[CR]Was Stucchi brand from Italy: now lug aesthetics

(Example: Framebuilders:Chris Pauley)

Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2006 12:34:59 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Don Wilson" <dcwilson3@yahoo.com>
To: Classic Rendezvous <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
In-Reply-To: <003601c6e3c1$38c67000$0200a8c0@HPLAPTOP>
Subject: [CR]Was Stucchi brand from Italy: now lug aesthetics

Steve Maasland wrote that Stucchi of Italy is a highly respected brand in Italy; that Italian collectors have them in their collections; and that the marque is not so well known in the USA. No doubt Steve and the Italian collectors recognize great handmade bikes when they see them and so I would trust the Stucchi on Ebay is a great rider and a highly collectible bike. And the head lugs are certainly idiosyncratic enough to appeal to collector's who highly value the anomalous.


Aesthetically, those have to be the the ugliest, most heavy-handed head tube lugs I have ever seen on a mastercraftsmen made bike.

(Note if there are more ugly lugs by great builders, I would be interested to seem them, as I've developed an strong curiosity about lug aesthetics.)

I've been reading about aethetic princples of design for years and lately been trying to apply some of these aesthetic principles to lug design to see what the gifted bicycle craftsman seem to be trying to accomplish aesthetically with various lug patterns (ornate and not) and thinning of lugs, and pinstriping of them and so forth.

My distillation is: the lug patterns observed on really fine hand crafted bikes--again ornate or not--seem aimed at communicating integrity, lightness, and balance, regardless of what their engineering purposes may be. Integrity, lightness and balance all seem organically appropriate aesthetic effects to pursue in order to heighten the look of a typically lean, rather fragile-looking lightweight bicycle. One could make a lightweight look strong by introducing visually heavy aesthetics, but then you'd have a heavy looking lightweight--a dissonant and undesirable visual paradox if ever there were one. Substituting visual integrities of frame form for visually heavy frame forms achieves a comparable illusion of strength, while also preserving the light, high strung quality that is so much a part of the inherent form of thin, skinny tubes welded together; i.e., lightweight bike construction.

Hence, those lug patterns emphasizing lightness often evidence a tendency toward upswept curly cues rather than downswept ones, though they have to have some of both in the pattern to achieve a pattern with sufficient compositional balance. Points upswept tend to be more visually prominent than points downward leaving the visual illusion of upward vectoring, or lightness. Like certain of the aesthetics of great cathedrals, when we focus narrowly, these upward pointing forms make our eyes move upward (giving our visual sense the illusion of the etherial) and when we focus broadly they make our eyes notice upward formal vectors (making our minds intuit lightness). But where a cathedral design seeks also to seem massively permanent and immovable, and so adopts visual heavyness in the lower parts (e.g., empahsis of massive stones propped up by buttresses), a lightweight bike's lug design, at least those by consciously or intuitively skillful craftsman, seem to attempt to foster a light, dynamic look top to bottom. Visual lightness can also be conveyed by thinning the lugs to diminish the visual weight of the lugs at the corners of the main triangle.

But beyond lightness, a lug craftsman's designs seem to seek to emphasize balance (eh, the bike, she's balanced enough to track straight and be nimble), or a kind of neutral bouyancy in space, in appearance. Lug designs will create some mirrored symmetries between top and bottom, and side to side, that yield a counterbalanced look in the vertical and horizontal axes (in all axes if the craftsman is quite good).

Finally, lug patterns tend to be shaped to contribute an appearance of structural integrity. My Legnano Roma Olympiade, for example, has very plain, pointed lugs with the top points longer than the bottom points in the main triangle--a lot of bikes have this. Regardless of the intended engineering effects of such point length and placement, it does contribute to a formal integrity in the main triangle at its outer margin, which tracks the eyes onto and holds them on the perimeter of the main triangle. Visual accentuation of structural integrity in the main triangle is desirable, because this is the nexus of the bike. It gives the visually flimsy bike a strong integrity at its core.

The Legnano seat tightening bolt location also adds to the visual integrity of the main triangle by drawing one's eye toward the inside of the main triangle. Conventional tightening bolt locations trail behind the seat tube, especially prominent ones not integrated unobstrusively between the stays. They draw the eye away from the main triangle and so erode visual integrity of the main triangle. Another aesthetic benefit of the Legnano bolt location is that it adds a bit of visual lumpiness and imperfection at the top tube/seat tube intersection that actually dilutes the visual asymmetry between the typical sharp angle at this location with the visual irregularities at the other apexes of the main triangle. The idiosyncratic seat bolt actually creates subtle visual harmony between the top tube/seat tube corner and the other corners of the main triangle by extending irregularity to all apexes. The bottom bracket corner is made imperfect by the chain wheel and cranks which tend to dull the perceived angle at the bottom bracket. And as I've already noted the head tube lops off the other corner. So what Mr. Bozzi, or whomever thought of doing it, seems to have accomplished, intentionally or not, was to bring visual harmony and integrity to the main triangle through making all corners of the main triangle imperfect to greater or lesser degrees, rather than have one perfectly keen angle stick out and imbalance the composition. Nifty.

Good lug designs--whether ornate or not--seem to achieve a harmonious integration of lightness, balance and integrity; that is one can find evidences of all three in the lug designs, and in the interplay between the lugs. A masterpiece of lug design not only integrates visual effects of lightness, balance and integrity, but orchestrates the three into a visual symphony among the lugs that pleases with effortless elegance, whether showy or not. That some prefer the simple patterns to ornate ones, or vice versa, is simply a matter of individual personal sensibility. But as a designer friend friend of mine said, ornate, or simple, lug designs should be composed to achieve lightness, balance and integrity that dovetails with the look and mission of the bike.

The head tube lug designs on this Stucchi may have had a great branding effect for Stucchi; that is, they may have made the bike recognizable from a distance in a race or at a cafe, just like Hetchins' ornate lugs (and curvy stays) did. But no matter how ornately extreme the Hetchins sometimes were, they had patterns which contributed positively to a sense of lightness and/or balance (they kind of fell down on the structural integrity angle sometimes IMHO). I believe that these Stucchi lugs fail to communicate effectively in this way.

Clearly the Stucchi's TV screen lower lug is an attempt at a cleaner, more modernist design aesthetic, and I applaud them for trying, but again they fail in my opinion. Instead of creating a sense of lightness, the big window, especially painted black, creates a visual weight where none is desirable. The asymmetry of the upper and lower lugs obviously abandons counter balance in pursuit of trying to orchestrate the upliftiing the eye to create a lightness effect. Alas it doesn't work. It just makes the bottom of the head tube look too heavy and the top too light--an dissonant, imbalanced sensation. And even if they had put big windows on top and bottom head tube lugs to achieve symmetry, it still would not have been a light symmetry. It would have been a heavy one. To reiterate, that black window ties a visual barbell to the bottom of the front of the head tube. It creates unpleasing asymmetry top to bottom. And the harsh transitions from lug to widow to lug to head tube at top, at bottom particularly, disintegrate the visual integrity of the front imperfect corner of the main triangle; this is unfortunate because greater rather than lesser integrity ought to be the coin of the realm for good bicycle design there. Can elegant design be achieved with some head tube lug and badge shapes that are not plain and monochromatic? Of course, but, if particularly bold and daring, they need to build an aethetic integrity along the head tube that not only creates a grill for the front of the bike, but simultaneously reinforces the integrity of the main triangle. The extreme difficulty (and cost in terms of time spent trying to find forms that work and to fashion them) of successfully pulling off ornate head tube lugs and badging is probably why so many masterbuilders especially recently have opted toward relative visual simplicity in the head tube region.

The lesson of the Stucchi, at least the one Steve outted, appears to be that not every lug pattern innovation, regardless of how distinctive, and even if made by mastercraftmen like those at Stucchi, pays off aesthetically. Of course, having said this, I no doubt will hear from list members swearing they love the Stucchi's head tube lugs. I will be interested to learn exactly why?

Don Wilson Los Olivos, CA USA

Don Wilson
Los Olivos, CA USA

--- The Maaslands wrote:

> There are often brands that few in North America
> have heard of, that
> maintain a very high profile and reputation in their
> home market. One
> such brand is the Stucchi brand of Italy. They once
> built very high end
> bicycles and motorcycles. They rarely come up for
> sale, especially the
> road bikes. I have seen perhaps 3 track bikes and
> one road bike actually
> come up for sale, even though many of the top
> collectors in Italy have
> one in their collection.
> There is presently a neat example of one with a
> cambio corsa gear for
> sale on Italian ebay:
> http://ebay.com/<blah>
> QQitemZ130032066507
> The seller is also dependable and does a great job
> of packing and
> shipping (I have bought a few bikes from him in the
> past)
> Check it out, besides who wouldn't want a lovely
> yellow bike?
> Steven Maasland
> Moorestown, NJ
> _______________________________________________
> Classicrendezvous mailing list
> Classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
> http://www.bikelist.org/mailman/listinfo/classicrendezvous

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