[CR]Was: "mass-produced" Hetchins, now ornate lugs

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Date: Sat, 8 Mar 2003 10:18:17 -0800
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
From: "Jan Heine" <heine@mindspring.com>
Subject: [CR]Was: "mass-produced" Hetchins, now ornate lugs

I've wondered about the "fancy" lugs for some time. My favorite bikes, both Herse and Singer, and many other custom French builders used rather simple lug designs.

Here is an idea - pure speculation, please take it as such:

In the old days, carving the lugs, etc., was seen as the evidence of handwork. Especially if each bike is different, you got a truly individual design. Maybe old swords were made similarly? I don't like the war analogy, but both are fascinating "tools," with which the owner identifies.

Once pre-made "ornate" lugs like the Nervex came out, there was little point in doing ornate bikes - especially in France. A relatively cheap Peugeot had all the "handiwork" that an expensive maker could ever hope for. (Except Brian Baylis, who takes the Nervex and makes them more fancy.)

Here is another idea:

Or is it that many of the French riders (not racers, but "cyclotouristes") were professionals in a country that greatly values engineers and science. So ornate curls that don't do anything may have been of questionable value?

If this is true, then maybe it makes sense that the French constructeurs and makers look at the beauty (and functionality) of the entire bike, rather than each individual joint? But then, how do you explain custom screws and nuts on an Herse? They don't do anything that a hardware store part wouldn't do! (Except making restorations a nightmare.)

We Americans often consider the parts, but not the whole, as is exemplified by a Rivendell, with curly, perfectly brazed lugs contrasted by zip-ties to mount fenders. By comparison, you may get an Herse with every part beautifully integrated, looking absolutely wonderful from 5 feet, but then you zoom in, and wouldn't it be nice if the seatstay caps lined up a bit better on top of the seat lug? (Not to imply that all Herse bikes have misaligned caps, or that all Rivendells have zip-ties.)

Once again, neither approach is right or wrong, you just pick and choose what you like. But the national differences are fascinating, and having a background in two cultures, I know that countries are more different than they appear at first sight. I think the bicycles express that better than anything else I have seen.

Jan Heine, Seattle