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 these Cannondale ST bikes were in full production in 1983. That's a full year before Grant would even begin working at Bridgestone. The '86 ST800 is nonetheless a Grant Peterson wet dream, in terms of the build. It is hard for many to believe that the Bridgestone/BOBish/Rivendell descends from a Cannondale vision, but its true. Most people have never looked through the vintage Cannondale catalogs, and Grant has never publicly acknowledged the effect the Cannondale ST series had on his line of thinking. Don't believe everything you read. Yep, that's where the country bike ethos started, with Cannondale. Only most people don't really know that Cannondale was a tent, backpack, sleeping bag, and gear company. They only started making bike touring equipment and panniers, and wanted something to hang their wares from. They had some very innovative internal/external frame backpacks that used an hourglass aluminum frame and the rest is history. Production Cannondales were "rocket bikes" compared to steel. Cannondale changed the paradigm and cycling has NEVER been the same since. The last steel bike to win the tour would come only 11 years after the introduction of the Cannondale ST bikes to market in '83. Steel has largely been irrelevant as a performance frame material since.
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. In reading the 1973 Cannodale catalog it just seems creepy the allusions to a society that has become too complicated, and needing to return to something simpler. Reading vintage Cannondale catalogs is like reading Grant before he knew he was going to borrow Cannondale's clothing.
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. You can't begin to compare the efficiency, stiffness, ability to climb, frame strength and ability to load it down for touring with the aluminum frames with steel. Well I guess you can if you're just trying to sell heavy, poorly climbing, poorly accelerating steel bikes using Cannondale's original marketing language as your own.
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. Marketing and language that Cannondale used first, and a style that Grant borrowed from the early Cannondale catalogs.
It saddens me that these absolutely epic vintage Cannondale ST touring bikes aren't being treated with the reverence that they deserve. Ignore all opinions to the contrary. There are many cyclists out there with an agenda regarding Cannondale and Klein. Aging cyclists that enjoy the comfort of their steel bikes, but have never ridden aluminum yet alone carbon or titanium. How do the vintage Cannondale ST bikes compare to even modern bikes? They are still just as epic. Some of the strongest frames ever made for touring bikes. A Rivendell will pop lugs with the weight you can load a Cannondale down with. They climb like a mountain goat. They'll out accelerate vintage steel lightweight racing bikes, but they are relaxed geometry Sport Touring bikes. 1" quill stems, nicely spec'd, fits wide tires & fenders, and they invented the country bike ethos. Yet every day hundreds of cyclists search out for Bridgestone and Rivs, Olmos, Raleighs, and the like on the secondary market but never think to actually look for the "better" bike, the Cannondale ST. That's my opinion, my thread, and my thought.
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. It has taken light year advances in welding technology to allow others to catch up to what the master aluminum welders at Cannodnale were doing back in the day. Aluminum is much more difficult to fabricate with than steel. Anyone can take a frame building class and build their own steel frame in a week with zero knowledge, experience or frame building background. Try that with aluminum! C'dale struggled because a skilled aluminum master welder could 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? These days advances with the feeding systems, "hotstart" controls, and computer controlled current to prevent end of weld cratering largely eliminate many of the issues that required Cannondale to employ experienced and educated aluminum welders. That technology didn't exist, and back then these bikes were built by master craftsmen, not just a guy that knew how to braze a steel lug.
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, to the introduction of the paradigm changing bike in '83, 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 and sells cheap crap instead. 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 ST 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 ST800 does. That's before you stop riding it with a big stupid grin to appreciate the Suntour Superbe Pro components, Brooks saddle, Nitto handlebars and stem, the legendary Sugino AT touring crank. These bikes were just simply incredible.
There is enough rhetoric out there to the contrary. Just trying to balance the radical steel cult 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 italian Cinelli leather tape matching the Brooks Saddle and Cannondale leather straps that fed through the Suntour Superbe Pro pedals, then ride away with a obnoxious smirk. They can go post pictures of their Riv on instagram or something. You'll be having too much fun actually RIDING your ST 800.