Vintage Bike Review: 1989 Cannondale ST1000
There is a surplus of sad, neglected and perfectly good used bikes available. Vintage bikes often have low mileage, are in great shape and are ready to be brought back to life. Just check your local Craigslist and your are likely to find hundreds of vintage bikes for sale. They range from pre-war heirlooms worth thousands of dollars to new-ish K-mart bikes for free and everything in between. I had no intent of getting a vintage bike, but one found me and I have enjoyed it greatly!
Late in the cycling season I suffered a terrible tragedy. My primary ride, a 2004 Giant OCR1 cracked her frame. Naturally I was upset that my trusty steed had carried me her last time. I was despondent that this would be my last ride for quite some time. Extenuating circumstances meant that it was not a good time to purchase a new bike. Luckily a friend came through with a nearly forgotten, dusty ride, a Cannondale 1989 ST1000.
Check out the ST1000 in the 1989 Cannondale product literature. It is clear that a lot has changed since 1989 and not just the wretched spandex cycling gear. Thank goodness CYCLEBUTTCRACK now offers modern, dead sexy, CHEEKY cycling gear. Oh yeah!
The 1989 ST1000 came set up for touring. It came stock with the following:
- Brakes: Shimano 600
- Brake Levers: Shimano 600
- Chainring: Shimano Biopace Triple
- Casette: Shimano 6 speed (yes 6 speeds)
- Shifters: Shimano non-indexed downtube mounted friction shifters.
- Front Derailleur: Shimano Diore
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano Diore
- Hubs: Shimano 600 36 hole
- Rims: Sun Mistral 27″
- Rack: Cannondale
- Sexy Anthracite (purple) paint job with sexy disco graphics.
The previous owner also added fenders. With a little work, this would be a great commuter. These are the steps I followed to get the ST1000 back on the road. You may want to consider similar steps if you are looking to get your classic back on the road.
- New tires Panaracer Pasela 27″x1″ front, Panaracer Pasela 27″X1-1/8″(25 years meant that the OEM Panasonic tires were rotten).
- New seat
- New Shimano SPD Pedals.
- True the wheels.
- New rim tape.
- Clean and service chain and casette, replace if necessary. (Luckily the chain and cassette looked nearly new, but 25 year old grease had long since solidified. The chain and cassette spent extensive time soaking in de-greaser).
- Check both hubs and. (I had the rear rebuilt due to a bent axle and crusty grease inhibiting freewheel operation).
- Remove, inspect and clean all cables and replace if necessary.
- Service the pulleys on the rear derailleur.
- Replace the brake pads.
- New bar tape.
- New brake hoods.
- Adjust brakes.
- Adjust derailleurs (with non-indexed shifting, all you have to do is check cable tension and set high and low stops for the front and rear derailleurs).
To be honest I still have a couple of items on this list to attend to, but the major projects have been completed and as anyone knows, bike maintenance and repair is an ongoing process. I have also added lights and want to add panniers in the near future. I took care everything on the list myself except the rebuild of the rear hub. As a result, the cost for the work was pretty low. What did I get for my sweat equity? I have put about 400 miles on the ST1000 I feel it is time to write a review.
The most striking thing about the ST1000 is that oddball purple paint. I was a little put off by it at first, but I must admit that it has grown on me for one main reason. CHICKS DIG THE PURPLE BIKE! I have never received so many bike compliments! It seems every time I head out for a ride, it garners attention. This attention is almost always female attention and complements. I am lucky I am single or my girlfriend would be jealous. The ST1000 came stock with a steel front fork. Talk about a cushy ride, I spent the first few rides thinking my front tire was low.
Sheldon Brown wrote extensively about the virtues of Shimano BioPace chain rings. Read about Biopace here. Basically it is a non-circular chain ring meant to make your pedal stroke more efficient. It works differently than other oddly shaped chainrings. I really feel a difference, at high RPM, I feel more stable and less bouncy. At lower cadence, powering up a hill, it feels like I have more power. I don’t understand why Biopace didn’t catch on. It’s great!
The 36 hole Sun rims are certainly sturdy. They are stiff and stable and feel capable of being around for the long haul. The Panaracer Paselas are also performing well. They feel stable in wet conditions, have a lovely cushy ride and they are wearing quite nicely. The fenders on the ST1000 don’t mean that I am a wet weather commuter per se, but they have extended my wet weather riding. Now when it is wet, but the weather is acceptable, I will ride to work. I still hate riding in the rain, but riding when it is wet is alright thanks to the fenders!
The ST1000 appears to be set up for commuting, but I would have expected a much more upright relaxed riding position. It’s not. The riding position is surprisingly aggressive. It certainly takes some getting used to. Speaking of an adjustment, I still have not quite adjusted to those ridiculous narrow bars. Apparently that was how people ride in the day. Luckily bars are cheap if I can find them in the correct diameter. I am under the assumption riding this bike will help my tuck on my weekend bike.
If you have ridden a bike with friction shifters, you know it is a chore. They are not indexed in any way and you have to trim the gears yourself. Shifting is accomplished by feel and sound and followed with many adjustments. It is strangely satisfying and you learn not to take your shifts for granted. It is not fast or efficient, but I like it. Another drawback, is that for one reason or another, the Cannondale will not allow standing climbing or hard standing accelerations. It typically skips the chain in a very upsetting manor. I am not sure if this is due to the Biopace drivetrain, poor adjustment or just the nature of the beast. It forces me to ride with better form, but I like to stand and use my power to my advantage. Is there a solution to this problem? I would love to hear your input.
The ST1000 is a tank. Cannondale was a pioneer in aluminum frame technology. I am sure the ST1000’s frame is not too hefty, but the wheels are heavy as is the cassette, drivetrain and steel fork. Cannondale lists the ST1000’s weight for a 23″ frame at 28.1 pounds! I bought wire bead tires which only increase rotational mass. Add fenders, a rack and lights and I am hauling some serious weight down the road. This is actually not a bad thing. I intend to increase the weight with a pair of panniers. Hauling around a heavy commuter on the week can only make me faster during the weekends. It is all about building strength! I am making the most of my commuting miles 🙂
I used to complain about the rim brakes on my Giant. I did not realize how good I had it. Rim brakes on steel wheels is not a pleasant braking experience and the largest adjustment I have had with the ST1000. I want to stop and stop quickly. Not so much with the old Shimano 600’s. I did swap out the brake pads with a set of pads purpose built for steel wheels. Check them out here. They are much better. They even work better in wet conditions than in dry conditions! However, in wet conditions brake dust turns to black slime which gets all over your bike. Even with the new pads I expect to stop slowly and to increase my grip strength. I will also have to be careful putting too much pressure on the brakes on my other bike.
Riding a vintage ride is an adjustment, but it has also been a lot of fun. It is great having a bike set up for the commute and another set up for the weekends. I don’t know how I have made it so long without a commuter! Riding old school also gives you some cred on the streets, whatever the hell that means. 🙂 Some of the best advice given to me when I received my ST1000 was to ride it and enjoy it, but don’t expect it to ride like a new/modern bike. If you expect that, you will be disappointed and not enjoy the ride. Like me, you will make some adjustments riding a vintage bike. What those are depend on what bike you get. I have enjoyed the ride. I recommend you pick up a vintage bike. You will probably enjoy the ride too.