Doug Fattic wrote: "I've always been intrigued by what enthusiasts perceive as the best bikes and by what standard they use to bestow that status on their chosen marque. As someone who actually builds and paints frames and has visited the majority of shops in England, Italy and Japan in the 60's and 70's and American builders since then, I realize that desirability and quality are only loosely related. It is all about marketing.
There is always some time spent in my framebuilding classes about how to promote frames since now many students are considering making more than jus t for themselves. These are some of my observations I share with them. 1. some significant number of frames need to have been made in order for them to be considered top notch. There is a reason Masi, Hetchins and Hers e used contract builders. We don't remember those builders who built similar products quality in smaller numbers. 2. they need to have some distinguishing characteristics to set them apart . Hetchins had curly stays and fancy lugs, Masi had his lug cutouts, flattene d chain stays and an M in the bottom bracket shell. Bob Jackson could put ou t the numbers but there wasn't something unique in his style of frames (although his paint was very nice) so they aren't desired by collectors as strongly as others. 3. make frames for famous people (which usually means a known racer). We like our choices validated by someone else of significance. 4. they were built to a high standard compared to their contemporaries although that standard is different today.
In my classes I'll ask which American builders do you consider to be the best and often Richard Sachs is mentioned (after they realize I'm not expecting them to just say me :). I think he is one of the best examples o f how, years from now, I expect his frames will be keenly sought after when they come up on eBay. This won't be because those frames are better (although they are very fine) but that his business plan was/is superior. He has refined a style and design, made special lugs to fit that style, is not a generalist doing repairs and repaints, etc., has someone else put on outstanding paint. All of this means he can put out more frames than his colleagues and sponsor racing teams racing teams as well. He also makes sure his website, brochures and pictures are very professional.
I expect that many years from now, there will be these arguments on CR wher e Sachs lovers will drive collectors of other less famous frames nuts. These lesser known but wonderfully built names will not get the value of the more common Sachs and some will scream, this isn't fair. Well, life isn't fair and neither is the value and perception of the quality of custom made frames.
I doubt my list of best English and American builders would be similar to most others.
Doug Fattic Niles, Michigan"
I appreciate Doug Fattic sharing this, as I think the marketing class info is very insightful. Personally, I can say that my interest in vintage bicycles has only tangentially to do with marketing, or even with what I consider to be the "best" bikes. I think marketing has a great deal to do with which bicycles were desirable when they were being built, and therefore sets the stage for their collectability in an important way. But I think a distinction can be made between marketing as a force that made those bikes iconic, and what makes a bike desirable as a collectable item, which has to do with a much broader range of factors. I have long been a Masi fan, but it has never been because I consider Masis to be the best bikes, or because they are distinctive (could care less about lug cutouts or flattened chainstays, and my Masi doesn't even have the "M" cutout). As a student of history, I am interested in Masis (or Hetchins, for that matter) because of the story that ownership of one of those bikes connects me with. Like many stories, the Masi story is an admixture of facts, mythology, apocrypha, and yes, marketing. But its a rich and fascinating (to me) story, and the reaility that the bikes are good but don't measure up by today's standards doesn't detract from that. I'm still part of the story. I love my Picchio Special. But discussions of Picchio onlist usually involve the same four people making the same points and then ... the story trails off into silence. The Masi story gets added to every time someone like Brian Baylis shares an opinion or insight, and I enjoy those threads the same way I would enjoy pulling up a chair to listen to any good story well told. I appreciate that not everyone feels that way about the endless Masi noise. But for me its at least to some extent about the lore, not which bike is truly the best-made (at least not always, not to a large extent), and while marketing has certainly contributed mightily to that lore, it does not, IMO, constitute its sum total.
Ed Granger Lancaster, PA, USA
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