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  1. #1
    Hates the MTA! tingjunkie's Avatar
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    Info on vintage bike brands and type of steel used?

    Time to play "help the newb" please! Is there a website which catalogs different bike manufacturers/models and the type of steel they used for frames?

    I am about to ditch my '73 Schwinn Suburban only because it is too small for me. Although I am kind of bummed, I am viewing this as a good opportunity to upgrade my commute. Because I have enjoyed learning how to fix/maintain the Schwinn as I went along, I am thinking I would like to buy another oldschool, bombproof, steel beauty, and then build it up into a nice hybrid-style, zippy NYC commuter. After looking around the BF and reading some articles, it has become obvious that not all steel is created equal. It would seem that Reynolds 531 and Columbus are both supposed to be pretty excellent. And apparently both Dutch and Japanese manufacturers both have their devotees!

    Anyway, at this point when I browse CL or any local used bike shops I am at a complete loss as to which vintage brands/models/years I should be looking for. I am 6'2", 225lbs, and I am looking for something relatively light, but not at the cost of strength. These city roads are pretty crappy. Probably a road bike which I can put 700 wheels, fenders, and a straight or riser bar on?

    If you have a link to a site which catalogs this info, or if you can just simply recommend a few specific companies/models to look for, I would greatly appreciate it. I don't need the bike to be trendy or cool, just for it to have really nice steel and geometry. Thanks!

    P.S. Ultimately, I am thinking my budget for the bike and subsequent build up would be $500, or preferably much less. Not sure that info helps with recommendations or not!
    Last edited by tingjunkie; 11-25-08 at 11:17 PM.

  2. #2
    Avenir Equipped BlankCrows's Avatar
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    Try a BF search for tubing in thread titles in the C&V forum. Lots of info there.

  3. #3
    Rustbelt Rider mkeller234's Avatar
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    I had a 78 Suburban with the FF / Positron II combo and I loved it. It was an excellent chore bike, solid comfortable, full length fenders, shift without peddling, too bad yours is too small. That said there are tons of decent affordable frames. Something like a Schwinn Continental or World Sport (cro-molly), or maybe a Panasonic, Trek would be nice. Raleigh made a ton of steel frames, a Raleigh Super course has Reynolds 531 main tubes and can be had at a reasonable price.

    How small is your suburban? I assume you probably ride 60cm - 63cm frames pretty comfortably. The electro-forged Schwinns get cracked on sometimes, but for flat landed Ohio cities they are great. I have had a Collegiate and a Suburban and I will say that the Suburban rode way way better. The suburban has bigger rims and tubular forks, not sure if the gearing was any different though. Ok, I am too far off topic, simply put, there are is a myriad of fantastic mid-range vintage bikes.

    I have a 78 Raleigh Competition frame that is 63cm, the frame is full reynolds 531 with campy dropouts. It has a kinked top tube and needs painted. I don't know if it can be fixed or if it is worth it, if the experts say it can be fixed I would give you the frame and fork for the price of shipping.

    -Matt
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  4. #4
    Rustbelt Rider mkeller234's Avatar
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    This is the competition frame I am talking about. The kink is where the top tube meets the head tube, I would guess that the cost of fixing it would be too much, but maybe it's worth asking.

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  5. #5
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    +Use the search function. Troll the postings for a while (particularly catch of day), and you will quickly become an expert!

    Know your size, target several brands (don't lock into any one brand or model, or you will overpay), and start looking.

    Thrift stores and garage sales around here have the best deals, although I just picked up a nice Cromoly Univega for $21.25 on ebay....

    I really like any of the 1980s Japanese bikes: Miyata, Univega, Lotus, Panasonic, etc. They are usually a good value.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    You can tell by looking at a bike with decent paint and decals what if any higher-end tubing its made from. Reynolds, Columbus, Tange, and Ishiwata all supplied decals to bike manufacturers to be pasted on the bikes that used their tubing. It's basically how one tells in '60s to '90s bikes like you'll be looking at. The decals are often at the top of the seat tube, or the bottom of the seat tube, or the top of the down tube. On some there are also decals at the top of the fork blades. You have to take a good look at the frame.

    Another strong indicator of a quality frame is the nature of the fork dropouts and the frame ends. Adjuster screws in the back on forged frame ends are a sign of quality. Campagnolo fork and frame ends as well. Same for Shimano and a number of other frame end makers. Frame and fork ends made of sheet metal are not usually found on high-quality frames made with the best tubesets.

    Look at the fork crown. If it is a solid cast or forged piece, that's a good sign. If it seems to be made of pieces of bent sheet steel, that's usually not a good sign, but there are exceptions such as the Peugeot PX-10 and its siblings (btw, here you'll see Simplex or Huret frame ends).

    Overall it's more useful to be able to assess quality, if not tubing type, by looking at a frame and feeling it (weight) than by having a database.

    Road Fan

  7. #7
    Hates the MTA! tingjunkie's Avatar
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    Good advice all around folks. Thanks!

    Thanks for the offer Matt- very generous of you- but since I'm very new to this, the idea of getting a "kink" fixed is a bit too daunting! FWIW my Suburban is a 22" frame (which I suppose would be 55cm?). A nice smooth ride for sure, but I probably want something a bit lighter this time around. I'm just not sure how light I should go given my weight. I'm not about to join the racing community or anything!

  8. #8
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    You should go a lot lighter. Troll the clydesdale list, you will find people well over 200 pounds riding light carbon fiber frames.

    Certainly a vintage steel bike can handle your weight and more. Consider the weight people carry on the higher end steel touring bikes (50 to 75 pounds in gear alone). Notice that the touring bikes commonly are steel.

  9. #9
    Seńor Member USAZorro's Avatar
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    Is this what you're looking for?

    btw - take the rider weights with a load of salt (or add about 50 pounds to what's listed).
    The search for inner peace continues...

  10. #10
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    If you're looking for a commuter, don't limit your serach to a vintage/classic bike. $500 gets you a good commuter. Just have someone help you size what you need amnd start looking at a good bike that fits, classic or not.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
    Is this what you're looking for?

    btw - take the rider weights with a load of salt (or add about 50 pounds to what's listed).
    Add AT LEAST 50 #! According to that chart there is no such thing as a steel bicycle that is safe for a rider who weighs more than 200#!

    Road Fan

  12. #12
    Disraeli Gears Charles Wahl's Avatar
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    If you truly want "bomb-proof" then maybe you want to stick with a nice fillet-brazed Schwinn, like a Superior or Super Sport. If you really want a lighter frame, then don't worry too much about the manufacturer or the alloy -- just make sure that the tubing is double-butted (at least the 3 main frame tubes, but preferably also fork blades, seat stays and chain stays. That means that tubes are made with thicker ends and thinner middles. A lugged frame with forged dropouts (mfgr. name stamped into them) is much more likely to have such tubing.

  13. #13
    Hates the MTA! tingjunkie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
    Is this what you're looking for?
    Not exactly, but that is quite helpful just the same! Thanks.

  14. #14
    Hates the MTA! tingjunkie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
    If you're looking for a commuter, don't limit your serach to a vintage/classic bike. $500 gets you a good commuter. Just have someone help you size what you need amnd start looking at a good bike that fits, classic or not.
    I am actually quite on the fence about this. Half of me wants to find a Jamis Coda Sport on sale, the other half really likes the idea of building up a custom vintage ride. It would be easier just to track down a sale, but I think I would learn more (and certainly feel more pride) by building a bike from the ground up. Right now, I am exploring both avenues. If I can find a new '07 or '08 Coda Sport for $500 or less, I'll probably pull the trigger.

    By the way, how would you knowledgeable folks compare the quality of a modern Jamis steel frame and a nice vintage 531 or Columbus frame?
    Last edited by tingjunkie; 11-27-08 at 06:56 PM.

  15. #15
    Rustbelt Rider mkeller234's Avatar
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    No problem on the kinked frame, the thought of fixing it scares me too. And I would bet that taking to a frame builder would be a waste of money, considering you could get a nice, complete bike for a couple hundred dollars. I bet NY craigslist offers up a gazillion great bikes, maybe around a college campus. How about a mountain bike with some chains on the tire for the snowy NY winters.
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  16. #16
    Hates the MTA! tingjunkie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkeller234 View Post
    I bet NY craigslist offers up a gazillion great bikes, maybe around a college campus.
    Out of the gazillion nice bikes in NYC, I don't think that many make it to CL. Space is at a premium here, so if you own a bike, you generally use it. Add to this the fact that there are about a billion hipster posers out there (living off a disposable allowance from their yuppie parents) and anything that can be turned into a fixie, is snapped up quick for silly amounts of money. The other problem is that I am 6'2", and 95% of the steel men's bikes on CL seem to be 50-58cm.

    Of course I'm overgeneralizing, but the CL search has left me rather bitter. Sometimes I feel like I would have much better luck in the burbs hitting garage sales.

    Still, good things come to those who wait. Or a new Jamis comes to folks like me who are short on patience. Anyone care to compare the merits of old vs. new steel? Especially durability and weld strength?

  17. #17
    Toeclips are real delver's Avatar
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    number one adantage of old vrs new is thieves like new steel a little better. So in that sense, old steel tends to last a little longer.

    If I lived in NYC I would look for an electroforged schwinn in my size, suburban, collegate, varsity, continental. yeah they are heavy, yeah some sneer, but I would like to have a bike I could beat someone with and then ride away on, myself. Actualy I am restoring a Conti right now, original exept for period correct alloy wheels.

    Buying a new bike will be a lot easyer, but a bike you sweat out yourself is cooler.

  18. #18
    Hates the MTA! tingjunkie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by delver View Post
    number one adantage of old vrs new is thieves like new steel a little better. So in that sense, old steel tends to last a little longer.
    Yep. Definitely a consideration for me in NYC. If I went with the Coda, I would (sadly) plan to ugly-up the bike a bit.

    I have to say, one of the coolest things about owning the Schwinn is that you know it has been around for 35 years, and could easily be around for another 35. It's almost completely impossible to find that kind of durability in any modern product these days. Everything is built with planned obsolescence in mind. Whatever bike I end up going with, I just want to make sure that the frame will last a lifetime (assuming no major accidents of course). Components can always be replaced/upgraded, but I want the bike to be a good investment.

    So what do people think? Can the modern Jamis steel frames compete with the excellent older manufacturers? I would imagine this all comes down to weld method and technique, right? Anyway, here are the specs for the 2008 Coda Sport I am looking at:
    FRAME Reynolds 520 double-butted chromoly main tubes, extended head tube with reinforced collars, double tapered cromo stays, forged dropouts with eyelets
    FORK Chromoly unicrown, bulge butted steerer, low rider braze-ons, double eyelets

  19. #19
    Senior Member bmaxwell's Avatar
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    why not go for a nishiki something like the olympic or one of the touring bikes they are great light weight bikes that look good ride great and don't cost a boat load of money.

  20. #20
    Hates the MTA! tingjunkie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmaxwell View Post
    why not go for a nishiki something like the olympic or one of the touring bikes they are great light weight bikes that look good ride great and don't cost a boat load of money.
    I would love to. Just waiting to find one the right size on CL or at LBS. Or better yet, on a trash pile on the curb!

    I had a lead on a 63cm Panasonic Sport Deluxe, but it was the older 1020 steel instead of chro-mo, was rather banged up, and the guy wanted $140. Oh, and it had a non-original chain ring. Decided to pass. Trolling the BF has its downsides... I hear all these bike-finding success stories and it messes with my expectations. Think I am going to try posting in the WTB section here.

    Edit: Link to my WTB post- http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...96#post7940796
    Last edited by tingjunkie; 11-30-08 at 05:25 PM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Grim's Avatar
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    I bought a 25 inch 78 Schwinn Continental II for $5 at a garage sale 2 weeks ago and its a rider. Actually it rides really nice other then it being well over 30lb! Looking for a set of light aluminum wheels with a free hub so I can make a cheap single speed out of it and lighten it up. In my Quest for wheels I just ran across an ad for a woman's Schwinn single speed that has the wheels and hopefully cranks I need and good tires to boot for $35 but that bike is really nice looking and I would hate to part it out for the wheels if it is as nice as it looks in the picture. Weird frame too. Its split down tube like a Mixtie but it swoops at the seat post.

    My Last DD was a $120 1998 M400 Cannondale CL find that was a rider. Put a set of street friendly tires on it and rode it for 1000 miles. Its now my winter/ bad weather/ trail bike since 2 weeks ago I picked up a 1995 T700 Cannondale for $225. Inner tube and a tune up and it was a rider (but the original tires with wiskers that are on it are sketchy with dry rot so next payday they will get replaced). Just got it ready for DD duties yesterday with a new set of campus peddles (clip one side platform on the other).

    I wont even get into the 1984 Miyata six ten I am about to ebay that I picked up for nothing and I will probably sell close to $300 (go look up "Miyata" on ebay).

    $500 budget I could find something REAL nice for that kind of money down here. Hell send me $500 and give me a month and I'll find you something sexy and send it to you. You want race, touring or a hybrid? You want fenders on it, Lights too?

    Seriously look at the components. Stick the brand and model in Google and you can usualy find a Bikepedia entry on anything 93 or newer or a review somewhere and thats a starting place. The higher quality the parts and lighter the bike usualy means the better the bike is. Look for mid line Shimano or other brand and you should do OK regardless if you recognize the brand of the bike.

    Learn to barter.

    Most people will come off the price when you start waving cash. The T700 I bought was advertised at $350. I waited a couple weeks before even contacting them. Went and looked at it. talked to the guy. discovered a wonky back wheel that he missed (he was flipping it and a bike mechanic) that I will eventually replace. I educated myself on the model. Realized it was a 95 and not the 98 or newer he thought it was. We settled on $225. Well worth the price for the aluminum frame alone. That frame is aluminum and weighs 3.5lb.Has 135mm spacing so it will take a 9speed rear wheel no problem when I am ready to upgrade. Most ads are placed with a starting price that the seller expects to give on some and they start high. If the don't give then they really don't want to sell.


    Links. Sheldon Brown (RIP) is the god of all that is old bike.
    http://sheldonbrown.com/frame-sizing.html


    Since you want to swap around parts this is VERY important to read.
    http://sheldonbrown.com/frame-spacing.html
    Last edited by Grim; 11-30-08 at 06:06 PM.
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  22. #22
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    As far as being influenced by bike find stories, most of us neglect to post the hours we spend looking for deals. Even though I have found about 15 great deals this year, I have also spent at least 500 hours seeking out deals.

    So if you want to find a super deal, you are either going to have to get real lucky, or you are going to have to look a lot. If you put a reasonable value on your time, you are probably better off with Craigs List.

  23. #23
    Hates the MTA! tingjunkie's Avatar
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    Great articles Grim, thanks. I've been checking out a lot of Mr. Browns wonderful knowledge lately, but had not yet read the article on spacing.

    By all means, if you can find a deal on a sweet ride for me down South, I'd be glad to pay you a reasonable commission!

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