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Rules of thumb for older bikes

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Rules of thumb for older bikes

Old 11-09-20, 07:52 PM
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bbpo8
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Rules of thumb for older bikes

I've gotten into old bicycles the last few months. From reading in Bike Forums and elsewhere, I developed some Rules of Thumb for identifying and assessing vintage bikes. Please correct these and add any others you can think of.

Signs of an earlier (pre-1987) bike:
- Quill stem
- Shifters on the down tube
- Non-aero brake levers (the brake cables go over the handlebars)
(Based on the Eroica guidelines)

Signs of an inexpensive model:
- Kickstand
- Shift levers on the stem
- Plastic handles on the shift levers (not always the case*)
-Safety brake levers*
-Stamped dropouts*
-Steel rims*
-Cottered crank* (some good quality bikes into the 60s had cottered cranks** )
( * = from Markeologist , ** = from 3alarmer)

Steel bikes with Chromoly, Reynolds 531 tubing or better are recommended for long rides and serious cyclists.
Bikes with lesser quality tubing (high tensile steel) are fine for less intense riding, like around town. Some quality touring bikes are made with tubing like that drawn from Hi Ten**)

Bikes advertised with minimal description: stolen or have owners who aren't knowledgeable. "Red bike. Rides like a dream."

Bikes advertised with a long list of specifications belong to fanatics. Extra points for a history of the bike. More points when you can tell it pains the owner to part with the bike.

Bikes offered at a very low price: stolen bike, bike with a broken or dented frame, a spouse selling the bike of an ex-.

Bikes advertised without mentioning their size: Aggh!

Fat tubes = carbon or aluminum frame

Bike with the seat way higher than the handlebars: racing bike. For the young and athletic only.

Relaxed geometrry, endurance bikes: for the vast majority of cyclists.

Upright posture, hybrids: for the vast majority of the population

Bike with a rack. Uncool but useful.

Vintage bike: 1) Old and interesting 2) Old and overpriced

Someone who talks about his "stable of bikes", his "Bike mancave", or "N+1" = hoarder

SurferRosa: "A nicely painted and fully lugged chromoly (or better) road bike in my size might be worth a second look. My eyes immediately go to the presence of forged dropouts, an on-frame rear derailleur hanger, and then toward the details."

ADDED: These are general rules of thumb compiled from posters at Bikeforum and elsewhere.There are always exceptions. The most important rule is go with what makes sense for you.

Have I missed anything? Thanks.

Last edited by bbpo8; 11-10-20 at 02:16 AM. Reason: suggestions from readers
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Old 11-09-20, 07:59 PM
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Old 11-09-20, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by bbpo8 View Post

Someone who talks about his "stable of bikes", his "Bike mancave", or "N+1" = fanatic
Or "hoarder".
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Old 11-09-20, 08:19 PM
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Sentimental value? My father was sent to France in WWII and fell in love with Europe. After the war was over he went back and rode a late '40s Raleigh all over. When he married my mother, they did the trip again together - cycling, hosteling and camping. I like bikes that look like his - they remind me of him and all the stories he could tell about where he went on that bike.



I think some folks can now afford the bike(s) they used to dream about as teenagers or college students. You see a lot of white-haired guys driving Corvettes for the same reason. A racing bike may not be ergonomically optimized for an individual of a certain age and while it really doesn't look right to change the C&V bikes much, you may see some triple chainwheels and long arm derailleurs sneak aboard. Although my Dad crossed the Alps on a three-speed, I'm not anxious to try that.

Last edited by daka; 11-09-20 at 08:24 PM.
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Old 11-09-20, 08:24 PM
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Signs of an inexpensive model:
- Kickstand
- Shift levers on the stem
- Plastic handles on the shift levers (NOT ALWAYS THE CASE)
IF TALKING OF C&V ROADBIKES YOU SHOULD ADD:
-Safety brake levers
-Stamped dropouts
-Steel rims
-Cottered crank (for most post-1950s applications)

Last edited by Markeologist; 11-09-20 at 08:30 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 11-09-20, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by daka View Post
Sentimental value? My father was sent to France in WWII and fell in love with Europe. After the war was over he went back and rode a late '40s Raleigh all over. When he married my mother, they did the trip again together - cycling, hosteling and camping. I like bikes that look like his - they remind me of him and all the stories he could tell about where he went on that bike.



I think some folks can now afford the bike(s) they used to dream about as teenagers or college students. You see a lot of white-haired guys driving Corvettes for the same reason. A racing bike may not be ergonomically optimized for an individual of a certain age and while it really doesn't look right to change the C&V bikes much, you may see some triple chainwheels and long arm derailleurs sneak aboard. Although my Dad crossed the Alps on a three-speed, I'm not anxious to try that.
"You see a lot of white-haired guys driving Corvettes for the same reason."

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You must ask youself:
"Is my body worth it?"

Regardless of your current level of fitness,
I say yes! ...because:






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Old 11-09-20, 08:51 PM
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The Ultimate Fashion Acessory is a fit body.

Gucci got none on the rack.


Nor Colnago, for that matter.

:0)
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Old 11-09-20, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by bbpo8 View Post
I've gotten into old bicycles the last few months. From reading in Bike Forums and elsewhere, I developed some Rules of Thumb for identifying and assessing vintage bikes. Please correct these and add any others you can think of.

Signs of an earlier (pre-1987) bike:
- Quill stem
- Shifters on the down tube
- Non-aero brake levers (the brake cables go over the handlebars)
(Based on the Eroica guidelines)

Signs of an inexpensive model:
- Kickstand
- Shift levers on the stem
- Plastic handles on the shift levers (not always the case*)
-Safety brake levers*
-Stamped dropouts*
-Steel rims*
-Cottered crank (for most post-1950s applications) * ( * = from Markeologist )

Steel bikes with Chromoly, Reynolds 531 tubing or better are still worth riding.
Bikes with lesser quality tubing (high tensile steel) might be okay as beaters or for short trips.

Bikes advertised with minimal description: stolen or have owners who aren't knowledgeable. "Red bike. Rides like a dream."

Bikes advertised with a long list of specifications belong to fanatics. Extra points for a history of the bike. More points when you can tell it pains the owner to part with the bike.

Bikes offered at a very low price: stolen bike, bike with a broken or dented frame, a spouse selling the bike of an ex-.

Bikes advertised without mentioning their size: Aggh!

Fat tubes = carbon or aluminum frame

Bike with the seat way higher than the handlebars: racing bike. For the young and athletic only.

Relaxed geometrry, endurance bikes: for the vast majority of cyclists.

Upright posture, hybrids: for the vast majority of the population

Bike with a rack. Uncool but useful.

Vintage bike: 1) Old and interesting 2) Old and overpriced

Someone who talks about his "stable of bikes", his "Bike mancave", or "N+1" = fanatic

Have I missed anything? Thanks.
Sigh... new to the hobby and already flexing the judgmental muscle.

How bout not trying to make a list of ways to look down on things and just enjoy your bike(s).
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Old 11-09-20, 09:56 PM
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-Cottered crank (for most post-1950s applications) * ( * = from Markeologist )
...you should move your break point somewhere up into the '60's . There were still plenty of decent bikes with cottered cranks made and sold into the 1960's.



1965 Carlton Catalina



Steel bikes with Chromoly, Reynolds 531 tubing or better are still worth riding.
Bikes with lesser quality tubing (high tensile steel) might be okay as beaters or for short trips.
...again, this a broad generalization that does not always hold true. Here is a perfectly fine touring bike made from tubing drawn from Hi Ten. A touring bike has different requirements for frame weight.





It is true that eventually these butted Hi Ten frames disappeared from the marketplace. Probably because everyone got the idea they were junk.
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Old 11-09-20, 10:46 PM
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This post makes me unhappy. Starting out in the bike hobby as a snob before you even know what is going on by using the stereotypes of other bike snobs will never make you happy and serves no purpose to you or anyone else

. Choose what YOU like and be passionate about it. Ruling out "hi-ten" or cottered cranks after a certain year means that some of the most popular areas of the hobby are ignored, for example the tremendous following of British 3 speeds. And shame on those who encourage said behaviour. Restoration and saving bikes should be done out of passion, nostalgia or artistic appreciation, not a dumb set of rules. I am currently restoring a 70s Canadian built CCM 10 speed for a number of reasons even though it is Hi-Ten, chrome wheels etc. It belonged to a friend (gifted to me by his son), it was built in my country, it represents the bike boom era and it is a really pretty shade of blue! These are real reasons to love bikes. Rant over.
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Old 11-09-20, 11:05 PM
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For corrections I can think of great bikes that violate each rule listed. Then there's what people have done with the bikes between the time it was new and now. There's examples of things that we might think of as a silly mod to great bikes but were good for the owner at the time. Think Colnago Mexico with a flat bar and a kick stand. Then there's the bikes without name recognition that are as good if not better than the big names.
You might be better off just taking each bike as an individual case instead of trying to list rules that would let good bikes slip through the cracks.
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Old 11-09-20, 11:19 PM
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He’ll probably want to rewrite a bunch of those in another six months, and if he really sticks with it, forget about them altogether, in a few years.
Tim
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Old 11-09-20, 11:47 PM
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  • Kickstand (at least when I put one back on. #projectbike, so there).
  • Shift levers on the handlebar.
  • Stamped dropouts.
  • Stainless steel rims. (Whoops. The '51 in the background has stainless rims. This one doesn't).
  • Cottered cranks.
  • "Lesser" quality tubing.
  • Advertised with a minimal description by the PO.
  • Bought for $75. Seller knew it was a '52 Raleigh and had it sitting around for years. Nothing special or stolen here. Looked like crap when I got it too, so it wouldn't have flown for $75 at any yard sale.
  • Advertised without mentioning the size. I knew it was a 23" for the alternative sizes of a Raleigh Sports can be quickly ID'ed on sight.
  • Upright posture: Because I spent 10 years farting around on drop bars and my back and Dutch commuting sensibilities say screw that. I also own a fair number of classic lightweights with drops too, which helps to annoy fad-following dimwits who do not understand that a single person can have two interests usually generalized as competing extremes. I have yet to implode like the Death Star.
  • No rack: Severely uncool, because utility bikes should have racks.
  • It's a vintage bike which is old, interesting, and was not necessarily overpriced.
  • You forgot weight. It'll weigh about 42 pounds. Don't really care. This is coming from a 531 fan, too. Might as well smash all the generalizations while we're at it.
  • Apparently, I'm a "fanatic" because I do this. Fine.



Have I missed anything? Yep. Playing social anthropologist to your own hobby doesn't do much except to divide.

-Kurt

P.S.: Rule of thumb: You might tick someone off by inadvertently slapping a label on them. #lowendbikecollectorFTW
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Old 11-10-20, 01:00 AM
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Old 11-10-20, 01:06 AM
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Thanks for feedback

Thanks for the suggestions. I incorporated feedback, as well as specific information from Markeologist and 3alarmer.

In response to cudak888, tkamd73, ltokuno, browngw and Happy Feet, there is this Post Script:

"These are general rules of thumb compiled from posters at Bikeforum and elsewhere.There are always exceptions. The most important rule is go with what makes sense for you."

Some personal background. Even though I'm new to Bike Forums, I've ridden bikes since 1957. In the early years, I rode hand-me-downs which I'm sure were heavy and low-end. It didn't matter to me - I had a blast. I commuted, rode around Europe, did everything but competition. In 1993 when I finally had money, I bought a mid-range bike, a Bianchi Eros, which I've ridden for the past 27 years. Only in the last few months have I gotten into other bikes.

Getting more deeply into the details of bicycling has been a revelation. What I've learned from BIke Forums has helped me make sense of my experiences. For example, if you're going to ride long distances, it really is good to have a light, well made bike. Or if you're going to invest energy in a bike, it's good to get a quality one that repays your investment. Or, for casual use, almost any bike will work. These ideas may seem obvious to you, but they aren't to most people.

There's a pragmatic reason for guidelines like these. Because of coronavirus, more people are buying older bikes. Selecting an appropriate one is a dauntiing task.
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Old 11-10-20, 01:32 AM
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Zero to hero expurt...

snore.
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Old 11-10-20, 01:51 AM
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Can someone explain to me the personal insults? Why does this list provoke such a reaction?
It's just some guidelines that I've collected. It's not about me. I'm asking if knowledgeable people can correct or add to them.
Weird. Is this typical behavior?
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Old 11-10-20, 02:13 AM
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Originally Posted by bbpo8 View Post
Have I missed anything? Thanks.
I wouldn't have put it so ... bluntly (apparently?), but I think you have some decent tips for new buyers of good quality vintage road bikes of the 10-14 speed variety. For me, it can be said more easily: a nicely painted and fully lugged chromoly (or better) road bike in my size might be worth a second look. My eyes immediately go to the presence of forged dropouts, an on-frame rear derailleur hanger, and then toward the details.
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Old 11-10-20, 02:37 AM
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Not claiming to be an expert

Thanks for the specific suggestion, SurferRosa. I added it to the original post.

I dunno, maybe people think that I'm claiming to be an expert. Of course I'm not.These are all ideas that I've taken from posts at Bike Forums (and elsewhere), maybe from some of you.

To make it clear: I'M NOT AN EXPERT! I'M ASKING FOR FEEDBACK ON RULES OF THUMB COLLECTED FROM EXPERTS.

If people want to make specific corrections or additions, that is wonderful. Can we stick to that topic?
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Old 11-10-20, 04:12 AM
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Originally Posted by bbpo8 View Post
Can someone explain to me the personal insults? Why does this list provoke such a reaction?
It's just some guidelines that I've collected. It's not about me. I'm asking if knowledgeable people can correct or add to them.
Weird. Is this typical behavior?


First of all, welcome aboard, glad you found us.

That being said, maybe not typical but not unexpected.

When it still says "Junior" by member and a total post count of 6, any manifesto, sweeping generalizations are likely to be met with this sort of reaction.

We are a huge mosaic here, many agree on many things, many don't, opinions here run the gamut and many of us have little wiggle room on some things, just the way it is.

Normally, new folks here ask more questions to get the lay of the land before making such a comprehensive statement which is hard as some will take offense when you deride something they hold dear despite the perceived popular opinion.

Last edited by merziac; 11-10-20 at 04:43 AM.
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Old 11-10-20, 04:12 AM
  #21  
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I am pretty sure that I could argue against darn near every point that the OP offers. And, for what it is worth, I used to feel much the same way when I was new to the hobby of finding, restoring and riding vintage bicycles.

In my experience, not what I have read from others, but what I have actually experienced, there are no rules of thumb for finding, restoring and riding vintage bicycles (I speak only of vintage road bicycles and some roadsters). Components do little to define a quality bike. A good component can easily be installed on a non-quality bike and visa versa. A top of the line frame and fork set might not be all that great for casual riding. The list of arguments can expand from here.

I'M NOT AN EXPERT! I'M ASKING FOR FEEDBACK ON RULES OF THUMB COLLECTED FROM EXPERTS.
What experts? You don't honestly think that we are all experts? I know for one thing for sure, when it comes to vintage road bicycles - I AM NOT AN EXPERT. Are there any experts here at the Bike Forums? Might be a couple but most are just back yard mechanics, just like me and, perhaps, the OP.
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Old 11-10-20, 04:42 AM
  #22  
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What a weird place!

Half of the comments had good specific information. Half are going off on tangents. The personal stuff is just silly. What's the point?

Yes, I do consider you experts. I've learned a lot from reading here. I don't think you should downrplay your expertise. The technical discussions are usually clear and understandable. In spite of minor disagreements, there seems to be a shared understanding which I've tried to capture. If something specific is wrong, let me know.

Yes, these are rules of thumb and don't cover all the cases. There are always exceptions. But I was surprised at the unanimity, for example, when people asked about the value of a bike they just picked up. Estimates were close to each other, as well as the suggestions for what to do with the bike.

The knowledge you have is important because people will be buying and using bikes more in the future because of the pandemic, urban congestion and climate change. Covid will probably be with us for some time, and bikes are one way to cope with it. Cities around the world are encouraging people to use bicycles.

The gap between your expertise and that of the general public is immense.
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Old 11-10-20, 06:00 AM
  #23  
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Once you went with "rules," you became part of the cancel culture.
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Old 11-10-20, 07:06 AM
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Stereotypes only work if you cling to your original biases and thus don't recognize it when you are wrong.
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Old 11-10-20, 07:18 AM
  #25  
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This is a difficult thread to read. I can't contribute to the "list", and I'll admit that I still carry many of the same biases deep down inside. These are what help me not to waste time refurbishing bikes that will not absolutely delight me when ridden.

Alas, many or most bikes simply do not thrill when ridden. A very few do. Those are the gems. How does one identify a gem in the rough? That's the $64,000 question. Instincts informed by experience, the results of trial and error, and a lifetime of learning the lessons with which we're presented.

Very, very few bikes truly stir the soul.
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