruising at 60mph feels visceral; taking turns at the speed limit feels illegal. If you haven’t checked out the latest ND model, go for a test drive!

    September 22, 2017 at 8:34 am
  • Greg

    Just a small nitpick, “. . . car introduced in 1957 (as the Lotus 7)! . . . basic concept is the same as it was 70 years ago”
    60 years. Doesn’t change the tone of the post though.

    September 22, 2017 at 10:25 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Caterham anniversary badgeAh, you are right. I’ll correct the error. In Japan last year, I saw a Super Seven that looked brand-new, yet its badge said “50th anniversary 1957-2007”, so it was 9 years old.

      September 22, 2017 at 10:54 am
  • Chad

    Using Singer 911s to explain a bicycle. I absolutely love it. You sir are a man after my own heart. Keep up the fantastic work.

    September 22, 2017 at 10:34 am
  • Conrad

    “Because technology alone is a poor substitute for experience” as Richard Sachs says. That might be the best way to sum up our modern era. It applies to just about everything. I’m not much of a car person but the best car I ever had was an all manual 86 Honda Accord. It was ergonomically perfect. It had 350 K miles on it when I sold it and it still ran really well. Its stunning how with all this technology, a similar modern car is ergonomically awful, less enjoyable to drive, and quite a bit more mechanically unreliable and expensive to repair.

    September 22, 2017 at 11:32 am
  • Scottg

    The best British roadster is the Miata.
    Sentimental favorite, Morgan 3 wheeler.
    Cars are fun driven at 9/10ths, 9/10s in Lambo is 140mph, 9/10s in a Miata is 60mph,
    which one will deliver more fun more often?
    Bikes are fun at 20mph, and your car insurance doesn’t equal a Harvard tuition payment.

    September 22, 2017 at 11:33 am
  • calcagnolibero

    During long rides and events like PBP the Weigle is as fast or faster, more forgiving and pleasurable to ride than any “modern” carbon frame road racing bike.
    Weigle’s performace and comfort are the same on asphalt or gravel less travelled road.
    I am sure the Caterham or Singer you mentioned are a great fun to drive for a few hours on good paved road, though personally if I was forced to drive a car for 90 hours in a row I would choose any middle range modern car over them.

    September 22, 2017 at 3:32 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You are absolutely right about the performance of the Weigle and similar high-end randonneur bikes. Even so, many casual cyclists would say that a city bike with a wide saddle and upright position would be more comfortable…
      Similarly, I think the Singer Porsche has better seats and far better suspension than any mid-range modern car. I know which I’d pick for a timed event over 1200 km! Now I just need to find somebody who lends me their $350,000 car for a test…

      September 22, 2017 at 7:15 pm
      • calcagnolibero

        You’re 100% right about the fact that many casual cyclists would find more comfortable a city bike but casual cyclists don’t ride for hours. They just ride from home to the Pub or Grocery Store .
        The same happens for casual drivers who drive their cars for 5000-10000 km per year.
        I admit that though (or probably because) I have driven 40.000-50.000 km/year for the last three decades I’ve never been fond of sport cars, I much prefer station wagons and vans and my all time favourite is still the Citroen DS.

        September 23, 2017 at 1:05 am
  • Derik Andreoli

    The best cars, like the best bicycles give the driver/rider a wide range of sensations. The exhilaration of steering with your feet by feathering the throttle through a high speed, off-camber turn. The satisfaction of the perfectly timed, rev-matched downshift. The sensation of whipping through chicanes. The feel of the leather steering wheel giving quick feedback.
    I take my 4th gen Miata to the track and marvel at how much fun that little car is. I’ve thought about modifying it, but everything I can think to do would make the car better in one area but worse all of the rest.
    Similarly, I crave the sensation of carving my way down from Sunrise after a long climb – leaning into the turns, trusting the bike to provide essential feedback. I love the feel of my broken in Brooks saddle, the almost suspension-like feel of my Compass Snoqualmie tires as I ride up the John Wayne trail.

    September 22, 2017 at 3:50 pm
  • don compton

    I understand your trying to compare old vs new with steel vs carbon. But, today’s sport cars are every bit as fun to drive as 50s and 60s sport cars and require much less maintenance. I am speaking from experience..Today’s cars can be designed to have road noise like old cars or they can be designed to not have the noise. My current Porsche is designed to have steering feedback to give the driver a feel of the road while it has power steering making the car easier to park. Engine sounds are piped into the cabin to give the driver a feel for the engine’s sounds. I agree that many of today’s sport cars are so powerful that you really can’t drive them at their limit.

    September 22, 2017 at 8:34 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Perhaps there is a misunderstanding. This post didn’t intend to imply that 1950s and 60s cars are better than today’s, just like we don’t want to ride 50-year-old bikes. The Singer Porsche and the Caterham aren’t classics, but modern cars based on classic designs. They combine the best of old and new, and then fine-tune everything to perfection. Just like our bikes.

      September 23, 2017 at 12:43 pm
  • codadelgruppo

    A very good and accurate analogy, Jan. To the casual observer, a car like the Singer or Caterham (and many modern “Outlaw 356s” or “R Gruppe 911s”) may seem retro, old-fashioned, and presumably lower performance relative to their modern counterparts.
    Similarly, a modern steel randonneuring bike with fully integrated fenders, lights and wide supple tires may strike many cyclists as anachronistic, or even an attempt at historical reenactment. How can such a bike be “high-performance” compared to the new race-oriented bikes they are accustomed to seeing?
    In both examples, they are optimized designs that aim to leverage the best and most proven innovations, regardless of whether that innovation is 2 years old or 70 years old. The demands of long-distance randonneuring in all conditions require a different perspective on performance, where comfort and reliability are essential for speed.

    September 23, 2017 at 8:12 am
  • GAJett

    Thanks for the great post, Jan!
    Another point to be taken is that exhilarating performance can be had at many price points. Just a you can go from a Surley LHT to a Rivendell Hilson (mine) to your Weigle, to an all out carbon wonder, the cars mentioned range from a Miata to the latest Lambo.
    Frankly, I think most people would have the most fun in the “lesser” cars, for several reasons:
    * Less demanding skill set to take to limits;
    * Limits can be reached at more “reasonable / legal” speeds.
    * A total write-off won’t cost more than the median cost of a US home!
    All that being said, thanks for highlighting my “Dream Car” — the Lotus 7 / Caterham. Colin Chapman’s original vision was for a car you could drive to the race track and then actually race (and win!). And all with a 65 bhp BMC tractor motor! (Like the Triumphs, Austins, and MGs of the time.) With all of the changes over the last 60 years, the current range of Caterhams still meets that spirit.

    September 23, 2017 at 8:46 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      drive to the race track and then actually race (and win!)

      That is indeed the spirit. While I can admire event bikes, we design our bikes to be ridden in all conditions. Even our Compass cyclocross tires perform so well on pavement that it’s no burden to ride to the race…

      September 23, 2017 at 12:48 pm
  • Willem

    I like cycling because it is a civilized and healthy way to get around. For the same reason I dislike cars. They pollute, are dangerous, and the really expensive ones are socially in bad taste.

    September 24, 2017 at 12:35 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I agree that many problems are caused by an overly great reliance of cars for transportation. I am not advocating using cars for that. Occasional drives by enthusiasts don’t add a lot of pollution, and skilled drivers are far less dangerous that those who’d rather be talking on the phone than focus on driving. I think it was motoring journalist Brock Yates who once wrote that people should use bicycles for transportation, and cars for fun. I tend to use bikes for both, so I drive very rarely, but very much enjoy it, and I also find that the engineering of cars has a lot in common conceptually with the bikes we enjoy.

      September 24, 2017 at 7:43 am
  • Joe Kendrick

    An enduring memory: My older sister’s boyfriend showed up at our house with a brand new black Triumph TR4. He took this young middle schooler for a ride in the hills and valleys of Southeastern Minnesota. That still is the nicest car ride I’ve had in my life.

    September 24, 2017 at 6:39 am
  • Dr J

    “To date, no carbon or titanium bike has been as light, while being similarly outfitted for real adventures”
    To be honest, you should explain that no carbon rando bike has been as light as your Weigle simply because no one has ever tried to build one (unless I missed something).
    As you know, building a proper carbon rando bike would require a very expensive tool set and as such, there is little chance this investment would pay for itself. But just by looking at materials only, carbon frame and fork could be much lighter than a steel one. Add to it custom carbon fenders, seatpost, bars, stem, wheels, etc. and you’re looking at significant weight savings. Someone just has to try.

    September 25, 2017 at 6:22 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      no carbon rando bike has been as light as your Weigle simply because no one has ever tried to build one (unless I missed something).

      There have been a few attempts to make carbon randonneur bikes with fenders, lights and racks, but none have been as light as the Weigle. As early as 2007, Bicycle Quarterly tested a Crumpton with a titanium rack. It offered great performance, but the handling was compromised by the geometry of its stock carbon fork. In 2014, Calfee built us a 650B randonneur bike. Same story: performed wonderfully, but handled only so-so due to the geometry of the fork. You could even include the Specialized Diverge. (It had fenders, lights and a small luggage box.) And mentioned above, none of these carbon bikes were as light as the Weigle. (You can see all BQ test bikes here.)
      You are right that making a carbon bike that is lighter than the Weigle would require a huge investment in tooling. It can be done, but similar to the cars, I doubt it’ll ride better than the Weigle. And if you make that bike as reliable as the Weigle, it won’t be all that light. (For example, no aluminum water bottle cage bolts that strip the second time you install cages.) The goal for the Concours de Machines was not to make the lightest bike, but the best…
      I also am surprised that your list of “lightweight” carbon parts includes fenders, wheels and seatposts. Carbon fenders usually weigh more, not less, than aluminum ones; carbon rims require disc brakes that make the overall bike heavier; carbon seatposts weigh almost the same as aluminum ones – it’s not as simple as “carbon is always lighter”. You’ll find that the weight savings of an all-carbon replica of the Weigle would be much smaller than you may think.

      September 25, 2017 at 8:00 am
    • canamsteve

      I was under the impression (perhaps mistakenly) that there are companies that do “one-off” custom carbon frames. Parlee, perhaps? I’m sure I’ve seen them at bike shows here and there? They lay up carbon sheets to individual spec – not as a mass-produced product. Hence the labor costs are greater, but surely this compares to a custom steel frame construction? That is, there is no need to produce hugely expensive tooling up front (as might be the case with mass-produced vacuum forms, etc.)
      I think the issue may be that while carbon fibre has its merits, those properties may simply not be all that applicable to randonneuring cycles and their uses

      September 25, 2017 at 8:23 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        The big problem are the forks – to make them light and strong, they are best made in molds. The issue isn’t just the correct offset to get a nice-handling low-trail geometry, but also the attachment points for racks, the lighting wires and so on. It could be done, but nobody has done it. Perhaps the way forward would be to make a carbon frame with a steel fork – maybe the best of both worlds?
        On the other hand, we haven’t weighed Peter Weigle’s frame, but I doubt it’s much heavier than a hand-made carbon frame…

        September 25, 2017 at 9:36 am
  • relish14

    Yes! I have felt this way about cars for years. Ever since driving my dad’s 86 BMW 325. It’s hardly the level of the cars you mention yet still drove the point home. I have driven numerous cars since then with superior numbers but they never compared to that BMW on a winding mountain road. This is something Europeans have known for decades and is one of the reasons a Porsche will always be better than a Skyline: the joy of driving. Bikes have felt that way for me as well. I am constantly drawn to my mid 80s steel road bike over my much newer aluminum one, despite the superior handling and lighter weight of the newer bike. Steel as the choice material for bike frames is also an example of a material that had time to be perfected vs the relatively shory history of carbon and aluminum.

    September 25, 2017 at 9:39 am
    • Jacob Musha

      I hope you aren’t lumping all European cars into one group and all Japanese cars into another. 🙂 The Mazda Miata and original Acura NSX, for example, are some of the finest (regular production) driver’s cars ever made. Sadly, modern BMWs are losing steering feel and becoming technological terrors more similar to the Skyline GT-R than your 1986 3-series. Porsche still cares about driving enjoyment though, so there is some hope for the future.
      For me, nothing has come close to my 2000 Miata in terms of driving joy. Of course, I’ve never driven a Singer Porsche or a Caterham…

      September 26, 2017 at 6:49 am
  • Carl Duellman

    i just received my first ever copy of bicycle quarterly. i love the articles and photography and i’m sure i’ll be reading and rereading it until the winter issue arrives. a question about the CdM; why isn’t cost part of the criteria of judging the machines? i’m wondering if my salsa fargo could withstand all that punishment, take a huge hit on the weight but still win as it only cost me $2K? granted it’s not a work of art like a lot of those bikes but it’s still very good at being a good all around bike.

    September 25, 2017 at 11:47 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I am glad you enjoy your Salsa so much. The best bike is the one that takes us on great rides…
      The goal of the Concours de Machines is to show what is possible. The idea is that some of that technology and know-how will trickle down to affordable price points in the future. This happened with generator hubs: Schmidt developed them and still makes the best, but you now can get generator hubs that cost far less. It’s the same with cars – it the 1930s, only the most exotic cars had overhead cams, monocoque bodies and independent suspension. Today, almost every production car has these features.

      September 25, 2017 at 12:20 pm
  • Gunther

    “.. when Peter Weigle’s bike was the lightest by a big margin”
    I am a bit surprised about the BIG in this statement, wasn’t the Grand Bois, one of the other steel bikes in the contest, very close in weight?

    September 25, 2017 at 1:35 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The Grand Bois was actually lighter than the Weigle, but it didn’t finish the Concours because its superlight derailleur broke. The second-lightest bike that finished the event appears to have been the Vagabonde, which weighed 11 kg, or 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) more than the Weigle.

      September 25, 2017 at 3:07 pm
      • Winston W Lumpkins IV

        2.9 pounds is an ultra light tent & a small cook kit….

        September 25, 2017 at 4:28 pm
  • Richard

    For a similar tracing-back-to-its-roots story, google “Rex McCandless bicycle.” Note that the concept of bicycle in his part of the world may differ somewhat from the norm!
    Designer and constructor McCandless, who lived in Belfast, developed a frame made with Reynolds 531 tubing that was at the same time more comfortable than existing designs and also had both better handling and superior road-holding ability. (As with other well-made frames, comfort, handling and road-holding seem to complement one another.) At the time, the innovative frame design was considered to have set an entirely new standard.
    McCandless built the first 10 frames, of which, it seems, only one still exists. Subsequently, production was relocated to Reynolds Tubing, which made thousands more over a period of about two decades.
    Curiously, repair and restoration, as well as the manufacture of new parts, is now being undertaken nearly a full planet diameter away – at almost the exact opposite point on the planet’s surface. To learn more, search “Ken McIntosh frames and parts Auckland, New Zealand.”

    September 25, 2017 at 2:19 pm
  • randallisom

    In the Autumn 2010 issue of BQ there is a short article on Bruce Gordon’s Ti-Lugged Carbon bike. Fenders, rack and lights – article claims a weight of 21 pounds. The bike is a much larger size than the Weigle, curious how much it would weigh in a smaller size and with some further optimization. Definitely potential there but with Mr. Gordon’s estimate of 400-500 hours of labor I couldn’t image there will be any more produced.

    September 25, 2017 at 7:25 pm
  • Stuart Fogg

    Thanks, great article!
    I’m surprised and pleased by the number of comments mentioning Miatas. I love my 3rd gen Miata and I’d hesitate to trade it for a new one because when I drive I want a car, not a self-propelled smartphone.
    Regarding frame materials, I’ve been very happy with a custom titanium frame. The lower density (compared to steel) permits larger diameter tubes with thicker walls for better strength. Also corrosion resistance is excellent. I prefer the extra stiffness, but if you don’t why not build some tangential compliance into the crankset? That would provide energy storage during the pedaling cycle without the downsides of a flexible frame.

    September 26, 2017 at 11:17 am
  • morlamweb

    I had the pleasure of seeing the Concours bike, and meeting J.P. Weigle, at the Builders’ Ball last weekend. It really is a beautiful bike and it was a privilege to meet the man behind it’s creation. Thanks for posting that little note about the Builders Ball in your post. By chance, I happened upon this blog post Friday night, before the ball, after not checking your blog for a couple of weeks. I hadn’t heard of the ball before your post, so there was a very real chance that I would’ve missed this opportunity.
    The ball itself was a great show. Three hours flew by, and it was my first-ever bikey show. As I mentioned to Mr. Weigle, though, the reason why I went in the first place was the Concours bike, and I wasn’t disappointed.

    September 26, 2017 at 2:58 pm

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