> Well I hope not, too; a lot of us collect only bicycles that were so
> manufactured, although most of mine were not "inexpensive" in their day.
> I've always wondered about collecting custom-made frames... it's rather like
> buying used bespoke tailormade suits. I mean that's jolly good for the
> original owner but using it secondhand kinda defeats the purpose! I guess it
> could be argued that custom-made means better quality. I am utterly
> unconvinced of that.
A couple of points here. I agree that a used custom-made bike is not as logical an item to go after as a new one and definitely not worth a premium over a frame of the same builder made for off-the-shelf sale. I would even go so far as to say that it is perhaps less attractive to me. However to equate this with used clothing is quite a different matter.
> Of course in the "classic era" the "faceless and nameless factory workers"
> were usually nationals of the country that made them and when those
> countries, Britain, France, Italy et. al., defined the cycle "ethos" of the
> day. To me that makes a big difference. I never have accepted Japanese
> bikes somehow for the simple reason what do the Japanese know about
> bikes? I mean are bicycles part of their national identity, culture and indeed
> transport the way they were in Britain, France or Italy? Name some world
> famous Japanese cyclists. Or indeed Chinese ones. When I grew up the idea
> of a quality American bike was a joke since most Americans treated (and still
> do) the bicycle as a toy. Many still ride bikes on the sidewalk like children.
> It just seemed that would naturally translate into the bike itself. If I
> collected Masi, sorry but I just would have to have an Italian one. Maybe
> for no good reason, but there you have it.
The French and British cycle trades both attracted more than their fair share of foreign and immigrant workers. Look at the likes of Pedersen, Hetchins and Singer at the top end and at Raleigh and Peugeot at the lower end, you will see they all had large components of foreigners or immigrants. There was no 'ethos,' it was simply a factory job for those people; and not an even terribly elegant one at that. Even in the 'boutique' builders' shops the life was hard and without many rewards or recognition. Far more people left the cycle trade to go to other fields of endeavor than the other way around (this continues today!) As far as famous Japanese cyclists, you need go no further than to Soichi Nakano who was undisputed professional world champion for 11 straight years (1976-1986.) Nobody else has ever even come close to this record and I would dare say never ever will. As for the implication that you need to be an adept cyclist to be able to produce good product, this seems unfathomable to me. There are indeed few accomplished professional cyclists that have ever made the transition to building: only Masi, Cinelli and Pinarello come to mind and Cinelli was more of an industrialist than builder.
> So, I can see why folks here would treasure an Italian-made lightweight,
> even one made in a factory by some faceless worker who, nevertheless, was
> Italian and cycled to work and maybe even followed the exploits of Coppi and
> others or dreamt of being one himself. If he didn't impart some of that into
> his job, I'd be mighty surprised indeed.
Be prepared to be surprised then. I have been to a sufficient number of shops to know that people who make their trade and deepfelt love for bikes their own personal leitmotiv, such as is the case of Richard Sachs, Mike Barry of Mariposa, Ernst Csuka of Singer are the exceptions. Those Raleigh factory workers that you so admire, did not ride their bikes to work because they wanted to, it was simply the only means of transportation they could afford with the lowly wages they received. You do however hit upon one notion that does have a certain degree of validity. Experiencing and appreciating the exploits of a truly exceptional star like Coppi will give one more pride in their work if a worker is in any way involved. Maybe this is why the 1950's Bianchi bikes were seemingly better built than the later ones. On the other hand, it could also be due to the fact that they sold for a higher price too...