Vintage Mixte; New Mixte – A Comparison

For about a year I’ve been using this vintage Nishiki mixte road bike for the DC part of my multi-modal commute. I bought it on e-bay very inexpensively.  With a some restoration and component swaps (which did indeed add quite a bit to the bike’s cost) it became a great city commuter. Nimble and nice-looking in a humble way, it doesn’t shout “steal me,” so even when I have to park it outside I don’t worry about it too much.

After much foot dragging I committed to biking the home-train station part of the commute. Now I needed a  bike that I’m willing to leave locked up at the MARC station all day. This is less alarming than it may sound, as this suburban station doesn’t seem to be of interest to bike thieves. Even so, I’m not going to park a bike there that I am highly attached to and/or one that would be very expensive to replace.

I started searching out options. It had to be a bike  on which I can handle the short but significantly hilly ride home.  It also had to be a mixte to best  suit my incredibly short standover height.  Plus, I do love the looks of mixtes.

For several reasons, I was not really up for another vintage bike. Luckily, it seems some of the mass market bike manufacturers have started catching on to the appeal of mixtes. While I have yet to see a modern mass-market mixte touring bike, there now are several nice options in commuters.  I ended up choosing the Linus Mixte 8, a fine looking, fun-riding bike indeed. So far it’s been working out pretty well, with some caveats.

Linus

So how do these two mixtes compare?

The Nishiki is quite light, which is great. It’s gear ratios are such that it’s challenging to get up steep hills on it (at least for me). I have had to walk hills that I think I could have made on my ANT. It feels a bit unstable when pavement is less than ideal, which is always. And it transmits every bump and jolt. Having installed my saddle and handlebars of choice, I am very comfortable on this bike. For my short and fairly flat city ride, it works just fine.

The Linus by comparison is a tank, though not a CaBi kind of tank. It weighs about 32 lbs prior to loading on my commuting gear. It absorbs pavement unevenness so that I barely notices the bumps. The handling is nimble and the ride is very stable. The internal gearing is awesome; its great to be able to switch gears after an unanticipated stop. After riding it for about a month, I find the handlebars not so comfortable. They are a little too wide. I am considering replacing them. The saddle is just barely ok. It’s covered in leather; I’m not sure what’s under that cover but it’s something that doesn’t seem to break in.  I don’t think I will swap out the saddle, though, unless I regularly start using it for longer rides.

The verdict? I like them both, for different reasons. If I had to pick between keeping one or the other, I am not sure which I would choose.

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2 thoughts on “Vintage Mixte; New Mixte – A Comparison

  1. Thanks for posting your thoughts on this question, I’m trying to decide between a new mixte and a vintage mixte right now and I’m really struggling. I need to replace my slow/heavy/70′s three speed commuter, and want to get a bike that will still work well for my commute but can stretch a bit to do more fun rides. I’m torn between customizing a Univega mid 80′s mixte with upright bars (derailleur gearing), or a Linus/Public mixte (internal 8 speed). I’ve test ridden all three options, though briefly, and am really unsure. I’d love your thoughts on what you’d pick if you could only have one and it would be your one and only bike!

    • LFR -I can appreciate your struggle. There really isn’t one right answer and each bike has it’s unique advantages. You might like to read Lovely Bicycle’s post on vintage vs. modern mixte. http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2010/10/lovely-bicycle-on-budget-vintage-vs.htm. I think what she says is well worth considering, especially the upgrades she recommends for vintage bikes She also has blogged on the topic more recently. Given a choice of vintage vs Linus I would go with a carefully chosen and upgraded vintage. The Linus is a beauty and it has that alluring internal hub. Those are really nice for city riding. I found it good at what it was built for, short, relatively flat urban commutes (even with the 8 speed) but not good for other uses. Actually I wouldn’t choose either if I could have just one bike. In that situation my choice would be a Soma Buena Vista. It’s light, strong, fast, comfortable, nimble, fun and versatile. You buy the frame and then decide with your bike mechanic how to build it. You can choose a more commuter type build or a more road/light touring build. When my commuting needs changed last year, I sold the Linus and gave my niece the Nishiki. So those are my thoughts. If you get a chance let me know what you decide!

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