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  1. #1
    Senior Member Unagidon's Avatar
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    Quality: how different between Italian vs. Japanese

    I'm just curious. I'm new to this vintage stuff - I got hooked on the look of lugged steel, and can't reasonably lay out the cash required for a good condition, ride as is Italian bike. Hence, ended up buying a NOS Miyata off ebay for $400 - Shimano 600 groupo all around, Miyata triple spline tubing and best of all, never ridden by anyone...except maybe test rides from 16 years ago.

    Anyway, I also see Colnagos in much worse shape easily go for $1k+, or the really nice ones, close to $2k. I love the look and paint job of Colnagos and I saw a beautiful Tommasini. But the prices are much higher. Even Bianchi frames will go for more than, say a Bridgestone or a Miyata. So...in reality, how different are they? Is there such a huge gap in quality of tubing/workmanship, etc., or is it just the country of origin? And, will there actually be a difference in ride?

  2. #2
    Senior Member ricohman's Avatar
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    My top line Japanese bike is my Nishiki Continental.
    The lug work is very good but it is still below my Marinoni.
    I can't compare the rides as they are two completely different use bikes.
    Here is the lug work.

    Nishiki


    Marinoni. Notice the filing of the lugs.


    Now Italian cars and Japanese cars are a different story........

  3. #3
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    Miyata was arguably the best of the mass volume manufacturers. The bicycles are well designed and manufactured. Their spined triple butted tubesets are excellent and was manufactured in-house so it could be tailored to the particular model. Shimano 600 is a very good, upper mid-range geoup.

    Having said that, it is still only a mass production bicycle, with concessions to hitting a price point. It will be lacking in small, costly and labor intensive features. However, for most people, unless they are competing, the return is very small relative to the extra investment for a more exclusive bicycle. Most would not notice or appreciate any difference beyond a cosmetic level.

    I think you have made an excellent choice. Use it as test bed for a year or two and try to develop a feel for the nuances of the ride. Then borrow a more expensive machine and see if you can tell the difference. Even if you can discern the differences, you may not like them. If you can appreciate the difference, then great, you can decide if they are worth the extra dollars. Right now, being a novice, you probably couldn't tell the difference. If you had forked out the extra dough now and still couldn't feel the difference in two years, you'd be kicking yourself.
    Last edited by T-Mar; 03-01-08 at 09:24 PM.

  4. #4
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    How we sold them way back...

    Price with regard to performance... Japanese, especially components

    Ride, European. If the customer could tell, they bought that.

    Will work 20 years from now the same as it worked when new, Italian top tier, read: Campagnolo Nuovo Record.

    Best derailluer Suntour VGT rear. Not light, (this was before Cyclone) but shifted best, especially wider range cog sets.

    So it goes.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Unagidon's Avatar
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    That Marioni is absolutely beautiful! I see the difference. Having said that, I'm more buying the vintage as an experience and in some ways, vanity. I like lugs But my daily rider will still be my modern bike, comfy carbon with modern brifters. Can't wait to get my NOS Miyata 914SE. Although, I know I will need some work on the chain rings / cassettes. 42 front and granny gear of 23 in the back just doesn't work for a middle aged guy just buying some toys...

  6. #6
    Bottecchia fan
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    That's an interesting question you pose - in general I'd have to agree with what T-Mar says as I often do but I'd like to add another perspective that T-Mar has also pointed out in other posts. In the 60's and 70's many, perhaps most, Italian bikes available in the US were mass produced by large Italian companies and quality varied somewhat. By the 80's the Japanese had conered the market on entry level bikes and even the big Italian companies were only exporting mid-range or better bikes to the US and the hot thing was high end bikes by semi-custom Italian builders. It's kind of an apples and oranges thing. Sort of like asking if a Harley or a Japanese motorcycle is better. It's one of those things that just doesn't matter because you're going to like one or the other for reasons that only you will understand. I personally prefer the look of an Italian bike. I haven't had the opportunity to test ride all the possible different bikes out there and never will so it will always be a choice of what I like the looks of.
    1959 Bottecchia Professional (frame), 1966 Bottecchia Professional, 1971 Bottecchia Professional (frame),
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  7. #7
    My bikes became Vintage OLDYELLR's Avatar
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    I have to agree with ricohman. Here are a couple of shots of my Nishiki Ultimate. The lugs could have been filed a bit better, but it's not bad.


    1981 Nishiki Ultimate
    1977 Nishiki Landau
    1967 Jeunet Captivante track bike
    1951 Claud Butler New Allrounder under construction
    "index shifters = frets on a fiddle"

  8. #8
    Senior Member Unagidon's Avatar
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    I'm curious how the Miyata will compare with the Nishiki's! I remember when the Nishiki Monterey was my dream bike... Now it's a Colnago Master X-Light, a Look 585 Optimum, and a Porsche 911 I'm making do with Miyata 914SE, Look 555, and an Acura RSX. Maybe one day...

  9. #9
    Senior Member due ruote's Avatar
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    I really think it comes down to intangibles. You'll love the Miyata, and for very good reason - they made great bikes with solid component groups at a good value. In general, they'll never turn heads like a vintage Cinelli or Gios with a Super Record Grouppo, but they'll still ride very, very nicely - some might say better than their European counterparts. If you search the forums using terms like "favorite road bike" you'll find threads with people waxing poetic about bikes from various continents.

  10. #10
    Senior Member ga_mueller's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=OLDYELLR;6263594]I have to agree with ricohman. Here are a couple of shots of my Nishiki Ultimate. The lugs could have been filed a bit better, but it's not bad.

    +1. Nice, but nothing special (Nishiki). Although far nicer than my RB-1 (primitive).


  11. #11
    Senior Member Mhendricks's Avatar
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    And then you have fine Japanese Rides like these that will rival anything Italian.

    http://www.classicrendezvous.com/Jap.../Zunow%202.htm


    I'm almost through with finding the parts for mine

    I also forgot about my Sekai 5000





    They call me "Mr. Mixte"

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unagidon View Post
    I'm curious how the Miyata will compare with the Nishiki's! I remember when the Nishiki Monterey was my dream bike... Now it's a Colnago Master X-Light, a Look 585 Optimum, and a Porsche 911 I'm making do with Miyata 914SE, Look 555, and an Acura RSX. Maybe one day...
    Don't you mean a Fuji Monterey? I don't recall a Nishiki by that model name though in Canada, the Nishiki distributor was Norco and they did have a Monterey model. Regardless, both Monterey models were lower, sports/touring models compared to the Miyata. The Miyata would run rings around it.

  13. #13
    Senior Member ricohman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
    Don't you mean a Fuji Monterey? I don't recall a Nishiki by that model name though in Canada, the Nishiki distributor was Norco and they did have a Monterey model. Regardless, both Monterey models were lower, sports/touring models compared to the Miyata. The Miyata would run rings around it.

    Agreed. Both my Monterey's were far from nimble. Although one was built with Tange #2 double butted tubes.

  14. #14
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    Fred Deming was an American engineer who was rebuffed by US automakers and took his Quality Control and Statistical Analysis ideas to Japan's auto makers. We all know what it did for them.

    It trickled down to the bicycle makers, and they looked at the Italian bikes and determined that they could mass-produce a similar product at far less cost. Not better, but pretty close and similar. They did, and if the yen hadn't shot up against the dollar, there would likely be a lot more Japanese bikes out there. As it is, there are plenty of examples where Japanese makers came close to Euro makers in quality (and generally better in paint) for a fraction of the cost, like the first two pics.

    Or, you could always look at what happened when they collaborated... last two pics.
    Last edited by RobbieTunes; 04-18-08 at 07:11 PM.

    Robbie ♪♫♪...☻

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  15. #15
    tinydr
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    Wow, that's beautiful Robbie... that Zunow is crazy though. Personally I dream of the day I have the $ to get a Kalavinka (hopefully by that point they'll be taking orders again).

    I have to agree about paint... I've had three Miyatas over the years and the paint held up on all of them far better than either of my Rossins... those things chip when you look at them.

  16. #16
    South Carolina Ed
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    I think there is also latent racism involved. Think about cars - the Japanese build the best cars according to the marketplace, yet there is practically no collector car market for them when they get old. Lots of people collect European and American cars though.

  17. #17
    Senior Member ricohman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sced View Post
    I think there is also latent racism involved. Think about cars - the Japanese build the best cars according to the marketplace, yet there is practically no collector car market for them when they get old. Lots of people collect European and American cars though.
    You forgot about the 1972 Datsun 510!

  18. #18
    Senior Member afilado's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=RobbieTunes;6273372]Fred Deming was an American engineer who was rebuffed by US automakers and took his Quality Control and Statistical Analysis ideas to Japan's auto makers. We all know what it did for them.

    .....Edwards Deming is the correct name............

  19. #19
    park ranger
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    i don't have anything japanese, but i'm sure there is something that would rival the best italian. zunow are awesome...some of the japanese did learn what was going on by destructing and examining fine italian bikes.
    i'll say, my italian bike has a wonderful ride. it is stiff when i put the power down but feels very smooth and comfortable. i think it may have to do with the nice tires, highly butted spokes and shallow box section rims...
    Quote Originally Posted by Malibu Police Chief
    I don't like your jerk-off name. I don't like your jerk-off face. I don't like your jerk-off behavior, and I don't like you, jerk-off.

  20. #20
    South Carolina Ed
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricohman View Post
    You forgot about the 1972 Datsun 510!
    I did forget, but I actually drove one in college for 2 years - that pukey green color. It was great driving car but rotted away beneath me in Try NY.

  21. #21
    Run What 'Ya Brung bonechilling's Avatar
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    You know, I've seen a lot of Italian bikes, and they're not all that great. Plenty of off-the-peg Bianchis, Cinellis, Colnagos, etc., came with crappy paintjobs, poor threading, holes undrilled, bent derailer hangers and countless other problems. Most of the stuff we ride was turned out in a day by a couple of workers watching the clock and waiting for the weekend.

    I'm confident that the top-end Italian frames can't be touched in quality, but I do think we may romanticize Italian frames too much, sometimes. I'd wager that most were made in conditions and with materials approximately the same as comparable Japanese builders.
    Quote Originally Posted by doofo View Post
    the main cause of fit problems is riding your bike

    you should have just stopped riding so you could focus on color coordination

  22. #22
    park ranger
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    oh yeah, here. just took this for you guys. first time i've ever seen lug work quite like this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malibu Police Chief
    I don't like your jerk-off name. I don't like your jerk-off face. I don't like your jerk-off behavior, and I don't like you, jerk-off.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Unagidon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
    Don't you mean a Fuji Monterey? I don't recall a Nishiki by that model name though in Canada, the Nishiki distributor was Norco and they did have a Monterey model. Regardless, both Monterey models were lower, sports/touring models compared to the Miyata. The Miyata would run rings around it.
    T-Mar - you're right. I was in Canada (12 years old) and my friend's Norco Monterey - with 14 speeds - was my dream bike. Because I was short, I rode a low end 650c Bianchi. And my "mini-12 speed" was no lightweight - probably really low end steel.

  24. #24
    Bottecchia fan
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    Quote Originally Posted by sced View Post
    I think there is also latent racism involved. Think about cars - the Japanese build the best cars according to the marketplace, yet there is practically no collector car market for them when they get old. Lots of people collect European and American cars though.
    Quote Originally Posted by bonechilling View Post
    You know, I've seen a lot of Italian bikes, and they're not all that great. Plenty of off-the-peg Bianchis, Cinellis, Colnagos, etc., came with crappy paintjobs, poor threading, holes undrilled, bent derailer hangers and countless other problems. Most of the stuff we ride was turned out in a day by a couple of workers watching the clock and waiting for the weekend.

    I'm confident that the top-end Italian frames can't be touched in quality, but I do think we may romanticize Italian frames too much, sometimes. I'd wager that most were made in conditions and with materials approximately the same as comparable Japanese builders.
    I think racism, latent or otherwise, might be a bit strong. But almost certainly there is a cultural difference. The Japanese seem to focus on well engineered, well built, economical machines whether that is bicycles, cars, or motorcycles. The Italians have a tendancy to focus on aesthetics whether that be bicycles, cars, motorcycles, men's suits, women's fashions or a host of other things. Practical people who need good reliable transportation often buy Japanese products; hence why the market has shown Japanese products to be more popular. People who collect vintage things are by nature a little eccentric and lean towards things that are unusual and stand out regardless of their practicality. Even entry level Italian bikes in the 70's had flashy paint jobs and lots of chrome, things rarely found on Japanese bikes of the period.

    I think the problem for the Japanese is that no engineer, no matter how good he is, can distill that essense that makes the in thing "in". No matter how well engineered, how well made, how economical, you can't copy the essence of an Italian bike or a Harley-Davidson or a Ferrarri or an American muscle car. Some people don't care about that and they are happy to buy the Japanese product. Others do care about it and that will be the guy who says he'd rather push his Harley than ride your Honda.

    And yes as you can see from my signature line I am biased.
    1959 Bottecchia Professional (frame), 1966 Bottecchia Professional, 1971 Bottecchia Professional (frame),
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  25. #25
    South Seas Correspondent jeffieh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kommisar89 View Post
    ...No matter how well engineered, how well made, how economical, you can't copy the essence of an Italian bike or a Harley-Davidson or a Ferrarri or an American muscle car.
    And yes as you can see from my signature line I am biased.
    American muscle cars hahahaha. All the class and charisma of David Hasselhof. I rest my case. By the way, weren't Harleys re-engineered by Kawasaki in the dark days of the 80s?
    Last edited by jeffieh; 03-04-08 at 12:15 AM.
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