The old-school guys were tough as hell. There were Flandrian diesels that rode 200km a day, every day on the cobbles, in the wind, to the sea and back, etc. Training was riding... a lot, or à la flahute. Like wild geese. This was the early 1920s, so the roads weren't stellar anyway and two gear selections (usually one fixed cog and one freewheel, sometimes both fixed cogs, always big-ass gears) via a flip-flop hub held fast with wingnuts was the technology of the time.
So writes 'flexiflyer' in this Dirt Rag article, à la flahute.
See also, Matt Chester's blog. He's stopping the blog (in about 5 weeks time) and instead writing in a paper zine, which I'll definately be ordering a copy of; more like the above article, hopefully.
I bought an old road bike (for £20) a week or so ago. I've got some new wheels for it, and am ordering some 'cross' tyres soon. I'm going to ride it for a while, see how it holds up, but it's likely to be the bike I choose to use for the looooong (for me) rides I plan to do over the summer, leading to my first 'century' in September. If I like it, I can see me getting a real cross bike.