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Preserving Vintage vs. Safeguarding Classic

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Preserving Vintage vs. Safeguarding Classic

Old 03-25-23, 07:18 AM
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Kilroy1988 
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Preserving Vintage vs. Safeguarding Classic

Hello folks,

I'm perhaps a bit premature with this thread but I feel the urge to begin this discussion. I am nearing the completion of my master's degree in Cultural Heritage Management at Johns Hopkins University. In the program we study a variety of cultural institutions and programs ranging from UNESCO to US state and federal agencies responsible for archaeological, cultural and historic sites. A prominent factor of contemporary cultural studies is the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, which are the traditions such as performing arts, crafts and customs associated with all kinds of cultural activities. The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage can be viewed here:

Text of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage - intangible heritage - Culture Sector - UNESCO

Prior to entering this program, I was decidedly an historian and always looking to the past for inspiration. Collecting and rebuilding old bicycles was something I was naturally drawn to, having a background in crafting reproductions of apparel, armament and accoutrements for ancient and medieval reenactors as a hobby business and an active reenactor myself. Now, with the influence of the program and in particular a recognition of the significant contribution that private investment plays in maintaining the actual tradition of building classic bicycle frames, I am beginning to see things differently.

Firstly, I do not mean to knock those who collect old bicycles - I still do - but I want to begin bringing greater awareness to the fact that there are still lots of companies and individual frame builders willing to offer the experience of purchasing a custom frame built to classic specifications today, but that without the support of folks like us the long-term viability of this tradition is threatened. The steady decline in building quality steel framed bicycles that occurred over the past two decades has rebounded somewhat based on the enthusiasm of the cycling community in general, but high-end frame builders working in traditional settings clearly continue to struggle (in terms of volume production and variety of builders and styles that are being maintained). Personally, I am preparing to place my first order with an historic bicycle company for a custom frame. I added up the dollars and cents and for the price of about two of my typical high-end vintage bicycles I can in fact have a totally custom frame made and equipped with nice older components of my choosing. It is now evident to me that the ability to support the builder (and hopefully others in the future) is far more significant a gesture for the safeguarding of "classic and vintage" cycling culture than any old bike I could purchase, restore and ride.

I am hoping to engage in a study by reaching out to a numerous builders and historic bicycle companies that still offer classic steel frames in their catalogs (such as Cinelli and Tommasini) to gather data regarding the trends in production of quality steel frames made using traditional methods and forms, as well as their arguments for or against the continuation of those offerings - for example, it is impossible to know if or when the Supercorsa may finally drop off the Cinelli catalog or who's supporting it in the background - but the study will also involve a lot of considerations from community input, such as here among the C&V forum.

I know there are numerous folks among us who have walked the walk already when it comes to supporting contemporary frame builders or companies that still sell classic framesets, and I know there are many others (including myself until recently) who either only dreamed about it and thought it was too expensive of a proposition or else scoffed entirely at the idea when there are so many good, old frames still out on the market. I would love to hear well-considered opinions from anyone on the matter, to help begin rounding out my approach to the future study. If you write something that is absolutely pertinent I may reach out to you in the future for permission to use a quote or a request to expand upon your thoughts.

Thank you for your time!

-Gregory

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Old 03-25-23, 07:39 AM
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I am of the “preserving vintage” class. I admire those who still build bikes using old school methods and techniques but I am not interested in a new bike, whether it be a nod to the vintage design or not. I enjoy seeing and riding bikes that are 40-50 years or older, restored or not.
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Old 03-25-23, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Kabuki12 View Post
I am of the “preserving vintage” class. I admire those who still build bikes using old school methods and techniques but I am not interested in a new bike, whether it be a nod to the vintage design or not. I enjoy seeing and riding bikes that are 40-50 years or older, restored or not.
Thanks for your response, sir. I would like to point out here at the start that even if you only wish to reply briefly, a comment like Kabuki's is valuable because in the end if I have a whole lot of responses, I can begin to analyze the community's perception statistically. He clearly stated which side of the fence he's on and why. Much appreciated.

-Gregory
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Old 03-25-23, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Kabuki12 View Post
I am of the “preserving vintage” class. I admire those who still build bikes using old school methods and techniques but I am not interested in a new bike, whether it be a nod to the vintage design or not. I enjoy seeing and riding bikes that are 40-50 years or older, restored or not.
Difficult to argue with that tho I have no interest in much of anything pre-70 or so. For me the economics are the main issue. For a fraction of the price of new I can have a high performance machine that is better than I ever was - actually, several. I certainly admire and respect the skills/talents of today's builders, and it would be totally cool to have a oneoff custom, but they are way above my pay grade.

For example - I recently picked up a 1985 Serotta frameset for $350, which may have been a bit overpriced but I liked it. Now, who can build me something any better than that?

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Old 03-25-23, 08:54 AM
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I share Steel Charlie's sensibilities of the economics, though my era of interest is primarily 1945 - 1980. If one looks at the custom builders from the 1930s onward (after the begin of the rise of mass production), custom builds were largely the domain of the affluent, enthusiasts who were looking to enhance their status, people who genuinely had difficulties getting a good fit otherwise, and people seeking performance improvements. Looking towards today, not that much has changed beyond the materials of choice. As I don't presently fit either of the aforementioned categories (I aspire to becoming affluent still, but it's a race against the clock), I have found that being an opportunist suits my interests - at least for the time being. I definitely would like to have a custom bicycle made for me by one of our present day masters of the craft at some point - as I appreciate their talent and what they produce. Perhaps I'm playing a game of chicken here - presuming they will still exist when I'm ready, but that's where I am.
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Old 03-25-23, 11:43 AM
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I enjoy a good steel lugged bicycle frame and particularly appreciate those made in the 70’s and 80’s. Many so-called ‘production’ frames of that era are as well engineered and manufactured as custom or bespoke frames of the same era, even if they lack some of the fancy touches typically found on custom made items.

Am also fortunate to be able to engage with and order product from some of those making new frames in the vintage style. Even though the price is high in comparison to good quality vintage frames that would likely perform as well, any artist who intends to put food on the table and a roof over head needs to be supported.
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Old 03-25-23, 11:44 AM
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I will ask for more information about your notion of "safeguarding classic". It seems your definition is "frame builders willing to offer the experience of purchasing a custom frame built to classic specifications today". That was not the classic tradition. If you look to the pioneers like Eisentraut and any "village builder" in Europe, a custom bicycle was only a portion of the business. Typically they made a range of "generic" bikes, and they would make custom on demand. It was my understanding the custom on demand was a small portion of the business. The idea of getting a custom frame from a custom builder is a modern model, not classic. So it seems 99% going to NAHBS are not the classic business of building frames. Don't get me wrong, a Chapman is a most awesome bike, but what he does as a business is not anything like classic frame builders in the past and nothing like Cinelli nor Tomassini.

Then I also assume you are targeting steel frames. Nothing wrong with steel frames. But does this count for aluminum/crabon/titanium frames too? Do I have to have lugs? If no to the questions, why no?

And then does country origin count? I believe Bikes Direct at least at one time offered a lugged steel bike, along with others. Do they qualify as "classic" or no?
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Old 03-25-23, 11:56 AM
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Not enough money chasing new production in the "historic" tradition.
There are a few today who have found a paying audience.
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Old 03-25-23, 01:01 PM
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Since the OP mentioned an association with an international organization, I would like an inclusive to the majority stigma against modern Chinese bikes.

No need to rehash their dominance in volume and production, but there's a custom segment that is kicking well and strong.

And I get that the OP is mostly referring to the steel custom shop. Make what you want of those few and their business model, they among themselves are mostly different too. Tom Ritchey is a good example. Can knock out a custom frame, and occasionally still does. Also hugely successful in out sourcing and majority is once again... from where?! Not stuck on steel either though obviously favors.

So lets talk what's traditional and custom. Half century of titanium. Makers are volume geared but also do custom.
Then there's carbon. Four decades and just like above.

About this China custom thing. Not a shill and I'm not going to lead to any link or company. You can simply find them in a flash on your phone. Ebay sellers -- yes, full custom titanium framesets, fork, frame whatever you want. Easy English communication, beautiful crafted, far lower cost than anyone, minimal wait and delivered to ones door step. Give them your requirements, desired extra braze-ons, wheel size / brake applications, belt drive or geared derailleur, etc.. Frames from $700 usd to full frameset, add-ons and fork gets one in the $1200 - $1300 range. Hand made (with machine tools, of course). Pretty remarkable in this era and time of this posting. See for yourself.
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Old 03-25-23, 01:10 PM
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I just like old lugged steel frames. I appreciate that builders are still producing such frames, but I have no desire to buy one. They lack the cachet for me.
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Old 03-25-23, 01:22 PM
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You can still buy a classic lugged bike from Marinoni:
SL | Cycles Marinoni Inc.
I believe that you can also order custom geometry at a fairly low upcharge
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Old 03-25-23, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
I will ask for more information about your notion of "safeguarding classic". It seems your definition is "frame builders willing to offer the experience of purchasing a custom frame built to classic specifications today". That was not the classic tradition. If you look to the pioneers like Eisentraut and any "village builder" in Europe, a custom bicycle was only a portion of the business. Typically they made a range of "generic" bikes, and they would make custom on demand. It was my understanding the custom on demand was a small portion of the business. The idea of getting a custom frame from a custom builder is a modern model, not classic.
I strongly disagree. In the mid-'70s, framebuilder Colin Laing emigrated from Great Britain, fleeing the 3-day work week enforced by the government during an economic downturn. He moved to Tucson, AZ, and built 4-5 frames per week, all custom to some extent. His wife ran the bike shop, and he built frame after frame after frame. Frame builders then did not do a few in their spare time in between truing wheels. During the '70s bike boom, custom frames were in extreme demand, and frame builders did what they do best, build frames, often having dedicated assistants mitering tubes and filing lugs for them, to maximize their torch time and get more frames out the door. An ad in International Cycle Sport that I remember from back then insisted "All the best frames have NOT gone to the USA!"

I'd bet that more truly custom frames were built in Britain than in Italy back then (well, except for that 3-day work week period!) For awhile, it was a classic way to do things, alright. Having and riding a frame built especially for you was a surprisingly common and affordable luxury for many cyclists in the '70s. The $250 or so spent then would be about $1325 now, allowing for inflation, not $3-4000.

The modern equivalent is quite boutique in comparison.
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Old 03-25-23, 01:50 PM
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I do find this a fascinating topic. I think that there is a very significant divide between “preserving vintage vs. safeguarding classic”. Socially and culturally these are very different things. I fully understand the OP’s journey and developed appreciated for a craft v. an artifact.

I have a…ahem…few bikes. They’re all old. The majority are from one-man or very small shops. Some of them are still building bikes. Every once in a while I post a WTB ad for a Jeffrey Bock or Mark Nobilette bike (also Gilmour, Fattic, Kvale, DiNucci, Gangl…) and sometimes get a comment suggesting that I simply order a new one. But part of what I enjoy about my collection is the search. I enjoy “rescuing” a bike, cleaning it, returning it to its original, or near, condition. I enjoy learning, or imagining, the history of the bikes. I have several ex-pro bikes as well - those are special in their own way.

This has also been an exciting learning process for me. I want to hold in my hands, put my tools on, and ride bikes from the marquee names of American frame building. I can do that if I find them for $300-$1,000 because I can almost always pass them on for near whatever I have spent on them. I have, on occasion, bought a bike and had the builder repair and/or repaint the bike. That’s not cheap, but is a cool experience that straddles the line on this issue.

It’s also true that I like to own a lot of stuff. My house is too big. I have too many clothes. My kids have too many toys... Any 2 or 3 of my bikes would be enough of course. Selling a bunch and ordering a custom bike or 3 would be sweet too of course. I can imagine an evolution in my journey that leads to ordering a new custom bike, just not yet.

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Old 03-25-23, 01:52 PM
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Just yesterday, riding home from work, with a tailwind, I tried to make a list of builders I would chose from if I were to get another new frame and fork. 15 years ago, when I chose Richard Sachs, the list was longer. 6 years ago, I was communicating with Dario Pegoretti and planning to pick up a Luigino during a trip to Italy with my wife. The dollars earmarked for that bike went down the tubes in a plumbing fiasco and now it is too late. A trip to Nevada for a Dela Santa fitting will never happen either. Maybe there are currently active builders with experience building and perfecting their lugged steel race bikes that are raced and your research could expose them. They are the only ones I would consider in the future.
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Old 03-25-23, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Fredo76 View Post
I strongly disagree. In the mid-'70s, framebuilder Colin Laing emigrated from Great Britain, fleeing the 3-day work week enforced by the government during an economic downturn. He moved to Tucson, AZ, and built 4-5 frames per week, all custom to some extent. His wife ran the bike shop, and he built frame after frame after frame. Frame builders then did not do a few in their spare time in between truing wheels. During the '70s bike boom, custom frames were in extreme demand, and frame builders did what they do best, build frames, often having dedicated assistants mitering tubes and filing lugs for them, to maximize their torch time and get more frames out the door. An ad in International Cycle Sport that I remember from back then insisted "All the best frames have NOT gone to the USA!"

I'd bet that more truly custom frames were built in Britain than in Italy back then (well, except for that 3-day work week period!) For awhile, it was a classic way to do things, alright. Having and riding a frame built especially for you was a surprisingly common and affordable luxury for many cyclists in the '70s. The $250 or so spent then would be about $1325 now, allowing for inflation, not $3-4000.

The modern equivalent is quite boutique in comparison.
I don't disagree that there are always exceptions to the rule. But Laing also made standard models, it was not all custom - Frames and Framebuilding (1970-1979) Colin Laing

It couldn't be custom only. You can't just sit around waiting on an order if you want to eat. Ask any custom builder today. The secret to their success is a spouse with a real job with good benefits. So again, I am curious to the OP's definition of "classic".
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Old 03-25-23, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
I will ask for more information about your notion of "safeguarding classic". It seems your definition is "frame builders willing to offer the experience of purchasing a custom frame built to classic specifications today". That was not the classic tradition.
Let me start with a couple of good examples highlighting the range of diversity in recognized intangible cultural heritage (ICH). In the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage nominated and voted upon by the State Parties of the 2003 UNESCO charter (which currently consists of several hundred traditions from around the world successfully nominated since implementation in 2006) those which are recognized can be as specific as "Tango Dancing in Buenos Aires and Montevideo," which is regarded as the epicenter of that now international phenomenon, or as broadly characterized as "the Mediterranean Diet," which was presented by seven nations as a joint nomination.

Depending on who you talk to, the notion of a traditional bicycle differs and there are obviously a variety of choices. The extent of the tradition may vary depending upon the region one chooses to focus upon, or whether or not to be inclusive of outlying or more recent forms of the tradition. In my opinion, builders such as those that used to exist throughout continental Europe, the UK and the United States, which would craft frames to custom geometry and often with specifications as desired by individual customers, is generally the tradition that I am interested in for the sake of this conversation. A company may be as large and diversified as Cinelli or as small as Hetchins, but the fact that you can still purchase quality frames made using traditional methods in a range of colors and sizes is enough to meet my personal expectations for what the tradition constitutes. The business model is really irrelevant to the tradition of classic frame building if the product is of the same quality and made using generally the same methods of production.

A critical factor that determines what may be regarded as ICH is the fact that it is a living tradition - as opposed to one that is no longer applicable to the practitioners or communities that it was relevant for in the past. If there were no more people building lugged steel bicycles today, the practice would be part of the historical heritage of those who associate themselves with the tradition, whether through the collecting of old bicycles or direct relationships with those who engaged in the tradition during bygone years, but it would already in fact be a dead tradition, nevertheless. As time progresses, the economic, social and cultural factors that determine whether a tradition remains viable and relevant to a community evolve, and those traditions which are "safeguarded" are effectively those which can continue to be maintained in a sustainable manner while respecting the interests of the practitioners.

I personally believe that as a nomination by a country such as Italy, France or England, with a rich history of building lugged steel racing bicycles that extends back multiple generations in association with entire communities of people and the livelihood of whole villages and towns often depending on the historical manufacturing of such bicycles, the intangible heritage of "traditional bicycle culture," encompassing the builders, riders and all of the events and such that are still being maintained along with those traditions, could theoretically be a feasible nomination for the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Even an individual event, such as the Paris-Brest-Paris randonneuring event, could be nominated for its cultural significance, but of course there would be no reason to associate it with the frame building tradition I'm describing... I just give that as another example of the diversity of ways ICH can be recognized.

-Gregory
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Old 03-25-23, 02:35 PM
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To the point about lugged steel road bicycles sold by Bikes Direct or other outlet sources manufactured en masse in Asian factories, this would be regarded as an issue of a broken chain of inheritance and not applicable to the tradition in question. I am not just talking about keeping lugged steel frames on the market - I'm talking about the tradition associated with the craftsmen and the "culture" surrounding quality steel bicycles. The frames are products of that culture, but they do not in and of themselves constitute the tradition in need of safeguarding.

To be clear, along the same vein, if every frame builder in Italy stopped building lugged steel bicycles and the tradition re-emerged in 100 years, it would no longer be the same tradition in the sense of the continuity and inheritance that is a significant part of most recognized ICH.

I'd like to get some more feedback and want to make it clear that the hopeful study will absolutely take into account the perspectives I receive from this community. In conducting the study, I will be putting on the hat of an anthropologist and the voices of the community are an important thing to consider. I do not wish to just present my own ideas about what the tradition constitutes or its significance, as the whole point is to get a broad understanding of that through processes of engagement. However, I need to work within some kind of framework to keep the scope of the study manageable, hence my more detailed analysis presented above in response to iab

I wanted to address one more excellent point that was made, regarding modern builders who can make you a custom titanium or even carbon fiber (or bamboo!) bicycle. Although these builders are part of the community and the same tradition as those I have in mind, the fact is that their audience is different in one significant way. Those who are considering the purchase of a custom bicycle made in more modern materials or styles are typically weighing that option against purchasing another new, off-the-shelf bicycle. With the C&V community, the choice is typically between a used bicycle, which is a purchase that does not directly support the cycling industry or the continuation of the craft, or a new one by a frame builder or company that still offers comparable bicycles made in the same tradition. As has been rightly pointed out already, purchasing a brand new lugged steel frame does not mean you are necessarily getting a better frame - you are just approaching the purchase with a different set of social, economic and cultural considerations.

It is precisely the perception of the C&V community (ranging from the consumer level all the way to those who are actually maintaining the traditions) despite the fact that there are tens of thousands of wonderful, old bicycles still available on the market, which I am trying to understand in order to determine the long-term viability and safeguarding efforts associated with the cultural traditional of manufacturing quality steel bicycles.

-Gregory

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Old 03-25-23, 04:37 PM
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In Italy you can still interview a few builders I guess about this, and even if they were not there when the tradition was born, they were part of it in its heyday.
SOMEC, VETTA, Pelizzoli, just to name a few, since they are not mammoth corporations, you have great chance get answers. If you would talk to non-builders, the https://www.frameteller.it/ site is a useful source for learning about the Italian bike brands, and maybe asking the author might make sense as well.
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Old 03-25-23, 04:56 PM
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I find it interesting in that hand-made steel bicycles are not among the practices that have achieved status as "intangible cultural heritage." Perhaps that's your project, Gregory, to inquire from makers and users as to whether it meets or should meet that standard. In my view and reading the criteria on that UNESCO site, it does not. Sure, bicycles are interwoven with cultures and are interesting examples of cross-cultural artifacts (or at least the process of manufacturing them, hence the differences between Italian, French, and English "styles" and dimensions). But bicycles are a technology, whether hand-made or mass-produced, and technologies die out, replaced by more efficient, less expensive and more marketable technologies (those darn market forces are hard to avoid!). There are lots of industries tied to technologies (and likely cultures) that no longer exist or are nearly gone, whether it's associated with the manual typewriter, farming, bison slaughtering, and the like. I read an article earlier today in the Washington Post about the few remaining fur trappers in Maryland. The market for fur has collapsed, the cultural sensibilities about trapping have shifted, and the time spent for a minimal return make it not worth pursuing. I'm sure that practice will survive in some small form or another (trapping unwanted pests and certain animals to track the spread of disease still seem viable), and some will claim it as family/cultural heritage, but likely not UNESCO.

A colleague of mine has a fairly large and well-funded project to preserve Native American indigenous languages, both spoken and written. Now THAT seems along the lines of what UNESCO has in mind, but bicycle manufacturing? Too small, too niche, too difficult to make anyone care except for a tiny group of enthusiasts.
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Old 03-25-23, 05:06 PM
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Kilroy1988 
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Originally Posted by nlerner View Post
I find it interesting in that hand-made steel bicycles are not among the practices that have achieved status as "intangible cultural heritage." Perhaps that's your project, Gregory, to inquire from makers and users as to whether it meets or should meet that standard. In my view and reading the criteria on that UNESCO site, it does not. Sure, bicycles are interwoven with cultures and are interesting examples of cross-cultural artifacts (or at least the process of manufacturing them, hence the differences between Italian, French, and English "styles" and dimensions). But bicycles are a technology, whether hand-made or mass-produced, and technologies die out, replaced by more efficient, less expensive and more marketable technologies (those darn market forces are hard to avoid!). There are lots of industries tied to technologies (and likely cultures) that no longer exist or are nearly gone, whether it's associated with the manual typewriter, farming, bison slaughtering, and the like. I read an article earlier today in the Washington Post about the few remaining fur trappers in Maryland. The market for fur has collapsed, the cultural sensibilities about trapping have shifted, and the time spent for a minimal return make it not worth pursuing. I'm sure that practice will survive in some small form or another (trapping unwanted pests and certain animals to track the spread of disease still seem viable), and some will claim it as family/cultural heritage, but likely not UNESCO.

A colleague of mine has a fairly large and well-funded project to preserve Native American indigenous languages, both spoken and written. Now THAT seems along the lines of what UNESCO has in mind, but bicycle manufacturing? Too small, too niche, too difficult to make anyone care except for a tiny group of enthusiasts.
Thanks for taking the time to respond! As you may know, the United States is currently not a state party to UNESCO and is in fact one of only several nations in the world that has not become a signatory state on the 2003 Convention for Intangible Cultural Heritage - so the idea of meeting UNESCO standards from the consideration of a US tradition is a moot point anyway!

That being said, I don't think bicycles as products are the kind of thing that could be considered heritage artifacts, but the culture and traditions associated with their manufacture (using traditional skill sets) and use (within the "community" that holds the tradition dear) is definitely an example of Intangible Cultural Heritage - which I have not clearly stated does not necessarily have to meet UNESCO's standards in order to be regarded as such and have "safeguarding" measures or recognized status at levels other than international lists. I'm currently enrolled in a course about ICH with one of the directors of the American Folklife Institute at the Library of Congress, where a lot of work is being done regarding indigenous cultures like that of your colleague - in fact, this semester, in another course on heritage management, my research project is regarding the application of the "traditional knowledge" of cultural burning in fire-scarred California forests. There is lots of work being done like that in the United States regarding ICH, for sure! However, everything from fur trading to folk music has been recognized as forms of ICH, and I've read through some rather sizeable reports (with equivalent grant funding) for projects as random as attempting to preserve and promote the ICH of crop-dusting aviation culture!

In Europe, a lot of traditional crafts and practices, ranging from copperware production to the collection of honey from beehives using ancient techniques, have been recognized as ICH, which even without special funding or protections can garner support and attention to help maintain the vitality of such traditions.

(EDIT: And to be clear, I don't intend to use this research to somehow convince a national government to sponsor a nomination file to the UNESCO Representative List for ICH. It may, however, shed light within the community and among a greater number of academic and professional cultural preservationists about what I think is an interesting phenomenon - a tradition that still has a widespread and strong following which may be threatened with extinction precisely because the product is so well-made and can become more desirable with age. I think it's a fascinating concept that does not follow the general pattern of extinction for cultural practices of any kind, which are typically superseded or become irrelevant to the practicing communities. Maintaining the economic viability is the key connection that spells doom, but why that viability is suffering is distinct in this case.)

-Gregory

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Old 03-25-23, 05:34 PM
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Thank you for the detailed response. It cleared many questions asked and unasked. I very much appreciate the time you have dedicated to this.

I can't speak to England, but the cultural tradition of bicycle makers in Italy was for low-cost transportation or racing. And if anything, the highest focus was on low-cost transportation than racing. You cannot make that claim today for lugged steel builders in Italy.

I do think where there is a maintained cultural tradition for lugged steel frames is for randonneuring in France. Still maintained by Alex Singer and other builders in France, I think a case can be made.

I'm not so sure what cultural phenomenon it would be in the US. We never cared for bikes, let alone a finely made lugged one.
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Old 03-25-23, 05:43 PM
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The idea of supporting a very traditional company with a long standing reputation figured prominently in my decision to purchase an Alex Singer bicycle (delivered 12/21, but more or less planned for a couple of decades). Beyond skills being passed down, there is a direct bloodline stretching back over 80 years there. The theme there is difficult to explain, but after some study can be felt. They produce bikes, not frames. They are custom bikes and great efforts are made to build a bike to suit the customer, but there are things outside of the parameters of what they do that they will not build. The age of components there loses some importance, and the only priority is the suitability of a component to the task at hand. For example, my bike has a Specialites TA crankset that is from essentially current production, and Mafac brakes that were last produced forty years ago and Campagnolo 9 speed era parts from twenty five years ago. When you are have been producing one of a kind machines for over eighty years, the timeline can be blurred and it can be made to work, but it would make no sense in a production setting. As for the frame, there are fittings to guide the Ergopower cables mixed with box pinstriping as was the fashion in the 1950s….and following on a conversation that I had with Olivier about. how I loved the French bikes from the early 80s when they started to incorporate elements of Italian bikes, he built my frame with Italian long point lugs and gave it chrome on the head lugs, front fork ends, and stay ends - “Italienne” style as you would see on Italian bikes from the 1950s-1960s ( and beyond as well). I find it an incredible thing to be able to order such a bike today, and even astounding that I could specify some details but have the builder take the concept and run without putting a foot wrong. If you search YouTube, you can find some videos made by visitors to the shop that document the details of some of the frame building processes and how they have remained largely unchanged for decades. So I can post photos of my bike built just over a year ago on this forum dedicated to vintage and classic bikes, and nobody would give me any static about being off topic.
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Old 03-25-23, 05:54 PM
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I challenge the "cultural heritage" aspect of framebuilding. Is it your view that the work of the old Italian masters, and folks like Tom Ritchey, Matt Assenmacher, Dave Moulton and others are all part of a handed-down cultural tradition? I'm a midwestern white guy whose ancestors came from Indiana and share no heritage or culture with the old Italian framebuilders, but I can certainly become a framebuilder if I want and I don't even need to visit Italy or speak Italian. Culture has nothing to do with it.

I would contend that framebuilding is simply a passion and a skill set that is shared across, and is independent of, any culture or heritage. The parts of it that are handed down (from master to student) also have nothing to do with culture, it's a skill and art form that is passed down from person to person, but again that is outside of any cultural elements.

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Old 03-25-23, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post

I do think where there is a maintained cultural tradition for lugged steel frames is for randonneuring in France. Still maintained by Alex Singer and other builders in France, I think a case can be made.
There is also a small but strong cottage industry of builders and component makers in Japan producing items in the French tradition of randonneuring. That tradition started in the 1950s and was very similar to what was going on in France if for slightly different reasons. In France, a custom randonneur bike was a sought after luxury to escape the cities on the weekends and holidays. A car was almost impossible to buy in war torn France, but people did have money.
In Japan, people wanted to do the same thing, but the Japanese people suffered under a devastated economy after the war. There were a few wealthy people with Rene Herse or Alex Singer bikes…very few. They were noticed, lusted after, and copied in a more affordable form. That tradition survives today and the quality of those products improved with the economy.
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Old 03-25-23, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Neese View Post
I challenge the "cultural heritage" aspect of framebuilding. Is it your view that the work of the old Italian masters, and folks like Tom Ritchey, Matt Assenmacher, Dave Moulton and others are all part of a handed-down cultural tradition? I'm a midwestern white guy whose ancestors came from Indiana and share no heritage or culture with the old Italian framebuilders, but I can certainly become a framebuilder if I want and I don't even need to visit Italy or speak Italian. Culture has nothing to do with it.

I would contend that framebuilding is simply a passion and a skill set that is shared across, and is independent of, any culture or heritage. The parts of it that are handed down (from master to student) also have nothing to do with culture, it's a skill and art form that is passed down from person to person, but again that is outside of any cultural elements.
I can learn Mandarin and put on a Chinese shadow puppet show in my backyard, too. That doesn't mean my actions are a recognized part of that highly respected cultural tradition. I think you're missing the point, but thank you for your feedback.

To expand upon this, I am not talking about frame building as a cultural tradition. I'm talking about frame building and all of the cultural phenomenon that occur during interactions around framebuilding within traditional settings. Read the post by El Chaba post above about Alex Singer, or go find that long, wonderful thread about poprad and his recent acquisition of an Alex Singer while living in Paris. That experience is the culture that is at stake, and you cannot reproduce that in your back yard, sir.

Nevertheless, you can also purchase a wonderful frame from Cinelli and their big factory, but the culture in that regard is not the same as it is with Alex Singer - it is there, nevertheless, in the unbroken lineage of the skills being used within a particular place for a certain purpose, and with results that have endeared themselves to generations of cyclists. If you start building frames today and in fifty years you are heralded as a master and have the kind of accolades associated with such traditions, then you'll be part of what I'm talking about. But frame building in and of itself is not what I'm talking about, nor are the frames.

Culture has a presence that can be felt or ignored by anyone. It is perceived differently by everyone and has different layers of significance. You are welcome not to understand or appreciate what I'm talking about, but I have responded in order to try to provide some context for what I think you have misinterpreted in my pursuit. Thank you!

-Gregory

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