MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

 

 

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MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

BICYCLE QUALITY - INTRO

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

CHOOSE THE RIGHT BICYCLE

FRAME & FORK QUALITY

WHEN BEST ISN'T BEST

FRAME & FORK  INTEGRITY

DENTED FRAME OR FORK

BENT FRAME OR FORK

MODIFIED FRAME OR FORKI

REPAIRED FRAME OR FORK

ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE

FRAME & FORK MATERIALS

FRAME SET DROP-OUTS

CLAMPS & BRAZE-ONS

FRAME CRAFTSMANSHIP

CHARACTER & PERSONALITY

 

CHOOSING THE RIGHT BIKE

Entry level to high end.  The Team Raleigh Record and the Raleigh Competition GS are examples of different quality levels.  The Record is an entry level steed at best, while the Competition GS is approaching top of the line quality.  Which is the better bike?  In this example, the Competition and for many reasons that will become clear as we proceed.  Some of the quality differentiating features might prove to be a surprise to many of the more experienced vintage bicycle enthusiasts.

It is most likely that everyone will want a top of the line, super light, Campagnolo equipped, extremely rare and historically famous vintage road bike that fits perfectly.  I certainly do, however; such bicycles are few and far between.  I have found less than a handful of bicycles that possess some of these qualities, but never one that has all.  With this in mind, I understand that I will have to settle for less.  How about you?  Does your new old road bike have to be the best?  Or will an entry to mid level steed satisfy?  In my case, I have come to understand that the top of the line racer might not be the best vintage choice for me.  However, I did not know that when I first entered into collecting and riding vintage road bicycles.

The Team Raleigh Record, when compared to its sophisticated sibling, is poorly made of lesser materials and sports entry level components.  The ride leaves much to be desired.  The heavy bicycle is sluggish and never offers the feel of fast.  The Competition GS is close to top of the Raleigh line, made from superior materials and completes the quality statement with a very respectable component grouppo.  Even though the "Competition" was too big for my fit, it was still a nice riding bicycle.  Though not the lightest bicycle I have ridden, it did offer fine ride characteristics.  It accelerated well and offered the expected nimble feel associated with better road bicycles.  Funny thing is when the time came to pass these bicycles on to others, the buyer of the Team Raleigh "Record" frame set paid nearly as much as did the buyer for the complete Raleigh "Competition GS".

Make no mistake about it, once you start to actively look for a vintage bicycle, you will find one, or two… or a whole bunch.  With this in mind, you must have a reasonable idea of what it is you are looking for.  Pouring a week, or two’s, work into street restoring a vintage road bicycle (yep, you can do it – paint and all – in a couple of weeks), only to find out that the bicycle doesn’t fit you and offers a less than hoped for ride is a disappointing situation to be in.  I know because I have been there.  And I hope that by sharing my mistakes with you, I will help you avoid making similar errors in your quest to acquire and ride a vintage road bicycle.

When you finally do get a chance to inspect a potential acquisition, push the “Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy, What a Neat Bike!” thing out of the way.  Calm down and pay attention to details.  Failure to focus first on details could spell disaster for the entire restoration.  Great advice, that I doubt will be followed all that well by most of you.

To be honest, I still have a lot of trouble calming down when I stumble across a nice bicycle.  The glitter and potential of a high end vintage road bicycle sometimes disguises the reality of a "deal breaker" situation.  Make no mistake about it, "deal breaking" situations are very difficult to see when first viewing a nice old bicycle.  When owing and awing over the beautiful chrome lugs, it is easy to miss the cracked paint, less than a quarter of an inch away.  The cracked paint would indicate a bent frame.  And a bent frame set should have some impact on whether to buy or not.  For most of you and needless to say, a bent frame set should be viewed as a "deal breaker".  That said, there are degrees of "bent" and some situations of frame damage are not all that difficult for most people to repair.

The beautiful early seventies Mercier was a bicycle that I had tucked away for some time.  I planned to prepare the bicycle for myself one day.  However, after two years of ownership, I realized that I would never get to the project.  With that in mind, I decided to pass the bicycle on to someone who would appreciate it.  I refurbished the bicycle and took it out for an uneventful test ride.  The bicycle rode really well and I thought again about keeping it.  It was not until I had finished test riding the bicycle and started taking pictures that I noticed a "deal breaker".

After I had taken a set of pictures of the Mercier, I started to put the bicycle away.  It was then that I noticed a slight curve to the left side fork blade.  This warranted a much closer inspection.  Yup!  The forks were bent and I had not noticed this major flaw until two years after purchasing the bicycle.  The closer inspection revealed other clues that should have set off warning bells in my head.  But I had missed all of the clues just because the bicycle was very pretty.

There are many other factors that could prove to be "deal breakers".  Understanding vintage road bicycle frame and fork sets is about as good a place as any to begin developing an understanding of what makes a good bicycle good.

NEXT - THE FRAME AND FORK SET

 

 

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