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Old 06-30-09, 11:37 AM   #1
surprisedagent
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Favorite early 70's tubing?? 531 or something original?

I'm curious to know what people's thoughts are on early 70's tubing and what they think is the best or what they prefer to ride around on. It's pretty well-regarded, I think, that 531 DB was just about it, but were there any serious contenders? Anything you guys prefer? Best/favorite early to mid 70's tubing... go
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Old 06-30-09, 12:03 PM   #2
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I prefer Columbus. Particularly if I'm building the frame.
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Old 06-30-09, 12:28 PM   #3
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I've heard Columbus before too. Is is just straight Columbus or are there varying levels of tubing? What about it do you prefer?
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Old 06-30-09, 12:33 PM   #4
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old Columbus tubing designations
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Old 06-30-09, 01:31 PM   #5
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For a given frame geometry and tubing wall thickness, I defy anyone to tell the difference between Reynolds 531 and similar vintage Columbus.
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Old 06-30-09, 01:45 PM   #6
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I've heard Columbus before too. Is is just straight Columbus or are there varying levels of tubing? What about it do you prefer?
Columbus SL is at the top of the lineup for racing frames, with larger-gauge SP being used for larger frames, touring bikes, and sometimes parts of otherwise SL frames such as stays. Columbus Record was very thin straight-gauge tubing suitable for special lightweight bikes and lightweight riders. All used the samel tubing decal during the 70's. There was also KL on the lightweight end, which was very slightly heavier then Record and which was butted. I'm not sure exactly when KL debuted, however. I suspect it was not around in the early 70's period you're asking about.
Vitus was also making high quality tubing in the 70's.

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Old 06-30-09, 06:48 PM   #7
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For a given frame geometry and tubing wall thickness, I defy anyone to tell the difference between Reynolds 531 and similar vintage Columbus.
I don't think 531 was generally used in as thin a tube thickness as Columbus SL. I don't really remember being able to buy different thicknesses of 531 until 531SL came out in the late '70s.
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Old 06-30-09, 07:49 PM   #8
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I prefer Columbus. Particularly if I'm building the frame.
Pure curiosity, but could you humor me as to why? Is the reason technical, sentimental or maybe geographical? Or do you just like the sticker better .

Just curious.
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Old 06-30-09, 08:04 PM   #9
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I don't think 531 was generally used in as thin a tube thickness as Columbus SL. I don't really remember being able to buy different thicknesses of 531 until 531SL came out in the late '70s.
531DB was definitely available in different thicknesses. Maybe you just weren't in the loop. 531SL is, I believe, thinner than most/all SL. You could get 531 that was in the same ballpark as SL in the 70's (to say nothing of the availability of 753.)
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Old 06-30-09, 08:30 PM   #10
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for a given frame geometry and tubing wall thickness, i defy anyone to tell the difference between reynolds 531 and similar vintage columbus.
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Old 06-30-09, 09:52 PM   #11
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Anything besides 531 or Columbus??
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Old 06-30-09, 10:14 PM   #12
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Pure curiosity, but could you humor me as to why? Is the reason technical, sentimental or maybe geographical? Or do you just like the sticker better .

Just curious.
I might actually prefer the 531 decal.
It doesn't really matter any more, but Columbus was much more consistent with their tubes. The tubes were always the same size. You could get a stack of 531, and one tube would be too big, next too small. Too big is a pain, but too small meant that parts could slide around on you. It was irritating. Columbus always fit into the lugs just right. I have a lot of prejudices that make no more sense than that, I will admit that freely.

I'm not sure I really agree with it, but in the '70s, Trek definitely ranked Columbus above Reynolds.

I have a set of the reissued SL for a new frame. It is definitely different than the '70s SL.

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531DB was definitely available in different thicknesses. Maybe you just weren't in the loop. 531SL is, I believe, thinner than most/all SL. You could get 531 that was in the same ballpark as SL in the 70's (to say nothing of the availability of 753.)
I know big customers could get whatever they wanted, but I bought tubing from Trek or from a couple of bike parts distributors. And the truth is, I don't remember what was available to me then. I think 753 is later than the OP was talking about, or we should mention Ishiwata. I don't think they were in the same ballpark as Columbus or Reynolds until they introduced Prestige, whenever that was.

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Old 06-30-09, 10:43 PM   #13
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Thanks unterhausen, that makes perfect sense.
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Old 07-01-09, 12:22 AM   #14
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Tange made Prestige, not Ishiwata. But Tange was available in the early '70s, it just was not very sophisticated stuff...didn't take long before both big Japanese tubing makers (not mentioning Miyata) were making very highly regarded stuff, definitely by the late '70s. I have heard some builders swear by all the major brands as being "best" so, take your pick...Trek offered one model made from either Columbus SL, 531, or Ishiwata 022. The Columbus version sold for most money and Ishiwata the least, but....maybe John Thompson should finish this tale...
Here's a name: Falck (not my favorite, but not my most-hated either and it is "original")
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Old 07-01-09, 07:43 AM   #15
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There's Vitus.
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Old 07-01-09, 08:04 AM   #16
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Here's a name: Falck (not my favorite, but not my most-hated either and it is "original")
I had a Moser made out of Oria and currently another F. Moser Sprint made out of Falck and I couldn't tell the difference between them in the way the rode. Neither are/were light but they rode pretty well. The Moser made out of Oria tubing had all the "normal" engravings on all the lugs as opposed to the Sprint that has none due to it being a lesser model. I would assume that the tubing was aslo not the best due to being used to build the entry models.
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Old 07-01-09, 08:14 AM   #17
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Another thing about Columbus: the alloy was stronger. Columbus Cr-Mo Cyclex has a tensile strength of 1030 N/mm^2, where Reynolds Mn-Mo 531 alloy is 802 N/mm^2. One might think this is only relevant in engineering testing, but stronger alloy can mean a lighter frame. With the stronger alloy, you get the same material durability with thinner walls. The springy properties of the two steels are the same, so the thinner wall could give a flexier frame.

However, Columbus made almost all the SL tubes at least as thick as those of 531C, at least based on late '80s info. So Columbus SL frames should be a bit stiffer than 531C frames, slightly heavier, and stronger by about 20%.

My only Columbus bike is a Mondonico assumed to be made of SL, and it IS stiff.
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Old 07-01-09, 10:20 AM   #18
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I know big customers could get whatever they wanted, but I bought tubing from Trek or from a couple of bike parts distributors. And the truth is, I don't remember what was available to me then. I think 753 is later than the OP was talking about, or we should mention Ishiwata. I don't think they were in the same ballpark as Columbus or Reynolds until they introduced Prestige, whenever that was.
AFAIK, there was usually a choice of at least a couple of gauges of 531. But maybe I'm mistaken. 753 is indeed later (as mentioned, Prestige is Tange, not Ishiwata, who's extra-light stuff was 019. Prestige would be roughly the equivalent of 753, 531SL, Columbus KL.) I think Ishiwata was always as well-regarded as the other guys, just didn't have the same cache.

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Old 07-01-09, 10:22 AM   #19
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There's Vitus.
Already mentioned.
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Old 07-01-09, 10:56 AM   #20
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thanks for setting me straight, should have mentioned I have no experience with Japanese tubing in the same class as Reynolds or Columbus. The 022 I've had my hands on is like gas pipe in comparison to those two.
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Old 07-01-09, 11:33 AM   #21
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thanks for setting me straight, should have mentioned I have no experience with Japanese tubing in the same class as Reynolds or Columbus. The 022 I've had my hands on is like gas pipe in comparison to those two.
Yup, my 1971 Nishiki Competition was built with double-butted Ishiwata CrMo, which I cannot recommend to anyone, because it was heavy and had a leaden ride quality. In contrast, my 1988 mountain bike is built with Tange Prestige II, which seems to be very nice tubing. The Japanese came a long way in a short time.
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Old 07-01-09, 12:47 PM   #22
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There were LOTS of different "high quality" bike tubes available in the 1970's, from France, Italy, and Japan. My favorite remains Reynolds 531 simply for the history involved. From around 1950 to 1980, the winning bike in the Tour de France was almost always a Reynolds 531 bike...and it was the tubing used on the Schwinn Paramount in the 1960's and 1970's...Reynolds 531 is to bikes what Willie Mays is to baseball...the "gold standard".
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Old 07-01-09, 12:54 PM   #23
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All of the "regulars" in the "Vintage" Forum would enjoy having a copy of Fred DeLong's "DeLong's Guide to Bicycles and Bicycling" from 1978. It can be found at Half Price Books and on E- Bay. It is the best overview of bike technology circa 1978.

Fred DeLong put together a chart of the tubing being used in 1977. It showed that Reynolds 531 was available in 11 different gauges, from silly thin to beefy tandem gauges. And, Columbus, Tange, Vitus, and Isawata all did what Reynolds did: they made ultra-thin, ultra-light gauges for special racing bikes, and beefier gauges for touring bikes and tandem bikes.

The concept of "best" in tubing is often muddied...some folks assume thinner and lighter is "better". However, the "best" tube for a given bike depends on the purpose of that bike, the size of the bike, and the size and weight of the rider. Isawata Extralight 015 Alpha tubing would be SCARY on a touring bike designed for a 200 pound rider and 100 pounds of gear and cargo.
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Old 07-01-09, 01:05 PM   #24
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The book "The Custom Bicycle" by Kolin and De la Rosa (1979) has a lot of discussion of bike tubing. Frank Brilando discussed the use of Reynolds 531 in the Schwinn Paramount of the 1970's. Schwinn requested that Reynolds make a THICKER top tube than Reynolds normally supplied, as Schwinn felt that frame rigidity was more important than frame weight. Schwinn specified extra-heavy Reynolds chainstays and fork blades. On large frames, Schwinn used straight gauge 4130 cro-mo for the down tube and seat tube to obtain even more rigidity.

For custom bikes, Schwinn used Columbus and Isawata tubes, and used Isawata tubes for ultra-light bikes.

Schwinn designers thought that the emphasis on lighter and thinner tubing was a mistake, and that thicker and heavier tubes produced a more rigid bike. As a result, the Schwinn Paramount often weighed 2 or 3 pounds MORE than many top European bikes of similar quality...an interesting design choice.
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Old 07-01-09, 02:04 PM   #25
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The 022 I've had my hands on is like gas pipe in comparison to those two.
well, as John E mentions the early stuff whether Ishiwata or Tange was fairly crude, and there's always personal taste...but anybody who rides my 3Rensho built from Ishiwata 022 would not describe the ride as leaden: it's as nice as any Columbus or 531 frame I've ever owned. Yoshi Konno could choose whatever tubing he wanted (and in fact used Columbus on some early frames).
My early Nishiki(s) were not even in the same school, let alone the same class.
and just one more nit: Ishiwata made even lighter gauge tubesets than 019, there was 017 and (never seen in person so maybe very rare or just rumor) 015, which must be like paper.
edit: I see Rusty has mentioned 015 above, so...must be true!

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