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The death of the Asian lugged import bicycle

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The death of the Asian lugged import bicycle

Old 04-16-24, 03:17 PM
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On a related note, I recently stumbled upon a youtube that showed the operations inside the Panasonic factory where they now make custom bike frames. No more standard frames. Some are lugged, and some are welded. I bet they're all expensive.
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Old 04-16-24, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
On a related note, I recently stumbled upon a youtube that showed the operations inside the Panasonic factory where they now make custom bike frames. No more standard frames. Some are lugged, and some are welded. I bet they're all expensive.
In the '80s Panasonic dealers had a fit bike set up for their PICS custom bike program. They seemed expensive then!
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Old 04-16-24, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
Yup. So do you know when Japanese and then Taiwanese lugged frames disappeared entirely from the US market?
Perhaps the question is not "when did Asian lugged frames disappear" but rather "When did TIGged frames replace lugged frames"? I looked at Ritchey, and the TIG welded Road Logic was introduced in 1991. I think that's early in the 'window' during which lugged frames were supplanted by welded frames. Remember, the early 90s was also when Indurain won the last TdF won on steel on a TIG welded bike.
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Old 04-16-24, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
Perhaps the question is not "when did Asian lugged frames disappear" but rather "When did TIGged frames replace lugged frames"? I looked at Ritchey, and the TIG welded Road Logic was introduced in 1991. I think that's early in the 'window' during which lugged frames were supplanted by welded frames. Remember, the early 90s was also when Indurain won the last TdF won on steel on a TIG welded bike.
That really doesn't work. That's like saying "when did aluminum replace steel?". In the middle of the MTB boom that was 98% TIG, Trek developed oversize MTB lug sets. Lugs never went away, they just lost the economic battle that Doug Fattic alludes to: The production cost combined with inflexibility in geometry and tubing shape made lugs less economical for an industry that was always selling "new and improved".

But, as I've mentioned several times, this is not a "why" thread. Please start one if you want. This is a thread for those interested in what was available, and what might be found on the used market.
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Old 04-16-24, 07:30 PM
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I can't imagine any way to answer the question of when other than to go to specific manufacturer's catalogs and trace what was offered over time:

The Official Vintage Bicycle Manufacturer Catalog List w/Links

Assuming those are the export catalogs, of course, as I imagine lugged frames might have continued to be produced in the Asian markets in small numbers rather than for export.
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Old 04-16-24, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic
Back in the early 80's one of my engineering friends asked me why bicycle companies didn't tig weld their frames. I said that as far as I knew (which in reality was nothing), it couldn't be done cause they would break at the welded joints. I thought if they could do it, it would already be done. I think the Japanese company KHS made tig welded tandems (in the 80's?) but of course that was probably with heavier wall tubing.

Eventually I learned how to tig weld as well as braze. It is so much faster with less cleanup! I love lugs and that is what I teach my framebuilding students to use but they take time to shape and ream and blacksmith to the frame design. And they cost. As does the filler material - particularly if it is silver.
Looking into it, TIG was not very mature until the development of accurate amperage metering in the late '70s, and then further improved with solid state metering. With the usual delay in adoption between industry and hobby stuff, I don't think it is too shocking that frame builders didn't get with TIG until the '80s. Of course, the Teledyne Titan was TIG'd, but probably by aerospace welders. The other early Ti bike was vacuum brazed, so TIG couldn't have been too common for anyone to go to such extremes.

The other factor is that TIG'd steel welds are ugly, and I think that was a factor until the ubiquitousness of welded MTBs got everyone to "appreciate" those nasty little welds. Just like we all stopped appreciating polished aluminum.

What were '70s BMX bikes? MIG? Lugged?
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Old 04-16-24, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by nlerner
I can't imagine any way to answer the question of when other than to go to specific manufacturer's catalogs and trace what was offered over time:

The Official Vintage Bicycle Manufacturer Catalog List w/Links

Assuming those are the export catalogs, of course, as I imagine lugged frames might have continued to be produced in the Asian markets in small numbers rather than for export.
And anyone who knows about a brand and a catalog can post it. Or just say that they bought X in 199X.
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Old 04-16-24, 07:45 PM
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Japan may not be exporting many lugged bikes, but they are certainly building them. Most of these bikes are intended for the domestic market, which remains strong. When you consider some 2 million people in Tokyo use a bicycle every day, at least a few of those are customers for lugged bikes.

Many of the older makers in Japan are still in business, you can get lugged frames from Panasonic, Bridgestone, Katakura Silk, and Keirin racing bikes are mostly still lugged steel frames. I recently had a look at a Cherubim Triple Crown road bike, and have seldom seen anything as beautifully designed and made.




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Old 04-16-24, 08:01 PM
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Wow! Look at that fork crown! What a gorgeous machine.
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Old 04-16-24, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
Looking into it, TIG was not very mature until the development of accurate amperage metering in the late '70s, and then further improved with solid state metering. With the usual delay in adoption between industry and hobby stuff, I don't think it is too shocking that frame builders didn't get with TIG until the '80s. Of course, the Teledyne Titan was TIG'd, but probably by aerospace welders. The other early Ti bike was vacuum brazed, so TIG couldn't have been too common for anyone to go to such extremes.

The other factor is that TIG'd steel welds are ugly, and I think that was a factor until the ubiquitousness of welded MTBs got everyone to "appreciate" those nasty little welds. Just like we all stopped appreciating polished aluminum.

What were '70s BMX bikes? MIG? Lugged?
Somehow I knew we were going to get to where this thread becomes a anti TIG screed, unfortunately you had to take the shot as no one took the bait. I spent my summers in the early 70’s TIG welding and it was mostly used for specialty applications as the equipment was expensive at the time but no one brazed anything after the late 60’s. That said every metal shop worth it salt had TIG welders. The reason for the slow adoption with the steel bicycle industry was the infrastructure was well established for lugged bicycles and was much cheaper to build with. It takes substantially more skill to weld thin wall tubing than to braze a lugged joint together. Tubing and lug suppliers were prevalent and sourcing materials was very simple and ubiquitous. There is absolutely no advantage to lugged construction other than triggering some long imprinted memories.
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Old 04-16-24, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling
Japan may not be exporting many lugged bikes, but they are certainly building them. Most of these bikes are intended for the domestic market, which remains strong. When you consider some 2 million people in Tokyo use a bicycle every day, at least a few of those are customers for lugged bikes.

Many of the older makers in Japan are still in business, you can get lugged frames from Panasonic, Bridgestone, Katakura Silk, and Keirin racing bikes are mostly still lugged steel frames. I recently had a look at a Cherubim Triple Crown road bike, and have seldom seen anything as beautifully designed and made.
Do you have a link or contact info for Bridgestone? I looked recently and was unable to find any lugged offerings from them including in what appear to be the company catalogs for 2024 here: https://www.bscycle.co.jp/anchor/
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Old 04-16-24, 10:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
Somehow I knew we were going to get to where this thread becomes a anti TIG screed, unfortunately you had to take the shot as no one took the bait. I spent my summers in the early 70’s TIG welding and it was mostly used for specialty applications as the equipment was expensive at the time but no one brazed anything after the late 60’s. That said every metal shop worth it salt had TIG welders. The reason for the slow adoption with the steel bicycle industry was the infrastructure was well established for lugged bicycles and was much cheaper to build with. It takes substantially more skill to weld thin wall tubing than to braze a lugged joint together. Tubing and lug suppliers were prevalent and sourcing materials was very simple and ubiquitous. There is absolutely no advantage to lugged construction other than triggering some long imprinted memories.
For the nth time, this is a thread about the availability of Asian production lugged bikes. It is not an anti-anything thread.

Lugged steel is dated. All steel frames are dated. Get over it. Lugged construction is harder and takes longer if you have the skill to do either, which I personally appreciate. Steel TIG welds are gnarly looking, to me, compared Ti welds or lugs or fillets. And while that last part is definitely just my opinion, I don't recall that opinion being all that unusual in 1990. So while lugs had production inertia, they also had aesthetic inertia through that period.

So I get your pride in TIG work, but I don't think the Trek Jazz line sold for less than $300 because TIG was a costly or high skill construction technique in factories. S3 is hard to TIG, just like 753 is hard to braze.

Back to any references or remembrances of Asian lugged bikes people might have:
Yellow Jersey in Madison still had access to Panasonics 10 years ago, I believe. Soma had a lugged road frame until recently. Some of Rivendell's frames were recently Japanese imports. So they never really stopped, But there was a point when a complete bike that you could find at a bike shop stopped being an Asian production lugged bike, and I'm curious if there was something as late as '95 or '96?

What complicates things is that a lot of the websites that collect old catalogs seem to drop off around the early '90s, and then internet catalogs didn't become common until the 2000s. So there is a hole in coverage.
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Old 04-16-24, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling
I recently had a look at a Cherubim Triple Crown road bike, and have seldom seen anything as beautifully designed and made.


Yeah that is really nice looking.
Having 2 competing frame tube brand stickers is really odd though. Like 'I can't remember the last time I've seen that' level of odd.
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Old 04-17-24, 03:32 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
Yeah that is really nice looking.
Having 2 competing frame tube brand stickers is really odd though. Like 'I can't remember the last time I've seen that' level of odd.
Japan is the definition of odd.
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Old 04-17-24, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling
Japan may not be exporting many lugged bikes, but they are certainly building them. Most of these bikes are intended for the domestic market, which remains strong. When you consider some 2 million people in Tokyo use a bicycle every day, at least a few of those are customers for lugged bikes.

Many of the older makers in Japan are still in business, you can get lugged frames from Panasonic, Bridgestone, Katakura Silk, and Keirin racing bikes are mostly still lugged steel frames. I recently had a look at a Cherubim Triple Crown road bike, and have seldom seen anything as beautifully designed and made.



Fantastic bike made of kaisei and columbus tubing It is even nicer than a Colnago Master X Light
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Old 04-17-24, 06:48 AM
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Everything but that Bic-lighter-esque fork crown is pretty amazing-looking.
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Old 04-17-24, 07:35 AM
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About 10 years ago I acquired a PDG Paramount (7?) The higher # model that was built in Japan. Some nice frame details like internal top tube cable and reinforced cage mounts and stay bridge. Let down by an unfortunate unicrown fork. I don't know if it was '93 or '94. I fixed it up for my nephew so I don't really have an opinion as to the riding experience. About the same time I got a '94 RB-2, I think it was Japan built. No fancy details but it seemed well made. Very disappointing to ride, "wooden" describes it pretty well. I wonder what the premium would be for a current Japan built steel frame over "other Asian?"
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Old 04-17-24, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
For the nth time, this is a thread about the availability of Asian production lugged bikes. It is not an anti-anything thread.

Lugged steel is dated. All steel frames are dated. Get over it. Lugged construction is harder and takes longer if you have the skill to do either, which I personally appreciate. Steel TIG welds are gnarly looking, to me, compared Ti welds or lugs or fillets. And while that last part is definitely just my opinion, I don't recall that opinion being all that unusual in 1990. So while lugs had production inertia, they also had aesthetic inertia through that period.

So I get your pride in TIG work, but I don't think the Trek Jazz line sold for less than $300 because TIG was a costly or high skill construction technique in factories. S3 is hard to TIG, just like 753 is hard to braze.

Back to any references or remembrances of Asian lugged bikes people might have:
Yellow Jersey in Madison still had access to Panasonics 10 years ago, I believe. Soma had a lugged road frame until recently. Some of Rivendell's frames were recently Japanese imports. So they never really stopped, But there was a point when a complete bike that you could find at a bike shop stopped being an Asian production lugged bike, and I'm curious if there was something as late as '95 or '96?

What complicates things is that a lot of the websites that collect old catalogs seem to drop off around the early '90s, and then internet catalogs didn't become common until the 2000s. So there is a hole in coverage.

How is this weld any uglier than a titanium weld? As for when lugged production availability ended in Japan is impossible to answer since they are still available.
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Old 04-17-24, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
How is this weld any uglier than a titanium weld?
While the skill to produce such welds is undisputed, some of us finds lugs far more elegant and refined, your disagreement to the contrary notwithstanding. And suggesting that some of us who appreciate lugs are "trigger[ed] [by] some long imprinted memories" is insulting, at best.

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Old 04-17-24, 09:14 AM
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This may or may not relate directly to the original topic, but at some point I believe (in the late '90's?) the loading/strength standards for production frame/fork testing increased sharply, meaning that steel framesets in particular became yet harder to produce to a competitively low weight.
Of course steel frame production as applied to better-quality bikes had already trailed off by then.

I recall in the early 2000's someone bringing me a new Tange Prestige frameset to build up, and my being shocked by how heavy it was, despite it not having lugs.

Another related data point of sorts would be Peugeot's adoption of lugless frame construction around roughly 1980, where similar bikes could be compared having lugged versus lugless construction. The lugless construction removed significant weight, allowing lesser frame tubing to be used without any net weight gain.
So as far as the "when" goes, that continuum would seem to have began in the 80's as far as the higher-production models goes.

Lastly, Schwinn was perhaps the biggest player in terms of the other end of the time-line, when large-scale production first started shifting to Taiwan.

The arrival of uni-crown forks would perhaps be another significant point on the timeline, many early examples of which were brazed using a bikini style of crown.
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Old 04-17-24, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4
While the skill to produce such welds is undisputed, some of us finds lugs far more elegant and refined, your disagreement to the contrary notwithstanding. And suggesting that some of us who appreciate lugs are "trigger[ed] [by] some long imprinted memories" is insulting, at best.
AtlasShrugged's specific request, put to Kontact, was for clarification of his statement that welds on steel bikes are uglier than welds on Ti bikes, given how similar they look.
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Old 04-17-24, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
AtlasShrugged's specific request, put to Kontact, was for clarification of his statement that welds on steel bikes are uglier than welds on Ti bikes, given how similar they look.
Given this discussion is about lugged bikes, and AS's contention that it's devolved into an "anti TIG screed," I felt justified in expressing my personal opinion.
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Old 04-17-24, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Given this discussion is about lugged bikes, and AS's contention that it's devolved into an "anti TIG screed," I felt justified in expressing my personal opinion.
Sure. Just wanted to point to the remark in Kontact's recent post---that steel welds are uglier than titanium welds---that both AtlasShrugged and I found puzzling.
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Old 04-17-24, 09:52 AM
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I think it's safe to say that the last of the high-volume lugged frames persisted as long as they did mostly because of aesthetics along with "long imprinted memories", and of course of existing production facilities trying hard to keep everybody employed!
The greater "aesthetics" aspect explains why the lugged Japanese frame persists to this day albeit in much smaller production volumes.

At some point the development and supply chain of tubing intended for lugged frame construction was completely surpassed by that of tubing intended for welded construction, further harming the economics of using lugged construction, not to mention the needed re-design of existing lugs for newer frames having sloping top tubes, ovalized tubing, etc.

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Old 04-17-24, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
Sure. Just wanted to point to the remark in Kontact's recent post---that steel welds are uglier than titanium welds---that both AtlasShrugged and I found puzzling.
I do too. I assume some sort of typo, but I won't speak for Kontact.
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