Re: [CR]Function vs. Art (Sheffield & Baylis)

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Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 05:08:28 -0600
Subject: Re: [CR]Function vs. Art (Sheffield & Baylis)
From: "Steven L. Sheffield" <>
To: Classic Rendezvous <>, Brian Baylis <>
In-Reply-To: <003401c3939c$15ba0680$a1ddd8d1@baylis>

On 10/15/2003 10:15 PM, "Brian Baylis" <> wrote:
> Tom,
> I don't see the issue as function vs. art. This is something I have been
> trying to get certain people to recognize for over 20 years. Certain types
> of people insist upon creating a wall between a bicycle as a functional
> object and an object of beauty. They are NOT mutually exclusive. I
> understand if one want's to relate to a bike as ONLY a tool. I have no
> problem with that. What I do have a problem with is when they say that if it
> happens to be beautiful then it must not be as "good" as a tool.

** I have never said, nor implied, nor even believe this ... When someone puts together the whole package, both function AND art, then that's exactly what I'm looking for ...

** IF it's a situation where I'd have to choose one over the other, then I would choose function, but the object is to have both.

** I don't think that a bike has be built from old materials in order to be artistic ... And I have a problem with people who say that modern materials detract from a bikes artistic value.

> That is
> pure baloney. I fully understand the frustration now of beautiful women that
> are intellegent and have large breasts. Some people just can't pay attention
> to the point you're trying to make just because you make refined or
> beautiful frames. HEY GUYS, MY EYES ARE UP HERE! Every time we discuss this
> topic I say that the first and formost job of the framebuilder is to design
> and build a bike that fits the rider, the conditions of use, and the special
> needs of the owner. And yet EVERY time someone insists if it is beautiful it
> isn't really a tool and can't possibly be as good in some way. HEY GUYS, I
> have a BRAIN too; never mind my chest and listen to what I'm saying.

** Not my intention at all ... Because I happen to agree that the first and foremost job of the framebuilder is to design and build a bike that fits.

> About frame design and materials there always seems to be debate and
> disagreement. Some may feel that I am anti ANYTHING that is modern.

** It does seem to come across that way sometimes, which is when I start to pipe up and speak my mind. But as you said in a previous e-mail, I think we're starting to come to a point of mutual understanding.

> That is
> NOT the case at all. I have built many frames with IC lugs and oversized
> tubing. Many seem to be convinced that modern tubing is automatically better
> because it is harder and stronger and that it is oversized. What I can tell
> you as a framebuilder for over 30 years who has experimented with a lot of
> different steel tubes, is that excellent frames can be built for almost any
> purpose out of either material and type of lugs. One only has to know the
> particulars of the various materials available. I perfer older Reynolds 531
> tubes and older Columbus sets for some projects. As I recall all the big
> boys (Eddy, Fausto, etc., etc.) did fine on frames built of these materials
> that were far less carefully built than the majority of frames built by
> experienced small timers in the US. The material has proven it's longevity,
> and a skilled and experienced framebuilder knows how to design a frame
> around these materials. Some frames should only be made from OS tubing; some
> frames should only be built from standard type tubing. Neither one is
> better, honestly. They are different and experience dictates what to use
> when. To be perfectly honest the thing I am most anxious to do right now is
> finish the frame with my modified Pacenti lugs and an OS tubeset. I will
> explain how these materials can be used in the same way to create a
> beautiful AND functional frame for a specific purpose.
> A few words on frame design. There are a large number of different ways that
> frames are designed. In this day and age there aren't very many
> framebuilders who actually have extensive first hand knowledge of designing
> frames to order without the help of some program or some guidelines from
> someone who has designed the frames before them. When I was a fledgling, one
> thing we used to do when learning to design frames was to copy a frame you
> already know works. That is a simple thing to do. Measure a frame and copy
> it. If you continue to do this on several frames and ride the crap out of
> them to really get to know the bike and its traits, you will begin to get a
> feel of how various tubings, dimensions, construction methods and whatnot
> effect the outcome. It is also very neccessary in my opinion to ride lots of
> bikes from other makers to learn more. The bike that had the greatest
> influence on me as a young rider and later as a beginning framebuilder was
> my Eisentraut "A" frame. It defied it's dimnesions that weren't racy at all
> by having a wonderful, smooth, and lively ride. Recently I was pleasently
> surprised by a Keith Lippy frame I bought for $100. It is a little large for
> my taste (53cm c-t) and is touring in design, but again it rides fantastic
> and like JOE BELL mentioned about the one he has for sale, the lugwork is
> superlative and the seat stay caps are extrememly well done. Probably the
> best $100 I ever spent. Unless you are strictly racing, or just can't live
> without the latest junk, one is seriously missing out on what bikes are all
> about if you don't own and ride at least a few genuine classics. That would
> also include a modern masterpiece made in the traditional fashion. Modern
> components on a vintage style frame will give you every bit as much
> performance and pleasure as any other modern approach to frames. Each is
> different. I'm quite positive none of them is actually BETTER. Most of it is
> opinion according to your emotions, brand loyality, setimental
> attachments, and need (or lack of it) to keep up with the joneses and keep
> the credit card maxed out.
> There are, like I said, several design philosophies out there. I will
> refrain from discussing this mainly on account of the sensitive nature of
> this topic. Not all framebuilders agree on what dimensions are the important
> ones and which ones are "resulting" measurements. I know what I believe and
> why I believe it. Others may have different priorities and therefore
> approach design from a different angle. I go by my experience that has been
> gained directly from owning over 75 bikes in my day and building over 30 of
> them for myself to ride and learn from in various ways. In my opinion there
> is no substitute for a wide variety of riding and building experiences.
> Enough said. Books and programs are fine if you do not have a base of
> knowledge of your own to draw upon.
> Construction methods are probably the thing that we would all like to
> believe makes the magical differences in one frame to the next. I like to
> believe this too. I generally refrain from discussing exact construction
> methods because it is again, amongst some framebuilders, a sensitive
> subject. Needless to say, I have my opinions as to what is right and what is
> wrong on pretty much every aspect of constructing a frame. The process
> itself is basically simple and requires more common sense that anything
> else. Some methods I see in use seem totally backwards to me while other
> methods are geared towards production. I suspect that ultimately most anyone
> who works slowly and carefully will end up with an excellent structural
> piece. It's actually rather difficult to muck up such a simple project once
> one has the basic skills. I feel consistant good results should be the main
> goal during construction. The frame can be left unrefined at that point and
> serve it's mechanical purpose perfectly well. Beyond that point the
> framebuilder is just making an artistic statement. Just like a custom
> tailored handmade suit, it isn't neccessary to have the highest quality
> object to get the job done. As long as there is enough material to cover
> your bare behind and the suit fits, it will work as a suit. Finer material,
> smarter styling, custom fitting only enhance the experience if the customer
> prefers to have some of the finer things in life. It isn't for everyone.
> And yet, as simple and basic as framebuilding is, there should always be the
> things that show that the craftsman is growing and expanding his/her
> knowledge of the subject. The best way is to challange oneself. Open your
> mind to new things at least long enough to get a feel for how suitable it
> may be for you. Just because something is new or trendy does not mean one
> has to follow along. Nor does it mean it is automatically bad. Make wise
> choices based on what suits you. I generally stick to that which comes
> natural to me and things that please my eye and sense of balance. Others may
> make choices for other reasons.
> I hope this little speach helps everyone to understand the positions a bit
> more clearly. I have said it many times that the "art" of framebuilding is
> secondary to the practical aspects of building and riding the bike. And yet
> every time it comes up everyone is stareing at the pretty paint job or
> something. and just doesn't realize how serious I take my construction
> methods and choice of materials. I would be willing to bet that no one takes
> as long or as much care in frame construction as I do. My sequence is very
> long, involves a lot of prefitting and rechecking fit and angles in order to
> produce the exact frame dimensions I specify in addition to a stress free
> frame that is precisely aligned. I work from a full scale drawing that I use
> to tell me subtle things that other methods cannot easily, if at all,
> provide. It is suitable to building completely custom frames regardless of
> fittings used (or not, as in fillet brazed frames), tube diameters, or
> angles. If there is any better way to do the job I do, I haven't seen it.
> So that's it. There is no conflict here. We may not neccessarily agree as to
> which way is best, but there is no way that the basics, and then some, of
> frame design and construction are being overlooked. It is the foundation
> upon which the refinements of the craft are overlaid. My experience as a
> rider is easily as extensive as anyone else and within my specialitys, I
> have learned and expreimented far more than most. Living in the past is
> irrelevent here. I will never be convinced that beauty precludes function.
> It's simply not true. If anything, beauty enhances the function. Don't ask
> me to explain why; it won't happen.
> I don't have time now to lay out the details of how art is appled to
> framebuilding at the moment. I will however assure everyone that I will
> explain much of what I said at Velo Rendezvous about lugwork, etc. Then any
> doubters will see that not only am I NOT against investment cast lugs or
> "modern" steel tubes, but I will detail how they can be used to enhance the
> look of the frame. Yes, YOU CAN have your cake and eat it too! But it still
> involves a lot of work if you intend to get the final refined handmade look.
> I will explain the primary purpose of IC lugs as it relates to the
> framebuilding industry.
> Brian Baylis
> La Mesa, CA
> Mike Tatum, you could have picked my brain at VR. There's just not that much
> there; it wouldn't have taken long! ;-)
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Thomas R. Adams, Jr. <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 15, 2003 1:18 PM
> Subject: [CR]Function vs. Art (Sheffield & Baylis)
>> Well, there's some merit on both sides. I think we're missing Steven's
> main point, which is that first and foremost the bike is a tool, and better
> function makes a better tool. Steve points out that modern steels should
> permit building a lighter, stiffer but just as comfortable and durable a
> frame, but to do so requires using bigger tubes, modern lugs and giving up
> Nervex and 531. However, I don't think Steve is saying old frames are bad
> or useless, but on an empirical level, in his eyes, aren't quite as "good".
> So if one want's the ultimate frame, one must first use the best materials
> that have the highest level of function.
>> Focusing in a different direction, Brian is pointing out that there is art
> and merit in the subtle refinements in a Johnson, Moon or (I will add) a
> Baylis frame, that, beyond the regulation details of geometry, correct
> materials, mitering and brass penetration, take any frame to another level.
> Education is needed for the consumer to appreciate, for example, how the
> builder chose to file the seat stay caps. I know I am woefully ignorant of
> the details. I have an MKM frame at the painters now, and it's my first
> fastback frame. I sat there, looking at the stays melting into the seat lug
> and tube, and sat there wondering "how did they do it?"
>> Which guy is right, and which guy is wrong? They're both "right" in
> setting their criteria of what makes a great bike. However, I might point
> out that there are some basic requirements for bikes before we apply either
> standard. First, the frame has to have functional geometry, use proper
> materials and be assembled competently. We've probably all had frames that
> failed one or the other test, and the resulting bike just isn't worth your
> time. As a famous outdoor writer wrote, "only accurate rifles are
> interesting", dismissing a lovely creation of walnut, wood carving and steel
> engraving that couldn't hit the side of a barn. I had a pretty Trek 720,
> made shortly after the Issacs cast lugs came into use. But it was a 25.5
> frame using 531c tubing, 18 inch stays and a 42.5 inch wheel base. The
> frame was comfortable, but so whippy you couldn't stand up to climb.
> Although lovely to look at, and, I presume, assembled competently, it wasn't
> "interesting".
>> Steven (I make bold to speak for him) is calling on us to push lugged
> steel construction to better things, to demand better functioning bike that
> will help ensure the continuation of a craft we all admire by making steel
> lugged bikes "state of the art". In fact, Steve points out you can have the
> latest and greatest tubing with Pacenti or Sachs lugs, and be true to the
> spirit of the list. This is more important than pretty lugs by themselves
> for Steve. Brian is focused on admiring and pointing out the subtle details
> in master built frames, regardless of age, sharing his deep and subtle
> knowledge and helping us appreciate fine workmanship.
>> I sit here with fingers bleeding from cable stab wounds to all ten thumbs,
> trying to do a simple center pull brake set up, and enjoy both view points.
> Keep on writing.
>> Tom Adams, Shrewsbury NJ
>> ------------------------------------------
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>> _______________________________________________
> _______________________________________________

Steven L. Sheffield
stevens at veloworks dot com
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