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A stunning mystery bike on San Fran CL

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A stunning mystery bike on San Fran CL

Old 05-13-21, 08:12 AM
  #51  
Doug Fattic 
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A little bit about the history of us American builders to put this bicycle in context. When the bike boom of 1970/71 started, the craft had died out in the US. Americans that wanted a fine bicycle had to either buy a Schwinn Paramount or source one from Europe. This opened up opportunities to build frames in the States. There was about a dozen of us that went abroad to learn the craft and start building back here. I was a high school teacher at the time and went to England so I could teach frame building back in the States (which I have done continuously since 1976).

Albert Eisentrout (the father of modern American frame builders) was a Chicago raised cyclist that observed how frames were made at Oscar Wastyn's (the family still runs a store in Chicago). Oscar built the first Paramounts (Schwinn was also located in Chicago). 5 or 6 generations back one of their ancestors built bikes in Belgium before immigrating to the US. Albert took his knowledge to the Bay area where he started his own frame building business. He was a high school art teacher at the time I believe. He also taught framebuilding classes in different locations around the US. He was a frequent subject in Bicycle magazines. And this is the important part, he shaped and files lugs and other joints to show how his frames were superior to European frames. This established the trend for Americans to finely file joints. They (or in my case, me) could show visually why a customer should buy from young us compared to our established European competition.

Eventually American builders had to transition from idealists to businessmen as they grew out of their early 20's. Taking loads of time to finely finely file each frame to meet expected quality standards at a reasonable price prevented them from making decent money and they adapted in various ways to increase volume and reduce building time. This shift toward trying to make a living wage is why this unknown frame/bicycle is unusual and desirable. Now days it is possible to charge a lot more for a finely crafted frame which has brought up the standard again. If I understand it right, Peter Johnson had a good paying regular job and therefor could afford to take his time making a few frames a year more like a hobby. I'd be interested in more information about Peter. He had a big influence on CA builders I believe.
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Old 05-13-21, 10:13 AM
  #52  
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Not sure if anyone mentioned it yet, but see if you can get everyone on the phone to chat. Hearing the voices on the other end of the line is usually a lot more reassuring to a seller.

-Kurt
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Old 05-13-21, 10:26 AM
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More scuttlebutt: there's been discussion about the front rack (a so-called "Custom" Blackburn model) mounting to the fork on today's CR list and Mark Bulgier has some long paragraphs on the subject. I will copy/paste this for those with reading time, noting that the contents of the CR list is copyrighted, also that Mark mentions he veers into "boring details" territory:

BOB FREITAS asked "is the front rack thru bolted thru the fork blades??"

Yes, that is the way that rack is designed to be used. Blackburn called it the "Custom" Lowrider; it was a little fancier and more expensive than the regular, original B'burn LR. The "Custom" rack was supplied with the braze-on, that passed through the blade and gets brazed to the inner and outer wall. I have to put scare-quotes around "Custom" because it is a lie — the racks are the opposite of custom.

It's a perfectly adequate system; any weakness is in the rack itself, not in the through-hole. (More metal is added around the hole than is removed in drilling it.) I prefer the type with the hoop over the top of the wheel myself, but this style gives decent rigidity, for what it is: an unsophisticated, inexpensive, solid-aluminum design. Not tubular and not steel, so don't expect it to perform like a Bruce Gordon. BTW Tubus makes a lowrider that uses this style of BO, and is tubular steel. Off-topic (too new) but I think it's more evidence that the braze-on is fine. Or more specifically, the hole through the blade. If even the stronger, more rigid Tubus rack doesn't break blades at the hole, then the relatively floppy B'burn definitely won't.

Has anyone ever seen a fork that failed at the lowrider braze-on? I haven't, and I've been looking. As someone who did frame repairs, people brought me all manner of failed bikes, but never one with any problem there, even on cheap mass-produced bikes. Plus a lot of my custom frames got those braze-ons. For a while there, it was our default lowrider braze-on, even when we didn't know what rack the bike would get, because it keeps all your options open. You can bolt a regular LR to it, but the other way doesn't work — can't put a "Custom" LR on a fork with single-sided braze-ons.

I tended to prefer two threaded "top hat" braze-ons (aka "water bottle bosses") on each blade, rather than the singular pass-through BO provided by B'burn. Theirs is unthreaded, so you'd need a nut on the backside, also a full-length bolt through the blade (heavy!!). My way, with a regular non-Custom LR, you just need one shorter M5 screw in the outer braze-on, and you can ignore the inner BO. (I liked nylon or delrin screws for filling up unused threaded bosses to prevent rain etc. from getting inside the frame. Lightweight!)

When adding the BOs last, after the fork is made, it's easy to drill through from one side, but then all the chips from the second hole are created inside the blade. Rattles from hell! So then I'd spend a minute fishing the chips out with a magnet. Enough of a PITA to remind me to drill those holes first next time. Well, after raking and attaching the dropouts, but before brazing the blades to the crown, so it's easy to knock the chips out the open end of the blade. Not an option when doing retrofits though. I kept a strong magnet handy, a cylindrical shape that could fit through the hole for grabbing those chips.

Oops I think I am getting into boring details no one cares about. Too late, I'm not deleting everything I just typed!

Mark Bulgier
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Old 05-13-21, 10:31 AM
  #54  
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
A little bit about the history of us American builders to put this bicycle in context. When the bike boom of 1970/71 started, the craft had died out in the US. Americans that wanted a fine bicycle had to either buy a Schwinn Paramount or source one from Europe. This opened up opportunities to build frames in the States. There was about a dozen of us that went abroad to learn the craft and start building back here. I was a high school teacher at the time and went to England so I could teach frame building back in the States (which I have done continuously since 1976).

Albert Eisentrout (the father of modern American frame builders) was a Chicago raised cyclist that observed how frames were made at Oscar Wastyn's (the family still runs a store in Chicago). Oscar built the first Paramounts (Schwinn was also located in Chicago). 5 or 6 generations back one of their ancestors built bikes in Belgium before immigrating to the US. Albert took his knowledge to the Bay area where he started his own frame building business. He was a high school art teacher at the time I believe. He also taught framebuilding classes in different locations around the US. He was a frequent subject in Bicycle magazines. And this is the important part, he shaped and files lugs and other joints to show how his frames were superior to European frames. This established the trend for Americans to finely file joints. They (or in my case, me) could show visually why a customer should buy from young us compared to our established European competition.

Eventually American builders had to transition from idealists to businessmen as they grew out of their early 20's. Taking loads of time to finely finely file each frame to meet expected quality standards at a reasonable price prevented them from making decent money and they adapted in various ways to increase volume and reduce building time. This shift toward trying to make a living wage is why this unknown frame/bicycle is unusual and desirable. Now days it is possible to charge a lot more for a finely crafted frame which has brought up the standard again. If I understand it right, Peter Johnson had a good paying regular job and therefor could afford to take his time making a few frames a year more like a hobby. I'd be interested in more information about Peter. He had a big influence on CA builders I believe.
I love this history. I've come close to pulling the trigger on an Eisentrout but the sizing is never right. At this point, I think I've done all I can. I've reached out to the seller and heard nothing. I have some proxies who are having success but the seller is moving at his own pace which is fine. I'm not a collector at all. This would be my first bike with any sort of special history. I'm in no hurry.
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Old 05-13-21, 11:17 AM
  #55  
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beautiful bike; if it were my size Iíd grab it and keep it at my daughterís place in SF to ride when Iím there.
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Old 05-13-21, 01:38 PM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by jet sanchEz View Post
I thought I read somewhere that Ritchey made a few lugged frames early on in his career.....?

Or am I mis-remembering something else entirely?

Definitely looks "American" to me
I had a lugged Ritchey and this looks very similar. Let me see if I can find a pic or two, Stupid photobucket........
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Old 05-13-21, 01:48 PM
  #57  
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Originally Posted by fender1 View Post
I had a lugged Ritchey and this looks very similar. Let me see if I can find a pic or two, Stupid photobucket........
Seat lug on my Ritchey:



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Old 05-13-21, 01:55 PM
  #58  
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Moar pics:




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Old 05-13-21, 02:06 PM
  #59  
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Originally Posted by fender1 View Post
Moar pics:



That Ritchey does look quite similar to my eye; I didn't realize he was such a fine lugsmith.
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Old 05-13-21, 04:39 PM
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Found a few more pictures. Looks like re-painted Ritchey to me.






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Old 05-13-21, 08:28 PM
  #61  
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News?

Has anyone heard from the seller?
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Old 05-13-21, 08:32 PM
  #62  
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Looks like that Ritchey to my untrained eyes.
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Old 05-13-21, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by fender1 View Post
Found a few more pictures. Looks like re-painted Ritchey to me.
Glad you posted these! The first time I saw the CL frame details I thought "Ritchey" - and in that dark red shade, too, because I remembered it from the Forum. Couldn't recall who owned it and figured I'd be laughed out of the place if I piped up with my guess without supporting documentation (like pics, you know).

I'm in total agreement - everything matches, right down to the fantastic lug thinning and immaculate shorelines.

DD
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Old 05-14-21, 07:13 AM
  #64  
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Originally Posted by Drillium Dude View Post
Glad you posted these! The first time I saw the CL frame details I thought "Ritchey" - and in that dark red shade, too, because I remembered it from the Forum. Couldn't recall who owned it and figured I'd be laughed out of the place if I piped up with my guess without supporting documentation (like pics, you know).

I'm in total agreement - everything matches, right down to the fantastic lug thinning and immaculate shorelines.

DD
I'm not convinced yet this is a Tom Ritchey frame for sure. It's possible of course but I have also studied pictures of Peter Johnson's frames and they have the same features too. I'm a frame builder that has spent zillions of hours filing lugs and many of my custom frames also have that same type of fastback attachment. From what I can tell looking at CL's grainy pictures, there are little variations between the green frame and Tom's in both lug filing and fastback shaping. Not a lot mind you (we aren't machines) but two frames made one after the other can be different and of course over the years our approach changes too. If I was to give a grade to each frame, I'd give Tom's an A and the green one an A+.

Both Tom and Peter are still around and hopefully when a CR or CV member buys the bicycle one of those guys can confirm who built it.

I passed through Palo Alto in 1976 and stopped in to see Tom as he was working in his parent's garage. He had just gotten a brand new extremely nice lathe and was putting it through its paces. We chatted about sources of light tubing. I was impressed that even though he was barely out of high school, he was very focused on his work. In middle age Tom also realized just success in work is not enough and started his Rwanda project to use bicycles to make that part of the world a better place. I lived in Rwanda for a short time going with my parents when my dad filled in until another doctor could finish his studies in tropical medicine. And similar to Tom I do a charity bicycle project in Ukraine. There are a lot of places in the world where even unfiled bicycles can improve people's lives.
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Old 05-14-21, 09:45 AM
  #65  
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
I'm not convinced yet this is a Tom Ritchey frame for sure. It's possible of course but I have also studied pictures of Peter Johnson's frames and they have the same features too. I'm a frame builder that has spent zillions of hours filing lugs and many of my custom frames also have that same type of fastback attachment. From what I can tell looking at CL's grainy pictures, there are little variations between the green frame and Tom's in both lug filing and fastback shaping. Not a lot mind you (we aren't machines) but two frames made one after the other can be different and of course over the years our approach changes too. If I was to give a grade to each frame, I'd give Tom's an A and the green one an A+.

Both Tom and Peter are still around and hopefully when a CR or CV member buys the bicycle one of those guys can confirm who built it.

I passed through Palo Alto in 1976 and stopped in to see Tom as he was working in his parent's garage. He had just gotten a brand new extremely nice lathe and was putting it through its paces. We chatted about sources of light tubing. I was impressed that even though he was barely out of high school, he was very focused on his work. In middle age Tom also realized just success in work is not enough and started his Rwanda project to use bicycles to make that part of the world a better place. I lived in Rwanda for a short time going with my parents when my dad filled in until another doctor could finish his studies in tropical medicine. And similar to Tom I do a charity bicycle project in Ukraine. There are a lot of places in the world where even unfiled bicycles can improve people's lives.
The seat lug is a bit different on the mystery bike and the lugs on the headtube look a little different as well. The serial number was on the underside of the bottom bracket on the Ritchey. Maybe the seller can check and respond if it is there on the the green bike....

Last edited by fender1; 05-14-21 at 12:58 PM.
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Old 05-14-21, 09:47 AM
  #66  
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Originally Posted by fender1 View Post
Found a few more pictures. Looks like re-painted Ritchey to me.
Curious to fill in blanks in our mental database: was your (beautiful) Ritchey a Palo Alto model? Is this a re-paint or original paint?
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Old 05-14-21, 09:58 AM
  #67  
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Originally Posted by unworthy1 View Post
Curious to fill in blanks in our mental database: was your (beautiful) Ritchey a Palo Alto model? Is this a re-paint or original paint?
I got it from an ebay seller in Washington state ( I am in SE PA) and the listing was mis-titled and the size listed was incorrect. The paint was original and the previous owner bought the frame and built the bike up in 1980 (IIRC). He had been using it as a commuter. It had an old Blackburn rack attached when it showed up! I am not sure of the serial number, as I have since sold the bike but my recollection was that it was built in '77 or 78'. The bike was always too big for me and @Vonruden picked it up from me a few years back. I think he sold it, so not sure where it resides now.

The seat lug had a crack in it when I got it from the shop getting the post "unstuck" for shipping. The seller credidied me some $$ and I had Bilenky repair and match the paint. It was a very nice bike and I would have kept it if it fit..

Last edited by fender1; 05-14-21 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 05-14-21, 12:50 PM
  #68  
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Originally Posted by curbtender View Post
Talked to the seller. He purchased at an estate sale. Peter Johnson and Roberts came as a possible, but he had no one to ask. Says the bb has no number.
Curbtender - Have you had any more contact with the seller? DID YOU BUY IT?
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Old 05-15-21, 01:44 PM
  #69  
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I'm surprised to see the bike still up on Craigslist. With all of the internet chatter about it, I kinda thought it would be long gone by now.

It is definitely a nice looking frame, that is too small for me.
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Old 05-15-21, 01:55 PM
  #70  
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Originally Posted by RogerM View Post
I'm surprised to see the bike still up on Craigslist. With all of the internet chatter about it, I kinda thought it would be long gone by now.

It is definitely a nice looking frame, that is too small for me.
It sounds like the seller is a bit difficult to deal with. Only answering a fraction of requests, with partial info.
There are buyers interested, but the seller is setting off all kinds of warning flags..
It is really a shame..
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Old 05-15-21, 02:01 PM
  #71  
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Want it

Iíve done everything that can be done to buy this bike. Iím sure the seller is overwhelmed with emails. Some have suggested itís turned into a local auction or maybe the guy is out of town. Another opportunity for me to practice patience.
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Old 05-15-21, 03:11 PM
  #72  
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Originally Posted by gravelinmygears View Post
Iíve done everything that can be done to buy this bike. Iím sure the seller is overwhelmed with emails. Some have suggested itís turned into a local auction or maybe the guy is out of town. Another opportunity for me to practice patience.
It is also possible that the seller has started to realize with all the non-local attention and inquires he might get more out of it and is calculating how to do that.
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Old 05-15-21, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
It is also possible that the seller has started to realize with all the non-local attention and inquires he might get more out of it and is calculating how to do that.
That crossed my mind as well. I was hoping to find myself the Charlie Bucket in this situation. I’m afraid Veruca might get it in the end.

I hope she posts photos.


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Old 05-15-21, 06:08 PM
  #74  
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Originally Posted by gravelinmygears View Post
Iíve done everything that can be done to buy this bike. Iím sure the seller is overwhelmed with emails. Some have suggested itís turned into a local auction or maybe the guy is out of town. Another opportunity for me to practice patience.
....over the long years I've been doing this, a couple of bikes have been like that for me. It shows up on CL, and I really want it. A couple of them I have not gotten, and a few of them I have. I just looked out in the garage, on my way in from the garden, and I tried to remember which were the ones. FWIW, I can't remember now.

I don't think I have anything that small (seat tube length), and most of my American customs are Crit frames anyway. I think maybe there's a Davidson signature out there that might be a 57 cm, if it will stop your complaining. Most of mine are at least 58cm, and more of them in the 59-60 range. The idea that the seller might be reconsidering his low price in light of all the interest was the first thing that occurred to me as well, but I didn't want to upset you by mentioning it. It's Craigslist....infamous for bringing out the absolute worst in human behaviors.
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Old 05-15-21, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
....over the long years I've been doing this, a couple of bikes have been like that for me. It shows up on CL, and I really want it. A couple of them I have not gotten, and a few of them I have. I just looked out in the garage, on my way in from the garden, and I tried to remember which were the ones. FWIW, I can't remember now.

I don't think I have anything that small (seat tube length), and most of my American customs are Crit frames anyway. I think maybe there's a Davidson signature out there that might be a 57 cm, if it will stop your complaining. Most of mine are at least 58cm, and more of them in the 59-60 range. The idea that the seller might be reconsidering his low price in light of all the interest was the first thing that occurred to me as well, but I didn't want to upset you by mentioning it. It's Craigslist....infamous for bringing out the absolute worst in human behaviors.
Oh the tears I've cried! No, I remember the first time I got a chip in the paint on my prized road bike. I just stared at that flake of Joe Bell applied paint in my hand in disbelief. I was so upset and then felt ridiculous and did some growing up. just a bike. It is fun to try to track down good bikes, tho. I started out on an old tank of an Italian road bike that someone had abandoned at our shop. So heavy but it rolled really well. Here I am trying to find another treasure like that. I don't know. It's a hobby. I'm enjoying it. I like bikes.
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