RE: [CR]"State of the Art" restorations

Date: Fri, 14 May 2004 12:23:51 -0700
From: Jan Heine <>
Subject: RE: [CR]"State of the Art" restorations

For example, I have seen many bikes with half-step gearing butchered by changing chainrings. A 52-48 with a standard 14-28 Regina 5-speed freewheel makes sense. A 52-46 does not. Also, if people spun back then or conversely, used huge gears, the bike won't be the same if ridden differently. That is like adding gears to a fixed-gear.

Stem length: Many builders have a preferred stem length. They vary top tube length to fit riders. A bike with a longer or shorter stem handles quite differently.

Try to find a bike that was made for somebody like you, riding in a style like you want to ride. Trying to modify a bike built for somebody 3" shorter than you, who rode on the flats in the Midwest, for riding in the Colorado Rockies will not capture the essence of the bike.

Beyond that, I feel there should be some respect for the machine. If it used to be blue, why make it silver now? I read about a car restoration that was so meticulous that they painted it green underneath the white paint on top, because that is how it had raced. (They were restoring it in the livery of that race.)

Of course, none of this is absolute - and if you always wanted a bike made by xyz, and find one that is the correct size, nothing wrong with setting it up as xyz would have for you, if you had been able to order it. But if xyz was a strong advocate of half-step gears, putting a 53-39 onto it - even with period-correct TA or Stronglight parts - won't do it justice, in my opinion.

To me, it is important to think "What would xyz have sold me?" And "What would I have ordered then?" Maybe you will say "Yes, I always wanted xyz's frame, but even back then, his ideas about sizing were circumspect, and I'd have ordered one built to my size as people generally sized bikes then." That seems fine.

I try to get away from modern concepts of how a bike fits, what gears are correct, etc., when experiencing an old machine. In fact, I found that the older fit (taller frames) suits me a lot better. Initially, I thought all my bikes should have 57 cm frames like my 1988 racing bike... Only when I started thinking "How would they have fit me back then" did the bikes start to make sense. When you realize how they were ridden, many perceived limitations disappear. -- Jan Heine, Seattle Editor/Publisher Vintage Bicycle Quarterly
>Jan, it's an interesting perspective, but why would you be against changing
>stem length or changing the gearing using period correct parts? I don't see
>how that can possibly affect the "riding experience." People "back in the
>day" still changed parts, stems, bars, saddles, gearing, to get the bike to
>meet their needs and if the bike is to be a rider, then its owner does
>himself a disservice if he doesn't do what he needs to make it fit
>appropriately. I know I'm not going to appreciate the "riding experience"
>if the bike was equipped with flat land gearing and I have to ride it in a
>mountainous area.
>Don Ferris
>Anvil Bikeworks, Inc.
>Littleton, Colorado
>Ph: 303.471.7533 / 303.919.9073
>Fax: 413.556.6825
>-----Original Message-----
>[] On Behalf Of Jan Heine
>Sent: Friday, May 14, 2004 11:04 AM
>Subject: [CR]"State of the Art" restorations
>First - this is not intended to criticise Brian Baylis or any other
>restorer. I would not be surprised if he agrees with some of this, or
>disagrees with all of it. Neither is this intended to criticise
>people who try to restore to "better than new" standards. To everyone
>their own...
>That said, in the rare cases where I restore bikes or tandems from
>bygone eras (I prefer original finishes, even if they have lost some
>of their original luster), I strive to replicate the original in
>look, quality and materials. For example, if possible, I want the
>paint to look like the original, not like modern paint. Even if it
>were possible to apply perfectly straight pinstripes with some
>laser-guided device, I'd prefer an artist with a brush.
>Currently, I am manufacturing a bunch of parts for an old Herse
>tandem: bolts, nuts, stems and a few other parts. I try to use the
>same or similar materials, and for the machining, I make them by hand
>the old-fashioned way. I do have access to a CNC lathe, but I feel
>that the parts will replicate the feel better if they are made the
>same way. Ideally, the bike will look like it did when it left the
>shop in nineteenhundredsomething.
>In the same way, I prefer to respect the authenticity of the machine.
>If a racing bike originally came with 52-49 chainrings, I feel that
>it would not offer the same riding experience if the small ring is
>changed to a 46. Adding chrome to a bike that didn't have it
>originally, is similar. It saddens me that so many Herse bikes go to
>Japan and are "up-spec'd" with chrome on lugs, seatstay caps, etc.,
>when originally, there were few bikes with those features. I can see
>the appeal of owning such a "top-spec" bike, and thus the temptation.
>Of course, if you plan to ride the bike, you get into questions like
>whether to leave a stem that is too long for you, or change it for a
>period-correct one that is the right length. Either way, the riding
>experience isn't the same as original. Ideally, you'd find a bike
>built for somebody with your proportions... In cases where it appears
>off by a bit, I see whether I can adapt - a lot of older bikes
>provided a slightly less stretched-out position than is popular today
>- so it may be that the bike isn't the wrong size after all, but that
>they sized things differently. After a few miles, I often find that
>quite comfortable, in fact, I resisted the temptation of a longer
>stem for our PBP tandem, despite the reach being about 3 cm shorter
>than what I usually use.
>Of course, I do believe in state of the art when it comes to
>environmental protection and workers' health issues. In fact, I even
>wear a helmet when riding my old bikes, even if it detracts from the
>experience. Life is full of compromises, and everybody chooses for
>themselves which ones to make. But that doesn't mean you have to
>throw in the towel immediately.
>And finally, there is nothing wrong with "projects." Taking a
>not-super-rare, not-super-special, not-super-well-preserved bike and
>making it your dream isn't bad or wrong. Install those Ergo levers on
>the old Raleigh, add those braze-ons on the old Trek. I have a late
>1960s Singer that soon will sport a Schmidt hub and modern lights, to
>be used as my main randonneur bike. I look forward to it. If it ever
>gets a repaint, it will receive a lever-operated front derailleur,
>also not "correct" for that vintage. (And fortunately, it already has
>chromed lugs, so no need to "cheat" there.)
>Jan Heine, Seattle
>Vintage Bicycle Quarterly
>>I found the irony of your comment really quite humorous,
>>given the long running discussion this week about old vs. new,
>>and the proliferation of modern technology as applied to
>>racing bicycles. I think the fact that you will be using a
>>"state of the art" facility to restore vintage bikes is
>>Grant McLean
>> wrote:
>>I'm SUPER excited about the new venture, and the future of the
>>vintage cycle hobby for all of us will be very exciting.
>>Our workshop will be "state of the art" (cut)