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Old 01-06-13, 08:48 PM   #1
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Characteristics of European vs Asian bikes?

I've heard people mention differences in ride characteristics and other differences between European and Asian bikes.. is this due to components and materials used?

I've almost exclusively ridden asian bikes.. really I can only think of one non-Asian bike I've ridden and that was a Peugeot that I had very briefly

Is this some kind of "feeling" or are there objective differences due to construction/materials/etc? I mean if you had bikes with identical geometry, wheels and tires, but one was made in Italy with Columbus and another made in Japan with Tange, would they ride significantly differently, so much that one might be able to tell in a blind test?
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Old 01-06-13, 09:44 PM   #2
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IMO, the differences are more related to the specific model than the country of origin. A Tange Champion frame to me is indistinguishable from a Reynolds or Columbus frame.

It seems to me that the greatest differences are in the styling. This is a generalization of course, but when it comes to styling, I think it is often possible to spot which 70's/80's bike is English, or French, or Italian - but it can be a more challenging telling the country of origin for Japanese bike in the absence of a headbadge.

If you ask me, my Fuji Finest looks vaguely French, my Nishiki Int'l looks slightly English, and my Miyata 610 looks a little bit Italian.





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Old 01-06-13, 09:48 PM   #3
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This could very well turn into a hornets nest, and purists on either side will have very logical and compelling arguments.

I have owned and ridden multiple European, Asian and American made steel bicycles. The is generally something to be said for all of them. We all just have our preferences.
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Old 01-06-13, 09:56 PM   #4
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I think the mentality difference between the Europeans and Japanese play a significant role in how each bike feels and performs.

For instance, the Italians have been building bikes for racing for over 100 years now. That's a century worth of knowledge, skill and focus on one thing, fast bikes. The Japanese cannot match that. They cannot match the TDF and Giro wins or the victories in the Classics and the feedback the Italians get from the likes of Merkx, Coppi and a bunch of other great riders. The Japanese can build a very competent bike, but I would not take one for racing over an Italian bike. A properly built Italian bike in SL steel just urges you to go faster, take turns harder and tighter and tromp on the pedals uphill. While my Miyata is a very good bike, it doesn't quite give me that feeling. It's a bit more relaxed, where I'm not sure the Italians even know how to build a relaxed frame. Is there even such a thing as an Italian "touring" bike? The Italian frame just seem's to have one mission - go fast. The Japanese philosophy doesn't have that single mindedness nor are they steeped in race history, which is where so much of the Italian knowledge on speed comes from.

I'm sure other's here will disagree and point out great Japanese racing bikes that are just as good as the Italians, but I'm not sure they could change my mind. Having ridden both, I think there is a distinctly different feel to both of them...
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Old 01-06-13, 10:28 PM   #5
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It really in my view has everything to do with decade and price point.

In the 70's Japanese bikes were just becoming bike shop accepted. They had for a given price point better components than a typical european bike. Gitane accepted in the USA market spec bikes more Japanese parts than Peugeot who was very Eurocentric and Raleigh who did not accept Japanese components until the decade was almost over.
Here is one example of different views on bike design, Jappanese bikes that got kickstands often used a 285 cut Esge kickstand, Peugeot and Raleigh 265 for the same stand. The Japanese bikes had a higher bottom bracket, which did not help handling. Japanese bikes also had by and large a longer rear triangle, long top tubes in small sizes and short top tubes in larger sizes, they made do with just raising the top tube often and did not lengthen the bike as it got bigger.

In the 80's this began to change as the Japanese had a wide ranging portfolio of components in the upper and mid range price points and created frames to match, even then though they did not often get it right, but this may also be the product planners and not necessarily the mfgs.

The upper end, a true racing machine that was accepted by racers was a big hurdle. The Japanese and then the bikes coming from Taiwan had better luck with the triathlete crowd in selling a mid and upper mid range bike that was quite capable but lacked acceptance by the mass start racers.
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Old 01-06-13, 10:32 PM   #6
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There was a 1982 issue of Bicycling that compared high end Italian bikes to high end Japanese bikes. No winner was chosen but the Japanese were significantly stiffer...
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Old 01-06-13, 10:35 PM   #7
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There was a 1982 issue of Bicycling that compared high end Italian bikes to high end Japanese bikes. No winner was chosen but the Japanese were significantly stiffer...
Where was most of the advertising from?
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Old 01-06-13, 10:35 PM   #8
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I too think it is mostly preconceived notions....what really comes into play is geometry, tubing, construction and size of the frame... At least as far as how a frame feels when ridden.

Of course, there will be variables that contribute to the feel, like which rims, tires, spokes and how they are tuned. Are the bars and stem steel or alloy, etc. There could be any number of combinations that might each feel differently to a specific rider.


In the end, an all Italian ride, with Columbus tubes and Italian parts will certainly feel superior to the rest ! Hehehehe.....yes, yes, I'm a certified Italophile !

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Old 01-06-13, 11:10 PM   #9
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Here is a link to a 1987 article where Bicycle Guide magazine asked Bruce Gordon to build two otherwise identical racing bikes. One was made with Tange Prestige and the other was made with Columbus SL. I found it to be an interesting read.

http://bhovey.com/Masi/Scans/Bicycle...7_03Steel1.htm
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Old 01-06-13, 11:46 PM   #10
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The dropout eyelets are more ...nevermind
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Old 01-06-13, 11:52 PM   #11
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For me, Italian bikes just seem to have a little something extra. Maybe it's just frame flex or steeper angles, but I haven't experienced it in any Asian, American or French frames. For the bikes I've owned, I could definitely pick the Italians in a Blindfold test.

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Old 01-07-13, 06:46 AM   #12
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Where was most of the advertising from?
Ha!
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Old 01-07-13, 09:04 AM   #13
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I have found that typical Japan, the build work is top notch (think brazing, lug fit, and so on). Finish work on mid grade and even lower bikes were quite good. Japanese chrome has been much, much better on the bikes I have owned.

Ride wise, I am not good enough to be able to tell much difference.
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Old 01-07-13, 09:04 AM   #14
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I mean if you had bikes with identical geometry, wheels and tires, but one was made in Italy with Columbus and another made in Japan with Tange, would they ride significantly differently, so much that one might be able to tell in a blind test?
Most likely not, but that's not the difference between Asian and European bikes, at least from the C&V era. The significant differences were in the frames, IMO. High-end Euro bikes (Columbus or Reynolds tubing, but production-line built) tended to have lighter tubing and better frame geometries, at least outside the 54-56 cm range that everyone in Japan seems to ride. Especially in my size range (63-66cm) the geometry differences can be huge. 74 degree seat and 72 head angles may work on a 54, but scale that up to 64, and you've got something that handles like a shopping cart. And a 56cm top tube? Anybody know where I can get a 170mm stem??

And then you've got the Brits: Reynolds tubing, but again with the weird geometry. F'rinstance a 65cm (25.5") Raleigh Competition GS had 74 degree parallel angles and a 57cm top tube. Oh good. Now I only need a 150mm stem and a seatpost with about 6 inches of setback. Sheesh.

But getting back to the original question: for my money, the difference in C&V bikes from Europe and Asia comes down to tubing and geometry, with the Euros winning hands down.

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Old 01-07-13, 09:08 AM   #15
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It's funny how times and impressions change.

When the Japanese broke into the American consumer market with everything from watches, to cars to guitars and bikes, they were all pretty much scoffed at as low-end, much like Chinese goods are now. And in those days, that perception was pretty much right on. But these days, a lot of those Japanese products we laughed at are now looked at with some desirability, and the prices for that stuff reflects that new found respect.

But in the 70's, it had to be an Italian bike to get any street cred. Riding an Italian said you were a serious rider who had money and you knew good bikes. All of us had that one friend that had that one Italian road bike that made us drool with envy. It spoke of hand-built quality and sleek, fast, and innovative designs. Japanese bikes were like Toyota's, decent for transportation, but it was just bland, mass produced white bread, vanilla and un-exciting. Nobody gave you a second look on one and nobody drooled when they saw your new Japanese bike.

So again, I think the two different philosophies made for two very different bikes that can be felt and is real.
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Old 01-07-13, 09:36 AM   #16
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I have owned, built and ridden hundreds of vintage road bicycles. I have, on purpose, compared them all to each other. I am not a great rider but I honestly belief that not all bikes are created equal. Some are better than others and country of origin has nothing to do with it when ride quality is the issue.

That said, from a collector's point of view, and this is only my opinion, the general order of preference is: Italian, French, English and then Japanese.

Of course, you must also consider the situation the bicycle was built for.

A racing bicycle is not built for comfort - it is built to go fast. A touring bicycle is not built to go fast - it is built to go far. Try touring on my Cyclops or racing with my Motobecane, and you will see what I mean.
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Old 01-07-13, 09:43 AM   #17
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I don't really think you can make generalizations about bikes from the same country, let alone the same continent. A Colnago doesn't ride like a De Rosa and a Raleigh International doesn't ride like a Motobecane Grand Record. I think Japanese bikes might be more similar to one another based on Japanese business integration and imitation (they were often all listening to the same engineer/consultants), but I don't think there is a European quality to a bike. I haven't ridden enough Japanese bikes in the same class to really consider whether they had a sameness. I would say I thought my Miyata 916 rode more similarly to my Merlin than any other bike I had (and I consider that high praise).

As far as desirability and collect-ability, I know a lot less about Japanese road bikes and the steel ones aren't usually in my favorite period (early-mid 90s or pre-80s). Japanese bikes dominate the 80s, and that's just not my favorite period. I think they generally get more respect for their touring bikes and sports tourers; I know that I LOVE my partially Japanese Koga Miyata and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I think my wife's Panasonic DX-3000 is an awesome, smart bike - especially for its status at the time. Usually collectors want the most expensive and desirable from their childhood (or earlier) and the Japanese bikes were usually marketed on price point rather than superiority...they didn't have the tour wins (though that's just a reflection of sponsorship and tradition). It doesn't make them lesser quality bikes or riders, I just think they are less likely to warrant a museum exhibit. I really love the Japanese perfectionist approach to mass production and I think their paint and workmanship were fantastic at a given price.

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Old 01-07-13, 10:01 AM   #18
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Don't you guys believe that the 100+ years of professional racing experience had a huge impact on Italian (and French to some degree) bike building?

The feedback that the Italian builders got from all that racing and the riders that rode their bikes could simply not be matched by the Japanese, thus the two bikes cannot truly be compared? And yes, the rides will be quite different and noticeable because of that...
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Old 01-07-13, 10:10 AM   #19
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I'm not sure that I buy that to be honest...that expertise was available to Japanese companies (for a price) and it isn't that hard to take a protractor and tape measure to a winning bike and figure out the angles. I do think that the Japanese interest in track racing might influence their approach.

Shimano was certainly putting out a superior product to Campagnolo from the mid-80s up through the release of Campagnolo Ergo gruppos without that experience.

Edit - there might be a universal quality to Euro bikes...crappy paint!

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Old 01-07-13, 10:11 AM   #20
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the Japanese were significantly stiffer...
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Old 01-07-13, 10:27 AM   #21
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...that expertise was available to Japanese companies (for a price) and it isn't that hard to take a protractor and tape measure to a winning bike and figure out the angles.
+1 Reverse engineering(nice name for copying) has been around for a long time and continues today. 100 yrs of experience is nice but every builder does not start from that same point from 100 yrs ago, making that argument pretty much irrelevant. I remember reading the Bruce Gordon article referenced above when it first came out and I believe the results say it all---its all in eye(and mind) of the beholder, totally subjective.
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Old 01-07-13, 10:39 AM   #22
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The real differences (IMHO) are in the eye of the beholder. I'm relatively new to this whole C/V business, but I find it fascinating.

For some reason, all the bikes I have been involved in have been made in Japan. One of them, however, has a frame made by Colnago, probably under a licensing arrangement (1985 Celo Europa). I posted a thread on it a while back, and the attitude by some seemed to be generally dismissive because it was made in Japan and has Japanese components (105's), heaven forbid. So maybe it's just an 'authorized' copy, but in truth, the line is so blurred, I don't see a significant difference.

Don't get me wrong.......I would love to own an honest-to-goodness Campy-equipped, handmade Italian bike someday. It won't be for the technology, but for the appreciatioin of the art and the craftsmanship. Those things don't contribute a lot to how well they ride, but are of inestimable value for how they make us feel when we ride them. But a mass-produced bike? I doubt there's a lot of difference between the bikes that were built in great numbers on the European continent, or in Asia. YMMV.
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Old 01-07-13, 10:42 AM   #23
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Ha!

As I recall (and I'd be tempted to agree with), the Bicycling article cited the Japanese track history as an influence, and also cited the Italian road racing tradition as the motivation for their all-day comfort design....

Of course, all bikes tended to shift to being stiffer, having more aggressive geometry, and having tighter clearances in the 80s.... The Japanese may just have been leading the charge on that. Bear in mind, this article compared top of the line bikes, not sport tourers. Guerciotti, Rossin, and DeRosa vs. 3Rensho, Fuji, and Miyata.

IMHO, the changes in style and ride philosophy have everything to do with marketing and sales, and little to do with heritage...

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Old 01-07-13, 10:48 AM   #24
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I don't really think you can make generalizations about bikes from the same country, let alone the same continent. A Colnago doesn't ride like a De Rosa and a Raleigh International doesn't ride like a Motobecane Grand Record. I think Japanese bikes might be more similar to one another based on Japanese business integration and imitation (they were often all listening to the same engineer/consultants), but I don't think there is a European quality to a bike. I haven't ridden enough Japanese bikes in the same class to really consider whether they had a sameness. I would say I thought my Miyata 916 rode more similarly to my Merlin than any other bike I had (and I consider that high praise).

As far as desirability and collect-ability, I know a lot less about Japanese road bikes and the steel ones aren't usually in my favorite period (early-mid 90s or pre-80s). Japanese bikes dominate the 80s, and that's just not my favorite period. I think they generally get more respect for their touring bikes and sports tourers; I know that I LOVE my partially Japanese Koga Miyata and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I think my wife's Panasonic DX-3000 is an awesome, smart bike - especially for its status at the time. Usually collectors want the most expensive and desirable from their childhood (or earlier) and the Japanese bikes were usually marketed on price point rather than superiority...they didn't have the tour wins (though that's just a reflection of sponsorship and tradition). It doesn't make them lesser quality bikes or riders, I just think they are less likely to warrant a museum exhibit. I really love the Japanese perfectionist approach to mass production and I think their paint and workmanship were fantastic at a given price.


And those are some of the reasons I love my Italian bikes... I don't want mass production perfectionism, or computer designed robotically constructed bicycles.

I want something that shows the human touch and the passion of a master builder.

A file mark here, a slight change in the cutout of a lug there..... Something that exemplifies the term "Labor of Love" .... Something that I can picture in my mind being crafted, individually, in an age old workshop, lamps focused on the work at hand, a master at work filing the end of the tubing that he has selected because it "sounded just so" to his knowing ears when pinged with a deft fingertip..... the lingering odors of brazing, bicycle grease, old hardwood benches, espresso and freshly baked bread all blended together....

There ya go...you want a mass produced pop-art poster or the Mona Lisa ?

Yes, give me a no-name, Columbus steel bicycle, produced by a master in a quaint old shop anywhere in Italy, where building and racing bicycles has been a passion for more than a hundred years !

- Joe





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Old 01-07-13, 10:56 AM   #25
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Sorry, can't help. Never owned a Japanese bicycle.
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