I stumble onto epic amazing bikes a lot. More than my fair share actually, probably due to living in cycling obsessed places (Madison, Boulder, etc.). However, it isn't often that I ever stumble across something I can actually enjoy. I ride between a 68cm and a 70cm bike, and while 27" (~68cm) steel bikes are ubiquitous from Raleigh, Schwinn, Panasonic, Fuji, etc. I never ever find anything that actually works for me. Large triangles and the tubing used for flexy vintage lightweights (even the best stuff) does not build good bikes. It just doesn't. Maybe, you'd have to be 6'6" and use 205mm custom cranks to realize this, but I'm just gonna ask that you trust me on this one.
Anyway, my grail finds are vintage Cannondale ST bikes, which were actually built in a 27" (68.5cm) size. Just epic bikes. Think a randonneur or Rivendell. While not the series 3.0 frames, the ST series while "unoptimized" (if that's a word) are still magical. Even with front and rear racks, fenders, large tires, and triple bottle cages they still climb like a mountain goat, sprint like a jack rabbit, and are phenomenally light, and freakin' incredibly strong. The lugged steel Tange touring forks are just perfect for these aluminum frames, and I don't know why they just are.
The '86 & '87 ST800 spec was just mind blowing. As I've posted elsewhere just a Grant wetdream:
Honey Brooks (or Honey Ideal) saddles with copper rivets
Suntour Superbe Pro triple front derailleur
Suntour Superbe Pro rear derailleur w/GT Long cage (only place this exists)
Suntour Supere Pro seatpost ('87 had American Classic)
Suntour Superbe Pro pedals w/clips and Cannondale leather straps to match saddle
Suntour Superbe Pro indexing downtube shifters (transformed by Kelly Take-Offs)
Dia-Compe NGC 982 cantilevers actually in black (rare as hen's teeth)
Nitto Technomic stem (1" quill)
Nitto Randonneur bars
Cinelli honey leather bar tape to match saddle/straps
Stronglight Delta 1" threaded/quill headset
Sansin hubs w/Wolber 58 Super Champions
Sugino AT crankset 28/44/48 half-step
Light touring tires w/Kevlar belt (this is in '86/'87 keep in mind)
Fenders spec'd and frame fits wide tires
Front and Rear Racks
Triple Water bottle cages
The Anthracite metallic paint is just epically beautiful with the tan/gold C'dale badging. You actually have to see one of these to appreciate 'em as photos don't do them justice. C'Dale actually painted the front and rear racks AND the three water bottle cages to match in Anthracite. Just jaw droppingly hauntingly beautiful.
You have to actually see the bike to appreciate it, just the way the whole comes together just so:
Keep in mind this is in '86. This bike is spec'd and being manufactured long before Grant becomes "Grant." It is hard for many to believe that the Bridgestone/BOBish/Rivendell descends from a Cannondale vision, but its true. Cannondale's very vision started with bicycle touring. Don't believe everything you read. Perhaps there is a reason that one of the tenants of that cult being "steel is real" lies in the history that their vision first belonged to a bunch of folks building aluminum bikes in Pennsylvania.
Cannondale started in '73 as a company that made gear for Backpacking and "BicyclePacking." Some of the early vintage imagry of the bicycle tourists using their Cannondale Bikepack Touring system of handlebar, saddle, front and rear panniers, look uncomfortably like the imagery that you'll find today on the Rivendell website that crafts Grant's brand. You've got to actually look through these early catalogs and advertising while having the Riv site up to actually appreciate how similar these companies were/are.
Link to 1973 Cannondale Backpacking and BikePacking catalog:
Keep in mind what Grant espouses with his S24o (sub twenty-four lb/Overnight) philosophy while perusing the early C'dale material. Almost a little creepy considering the character Grant has crafted for himself as going against the grain and as an iconoclast.
Don't believe it? Compare what Grant's vision was for Bridgestone in '85 and '86 to what Cannondale's vistion for cycling was was starting from '73 to when they started producing bicycles in '83. Cannondale bicycles began with the vision of a randonneur bike. Look at the specs of the very first '83 build. Follow the evolution, always an all-purpose fits fenders/racks sport touring do everything bike through '84 and '85. See how absolutely epic the build becomes for the ST800 in '86 & '87:
Now compare that to what Grant envisions in '85 and '86. I'm calling it. Rivendell today, all the Grant beliefs/preferences are/were what Cannondale was in '86 with a single exception: Steel frames handcrafted in Japan instead of aluminum handcrafted frames in Pennsylvania. Sadly, the rhetoric of "steel is real" contributed in some manner to the demise of the 'real' Cannondale, through the Joe Montgomery era, the BIKE public company, the reorganization, and into the Dorel property.
However, everything that a Bobish bike "is" and everything that a Rivendell "is" actually was a production Cannondale before it was ever adopted and brought to market by Grant.
This will turn the stomachs of some of the card carrying members of the BOBish cult, and those with heavy boat anchor "art bikes." However, I'm just sharing with you some historical factual information from which to cut through the Rivendell rhetoric and dogmatic marketing.
It saddens me that these absolutely epic vintage Cannondale ST touring bikes aren't being restored (paint 'em please. They are more worthy of a Joe Bell or CyclArt respray than anything lugged, but do NOT get 'em powder coated. The heat treatment that makes a C'dale frame what it is does not tolerate the high temps of the powder coating process. Additionally the aluminum itself anneals. Ignore all opinions to the contrary.). Yet every day hundreds of cyclists search out for Bridgestone and Rivs, Olmos, Raleighs, and the like on the secondary market. So that's my post and my thread.
Please share your opinions, thoughts (even if they are regurgitated beliefs packaged and re-packaged for you from the Riv and BOBish clan) and clamor, if you feel the need against these bikes, as they are definitely not steel, and therefore stand against all that you believe in.
However, these handcrafted aluminum bicycles take more technical skill to craft than all but a very handful of the very best bicycle builders in the world possess. The skill level required to build a lugged steel bike compared to that required to weld thin wall oversize aluminum can not be reasonably compared. There is a reason that thinwall oversize aluminum frames aren't mass produced. You think they are, but those are THICK walled aluminum monstrocities are comparable to the epic vintage Cannondale and Klein's in the same way that a Schwinn stovepipe bike compares to a vintage Guerciotti/Olmo/Colgano. Compare what Gunnar/Waterford or Trek paid their top steel frame builders to what the average Cannondale framebuilder was paid. One was low rent, and still is. C'dale has always struggle to remain viable because a skilled aluminum welder can always find employment in shipbuilding, defense contracting, etc. Anyone can learn to braze a lugged bike in a weekend. Where is that skill going to get you a high paying job?
So give 'em some respect. Let's find a way that you can retain the love affair that of the Italian grand-master holding a torch in one hand and a cappuccino in the other, and I'm not challenging any of the fundamental beliefs of the BOBish cult (save one). However, let's give credit where its due, and the reality is that vintage Cannondale Touring bikes were relevant and significant for the vision that existed from '73, but also for what they were in production.
An '86 Cannondale ST800 is an epic bike. It is truly a grail find. It has components and kit on it that Grant would sell you today, if only he could, but he can't so he doesn't. Instead he tries to convince you that the Dia-Compe Silver shifter is somehow special in its own right. Trust me, Grant was right the first time when he explained that Japanese (not modern Taiwanese which he mostly sells now) components in the mid-80s were the high water mark for engineering, fit, precision, and finish. The hand polishing and obsession with quality are just phenomenal on stuff from that era.
Go buy a Rivendell, and buy the best Riv Grant can sell you today. Build it up with modern dream components. It won't be half the bike that the C'dale vintage ST800 was. It will be a boat anchor, it will climb like a dog, it will make you hate bikepacking. It won't put the smile on your face that the C'dale does.
There is enough rhetoric out there to the contrary. Just trying to balance the radical steel with some truth and historical balance. I'm just sayin'...
and now you know. You'll never look at Rivendell the same again, and you'll have a smile on your face every time you see a Riv/BOB clone with their shellac'd tape etc. Remind 'em that the "original" Cannondale their bike imitates had Cinelli leather tape and ride away with a obnoxious smirk.