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  1. #1
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    the Aluminum revolution?

    Hi,

    I am new here and joined to see what i could find out. I am wondering if anybody has an idea as to who was the first US bike manufacturer to produce aluminum bikes? Were they also being made in Europe before the US? From what I can find it is Cannondale during 1983, but I am still unsure of that. Thanks and happy riding!

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    you ought to google (use google NOT other search).. it'll give you the real old/unique but non-mainstream examples. I know of a few but no close encounters of any kind.
    That is to say other than the following.

    Vitus, a French Co.; first known for tubing & bikes NON-aluminum, came to be known and raced VERY successfully in alloy AND in their models 979 then later 992, both were ALUMINUM. The 992 was an improved model but the 979 was more historically important; both had what was called "Doral Tubing"
    Famous champs used 979s. Stephan Roche & Sean Kelly, both Irish. Whole teams had used them earlier in the '80s and not just those guys. Vitus Aluminum Bikes I know about, all bike shops had'em in every "flavor", color/size.
    A friend had a VERY early Klein. It had skinny tubes, NOT the big fat ones that the brand became famous for which resembled Mylar Balloons in the shape of bikes.
    Cannondale speaks for itself; Trek, Miyata,Giant... all followed suit. Vitus & others like Miyata used lugged AL. rather than tig welded. AL. had been experimented with a very long time ago, then seemingly overnight, prevailed over all others at large.

  3. #3
    Upright bars SirMike1983's Avatar
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    Aluminum bikes go back even to the earliest days of modern cycling around 1900. But they were fringe machines-- prior to the Second War aluminum was much more expensive and rare, and the production techniques for aluminum were not the most reliable compared to steel. Aluminum was primarily used in aircraft during the 1930s and onward. But aluminum has been used and experimented with since even the early days. As for large production numbers-- that came after WWII.
    Last edited by SirMike1983; 11-08-09 at 02:05 AM.
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  4. #4
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    I believe (Italian) ALAN bikes preceded Cannondale, so a European Aluminum bike came first. But Cannondale proved to be more successful.
    “You meet the nicest people on two wheels!"
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    The Carminargent bikes of the 30's were aluminum tubing held together by cast aluminum lugs.







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    . bbattle's Avatar
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    A bit of Klein history

    Klein Bicycles History & Product Timeline
    73 Gary Klein becomes interested in making Aluminum bicycle frames. Independent Project started to test cycle frames.
    75 Built prototypes for International cycle show New York. Frames welded and fully heat treated.
    76 Batch size had grown. Gary Klein / Jim Williams bought out inactive partners ending with only Gary Klein in the business.
    80 Custom frames built and sold for $2000 and more.
    81 range consisted of:
    Klein Team Super Light Road
    Klein Team Super Heavy Duty Road
    Klein Stage Road
    Klein Stage Tour Road
    Models were custom built to order.


    83 Mountain Klein now featuring a chain stay mountain UBrake or roller cam brake.
    86 Klien bikes Elite Trail was used to win the first place at one of the 86 NORBA cycle races.
    88 Pinnacle replaced Mountain Klein allowing room for more aggressive bike design.
    89 In addition to Klein Custom frameset models, Team Super Road, Criterium, Stage & Advantage Klein offered the following models:
    Klein Performance Road
    Klein Quantum Road
    Klein Kirsten - new road model with women's specific design
    Klein Pinnacle Mountain Bike
    Klein Top *** - a new short wheel base XC Cross Country Mountain Bike design, symbolising Klein's first real attempt at a racing bike. Paramount Pictures had rights to names so name ‘Rascal' was used.

    http://www.bonthronebikes.co.uk/help/klein-bikes

    http://www.mombat.org/Klein.htm

    http://diabloscott.blogspot.com/2000_05_01_archive.html


    Trek introduced its first aluminum road bike, the Model 2000, in 1985.


    Nice pile of Cannondale catalogs, including one from 1974. (no bikes yet)
    http://www.re-cycle.com/history/Cann..._catalogs.aspx

    "That reputation proved invaluable when Cannondale introduced its first bicycle, a touring model, in 1983, followed by a road racing model and a mountain bike model in 1984. "
    http://www.vintagecannondale.com/year/1983/1983S.pdf
    http://www.vintagecannondale.com/year/1984/1984.pdf

  7. #7
    tcs
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    Interesting side note on the "early/mainstream" days of American aluminum frames: Gary Klein developed his large diameter aluminum frames and received a patent on the design. Some other companies (notably Schwinn) actually paid Mr. Klein license fees to build large diameter aluminum frames. Other companies, notably Cannondale, did not buy a Klein license.

    Mr. Klein took Cannondale to court for patent infringement. The cycling community was interested in whether the dimensions of frame tubing was something that could be patented, but in the end the question was decided on entirely different grounds. Bringing in large diameter aluminum frames built by Bill Shook and Harriet Fell (wife of the late Sheldon Brown) which predated Mr. Klein's, Cannondale successfully argued that the Klein patent was null and void due to "prior art" - you can't patent something that's already in existence and known publicly.

    tcs
    Last edited by tcs; 11-08-09 at 07:17 AM.
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    Senior Member embankmentlb's Avatar
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    bbattle, that is an amazing piece of cycling history!

    I am surprised so many considered Cannondale to be the first at the expense of Klein. Thanks bbattle for that info also.

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    Wow thank you every body! I greatly appreciate the enthusiastic responses. The Carminargent bike pics from bbattle are just absolutely beautiful; i love looking at how the joints are connected to this bike.
    I asked this question because I am working on a business paper that is comparing trek to cannondale as two different companies, I go a bit into the history of how they were started. I have always heard that Cannondale was the first company to make aluminum bikes, but couldn't back it with anything, now I understand that was Klein and a few other european companies earlier than Cannondale and even in the early the 1900s were among the first.

    Would it however, be safe to say that cannondale was the first bike company to perfect and readily make available aluminum bikes to the American cyclists and then expand europe with other bike companies following in their footsteps? This is alot of fun to learn about!

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    Senior Member yellowjeep's Avatar
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    The 30's Al bike looks flexy. I would worry about the bolts holding it together.
    When in doubt, style it out.

    How to post full size pictures

  11. #11
    It's MY mountain DiabloScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by calderarider08 View Post
    Would it however, be safe to say that cannondale was the first bike company to perfect and readily make available aluminum bikes to the American cyclists and then expand europe with other bike companies following in their footsteps? This is alot of fun to learn about!
    Nope, Klein did a lot more to perfect the design in the early years, Cannondale made it cheaper with mass production, then came up with some of its own design improvements. Both also had some hiccups along the way - pressed in BBs and cantilevered dropouts come to mind.
    http://diabloscott.blogspot.com/

  12. #12
    Senior Member embankmentlb's Avatar
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    DiabloScott hit the nail on the head. Both companies had issues at times.
    Klein was the first US manufacturer of AL frames in the modern era around 1978. I believe Motobicane was the first to offer a Vitus AL bike in the US in 1982. The Moto got extremely bad reviews in Bicycling Magazine. They called it the rubber bike although that same bike had won almost ever classic in europe. Alan bikes were somewhere in the mix also but never popular. Klein offered a unique product that was almost a piece of art & was very impressive at least in the years before C'dale. Kleins were very expensive compared to even established top of the line bikes. In 1985 C'dale began selling cheep Al frames. The quality was also cheep if compared to a Klein. They road like an I-beam but you could get a C'dale at almost any price range. Price is everything. By say 1990 Cannondale had improved the product to the point it was very good. Klein began producing more economical models also but they were always perceived as an expensive perhaps overpriced bike.

  13. #13
    Senior Member embankmentlb's Avatar
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    Scans from a 1981 Klein catalog.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    Interesting side note on the "early/mainstream" days of American aluminum frames: Gary Klein developed his large diameter aluminum frames and received a patent on the design. Some other companies (notably Schwinn) actually paid Mr. Klein license fees to build large diameter aluminum frames. Other companies, notably Cannondale, did not buy a Klein license.

    Mr. Klein took Cannondale to court for patent infringement. The cycling community was interested in whether the dimensions of frame tubing was something that could be patented, but in the end the question was decided on entirely different grounds. Bringing in large diameter aluminum frames built by Bill Shook and Harriet Fell (wife of the late Sheldon Brown) which predated Mr. Klein's, Cannondale successfully argued that the Klein patent was null and void due to "prior art" - you can't patent something that's already in existence and known publicly.

    tcs
    IIRC, there were also welded oversize aluminum bikes built by Roger Durham (of Bullseye hubs) built in the early '70's. I think these were also brought up as "prior art".

    Googling around, I found this 1890s LuMiNum with cast aluminum frame (Bicycle Quarterly Vol. 8, No. 1):


    The Monarch Silver King bikes of the '30's and '40's were also cast aluminum. There's a couple on EBay right now:

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  15. #15
    Senior Member embankmentlb's Avatar
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    Another scan from 1982.
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    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    Interesting side note on the "early/mainstream" days of American aluminum frames: Gary Klein developed his large diameter aluminum frames and received a patent on the design. Some other companies (notably Schwinn) actually paid Mr. Klein license fees to build large diameter aluminum frames. Other companies, notably Cannondale, did not buy a Klein license.

    Mr. Klein took Cannondale to court for patent infringement. The cycling community was interested in whether the dimensions of frame tubing was something that could be patented, but in the end the question was decided on entirely different grounds. Bringing in large diameter aluminum frames built by Bill Shook and Harriet Fell (wife of the late Sheldon Brown) which predated Mr. Klein's, Cannondale successfully argued that the Klein patent was null and void due to "prior art" - you can't patent something that's already in existence and known publicly.

    tcs
    Quote Originally Posted by calderarider08 View Post
    Would it however, be safe to say that cannondale was the first bike company to perfect and readily make available aluminum bikes to the American cyclists and then expand europe with other bike companies following in their footsteps? This is alot of fun to learn about!
    Cannondale didnt perfect anything and I'm going to politely disagree with tcs's comments. Cannondale straight up ripped off Kleins patents. IIRC correctly Cannondale lost the patent infringement lawsuit inregards to chainsaty/dropout design and refused to pay Klein royalties, thats why Cannondale switched over to the 'cantilever' dropouts. The failure rate of the cantileveer dropouts was exceedingly high, C-dale abandoned the design, decided they'd be better off paying Klein royalites and switched back to the original design.

    ....But I could be wrong.
    Last edited by miamijim; 11-08-09 at 04:47 PM.
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    A little known fact is that Klein learned the technique from a course he took while he was attending MIT. The professor there didn't want the proceeds from Klein's success, I suppose, since I've never heard of anything of the sort. I worked at the bike shop on MIT campus (though not associated with MIT) from 1980 to 1981, and I met at least one student who had made his own frame in the class. So Klein wasn't exactly the innovator of the technique, as he lets so many believe.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member embankmentlb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    A little known fact is that Klein learned the technique from a course he took while he was attending MIT. The professor there didn't want the proceeds from Klein's success, I suppose, since I've never heard of anything of the sort. I worked at the bike shop on MIT campus (though not associated with MIT) from 1980 to 1981, and I met at least one student who had made his own frame in the class. So Klein wasn't exactly the innovator of the technique, as he lets so many believe.
    Almost ever piece of Klein promotional material expains that it all started under a professor at MIT. He just decided to pursue the business end.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
    Nope, Klein did a lot more to perfect the design in the early years, Cannondale made it cheaper with mass production, then came up with some of its own design improvements. Both also had some hiccups along the way - pressed in BBs and cantilevered dropouts come to mind.
    Cycles Aluminums is credited in various places as being one of the earliest to manufacture aluminum frames, they did so in France in the 1890s.

    However, I distinctly remember the ad that a US company making aluminum frames put out a challenge all other framemakers. They would demonstrate that their aluminum frame was lighter, stiffer, and stronger or pay a ridiculous cash prize (in real adjusted dollars it was a considerable sum). I remember this being in the 1800s as well, though I don't remember if it was pre-1890s.

    Don't give Klein too much credit, he was very disingenuous in his claims. Most people don't know the history of what actually took place at MIT. Gary Klein didn't develop the aluminum frame at MIT, he was just one of many students in Prof. Shawn Buckley's research group looking at different materials that would be superior to steel to manufacture bicycle frames from. The aluminum frame wasn't a contribution that Klein made to the group.

    Marc Rosenbaum was the first student of that group to actually build an aluminum frame, beating Klein by almost a year. His thesis (May '74) is available to review at MIT to any interested Bicycle historians. Also look for the coverage of his bike in Bicycling and Bike in 1975. Klein builds his frame in Febuary of 1975. As a fellow student of Buckley's group he certainly had seen Rosenbaum's bike, and certainly had access to Rosenbaum's thesis.

    Gary Klein claimed a lot of things, both in the courts, and anecdotally, about being 'first', and that he 'conceived' the aluminum frame. What he always left out was that he was a part of a group that was openly discussing the use of aluminum as a frame material, and that in fact, it was not his idea at all. In fact Gary's claims in attempting to patent the oversize tube diameters (that Cannondale had perfected) were feeble at best. Gary Klein was not the first student of the research group to actually produce the aluminum frame, and Gary Klein's actual vision, his earliest frames were not, in fact, oversized at all. Rosenbaum acknowledged giving over seven hours of testimony in the Klein v. Cannondale case. There is a reason that the courts ruled in Cannondale's favor regarding "existing art" and that reason is that Klein himself was basing his frame, his designs, and his entire approach on other peoples existing work. So the next time you hear someone credit Gary Klein, remind them that he was late to the party, and give credit to Rosenbaum. Who, at MIT at least, was certainly first, and that is irrefutable.

    Marc Rosenbaum's frame, the first produced from Buckley's group, was oversized (Gary's first frames were not). This is an interesting quote from Rosenbaum, Klein's colleague in Buckley's group:

    "It took over 7 years for Klein to get his patent - in my
    opinion that was because there was nothing novel about his bike."

    Andrew Muzi of Yellow Jersey points out something interesting in that thread same thread where Rosenbaum finally put to bed, with publicly available sources, that Gary's claim of being the 'first' was entirely dishonest:

    http://www.cyclingforums.com/archive...p/t-55329.html

    Muzi points out that someone was actually racing on an oversized aluminum frame in 1972.

    I understand that its a Cambridge tradition to try and write yourself into the history or canon, Longfellow certainly inserted himself while teaching at Harvard, so Gary Klein just must have assumed that if he too could tell enough people, and assert loudly enough that he was first, that the fiction would become fact.

    As for who perfected the Aluminum frame, that wouldn't be one of Buckley's students at MIT at all. It was, in fact, a Stanford product, who was called in to Cannondale to design a carbon frame. The Standford engineer instead optimized Cannondale's aluminum bike producing the lightest frame in the world, the Cannondale 3.0. What makes the Cannondale 3.0 epic even today when compared to high-zoot titanium, or carbon bike is that it was not only the lightest bike in the world but the stiffest. It set the all-time benchmark for frame stiffness. It was also one of the strongest bicycle frames ever made.

    A Cannondale 3.0 frame, which is old school geometry and needs to be sized per the Rivendell standard of being 'uncomfortable' in terms of stand over, if equipped with a modrn 1" carbon fork, a decent ti or carbon seatpost, and modern (or vintage) components and a good light race quality wheelset is a veritable rocket bike. It is one of the fastest climbing, quickest accelerating, bikes ever made. Every Cannondale rendition that followed involved lightening the frame, making it less efficient, less strong, and more compliant.

    Its sad that the vintage/classic community doesn't recognize the Cannondale 3.0 for the mad rocket bike that it is. I'm constantly trying to share with others the attributes of this epic frame, but at the end of the day people still prefer heavier, flexier, and more inefficient lugged steel frames. Go figure.

    If not for the nightmare of the Klein pressed in Bottom Bracket I'd say Kleins were just as desirable from a vintage/classic standpoint, if you can get past the disingenuous nature of Gary Klein.

    Who, by the way, has NOTHING on Joe Montgomery and his malfeasance, but that is a different story altogether...
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    Last edited by mtnbke; 11-08-09 at 09:03 PM.

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    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by miamijim View Post
    ...I'm going to politely disagree with tcs's comments.
    Nothing you said in your post disagrees with anything I said, so exactly which comments of mine are you disagreeing with?

    Best,
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  21. #21
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    To the point of the actual question, of which company in the United States produced the first aluminum bicycles I'd have to say that I've never heard of a US company doing so prior to Luminum which after looking at the Bicycle Quarterly, is the bike I was thinking of.

    There challenge was for $500 to other bicycle manufacturers.

    Also, to another post that was erroneously made to this thread, Cannondale's dropouts are nothing like the Klein dropouts. In fact, I've never seen a dropout like the Klein dropout. Cannondale did use the cantilevered design for years, but this was because it was lighter and stiffer than traditional seat stays. Nothing whatsoever to do with Klein dropouts. I can't believe how much disinformation is out there concerning Klein and Cannondale.

    Sheesh the next thing I'll read is that Joe Montgomery of Cannondale tried to invest millions of his own money to save the company, instead of committing securities fraud and fleecing Cannondale (when they were publicly traded as symbol BIKE) of millions in fraudulent loans.

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    On a side note the Top of the Washington monument is covered in Aluminum becuase it was one of the most valuable metals available at the time

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    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by embankmentlb View Post
    Almost ever piece of Klein promotional material expains that it all started under a professor at MIT. He just decided to pursue the business end.
    I didn't know that. Thank you for filling in more of the picture.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbke View Post
    Cycles Aluminums is credited in various places as being one of the earliest to manufacture aluminum frames, they did so in France in the 1890s.

    However, I distinctly remember the ad that a US company making aluminum frames put out a challenge all other framemakers. They would demonstrate that their aluminum frame was lighter, stiffer, and stronger or pay a ridiculous cash prize (in real adjusted dollars it was a considerable sum). I remember this being in the 1800s as well, though I don't remember if it was pre-1890s.

    Don't give Klein too much credit, he was very disingenuous in his claims. Most people don't know the history of what actually took place at MIT. Gary Klein didn't develop the aluminum frame at MIT, he was just one of many students in Prof. Shawn Buckley's research group looking at different materials that would be superior to steel to manufacture bicycle frames from. The aluminum frame wasn't a contribution that Klein made to the group.

    Marc Rosenbaum was the first student of that group to actually build an aluminum frame, beating Klein by almost a year. His thesis (May '74) is available to review at MIT to any interested Bicycle historians. Also look for the coverage of his bike in Bicycling and Bike in 1975. Klein builds his frame in Febuary of 1975. As a fellow student of Buckley's group he certainly had seen Rosenbaum's bike, and certainly had access to Rosenbaum's thesis.

    Gary Klein claimed a lot of things, both in the courts, and anecdotally, about being 'first', and that he 'conceived' the aluminum frame. What he always left out was that he was a part of a group that was openly discussing the use of aluminum as a frame material, and that in fact, it was not his idea at all. In fact Gary's claims in attempting to patent the oversize tube diameters (that Cannondale had perfected) were feeble at best. Gary Klein was not the first student of the research group to actually produce the aluminum frame, and Gary Klein's actual vision, his earliest frames were not, in fact, oversized at all. Rosenbaum acknowledged giving over seven hours of testimony in the Klein v. Cannondale case. There is a reason that the courts ruled in Cannondale's favor regarding "existing art" and that reason is that Klein himself was basing his frame, his designs, and his entire approach on other peoples existing work. So the next time you hear someone credit Gary Klein, remind them that he was late to the party, and give credit to Rosenbaum. Who, at MIT at least, was certainly first, and that is irrefutable.

    Marc Rosenbaum's frame, the first produced from Buckley's group, was oversized (Gary's first frames were not). This is an interesting quote from Rosenbaum, Klein's colleague in Buckley's group:

    "It took over 7 years for Klein to get his patent - in my
    opinion that was because there was nothing novel about his bike."

    Andrew Muzi of Yellow Jersey points out something interesting in that thread same thread where Rosenbaum finally put to bed, with publicly available sources, that Gary's claim of being the 'first' was entirely dishonest:

    http://www.cyclingforums.com/archive...p/t-55329.html

    Muzi points out that someone was actually racing on an oversized aluminum frame in 1972.

    I understand that its a Cambridge tradition to try and write yourself into the history or canon, Longfellow certainly inserted himself while teaching at Harvard, so Gary Klein just must have assumed that if he too could tell enough people, and assert loudly enough that he was first, that the fiction would become fact.

    As for who perfected the Aluminum frame, that wouldn't be one of Buckley's students at MIT at all. It was, in fact, a Stanford product, who was called in to Cannondale to design a carbon frame. The Standford engineer instead optimized Cannondale's aluminum bike producing the lightest frame in the world, the Cannondale 3.0. What makes the Cannondale 3.0 epic even today when compared to high-zoot titanium, or carbon bike is that it was not only the lightest bike in the world but the stiffest. It set the all-time benchmark for frame stiffness. It was also one of the strongest bicycle frames ever made.

    A Cannondale 3.0 frame, which is old school geometry and needs to be sized per the Rivendell standard of being 'uncomfortable' in terms of stand over, if equipped with a modrn 1" carbon fork, a decent ti or carbon seatpost, and modern (or vintage) components and a good light race quality wheelset is a veritable rocket bike. It is one of the fastest climbing, quickest accelerating, bikes ever made. Every Cannondale rendition that followed involved lightening the frame, making it less efficient, less strong, and more compliant.

    Its sad that the vintage/classic community doesn't recognize the Cannondale 3.0 for the mad rocket bike that it is. I'm constantly trying to share with others the attributes of this epic frame, but at the end of the day people still prefer heavier, flexier, and more inefficient lugged steel frames. Go figure.

    If not for the nightmare of the Klein pressed in Bottom Bracket I'd say Kleins were just as desirable from a vintage/classic standpoint, if you can get past the disingenuous nature of Gary Klein.

    Who, by the way, has NOTHING on Joe Montgomery and his malfeasance, but that is a different story altogether...
    That's a lot of information.

    FWIW, I recall that Klein's thesis was for a device used to test the stiffness of a bicycle frame.

    I have a Klein Performance frame. That was the first production model and preceded the mountain bikes. IIRC, I bought the frame in 1983. Previously the Klein frames were all custom made and very expensive, like $1500 for the frame with bottom bracket.

    Also, I replaced the spindle and bearings on my Klein this year. I called all the local LBS and none of them really knew how to remove the bearings or planned on using a hammer, so I did it myself. So I don't think the bottom bracket is such a nightmare. Also note that Phil Wood makes a outboard bottom bracket for Kleins.

  25. #25
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    the pressed fit BB is back. BB30 from Cannondale and it is gaining momentum. Did someone say Cannondale was toast as a manufacturer? How do you figure then they make the lightest production road bike in the world and the lightest hardtail mountain bike? The Caad9 is probably the only full alluminum road bike that is still used by upper level athletes, it's and excellent race bike and still frequently chosen over carbon bikes.
    1 Super Record bike, 1 Nuovo Record bike, 1 Pista, 1 Road, 1 Cyclocross/Allrounder, 1 MTB, 1 Touring, 1 Fixed gear

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