A return to popularity for lugged steel bikes wouldn't be a unique phenomenon. There are several areas in life and society where "classic" equipment is coming back, either because of superior function or simple appreciation of the beauty. Solid body electric guitars come to mind. In the 80's everyone wanted the latest heavy metal shredder style guitar from Ibanez, Kramer or other modern makes. Classic Gibson Les Pauls and Fender Stratocasters were going for relative peanuts. Then in the nineties, classic guitars were back "in" and prices skyrocketed. Some makers like Fender started making "instant vintage" guitars complete with paint chips and yellowed laquer. There also sprang up an industry to manufacture "vintage" parts, to the point were you could assemble a totally new guitar that looked just like a 57 Strat, right down to the original patent marks. Dark tales abound of forgeries being passed off as genuine. I know of one dealer who claims that in the 80's you would go to a guitar show and see 10-12 vintage axes, whereas today you see hundreds. He's pretty sure they didn't all come out of granny's attic.
(If classic bikes get that popular, how will we detect counterfeit campy cranks? Simple, the spider won't be cracked on the fake. How long before someone with a machine shop starts making old French derailers, complete with old serial numbers? At $1,000 a Huret, I'd be tempted if I had any aptitude.)
Another field is fly fishing. In the sixties and seventies only weirdo's practiced it, and the rod of choice was the hand made hexagon tonkin cane bamboo. If you couldn't afford one, you used fiberglass rods. Then fly fishing became cool as a yuppie diversion, with tons of dough spent on the latest new carbon fibre graphite rods, neoprene waders, gore tex wading jackets, super realistic flys, etc. etc. But lately, the renaissance storm is brewing; a back to nature esthetic embracing the lovely old bamboo rods. Aficionados claim the old style bamboo rods are better fishing machines with their relaxed, less hyper-power crazed characteristics. Sound like any sport we know? Now you can find dozens of bamboo rod makers on the web, where a few years ago there were only a handful. So perhaps the renaissance, both good and bad, is coming.
Tom Adams, Kansas City
It is always hard to assess the significance of events which one finds one self in the middle of, but I perceive something of a renaissance as well. One symptom is the high prices for vintage stuff on eBay, even though much of the activity is by Japanese collectors. I also find that most quality bike shops now have some appreciation of classic stuff even if they don't sell it, and often have a classic bike or two on display, or will at least pull it from the backroom to show an interested customer. The negative side of this is that shops will no longer give away old stuff just to be rid of it, which makes collecting a bit more expensive. I think we may be arriving at the point in appreciation of vintage machines where vintage cars arrived many years ago. The one great difference is that modern cars are so complex and subject to so many government regulations, that it is virtually impossible for anyone to manufacture a vintage style car. The closest thing one sees is reproductions with classic style bodywork over essentially modern chassis. Classic-style bikes, on the other hand, are a product simple and inexpensive enough to be built by one person or a small shop, and can be done in a style vitrually identical to the classic era and equipped with still-available classic parts, or the few parts like Brooks saddles or Phil Wood hubs still made to the classic designs. I feel sure that classic bike owners, like vintage car owners, will always be a small minority compared to the buyers of "the latest model", but I think our community may be developing a vitality and stability the vintage car community has long possessed.