The Mystery of the Downtube Shifters

“What are those?” asked Heidi, pointing at the downtube of my bike frame as we were working up the motivation for starting the ride today. When we realized she wasn’t kidding, we all busted out laughing. It was the best laugh of the day. We weren’t laughing at Heidi, we were laughing at ourselves. We’d gotten so old that we had to laugh, either that or else just give up and buy a rocking chair.

Heidi was pointing at the downtube shifters on my old Bringheli frame. She was young enough, and new enough to road cycling, that she had never seen downtube shifters before. I wondered to myself if she’d ever even noticed a nicely lugged steel frame. More likely it’s all been welded aluminum or titanium, bonded carbon fiber, and integrated brake/shift levers. Not like this:

old style

old style

My Bringheli is vintage, circa mid-80’s. Built by Joe Bringheli in Parma, Ohio, with a paint job by Keith Anderson, in Grants Pass, Oregon. I have no idea how a steel bike built in Ohio got painted by someone in Oregon. But then, I’m not the original owner.

I bought this bike used, back in 1997, from a fellow named Ed Taylor. Ed had moved recently from Indiana to Manhattan Beach CA, and brought numerous bikes with him, including the Bringheli. He found one of the groups I was riding with in Palos Verdes (the Doctors Ride), which is where I met him. A few months after joining us he developed an itch for a new Calfee carbon fiber bike. I’ll paraphrase the reaction of his wife – “one bike goes out, another can come in.” Which is how I came to get a sweet deal on a sweet lugged steel frame Bringheli. $350, cash on the barrelhead, no questions asked.

Normally I am riding a Litespeed Vortex, which is no spring chicken either, the frame and fork being about 13 years old. But it’s rock solid and the titanium frame likely will outlast me. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for wheels. It’s out of commission, waiting on a new set of wheels, which is how I came to be riding the Bringheli today. The Bringheli is my backup bike and I have not ridden it for months. Then I take it for a ride with a quick group like today, and remember how comfortable it is, plush yet steady. Here are some additional photos of it below. I added the rack back when I was still working and using the bike to commute. The soft case that straps to the rack carried my clothes and a towel for the showers at work.

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