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Old 06-20-11, 05:44 PM   #1
zsmithku
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Classic Bike Advice

Forum,

I would love to garner some knowledge on particular bike brands to look for when searching for a classic steel frame bike. I would like an early to mid-1990s bike, but am willing to go older if the find is right.

I would love to know what are great frames, components for an era, and extras to look for that can help differentiate the field.
Any opinions and knowledge would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
zsmithku
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Old 06-20-11, 05:56 PM   #2
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Since you can't just walk into a store and buy what you want, why not research the bikes which are available to you by scouring craigslist or ebay, then doing some research by googling online catalogs? Unless, of course, you don't mind paying a hundred bucks to ship a bike cross-country.
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Old 06-20-11, 06:07 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. I have been doing as much research as I can for the past few weeks. Scouring craigslist and eBay and have come to the point where I'd like some good solid opinion. I don't necessarily know if a Univega frame from 1989 is better than a Japanese made Bianchi of the same era, or if Suntour components are worth keeping, etc. A lot of these older companies don't exist anymore and finding old catalogs from 20+ years ago isn't the easiest of feats either. Everyone has an opinion and I'm all ears!
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Old 06-20-11, 07:25 PM   #4
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Each brand has a wide range of bike offerings, so it can't be said one is better than another, comparisons have to be made on a model by model basis. The mid-late 80's are a very rich field to choose from, as long as you discriminate between the quality brands and department store bikes. Anything Japanese or Japanese made will be decent, Peugeots were still in their heyday as French made bikes. Keep on looking & reading on-line, figure out the sort of bike you like & what you're willing to pay, and be ready to pounce when something likely turns up on your local CL. Your first purchase may or may not satisfy you long term, but you will definitely learn from it. Keep this thread going with your questions and we'll help as much as we can. One of the stickies at the top of this forum has catalog links. Also, search for Randy Jawa's "My Ten Speeds" webpage, it is a great primer for those new to the hobby.
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Old 06-20-11, 07:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zsmithku View Post
Forum,

I would love to garner some knowledge on particular bike brands to look for when searching for a classic steel frame bike.
Sorry, it really doesn't work that way. Almost every brand made some doggy bikes, some good bikes, and some great bikes. A better bet is to learn what makes a bike good to great, and then don't worry about the particular brand. Its all about what the frame is made out of, the grade of components, and the overall condition. Search is your friend, component grades and tubing types have been discussed hundreds of times.

My last "great bike" find was a Quintana Roo. I can tell you, Quintana Roo was a brand I knew zero about. But I did know that nine speed Dura Ace is pretty good/excellent stuff, and a Merlin built Titanium frame is really good as well. And the price was very attractive. So I was in my car driving two minutes after seeing that ad. So now I own a Quintana Roo.

You do not need old catalogs. I would do more studying before starting the search. With some education, you will be able to quickly tell if a bike is good or not, and if the price is a deal.

As far as your question comparing a Univega versus a Bianchi, some Univegas were better, some were worse. Again, its all about tubing, component grade, and condition. And of course, the bike needs to be your size, unless you are going into the bike rehab business.

Last edited by wrk101; 06-20-11 at 07:42 PM.
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Old 06-20-11, 10:07 PM   #6
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Sound advice gents. Appreciate it. I'll keep the thread alive with specific questions when I actually find something I may be interested in purchasing and/or discussing seriously.

Thanks again,
zsmithku
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Old 06-20-11, 10:10 PM   #7
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read the whole c&v forum and you'll be good
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Old 06-21-11, 05:20 PM   #8
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zmithku, I think the hot weather is exacerbating our naturally curmudgeonly and/or flippant natures - don't take it personally. You are asking good questions and mapleleafs-13 has a point, if you search this forum on particular bike brands & models, you'll learn a lot.
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Old 06-21-11, 05:38 PM   #9
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Spend a few minutes, of hours if you wish, reviewing the Bicycle Quality information. That will get you started in understanding what constitutes a worth while bicycle. Armed with that knowledge, you will be better prepared for that real gem when it comes along.
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Old 06-21-11, 06:12 PM   #10
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Keep the SunTours.
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Old 06-21-11, 06:17 PM   #11
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Spend a few minutes, of hours if you wish, reviewing the Bicycle Quality information. That will get you started in understanding what constitutes a worth while bicycle. Armed with that knowledge, you will be better prepared for that real gem when it comes along.
+1.
randyjawa's site is very comprehensive and is an amazing primer on vintage bikes.
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Old 06-22-11, 01:39 AM   #12
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Ignore the brand and look at the components: This will give you a big clue as to the bike's general quality.
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Old 06-22-11, 05:09 AM   #13
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here are some of my tips,

1. I look for a bike with out eyelets for racks/fenders - these tend to be the lighter, higher end bikes.

2. know your frame materials, look for reynolds 531 (diagonal numbers are best) and columbus tubing.

3. know your components and their values, clotterd cranks vs stronglight 93, 49d, mafac racers and mafac raids, steel seat posts and flutted posts, steel rims vs alu rims etc

4. campagnolo - always good, unless its campagnolo valentino. chrome, I like chrome.

5. size - learn to know a bike size just from a photo. I ride 67cm - 60cm bikes and try and only buy bikes in that size range.

6. learn to spot bent forks, and avoid bikes that are in very bad condition.

If you post a picture of a bike here some one will comment on it,
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Old 06-22-11, 07:07 AM   #14
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Classic Bike Advice? Um, check your tires...

kidding. Welcome to the forum.

Hard to give general advice on early-mid 90's classic steel, because that was the time when a lot of it disappeared.
I think I'd look mid-late 80's instead, and for the price, that's kind of a golden age for great Japanese steel frames.

Just keep an open mind and they'll come to you. Know your size.

Always test-ride until you know a lot about the bikes you want.

Feel free to ask questions.

Not that I'm subjective........... uh...Centurion.
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Old 06-23-11, 01:27 PM   #15
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Lots of good suggestions already, +1 on the Centurions.

More suggestions:

Note some of the old timers here on this forum, I've never seen so many beautiful restored bikes and have gained tips and some cases some serious envy. Most of them are real artisans and may have one time even managed a bike shop. Hang on the Mechanics forum to get an idea what problems you may encounter and how to fix them. Check the Vendor area for good sources on parts and who to stay away from.

If possible, examine the bike well before purchasing, look for dents, cracks, and amount of rust if any on the bike. Some folks don't seem to mind rust but I do, especially when it starts to perforate your tubes. I have a Mercian I'm saving for a possible restoration hat has a rust perforated fork steerer tube. Riding that and having it snap would not bode well.

Besides the make model and components check the wear on the existing items, if overly worn you may have an expensive rebuild on your hands but more importantly, safety issues. If the owner allows, ride the bike to see if the chain skips on certain gears, how it steers, note any odd noises, and check your brakes to see if they work. Are the wheels pretty centered in the dropouts and are the wheels fairly true (not spinning in an eliptical pattern - bent axle)? If possible, note the area closest to the largest cog in the rear and look closely at the spokes where they meet the hub. If the chain has fallen off into this area the spokes will be bent and will eventually break.

If you buy online, sight unseen based on a few pictures, caveat emptor..... I for one will no longer buy items sight unseen unless knowing the source personally.
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Old 06-23-11, 02:11 PM   #16
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My one tip for anyone shopping is focus on the frame, both the quality of the construction (tubing grade, etc), and the condition of the paint and decals. A great frame with crappy components can easily be upgraded and made into a great bike. But regardless of how much money you spend, a crappy frame will upgrade to an average bike at best, and cost you a lot of money to get there. So its all about the frame (and fork of course).
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Old 06-23-11, 02:48 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobbieTunes View Post
Classic Bike Advice? ...

Hard to give general advice on early-mid 90's classic steel, because that was the time when a lot of it disappeared.
I think I'd look mid-late 80's instead, and for the price, that's kind of a golden age for great Japanese steel frames.

...Centurion.
Brand bias, but Centurion had been shrinking to the Diamondback brand by the 90's No?

I would search out 90's issues of Bicycle Guide magazine, the later 80's too. Probably the better road bike mag of the time in the USA. Library's even ebay from time to time have copies to read or buy, even sets.

To be polite for what you ask is a big ask to be answered in a forum post, one could write a book on the subject, albeit an opinionated one.
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