1980s Retro Racing Bicycle

Chrome front forks and handlebars
Chrome front forks and handlebars

My New Bike

I've always loved mountain biking, it's one of the few sports I've been actively involved in for years and have never found myself bored of this. Although family life these days means I have a lot less time to get out there and ride for a day or a weekend. I recently moved home too which although has seriously tapped into my free time has moved me closer to my work place, and therefore within reach of my less than athletic cycling legs!

I generally own mountain bikes and the first few weeks of road cycling was becoming a bit of a chore. Sure, I could buy road tires for one of my bikes, but that would be a hassle to change every time I hit the mountains. So I wanted to buy a new bike but didn't have much money to spend. I decided that I would buy a second-hand racing bike, and what better place to look than eBay. I found some fantastic 70s/80s racing bikes, great condition, but the prices were quite high. So it took some hunting - and some failed bids - before I finally found my racing bike.

It's a British built bike, but the frame was made in Western Germany, believed to have been put together in the 1980s.I say 'believed' as there's not much information on Tensor Cycles in Darlington, UK, because they are now no more and existed well before the invent of popular internet. My only clue is the frame stickers from Western Germany, so I know it was before the demolition of the Berlin Wall.

Made in Western Germany
Made in Western Germany

So I've bought this bike, it's arrived, and I love it! It's not as light, or quiet (the mudguards rattle a little - but a little tlc should sort this) and it requires a little work on the old caliper brakes and shimano gears. But all in all it's a stunning ride, the roads around here are a little bumpy so unlike my mountain bikes I can really feel every rise, dip or pothole I accidentally succumb to, but I can really feel the road and can ride so much faster and with much more confidence. Although I'm travelling faster I feel safer because of the confidence this bicycle gives me.

Not to mention the beautiful chrome handlebars and front forks, the slightest sunlight shining on them and they glow. There's some chips on the paint work but that's a given with the age, but all these things can be resolved with some care. It's keeping me fit, something I really need, and it's keeping me on my bike, something I love.

I initially thought I'd buy this bike and convert it to a 'fixie', or fixed gear bike as it's known, but now I have it I'm not so sure as I love this bicycle just the way it is, and was. I'm wondering whether to look at buying another old bicycle I can convert to a fixie, but we'll see. If I do, I'll let you know how it goes!

If anyone out there is thinking of buying a new bicycle I know how tempting it is to look at the great deals they have for sale on new bikes, whether they be mountain bikes or performance bikes, with their strong but lightweight frames, the additional accessories you can have thrown into a deal, but think about those older bikes, the ones that could be thrown out or sold for an absolute bargain. I can assure you, if you look around you can find something wonderful. A bicycle that makes you smile every time you saddle up to ride. These bicycles are how cycles used to be made.

Tensor Cycles Grand Prix
Tensor Cycles Grand Prix

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Comments 11 comments

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

Sometimes the old ones are the best. I can see that someone before you also loved this bike. I am sure you will take good care of it - if not yourself ;)


itsmonkeyboy profile image

itsmonkeyboy 5 years ago from London, UK Author

I wear my cycle helmet if that helps!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very inspiring hub. I thought my uncle "Mickey Dee" will love this hub as well. Thanks for writing and share with us. Vote up!


itsmonkeyboy profile image

itsmonkeyboy 5 years ago from London, UK Author

Thanks Prasetio30, it's really nice when you write a hub and someone makes a comment like that. I'll make sure I look up Mickey Dee, thank you for the heads up.


teriyaki profile image

teriyaki 5 years ago from Croatia

Those "specials" from the 80's (that's what we call them around here) are really beautiful bikes from the last era cycling was really popular.

Don't convert it to fixed gear though, I beg you! I've got a fixie too and I love it but it would be such a shame to discard all that beautiful gearing! In fact, I've been even considering converting a MTB to fixed gear to create a real urban tank.

I'd love to read some more on how you managed to restore it though. I've got a few precious old bikes in my basement but I really have no idea how to repair the paintwork or restore chrome or seat springs. Nice hub!


itsmonkeyboy profile image

itsmonkeyboy 5 years ago from London, UK Author

Thanks for the nice words Teriyaki, very kind. And thanks for the advice on the fixies. I would really like one but am already pretty sure this bike will stay the same as it just rides and feels like a real classic so I don't want to change it.

As for the restoration, everyone has their own techniques and you need to use different ideas depending upon the level of restoration required. I may write a hub on this as I have a few hints and tips to share.

I'll give you a heads up on the chrome though, you should just be able to use a fine wire wool to clean up any rust and pitting to the chrome, then re-seal it using a chrome polish. I personally use Brasso. On this bike though the rusting was very fine so I didn't even use wire wool but folded up a piece of aluminium foil, dipped it in water, rubbed down the affected sections then polished it up. Good as new!


Mike 3 years ago

Hey there, sounds like you've got a pretty sweet bike on your hands.

My uncle bought a Tensor for going to school back in 1983 and he doesn't use it anymore so I'm doing her up. I encountered a few problems with the the old wheels and gear set so I just made her fixie and she rides like a dream. However after a while one of the pedals started to come loose so watch out for that! As a result I'm in the process of taking her apart, stripping off all the old paint and redoing her completely, lots of work but will be so worth it I'm sure! Slight problem with the size of the bottom bracket as most modern bikes are different sizes. Just wondering, do you have a good quality picture or image of the Tensor logo? Thanks for your help :)


Pofelix 2 years ago

Hello there,I had one of these as my first new bike in the 80s, I loved it, I think it lasted around a year before being falling apart, the frames were notorious for collapsing, Tensor used to import them from Germany and sell them for around £50 brand new, they were based in Darlington with a warehouse in Stockton I think.

I remember not being able to afford a Peugoet race bike which was £110 at the time and this was the closest I could get, I'm amazed their still around, great memries.


kinsella67 2 years ago

Hey, I just bought a Grand Prix in Kampala, Uganda! And it still has the original chrome forks! I'm afraid I've just added new tape to the handle bars, but hey, it's a great bike!

Everyone here shows great respect and reverence to such a bike!


spencer 21 months ago

Hi , just bought a tensor grand prix off gumtree for 40 quid . Just being serviced and to be honest you cant beat a steel frame and can't wait to ride it.


Intravenousdimilo 18 months ago

I had a tensor Laser Custom, the same bike as the Grand Prix but no chrome forks. They were very cheap, the range included a 'panther' and a ladies Falcon. They were German bikes, all metric so parts did not always fit in the UK such as cotter pins which the crank use to chew. The brake levers used to fall off rather quickly too.

They were dispatched from Yarm rd industrial estate and 28 days later you had a partially assembled bike for £56 to a 22'' frame whereas a Raleigh Arena was £80 from half ords

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