[CR]Lugged Steel

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Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2002 01:41:35 -0800
From: <siverson@garlic.com>
To: <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Subject: [CR]Lugged Steel

I usually keep my posts to the list brief, but this time, I wanted to contribute a few observations on the subject of the steel tubed road frames which are our passion:

When I was a boy, my father bought my brother and I matching heavy-duty single speed Schwinns -- with springer forks. For a fifth-grader it was just about the ultimate bike. (The only thing sportier at the time would have been a sturmy-archer 3-speed English racer). As time passed we moved to a larger city, and I saw my first 10-speed bike with dropped bars! Believe me, I was hooked, and as soon as I could, I sold my Schwinn for pennys-on-the-dollar to raise money to by a Puch Clubman with Huret Alvit deraileurs. As time passed and funds became more available, I upgraded to higher quality framsets and components. In the 70's I saw my first "fat-tube" aluminum road frame. It was a Klein, and very expensive, and in it's own way appealing, but I already had a fine Bob Jackson road bike that examplified all I had ever wanted in a road bike! More important, I had by this time accumulated many components and accessories that would not fit on an oversize frame. So even though Gary Klein and his shop were only 5 miles away , and I had the money, I never placed an order. I made a concious decision to stick with steel bikes because I liked their craftsmanship, interchangeability of parts, and simple elegance.

Observation: The popularity of the European-style road bike by the 70's supplanted the balloon tire Schwinn and drove it completely out of the market place. Now in the present day, "fat-tube" aluminum bikes from Specialized, Trek, and Cannondale have all but supplanted lugged steel frames in the retail marketplace.

Conclusion: By the 90's Schwinn "springers" had been out of production for so long, that if you took one out on a ride, it would get more "looks" than a Colnago. Correspondingly, the value of fine examples of heavy-duty Schwinn craftsmanship -- like the Phantom models -- went through the roof. Now with mountain bikes being the most popular style, and "fat-tube" frames being the only readily available road alternative, our lugged steel road frames are beginning to look unusual, and if I might stretch the use the term -- antique -- and in the best sense of that word: rare and valuable.

So, let Specialized, Trek, and Cannondale, crank-out as many "funny" bikes as they want. Go to it! I say, reinvent the bicycle frame! Make my lugged steel frame look as out-of-date to new bikes as my old Schwinn springer compared to the drop-bar 10-speeds of my childhood; because the more unusual and rare fine lugged steel begins to appear, the more valuable it will become.

Erik Siverson Gilroy Cal. (. . .just down the road from former home of Klein, and now the home of Specialized -- Morgan Hill, CA.)