QUESTION:   "Where was the bicycle made and who made it?"

Make no mistake about it, brand names do count in the world of vintage road bicycles!  Bianchi, Cinelli, Raleigh, Peugeot and similar well known bicycle makes are among the most collectible and, often time, most ride desirable.  But it is easy to be fooled by brand name and you should not immediately assume that the brand you are about to buy is the brand you seek.

Do not assume that a Bianchi was made in Italy.  Or a Peugeot in France.  Or a Raleigh in England.  If you do make such assumptions, you might be making a mistake!  Would you prefer a Bianchi built in Italy or Japan?  You can have either.  How about a French Peugeot as opposed to a Canadian built one?  You can have either.  And the same applies to Raleigh.  In an effort to do end runs around import tariffs, the big manufacturers often times set up shop in large markets, the US and Canada being two prime examples.

Be assured, an Italian Bianchi is far more collectible than and Asian one.  So too is a French Peugeot as opposed to a Canadian model.  And anything built in the far east, for the most part, is less sought after than anything built in Europe.  This is a comment referring to collectible value only!  As often as not, the European offering is in no way superior to its foreign sibling.

I have owned, rebuilt and ridden Bianchi, Cambio Rino, Miele, Bottecchia, Olmo, Atala, Chiorda, Torpado, Legnano, Motobecane, Velo Solex, Peugeot, Raleigh, Carlton, Velo Sport, Gardin, Mikado, Norco, Coventry Eagle, Phillips, Gitane, Basso, Le Jeune, Flandria, Mercier, Motobecane, Vitus, Pinarello, Moser, Benotto, Cannondale, Trek, Specialized, Apollo, Falcon, Concord, Empire, Fiori, Fuji, Kuwahara, Miyata, Nakamura, Nishiki, Rossi, Santini, Super Mondia, Sekine, CCM, Schwinn, Holdsworth, Viking and Zeus.  There are also a pretty good selection of off name brands that have found their way into the Old Shed, but will remain unmentioned for now.  Based on what I have learned and experienced through rebuilding and riding these bicycles, I offer my own personal opinion of which I prefer and which I don't.

Generally speaking and certainly in my opinion, Italian vintage road bicycles are the best made.  They offer the nicest ride qualities.  There are fewer workmanship errors on Italian bikes.  And they are, all things being equal, the most collectable of all vintage road bicycles.  There are, of course, exceptions to this rule but, for the most part, if the decals says Made in Italy, the vintage bicycle is worthy.

The one big complaint that I would have, if any, with Italian road bikes is the quick release paint and art work used to complete a bicycle's appearance.  More often than not, the paint is flaking off and/or faded clean through.  Art work is generally challenged and warrants replacing.  In all fairness, though, I should point out that many Italian made road bicycles had completely chrome plated frame sets and it is difficult to find a paint that will stick well to the smooth chrome surface.

My second choice, believe it or not, is the Canadian made vintage road bicycle and I freely admit that I might be biased in this.  During the seventies and eighties, Canadian companies like CCM, Gardin, Miele, Cambio Rino and Marinoni, imported Italian craftsmen to build and assemble bicycles in Canada.  These early Canadian manufactures knew what they were up against and few expenses were spared when it came to producing quality bicycles.  The Sekine company, formed in Three Rivers, Manitoba did not seek out the expertise of Italian builders yet still managed to build very nice bicycles.  The same, sadly cannot be said for the CCM top of the line offering, the Tour du Canada.  There are other Canadian made vintage road bicycles that have not made their way into my collection yet.  Mounts like Cyclops, Proctor, and Mariposa are on the horizon and, sooner or later, each of these will cross my path, becoming my new favourite bicycle when it does so.

Next on the list, my attention and preference turns to the English road bicycles.  Raleigh, Carlton, Viking, Freddie Grubb, Holdsworth and a literal host of others, claim their places in the annals of vintage lightweight bicycle history.  Most higher end British bicycles are reasonably well made, demonstrating quality workmanship, applied to quality materials and components.  Lugs work is often smooth and fitted evenly.  The British chrome is deep and long lasting, when compared even to the Italian chrome plating results.  The paint and art work, found on most British road bikes, is close to the best I have seen from a long lasting and durable point of view, surpassed only by the Canadian finishes that I have come into contact with.

Even the lesser English road bicycles suggest quality, more often than not.  I have owned, rebuilt and ridden entry level English road bikes as well as top of the line offerings.  If it says "Made in England" chances are the quality is inherent and the bicycle is worth owning and riding.  Even the lowest of the low, the Raleigh "Record" though a bit heavy, did offer a nice ride with all of the vintage ride qualities that I have come to appreciate these days.

It has been my good fortune to own, build and ride a fairly substantial array of bicycles built in the far East.  The vintage Asian road bicycles, though not as collectable at the time of this writing (2008), are probably among the best made vintage road bicycles in the world, offering incredibly clean construction, quality materials and proven design.  One of the nicest riding bicycles I have owned was a Miyata 1000 Grand Touring, a truly remarkable bicycle.  In all honesty, I have not given enough time to the Asian road bicycle but do snatch up the good ones, every chance that I get.  I have never been disappointed with the quality or feel of an Asian bicycle, unless dealing with some of the entry level models offered during the late seventies and early eighties.

During the seventies, the Japanese business machine was focused absolutely and utterly on achieving  quality.  It was their business philosophy to defeat all other business communities by offering truly good products and services.  And guess what?  The Japanese business machine nearly put all other contenders out of business and I am speaking of incredibly well established business communities.  Even the Big Three automobile makers, shuddered at the presence of the powerful Japanese business philosophy and scrambled to compete.  And keep in mind, it was during the height of the pursuit of quality in Japan that bicycles like Fuji, Miyata, Nishiki, and a host of other lesser known brands, were introduced to the bicycle world.  Make no mistake about it, the Asian vintage road bicycle is, far more often than not, a worthy mount.

I have been fortunate enough to own, restore and ride several examples of American made vintage road bicycles.  Schwinn, Trek, Cannondale and Specialized pretty much make up the entire list that I have owned and ridden.  I can honestly say that only one of these bicycles has impressed me, in any way.  Though these bicycles appear to be well made and generally of quality materials they do not feel right to me when ridden.  I attribute this to the fact that one of the US bicycles was an entry level Schwinn and the ride was as one would expect, entry level at best.  Of the other three US bicycles, two were aluminum framed rides and I do not really like the stiff and unforgiving feel of an aluminum frame set.  Neither do I like the aluminum frame's bulky appearance.  The last of the US bikes I have owned and ridden was an eighties something Specialized Allez "Pro" and that bicycle did offer a nice ride and I came close to considering it as a "keeper", in my humble collection of favorite bicycles. Sadly, the Allez "Pro" had a small dent in the down tube and I passed it on to a fellow who wanted a "Junk Bike" for his day to day riding.  That said, I am still looking for the perfect American vintage road bicycle to add to my collection - perhaps a high end Schwinn with chromed Nervex lugs...

There are a host of other makes from a vast assortment of different countries, many of which I have not had the opportunity to experience.  I have owned Zeus bicycles from Spain, Mondia bicycles from Switzerland, and Nishiki bicycles from Taiwan.  All of these lesser know countries of manufacture do offer decent quality bicycles but my experience with most is somewhat limited.

Once, when considering different brands or countries of origin, don't be fooled into thinking that all Peugeots come from France.  Not all Bianchi's come from Italy.  And not all Raleigh's come from Great Britain.  The French Peugeot, the Italian Bianchi and the English Raleigh are all more collectable and valuable than those same brands manufactured in other countries.  This holds true for virtually all vintage road bicycles, though, once again I state opinion, rather than fact.  With that in mind make sure that you ask a seller where the bicycle was made.  Better to find out before you buy, rather than after!

Though there might be other frame and craftsmanship related concerns, they shall remain unaddressed at this time.  If you have answers to most, if not all, of the questions so far, you will be in a good position to make an informed decision about an on-line purchase.  However and as you might expect, there are a host of other non-frame related concerns that must be considered prior to purchase.  Component condition and make are also important factors.