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Newbie wants a vintage bike, what do I prioritize?

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Newbie wants a vintage bike, what do I prioritize?

Old 12-29-20, 11:21 PM
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LeSexyFishorse
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Newbie wants a vintage bike, what do I prioritize?

Hello guys,

I am looking to buy my first road bike. As a kid I rode old school inexpensive mountain bikes around town with my friends and since then have only had a city bike for daily commutes. Road bike aesthetics never really did it for me until I saw my first lugged frame. I really like the look of 80's steel lugged frames and am now looking to buy my first one. I have done some research but since I have never ridden a road bike before, I do not really understand a lot of the things I read.

What, in your opinion, should be my order of priority when choosing a vintage frame? For example I have seen an auction listings for a bike made with Columbus SLX (from what I read is good material) and an auctions for a Nishiki World (my guess is this is Japan specific version of Nishiki International?). Both bikes are my size and budget with roughly the same condition. In this case I don't know if I should choose a nice riding frame (Nishiki from what I have read) vs the Columbus SLX made bike. I realize that this is because I have no idea of what I should be prioritizing.

Aside from this, are there any specific "must buys" that I should look out for? I am referring to bikes like the RB-1 for example that "you cant go wrong with". My market is primarily Japanese brands but there are a lot of Italian names as well. Also, are there any consolidated resources here on vintage groupsets or types of tubing etc. that you think would be helpful for me to read?
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Old 12-29-20, 11:29 PM
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Get a bike that fits you. Riding the wrong size bike, no matter that tubing and components, can be hellacious. Riding a cheap bike that fits you is Nirvana.

Consult an experienced bike fitter to get a baseline. Then go shopping for a vintage ride. Once you find something you like, we can help you find the parts to make it fit right.
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Old 12-29-20, 11:31 PM
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If I were you I would prioritize fit.
If there are a lot of Japanese made bikes in your area those are good quality.
Prestige tubing if you can get it, or Champion/Tange 1 or 2.
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Old 12-29-20, 11:42 PM
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What kind of riding do you want to do?
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Old 12-30-20, 12:09 AM
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Priority should be double fitted tubing. You're smart to go with 80s Japanese frames; these have some of the best bang for your buck.

For simplicity's sake, avoid French or Italian. These will also cost more, oftentimes (though certainly not always!) for no good reason.

Japanese bikes also play well with many modern standards, so if you need a new bottom bracket in the future, it's easy to find.
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Old 12-30-20, 12:18 AM
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don't complicate or limit your basis for choosing. there's a lot to choose from. i'd start looking at images of what BF members are riding as well as google images. if you see something you like, start looking into it's specs. i mean, most everyone wants something that looks awesome, and quality is just as easily had. anywhere from double butted chromoly to the more prestigious tubing mentioned above will be a nice ride....usually. usually because many vintage loaded touring frames aren't really ideal for anything other than loaded touring....if you want a more light and responsive type ride

fit is the important thing. depends on how your built as to what size you will select. i'm 5'6'ish. i can ride anywhere between a 54cm to 57cm top tube frame. with relatively long legs, though, it's easier with the larger of those frame sizes to get handlebars up to saddle height with a traditional quill stem. i just have to use short reach stems with the larger frames. so, it's along the lines of the "french fit" for me. sportier folks might opt for lower handlebars and shorter top tubes. seems that might be up your alley
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Old 12-30-20, 01:38 AM
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The information the OP seeks would and does fill pages. You cannot get good at spotting good quality vintage road bicycles over night. However, there are certain things that do suggest quality. Look for these things and you will do OK. Also, when shopping, the early bird gets the worm. Wondering and waiting to buy, as often as not, means you missed the chance. Anyway, what to look for...

Forged drops with derailleur hanger and, better yet, marked with a well known name, such as Campagnolo, Suntour, Shimano, Simplex. Same goes for front drops...




Look for a tubing decal or sticker. Better quality bikes sport tube rather than pipe sets for frame material. Columbus, Reynolds - there are many types and lots of information on the web about them. Be forewarned - the tube set is only part of the formula. Geometry is also very important. And a tube set does not have to be exotic...


The things the tubes fit into are called lugs and they too impart value/quality to a frame. Some lugs are fancy not so much. I, personally, prefer fancy and chrome plated (eye candy)...


Be aware of frame damage - dents, bends, cracks and, of course, rust. Rust is obvious, as are dents and cracks. But bends can easily fool anyone. If you see paint cracks like this, pass or pay darn little for the bike. Frame damage is most undesirable. I can't find a picture but others might chime in. This is important.

I could go on and on. Best advice, is learn about quality. Start looking and keep learning. Make sure the bike fits (rule of thumb for me - straddle the bike, wearing bike shoes, and ensure that there is two fingers clearance between the top tube and crotch. That is where I start for fit.

Don't look for just a certain make of bike. Colnago, Bianchi, Holdsworth, Raleigh(not so much), Fugi, Cannondale (might not want to go aluminum for frame material), and all the other famous makes are out there, but don't pass on something that sports the quality indicators just because you don't recognize the name Rabeneick...
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Old 12-30-20, 06:30 AM
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Don't worry about getting it right on your first road bike- by bike five or six, you'll have a much better idea of what you want :]

I'm a little confused though. Are you looking at bare framesets listed on auction sites that would require shipping? I think you should only be looking at complete bikes- something local in rideable condition that you can actually pedal to test for fit. You also didn't mention budget, but if you're keeping Italian bikes open as an option, it must be generous. Keep in mind that the riding season is past peak, and deals will be harder to find now that it's winter.
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Old 12-30-20, 08:15 AM
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Beyond the good advice already given, consider posting your size (frame or height/in-seam), location and budget and letting the BF C&V collective find some options local to you available via Craigslist, FB Market, etc.

Being able to inspect and test ride before purchase is important.

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Old 12-30-20, 09:38 AM
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Don't buy a starter bike that has the pictured Simplex dropouts in the first photo, or any other that will only accept a Simplex dérailleur. Same for Huret. Make sure it has the threaded "Campagnolo-style" dropout with the "hook" or "tooth" (dérailleur stop) at 7 o'clock when viewed from the drive side -- shown in the second photo.
Originally Posted by randyjawa View Post
The information the OP seeks would and does fill pages. You cannot get good at spotting good quality vintage road bicycles over night. However, there are certain things that do suggest quality. Look for these things and you will do OK. Also, when shopping, the early bird gets the worm. Wondering and waiting to buy, as often as not, means you missed the chance. Anyway, what to look for...

Forged drops with derailleur hanger and, better yet, marked with a well known name, such as Campagnolo, Suntour, Shimano, Simplex. Same goes for front drops...

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Old 12-30-20, 04:21 PM
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I ride a 1992 RB-1 (yellow/white) in addition to other modern bikes. The '93 is the most sought after of the RB-1 due to the Ritchey fork. You can find the Bridgestone catalogs online (Google) and flip through them. Basically, they are all measured from the center of bottom bracket to the TOP of seat tube, came generally in sizes 53, 54.5, 56, 57.5, 59, 62cm. I ride 62cm. There may be some trial & error in finding your size, but once you do, it's the same for all the different years.

Earlier frames may have 126mm spacing, not sure if that applies to any of the RB-1.
The RB-2 is also nice, but doesn't quite get the WOW factor like the RB-1. So if you go RB-1, most of them are built with Shimano (Japanese) parts including the Nitto stem, bars. Depending on where you live, the RB-1 may not be available too often in your local craigslist. Just watch out for rust, sometimes present in the bottom bracket area, avoid those.


Originally Posted by LeSexyFishorse View Post
Aside from this, are there any specific "must buys" that I should look out for? I am referring to bikes like the RB-1 for example that "you cant go wrong with". My market is primarily Japanese brands but there are a lot of Italian names as well. Also, are there any consolidated resources here on vintage groupsets or types of tubing etc. that you think would be helpful for me to read?
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Old 12-30-20, 04:32 PM
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Like someone else said fit is a priority. Many different bikes from that era are Japanese built and known to be very durable.

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Old 12-30-20, 04:55 PM
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Once you figure out your size, I'd post a WTB vintage bike in the C&V valuation forum along with a location. Posters will help you figure out which bikes are a decent deal. This will let you have a discussion as to which kinds of bikes you should look at. That will get you started.
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Old 12-30-20, 05:03 PM
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Back in the day, 1970's, everyone knew I was into bikes and asked me "whats a good bike to buy"? I didnt know how to respond when these inquiries came up. After some thought I decided to tell people, "get a Schwinn LeTour". I figured it was a basic ten speed, any bike shop could work on it, and you had the whole Schwinn network for support.

A couple years ago I picked up a mid 80's LeTour. Needed a bit of work to get it in shape. Man what an easy bike to work on, and did it ride nice. So I stand by my original response, get a Schwinn LeTour.
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Old 12-30-20, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Charles Wahl View Post
Don't buy a starter bike that has the pictured Simplex dropouts in the first photo, or any other that will only accept a Simplex dérailleur. Same for Huret. Make sure it has the threaded "Campagnolo-style" dropout with the "hook" or "tooth" (dérailleur stop) at 7 o'clock when viewed from the drive side -- shown in the second photo.
Fortunately, many of the later (1980 on, for sure) Simplex dropouts can accommodate other makes of derailleurs, as well, unlike the earlier Simplex-only ones. I had no trouble hanging a SunTour Cyclone II on my 1980 Peugeot PKN-10, then swapping back to the original Simplex when I gave the bike to my son, who wanted a wider gear range. This is understandable, because this is his trailer-puller, and the two boys combined weigh a bit by now.
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Old 12-30-20, 05:23 PM
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Me personally, i definitely overpaid for my norco monterey, which was in very poor cosmetic shape, the main reason why I bought the bike is because it was a well fitting 25" frame and I was impressed with the quality of these vintage bike.

Sentimental or personal value is always more important than financial oriented value. Pick the right bike for you based on fit and you will be happy.
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Old 12-30-20, 05:31 PM
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Addendum: for a first vintage bike, I would be sure the frame has English threading for the bottom bracket (and crank arms, and freewheel, which is not a problem if outfitting with a freehub instead). Asian bikes will almost all have English threading, but Italian and French and Swiss may, but probably won't. Adding more idiosyncratic or uncommon threading to the equation simply reduces the available options for build or replacement components.
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Old 12-30-20, 05:43 PM
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After all of your research you will have a very nice list of all the special bikes you are hunting, then something out of the blue will present itself in the right size for the right price but definitely not on your list. And thus begins the serendipitous journey of acquiring more bikes than we need.
(But some of us need them.)
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Old 12-30-20, 05:51 PM
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But the original parts tend to be so durable and built to last so long they often end up staying original and working with no issues the entire 40 years they've been on the road.

Even the original tires which came fitted on my Norco were dry rotted to hell and back all along the tire including the sidewalls and was still holding up to hard riding and 220lb of rider..
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Old 12-30-20, 06:12 PM
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As said already buy the right size bike.You might want to do some homework on bike geometry. Some roadbikes are for going fast,some are for touring and some are in between. There are lots of great bikes out there. Enjoy the hunt.
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Old 12-30-20, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Clang View Post
Don't worry about getting it right on your first road bike- by bike five or six, you'll have a much better idea of what you want :]
Which can lead to 30 or 40 if you aren't careful........... each of which has something you like about it. So I've heard........

Lots of great advice here. Especially on the Japanese built bikes from the 70's and 80's. FYI, many of the higher end 80's Schwinn road bikes were built in Japan by Panasonic such as the Super Sport, Prelude and Tempo. Earlier models had Tange Champion No. 2 tubing and later models had Tenax tubing. Many "Japanese" brands were actually US marketing companies who contracted out to have Japanese builders supply bikes for the US market. Centurion, Shogun, Soma, Nishiki and Focusto name just a few. I have an example of each of the last 3 listed and they are all very enjoyable. My Soma and Nishiki were built by Kuwahara and the Focus was built by Araya who was better known for their wheels but also built some fine bicycles.





Fuji made some great bikes as well, something like this '86 DelRey would make a great 1st vintage bike. Quad Butted tubing, mid-range Suntour LePree components and a great ride. They can be found fairly cheap. The '84 and up Espree and the Royale II's were very similar in quality.

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Old 12-30-20, 07:03 PM
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As others have said, bike fit should be a high priority. The first thing I look at when considering a purchase is the wheels. Do they spin freely? If not, why? Are they round and true? Check the spoke nipples at the rim for corrosion and rim damage. Also inspect the frame for damage, rust, cracks, dents. What kind of tubing was used? These are the things that can be deal breakers as they are the biggest expenses to replace.

Aside from those things, do the brakes and shifters function properly, will it need new cables, bar wrap/grips, tires? What is the overall condition/appearance? Is it clean, was it cleaned up specifically to sell? Grease build up at the hub/axle, bottom bracket, headset can be indicators of a bike that was ridden hard and put away wet. Check the crank arms, hubs/wheels and headset for wobble. These can be additional expenses but not deal breakers.

Many potential buyers will try to negotiate a price prior to inspecting a bike in person. If you find something interesting on FB or marketplace, go take a look before committing to buy. Show up and negotiate in person, it will confirm interest to the seller.

And finally.........whether buying or selling, deal or no deal.......be polite and respectful.
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Old 12-30-20, 07:13 PM
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Also take into account what type of riding do you foresee...? Touring, sport touring, long distance, around town, fenders versus not, cushier ride versus tooth rattling.

geometry comes into play there...do you want clearance for bigger tyres?

With lugged steel there are a myriad of options.

For the moment, I’d avoid Motobecane, Peugeot, Austro Daimler brands because some have funky specs and threading...?
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Old 12-30-20, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by LeSexyFishorse View Post
Hello guys,

I am looking to buy my first road bike. As a kid I rode old school inexpensive mountain bikes around town with my friends and since then have only had a city bike for daily commutes. Road bike aesthetics never really did it for me until I saw my first lugged frame. I really like the look of 80's steel lugged frames and am now looking to buy my first one. I have done some research but since I have never ridden a road bike before, I do not really understand a lot of the things I read.

What, in your opinion, should be my order of priority when choosing a vintage frame? For example I have seen an auction listings for a bike made with Columbus SLX (from what I read is good material) and an auctions for a Nishiki World (my guess is this is Japan specific version of Nishiki International?). Both bikes are my size and budget with roughly the same condition. In this case I don't know if I should choose a nice riding frame (Nishiki from what I have read) vs the Columbus SLX made bike. I realize that this is because I have no idea of what I should be prioritizing.

Aside from this, are there any specific "must buys" that I should look out for? I am referring to bikes like the RB-1 for example that "you cant go wrong with". My market is primarily Japanese brands but there are a lot of Italian names as well. Also, are there any consolidated resources here on vintage groupsets or types of tubing etc. that you think would be helpful for me to read?

What part of the world do you live in? That could majorly affect what bikes you're going to easily find. Apollo bikes, for example, had some pretty decent Japanese frames but there's many more of them in Canada than the US.

Also, certain frame damage you should look for: are the fork blades parallel with the top tube?Is there a dent right behind the head lug? Can the seatpost be moved easily? I'm sure there's some other good tips people on here can give you when giving a used bike the once-over.
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Old 12-31-20, 02:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
Get a bike that fits you. Riding the wrong size bike, no matter that tubing and components, can be hellacious. Riding a cheap bike that fits you is Nirvana.


Consult an experienced bike fitter to get a baseline. Then go shopping for a vintage ride. Once you find something you like, we can help you find the parts to make it fit right.

So I went to a bike shop nearby and they did a quick fit and suggested I look for a frame within the 54 to 56cm range. I am 5'11 but I have shorter legs so they said I could go as low as 50-51 but the bike would look small on me.


Originally Posted by rgvg View Post
If I were you I would prioritize fit.

If there are a lot of Japanese made bikes in your area those are good quality.

Prestige tubing if you can get it, or Champion/Tange 1 or 2.

I have seen a lot of Tange 2 and Tange 900 bikes for sale. How substantial is the difference between a bike with top end tubing vs like an unbranded fuji or nishiki? The Nishiki I looked at had no tubing stickers.


Originally Posted by samkl View Post
What kind of riding do you want to do?

There are a group of cyclists who do a loop in my area, I have barely been able to keep up with them on my Mamachari. Granted they probably weren't trying too hard and I was half dead at the end. I want to kick their asses lol. I also like riding fast, which for me so far has been the heaviest gear of my mamachari going at maybe 20 25kmh lol. I will probably start with that, and maybe do some further exploring when I get bored of the local routes. Extreme distance riding of several hours plus doesnt really appeal to me.


Originally Posted by thook View Post
don't complicate or limit your basis for choosing. there's a lot to choose from. i'd start looking at images of what BF members are riding as well as google images. if you see something you like, start looking into it's specs. i mean, most everyone wants something that looks awesome, and quality is just as easily had. anywhere from double butted chromoly to the more prestigious tubing mentioned above will be a nice ride....usually. usually because many vintage loaded touring frames aren't really ideal for anything other than loaded touring....if you want a more light and responsive type ride


fit is the important thing. depends on how your built as to what size you will select. i'm 5'6'ish. i can ride anywhere between a 54cm to 57cm top tube frame. with relatively long legs, though, it's easier with the larger of those frame sizes to get handlebars up to saddle height with a traditional quill stem. i just have to use short reach stems with the larger frames. so, it's along the lines of the "french fit" for me. sportier folks might opt for lower handlebars and shorter top tubes. seems that might be up your alley

I tried the whole google and read the forums route, the problem I found is that there are a lot of factors that I cant make concrete in my head what each one of them is worth enough to make decisions on the buy. Like should I be willing to pay extra for so and so features or material or geometry etc. and how much more is value.


Originally Posted by randyjawa View Post
The information the OP seeks would and does fill pages. You cannot get good at spotting good quality vintage road bicycles over night. However, there are certain things that do suggest quality. Look for these things and you will do OK.


Forged drops with derailleur hanger and, better yet, marked with a well known name, such as Campagnolo, Suntour, Shimano, Simplex. Same goes for front drops...


Look for a tubing decal or sticker. Better quality bikes sport tube rather than pipe sets for frame material. Columbus, Reynolds - there are many types and lots of information on the web about them. Be forewarned - the tube set is only part of the formula. Geometry is also very important. And a tube set does not have to be exotic...


The things the tubes fit into are called lugs and they too impart value/quality to a frame. Some lugs are fancy not so much. I, personally, prefer fancy and chrome plated (eye candy)...


Be aware of frame damage - dents, bends, cracks and, of course, rust. Rust is obvious, as are dents and cracks. But bends can easily fool anyone. If you see paint cracks like this, pass or pay darn little for the bike. Frame damage is most undesirable. I can't find a picture but others might chime in. This is important.


Don't look for just a certain make of bike. Colnago, Bianchi, Holdsworth, Raleigh(not so much), Fugi, Cannondale (might not want to go aluminum for frame material), and all the other famous makes are out there, but don't pass on something that sports the quality indicators just because you don't recognize the name Rabeneick...
Yea I read about the whole forged drops thing and have been looking for it. Most of the frames I have seen have them on the rear only and those with both front and rear go for crazy prices like the NJS frames.


Would you have a rank for tubing? which is the best and which is the worst? Or for so long as I have one with any of the tubing types is enough?


I do like nice lugs, I espcially like when they have imprinted logos. So far only seen those on some Bridgestone, Nishiki and Gios bikes.


I think that based on pricing, Italian bikes might be out. They go for really high prices here it seems. How do Japanese vintage brands compare to Italian ones? Probably doesnt really apply to what I will do but can they compete?


I noticed a few frames that had generic brands like Suntour and even a Campagnolo branded frame. I wasnt sure if that was aftermarket modification the owner did but they did look like nice frames. So now I know to keep them as an option as well.


So it seems my order of battle should be:

1. Bike fit - check

2. Frame indications of quality - Forged drops (front/rear if possible), tubing material

3. Frame damage check


Any other things to include?

Is there a general materials thread which explains the frame types like Tange 1, Columbus, Reynolds etc.?
I read that aluminum bikes have a shelf life of around 5 years. Is this true? Are they not good buys after 5 years of use?
Is it worth getting an NJS track frame and making it into a road bike? Those NJS frames are quite nice.
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