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Why were bikes chrome plated?

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Why were bikes chrome plated?

Old 10-21-17, 05:23 PM
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Why were bikes chrome plated?

I have a 1972 Nishiki Professional whose frame and forks are chrome plated. This was the top of the line Nishiki made in 1972. Why was this frame chrome plated before being primer coated and then painted? I have seen Japanese "Silk" bikes that were also chrome plated, was this common, or, reserved only for top of the line models. I would think the latter as it would add another step and cost into the manufacturing of the bike.

I know that today finding someone who will chrome plate parts is a real search and then getting them to do a high quality chrome plating a similar task.

Thanks for your history, recollections of this question.
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Old 10-21-17, 05:39 PM
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Chrome plating of fork ends front and back in the "Italian style", is a classic look, probably started to add some protection in the areas most likely to be scratched by things like wrenches when removing the wheels.

Plating of the head lugs was probably a cosmetic statement, whereby the details of good workmanship showed out better.

When plating, some makers masked off the rest, but others simply plated the whole part, and painted over. In most of the frames that were fully plated, they would only polish the areas they planned to leave. So, you don't have the option of removing the paint to find a shiny frame underneath.
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Old 10-21-17, 05:45 PM
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I as understand it there are or were two schools of thought. One was just to help protect the frame and as stated they were left rough and painted over. There is also a school that says it did something to the metallurgy and made the frames stiffer.

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Old 10-21-17, 05:51 PM
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How about for the same reasons they used to chrome plate car bumpers, bling and protection from the elements.
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Old 10-21-17, 05:57 PM
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The 1st fully chromed race bikes that I saw were track bikes whose finish gets banged up in normal handling to/from events, in the many gear changes for types of races and as part of the inevitable contact & crashes. Elegant is a fully chromed Paramount P-14.

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Old 10-21-17, 06:20 PM
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Chrome plating under the velodrome lights just looks so Styling.
Gotta love chrome plated spokes too and mega polished Scheeren rims.
Chrome bars and stems...
Morelon, Nicholson, Trentin...
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Old 10-21-17, 07:16 PM
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Not necessarily top of the line, although those are the ones you commonly see. The 1972 entry level Bottecchia Special were plated then painted over, and with the paint quality back in 1972, it showed quickly. Mine started the flaking within a few weeks of being purchased new.

As @FBinNY stated above, the chrome in those frames painted over were frequently left with a rough, unpolished surface since it wasn't visible. Not easily polished out, or even possible in some cases.

Bill
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Old 10-21-17, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Bianchigirll View Post
There is also a school that says it did something to the metallurgy and made the frames stiffer.
Yes, the ASFE* has made this claim often.

Chrome is *****in' and sexy. And that protection thing.

*ASFE = American Society of Fraudulent Engineers. Crap steel and modern super steels are just about exactly the same stiffness if made in the same gauge. Stronger steels allow for thinner walls.
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Old 10-21-17, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
Yes, the ASFE* has made this claim often.

Chrome is *****in' and sexy. And that protection thing.

*ASFE = American Society of Fraudulent Engineers. Crap steel and modern super steels are just about exactly the same stiffness if made in the same gauge. Stronger steels allow for thinner walls.
Yes and if you take advantage of the added strength and go with thinner walls, you get a more flexible frame. BITD before stiff was king, that added flex was considered to obey a good thing.
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Old 10-21-17, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
Yes, the ASFE* has made this claim often.

Chrome is *****in' and sexy. And that protection thing.

*ASFE = American Society of Fraudulent Engineers. Crap steel and modern super steels are just about exactly the same stiffness if made in the same gauge. Stronger steels allow for thinner walls.
That one is going to be remembered, excellent name for a "Professional Society", for some folks I have encountered. Winner Gugie, definitely a winner.
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Old 10-21-17, 07:31 PM
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Because there is a basic human need for shiny:

.
...it's in Maslow's self actualization hierarchy.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
Chrome '73 Paramount 001.jpg (313.2 KB, 905 views)
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Old 10-21-17, 07:38 PM
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Durability of finish first, bling later.

DD
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Old 10-21-17, 07:52 PM
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I think there were some Italian brands that painted a translucent paint over chrome (I think). Anyway, it created a shiny deep rich paint.

Maybe Pinerello or Torelli.

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Old 10-21-17, 07:55 PM
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^^^ Chromovelato finish, beautiful workmanship!
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Old 10-21-17, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Drillium Dude View Post
Durability of finish first, bling later.

DD
FWIW, when I find neglected bikes with rust, the chrome areas always have more rust issues than painted areas. For some reason, chrome seems to be more susceptible to rust. And once it gets pitting, it will never look good.

On the other hand, I love chrome bikes.

Definitely NOT limited to top of the line. Some lower end bikes were chromed, while some top of the line had no chrome. My chrome Katakura Silk was really a mid-level bike which came with nothing special Suntour LePree components. Since mine was parted out by the prior owner, and acquired as a bare frame, it now sports Suntour Superbe Pro components.

+10 Translucent paint over chrome looks fantastic.
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Old 10-21-17, 10:54 PM
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Thanks all, excellent to get a perspective on this subject. The reason for the question is the picture below:

P1060436.JPG

Sadly someone road a badly miss-aligned rear wheel to the point that it rubbed through the silver paint, white primer, chrome plating down to the steel tubing, which shows its surface rust surrounded by the remaining chrome plating. In other spots on the down tube and fork, paint has been chipped off and the chrome plating shines through. Though as you say it is rough on the fork and down tube, sigh, sadly quite polished and shiny on the left inside chain stay tube pictured above.

Any suggestions on a good rust inhibitor to apply over the surface rust shown above? I am a little nervous about sanding given how thin tube walls can be.

Thanks again.
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Old 10-22-17, 04:46 AM
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Soak a towel in evaporust, wrap around the afflicted area, then wrap some plastic wrap around the towel (to keep the towel 'wet').

Clean with 90% IPA when done, run some clear nail polish over it, and love the battle scar.
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Old 10-22-17, 04:53 AM
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Full chrome bikes are one of my favorites and the bike does not have to be high end...

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Old 10-22-17, 06:04 AM
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One of my high school pals rode a 1961 Schwinn Continental, complete with the original suicide front shift and an aftermarket Campag. GS rear derailleur and barcon. After he had crashed it (classic front-wheel pop-off), his father, the engineering manager at a heavy machinery plant, replaced the fork with an all-chrome one and had the frame chrome-dipped. Particularly when he waxed it, it certainly looked sharp.

As for cars, I recall chrome-plated door handles, which somehow look OK on a 1950s or 1960s Chevy, but which stood out dreadfully on some late model Acuras, including the TSX Sport Wagon I wish they had continued into the next generation.
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Old 10-22-17, 08:02 AM
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I've had several frames chromed under the paint, and all had polished/smooth areas only where the paint was left off.

This includes Italian:
Cinelli Super Corsa, over SLX
Mondonico Diamond, over SLX
D'Arienzo (Basso's frame builder) SLX
Cinelli (Chirico) Centurion Equipe, over SL (also over SP on larger frames)
Pinarello Montello, over SLX

and Japanese:
Lotus Classique, over Tange Champion #1 (Tsunoda frame builder)
Centurion Turbo, over Tange Champion #1
Centurion Semi Pro, over Tange Champion #1
Raleigh Competition, over 555

There is no doubt in my mind that the Lotus had the best quality plating and painting.

The Italians were no more consistent and thorough with their painting than they were with their plating. It's almost like they lost interest after they put their magic into the ride quality of the frame. The Japanese seemed the opposite in that their frame finish quality was much better, but the frames rode very well but not magically.

I've often wondered why the best steel frames I've ridden have been fully painted, both Italian and Japanese. I would think a full court press on finishing would follow the design, craftsmanship and attention to detail on the frame building. Imagine if Cinelli or Pinarello had sent their frames to the Panasonic National plant to be painted....combining the best both had to offer.

I may have missed some that I owned, but others here have the same experience, I think. My guess is that it was a relatively convenient corrosion protection, since parts of the frame were being chrome plated, anyway, like fork ends/crowns, lugs, etc.

I've stripped two of those down to the plating, and have yet to find one where the areas intended for paint were filed/polished fine enough to be left unpainted and looked at closely. Painters sure don't like to paint over chrome, but I imagine the rough chrome was much easier in that regard.

Chrome accents look great. All chrome is a totally different look, more dependent upon accents than a painted bike, and has a smaller group of fans, in my experience.

In the end, if I had to do it again, I'd follow Doc Cannondale, and find the frame I want, send it to Al Wanta or Joe Bell to be done the way it should have done to begin with.

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Old 10-22-17, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
BITD before stiff was king, that added flex was considered to obey a good thing.

A shop owner at a shop I worked at years ago rode a Teledyne Titan , -- he swore the flex in the frame helped propel him up hills as it recoiled in a whipping motion to give some added boost

Me personally, I think if that flexy flyer was any better on hills, it was due to it weighing 17 or so pounds in an age when 21 pounds was considered light
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Old 10-22-17, 09:31 AM
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Who was the premier Italian builder who said chrome was nonsense for a top tier race bike? Added weight and changed the tubes original characteristic -performance traits.
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Old 10-22-17, 09:39 AM
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Remember, there are different qualities of chrome plating, too. Cheap jobs done for purely asthetic purposes are no better that a paint job, but a good 'hard chrome' job that actually bonds the chrome-and-nickel-heavy layers to the base metal will resist corrosion and last a lot longer (and cost more, too). And its tough to paint over a good chrome job; the paint doesn't bond all that well and will eventually start to come off. Of course, why would you want to paint over a good layer of chrome plating?
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Old 10-22-17, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by crank_addict View Post
Who was the premier Italian builder who said chrome was nonsense for a top tier race bike? Added weight and changed the tubes original characteristic -performance traits.
That was Luigi Ricotta-Lasagna late president of the ISFE famous for his assertion that brazing during the dark of the moon imparts a melancholy in Columbus framesets that make them desultory, languid and ill-suited to field sprints while fabrication during the phase of the full moon imparts an assertive bold and aggressive aura ideal for winning breakaways. Luigi's framesets were marketed in the USA under the "Il Buio Della Luna" name.

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Old 10-22-17, 09:51 AM
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^primavera!
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