Hi Brian-- Very interesting observations, I certainly hope you are correct. I'm curious, are you experiencing an upswing in orders? Do your peers say this too? I hope so; that would be good news.
From my perspective, I'm not so sure I envision a renaissance coming as you write. I'm active in the busy California century/double century and randonneuring scene. I ride a lovely two-year old Steve Rex lugged frame, so does my wife. Virtually all the other new bikes we see nowadays are the now-standard Ti, plastic, or lower-cost welded steel frames. Man, those black plastic forks are on everything it seems. For example, last summer Lois rode the 1200k Gold Rush Randonnee in northern CA while I helped man the turnaround checkpoint at the 600k point. I think she was one of the only ones who came through with a lugged steel bike. Or at the Boston-Montreal-Boston, it is mostly non-lugged frames lately. At the most recent Paris-Brest-Paris event in 1999, among the 3500 entrants I did see some lugged frames--but few of them appeared to be new, and at the next one in 2003 I expect there to be fewer still. I'd say most active riders are content with the various offerings from the big manufacturers that advertise prominently in cycling magazines. Oh sure, there are a handful of Rivendells or other custom bikes thrown into the mix, but overall, I don't see many lugged bikes anymore, and those that are seemed to have been built some time back. Into the early 90s I remember seeing lots of relatively new Della Santas or other lugged frames from small-output builders when I'd ride big events in northern CA or NV, but increasingly, there seem to be fewer as the years go by. I think some of us will always like classic lugged bikes, and will still seek them out, but overall, the vast majority of active participants in recreational cycling aren't similarly appreciative. And when I visit a race or two each year and spectate, I don't think there are hardly any classic bikes there at all. As I watch a zillion different rider categories climb past me up some steep hill while we cheer them on, boy, it is all un-lugged frames. (I wonder, are the lugged Richard Sachs cyclo-cross frames currently being used in the elite mud-racing scene the only ones with this construction? Or, here's a good trivia question: what year was the last lugged frame used by a professional team at the Tour de France?) At any rate, among active participants in amateur weekend cycling events, I think the percentage of lugged frames is steadily dwindling. (There is one bright spot, however. In this age of global internet access, small-output custom builders can draw from a larger customer pool than before, so that is a healthy improvement.)
So, though I hope you are right on this one Brian, I wonder if it is so. The comments I get from people like, "That's a NEW bike? Why did you get a ~lugged~ frame?!", etc, make me think a lot of riders don't care so much about the construction method any more. When I explain the fit and overall geometry is made exactly for me and my style of riding, versus being for a lot of people somewhat like me, I usually get blank stares in response. I think we live in a consumer society that doesn't appreciate artistic craftsmanship in general, and the functional but artless bike frames so commonly seen these days are reflecting that. I know Steve Rex is doing well with orders for custom frames, but he says either welded or fillet-brazed now take up most of his work; classic lugged orders like mine are getting increasingly rare for him. Paul Sadoff at Rock Lobster says the same thing. Makes me sad of course, but that's the way it seems to be going nowadays. I would ask any CR readers who build classic frames if they are getting more orders lately. Might be an interesting, if informal survey. Anyway, Brian, this is one case where I hope to be proven wrong. Thanks for your good thoughts, I certainly enjoyed reading them. They are another example of what makes the CR list so valuable.
Cheers, Bill "not afraid to use 17" chainstays" Bryant Santa Cruz, CA
Brian Baylis wrote:
Brian Baylis wrote:
> Dear Listmembers;
> Pardon my indulgance, but I am compelled to write this. I have had many
> hours of filing frames recently and the resulting time for contemplation
> inspires the thoughts I am about to express here.