Lots of chat in comments about The Good Old Days®, when men rode steel and Campy.
I missed those halcyon days of yesteryear, having come to “serious” cycling late in life (I didn’t start racing until I was in my mid-30s). During high school and college I rode a series of Schwinns — five- and 10-speed Varsity and Continental behemoths — but when I took up cycling again in the early 1980s it was astride a Centurion LeMans (either a 10 or 12).
The old Pinarello ’cross bike. It went from me to Dr. Schenkenstein, who eventually cracked the top tube doing something manly.
I had the chance to do the right thing when I went shopping for my next bike. But instead of buying a Bianchi from a local shop that is no longer in existence I went to the Dark Side and bought a Trek 560 from Criterium Bicycles. it was a purple-and-yellow monstrosity that looked like a rolling pustule. An acid flashback must have driven that particular purchase.
A couple more Treks followed. First came a mountain bike (an 830 Antelope, I think), then a 1200 (broke the frame at the right rear aluminum dropout in a city-limits sprint outside Española), and finally a 1500 (a courtesy upgrade from Trek with steel dropouts).
I finally went Italian with a Campy-equipped Pinarello Prologo TT time-trial bike (an old Team Crest machine bought used from Denver Spoke), but this was a mental lapse, on a par with a bald-headed fat bastard who thinks that driving a Maserati will get him laid.
Next came a series of road and mountain Specializeds in steel, aluminum and carbon (we had an amazingly compliant rep in Santa Fe, ol’ Special Dave). My first “real” cyclo-cross bike was a steel Specialized Sirrus road bike that a frame-building acquaintance doctored, adding canti’ posts and subtracting the chainstay bridge.
’Cross is what finally put me back on the road to steel for real. My first really real ’cross bike was a Day-Glo yellow Pinarello, bought cheaply with the assistance of Tim Campen, then at Veltec. Then I met Brent Steelman at Interbike Anaheim and all hell broke loose. First it was a Steelman CC in Excell steel, then a series of Eurocrosses in Dedacciai, Reynolds and True Temper, even a time-trial bike (another mental lapse, but screw it, I’ll start racing multisport again, just you wait and see).
I’ve since ridden a ton of aluminum, titanium and carbon bikes from a variety of manufacturers — Bianchi, Voodoo, LeMond, GT, Look, Cannondale, Jamis, you name it — but I still reach for the steel first. Usually it’s the Nobilette or one of the Eurocrosses, but I even like the inexpensive steel from outfits like Soma and Voodoo, and it’s hard to find a shop rat who doesn’t ride something from Surly.
And there ain’t a Campy-equipped bike in the lot. Not among the rolling stock, anyway.