Vintage 1981 Trek Road Bike

1981 Trek

I’ve had this old Trek road bike in New York for 10 years. It was pretty old and battered, even when I bought it 10 years ago. I think it was originally made in the early 1980s. In its time, it would have been a top of the range model, used in road racing. But, in the past 30 years, technology has moved on substantially. Still it’s a decent bike, and it’s enabled me to do some important training.


well before the days of internal cable routing

It has classic Reynold 531 steel tubing.
The group set is an obsolete Shimano Sante
It has 7 speed on the back, the lowest is a 19 sprocket.

  • 42*19 as a lowest gear – riders were harder in them days. Though I’m very glad I didn’t have this bike when riding up Hardknott pass in the Lake District.
rear cassette

I haven’t oiled the chain for about 3 years

The gears still work, though there is a long delay between changing and actually getting into the right gear. I hardly ever used the 52 outer chainring. because 42*12 does everything I need and it’s too much effort to change.

Gears on the down tube, is a blast from the past. You definitely change less frequently when the levers are down there. STI levers have really spoiled us. I often use the Trek as a single speed.


1981 Trek, last cleaned 1997

Riding is OK, but it definitely feels slower to the bikes I’m used to. It’s not too heavy, but feels unresponsive when increasing the power. It may be the frame has weakend from the many dents which it is carrying. Acceleration from a standing start is always hard work. Perhaps because the gearing is more suited to a fixed gear bike. But, it feels noticeably slower than others.

The dents still show one advantage of steel, you can still ride even after crashes. If these dents were on a carbon fibre, you would have to look at getting new frame.


The handlebars are small and uncomfortable. Though it’s not helped by the disintegrating handlebar tape.


The suspension stem is a bit of a quirk. It was the only stem a local shop had which was long enough for my needs. I don’t enjoy riding a suspension stem, your height is changing and you lose power when pedalling. Combined with the steel frame, the bikes absorbs the (many) bumps pretty well, but who rides a road bike to enjoy comfort?

front brake

The best thing about the bike are the good old Armadillo tyres. I used to puncture like anything on the gravel strewn American roads. But, these Specialized Armadillos have done sterling service in avoiding punctures and wearing down very slowly. A really great investment. The bike is so slow anyway, some Armadillos don’t make much difference.

It’s been a good companion for several years, but the look pedals are permanently rusted to the cranks so I can’t change the  pedals. When I got to New York, I  could only find one cycling shoe (probably related to cycling with one leg due to blood clot back in April). Therefore, my first training session involved cycling with one shoe and cleat, and one ordinary trainers on a small uncomfortable look pedal.

Suffice to say that training session lasted about 10 minutes before I turned round and made the decision to go and buy a new road bike. I had to bite the bullet, extend the credit card and get yet another bike. But, whoever regrets buying a bike?  I don’t.

I went to the shop with the intention of buying the cheapest possible road bike in the right size. But, after testing a few, my budget suddenly increased from $500 to $800 – the difference in quality between the cheapest bike and the one I got was huge. God bless credit cards. I think without credit cards, we would spend all day training rather than buying the latest carbon fibre expensive add ons.

I think the cheapest $500 heavy weight bike would have been a step back from the 1981 trek   even though the Trek is the wrong size for me.

Top tip of the day. Don’t buy a road bike for less than £500.

I got a Specialized Allez – a very nice ride. Review coming up.


One Response to Vintage 1981 Trek Road Bike

  1. pj September 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    you should ride the trek at the Rake this year.

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