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Univega Specialissima vs equivalent Miyata or Trek Tourer?

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Univega Specialissima vs equivalent Miyata or Trek Tourer?

Old 07-09-09, 09:59 AM
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ikeonabike
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Univega Specialissima vs equivalent Miyata or Trek Tourer?

I'm considering purchasing a Univega Specialissima I found on craigslist, but I've been surprised at the dearth of info available about Univega touring bikes. I know most were built by Miyata, but that's about it.

Everyone describes the Miyata 1000 and the Trek 720 as the twin holy grails of classic touring bikes. The Univega Gran Turismo and Specialissima often receive honorable mention in classic tourer lists, but how do they actually compare? Is a Specialissima in the same league as other top tourers of its time?

The Specialissima I'm looking at is an 18 speed with canti brakes and bar end shifters. I'd assume it's a mid 80's model. Don't know about butting yet. I'm looking for a daily commuter that could double as a loaded tourer.

I'm posting this in the touring section as well. Many thanks to anyone with Univega info.

~ike
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Old 07-09-09, 10:03 AM
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Ike, check out this Univega Appreciation Thread. Maybe someone posting in it will have the info you need.

Kevin

(loves his Univega Trail hybrid.)
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Old 07-09-09, 11:12 AM
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I had a Gran Turismo. The Univegas are nice bikes, but not up to the caliber of the Trek 720 or Miyata 1000.

I replaced my Gran Turismo with a Miyata 215 ST (the bottom of their touring line) and I consider the Miyata a better bike. I also had a Trek 620, and would consider it above the Gran Turismo. Just one guy's opinion.

Regardless of my opinion, I certainly consider the Univegas nice bikes, and well worthy of your consideration. The lack of appreciation of the Univegas can mean a better deal for you!

Based on your plans for the bike, I think the Specialissima would be an excellent choice.
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Old 07-09-09, 01:07 PM
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My 1984 Univega Gran Turismo is made by Miyata using Miyata's DB Chromoly tubing, with exactly the same components as the Miyata 610 of the same year, with the same geometry as closely as I can measure. If I were a betting man, I'd say it's a 610 with different paint. And with low rider eyelets on the fork. The Specialisma is a step up from the Gran Turismo, I think. You'd be well served to buy it- the Treks and Miyatas are a bit overpriced from the cachet generated by Sheldon's article.
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Old 07-11-09, 08:30 PM
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Thanks much to all for the advice. I'm going to test ride the Specialissima tomorrow. If it fits well, I'll likely buy. I wish I knew how to tell what year the bike was. I've read that the later, triple-butted Univegas are better rides than the earlier double-butted models.

Squeazel- What Sheldon Brown article? I can't remember ever reading an article that specifically called out the 720 as one of the top dogs of touring rigs.
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Old 07-12-09, 05:49 AM
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The Specilissima was Univaga's top grand touring (GT) model. Comparable Japanese built models from the mid-1980s include the Centurion Pro Tour, Fuji Touring series V, Lotus Odyssey, Miyata 1000 and Specialized Expedition.

Being from this period, the frame is almost certainly built by Miyata (who also built the Specialized, in addition ot their own models) so you know it's manufactured to high standards. The Miyata often garners the most respect simply because it was the first of the true grand touring models out of Japan. All of the above are highly regarded GT models but Miyata tended to rest a bit on their laurels and played things conversatively. I think that for comparable years, you'll find that Univega is spec'd a bit more agressively. For instance, they went to 3 bottle mounts and and low-riders before Miyata. Miyata also tended to shy away from bar-end shifters.

The Univega is a nice find and a very good bicycle. I certainly wouldn't consider it notably inferior to any of the above and if it fits and is in decent condition, I certainly wouldn't put off purchasing it in the hopes of finding a Miyata or Trek. The one note of caution regrding mid-1980s GT models is that many used SunTour's MounTech or Superbe-Tech rear derailleur. Both had inherent design flaws and are prone to failure. A Huret Duopar or Shimano XT would be a suitable period replacement.
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Old 07-12-09, 06:30 PM
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thanks for the info T-Mar. you seem to be the reining online guru when it comes to univegas. almost all the info i found on them came from your archived posts. any idea why there's so little info available? i've been able to find catalogs online for trek, miyata, and raleigh, but very little concrete univega info.

i ended up passing on the specialissima. it must have been an older model- no fork braze-ons, and only one set of water bottle braze-ons. there was also no sticker on it saying whether or not the frame was butted. is there some trick to tell if a bike is double/triple butted if it doesn't say on the frame?

i've now got my eyes on a trek 620.
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Old 07-12-09, 09:13 PM
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If interested here is the obit of Ben Lawee the founder of Univega who died in 2002.

http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-tr...4135027-1.html

It is an interesting, short read.

He sold Univega in '96 to Raleigh who killed it shortly thereafter

Dan
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Old 07-13-09, 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by ikeonabike View Post
thanks for the info T-Mar. you seem to be the reining online guru when it comes to univegas. almost all the info i found on them came from your archived posts. any idea why there's so little info available? i've been able to find catalogs online for trek, miyata, and raleigh, but very little concrete univega info.

i ended up passing on the specialissima. it must have been an older model- no fork braze-ons, and only one set of water bottle braze-ons. there was also no sticker on it saying whether or not the frame was butted. is there some trick to tell if a bike is double/triple butted if it doesn't say on the frame?

i've now got my eyes on a trek 620.
Interest in C&V is growing, so I'm sure some catalogs will start popping up. My interest is actually Miyata, but since Miyata made most of the Univega they sort of go hand in hand.

It certainly sounds like an early model, probably late 1970s. During that period is was quite common to spec GT bicycles with plain gauge tubing. The Miyata 1000's predecessor of the late 1970s used plain gauge CrMo and had only one bottle mount.

Originally Posted by love2pedal.com View Post
If interested here is the obit of Ben Lawee the founder of Univega who died in 2002.

http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-tr...4135027-1.html

It is an interesting, short read.

He sold Univega in '96 to Raleigh who killed it shortly thereafter

Dan .
There's at least one error in that article. The bicycle brand he created in the early 1970s was Italvega, not Univega. The name changed when manufacturing was transferred from Italy to Japan. We haven't quite nailed down that date but it was circa 1976.
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Old 07-13-09, 06:43 AM
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Slight tangent:

I thought the Trek 520 was the Trek to get, are the 620 and 720 models of the same notariety? I know the 820 is something else.

I've always wanted a true legitimate touring grade bike so when I see these types of threads I always read them with interest.
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Old 07-13-09, 07:01 AM
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I had a 720 back in the mid/late 80s and used it to tour around the world

It was burgandy red, had 27" wheels, a Huret DuoPar rr derailleur (broke in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand), bar end shifters and had these sweet, custom, low rider front Blackburn racks (custom painted blue I think) that were integrated into a special front fork braze-on instead of attached to the brake bolt. What is also interesting about these low rider front racks, is they were designed by Jim Gentes who worked for Blackburn. Gentes went on to found a small helmet company you may have heard of: Giro

Dan
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Old 07-13-09, 09:25 AM
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I have yet to see a Specialissima with all of the touring braze-ons that have come to signify a top end mid-1980s touring bike. Typically, they don't have the low-rider mounts on the forks, and if they have bottle cage braze-ons, only have two bottle cage braze-ons. The Gran Turismo, which was below the Specialissima, and which seems to have replaced the Specialisssima mid-decade (I'm not sure about that, but the Specialissima does seem to have disappeared around then), did come with all of the classic touring bike braze-ons.
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Old 07-13-09, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
There's at least one error in that article. The bicycle brand he created in the early 1970s was Italvega, not Univega. The name changed when manufacturing was transferred from Italy to Japan. We haven't quite nailed down that date but it was circa 1976.
According to both Sheldon's site, and an anonymous poster on Velo-Orange, "Ben Lawee's" name was Ben Olken, and he owned Lawee Inc.

Do you know if that's correct, T-Mar?
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Old 07-13-09, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by ikeonabike View Post
Squeazel- What Sheldon Brown article? I can't remember ever reading an article that specifically called out the 720 as one of the top dogs of touring rigs.
There was one mention about the Miyata 1000 being perhaps the best production touring bike of its time- I might have misremembered reading about the Trek 520 in the Sheldon pages. But... the 720 > 620 > 520, and all *very* good touring bikes.
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Old 07-13-09, 12:38 PM
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Here are a few photo's of mine. I tried to get the picture of the #3rd bottle braze -ons but it turned out dark. But trust me they are there. The lowrider bosses showed up ok. Not sure what year it is (84-85?).

parts list:

rim -Araya 27in 36 fr, 40 rear
hubs suntour sprint
front der. suntour superbe
Rear der. suntour superbe tech (changed to a XT)
Shifters -Barcons
crank sugino AT
bars -42cm nitto rando's
headset -Tange Levin
srem nitto technomic
Brakes -Dia compe
rear rack -blackburn


any thing else is a add-on

http://picasaweb.google.com/7Juana.C...eat=directlink
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Old 07-13-09, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Juana View Post
Here are a few photo's of mine. I tried to get the picture of the #3rd bottle braze -ons but it turned out dark. But trust me they are there. The lowrider bosses showed up ok. Not sure what year it is (84-85?).

parts list:

rim -Araya 27in 36 fr, 40 rear
hubs suntour sprint
front der. suntour superbe
Rear der. suntour superbe tech (changed to a XT)
Shifters -Barcons
crank sugino AT
bars -42cm nitto rando's
headset -Tange Levin
srem nitto technomic
Brakes -Dia compe
rear rack -blackburn


any thing else is a add-on

http://picasaweb.google.com/7Juana.C...eat=directlink
Thanks, that conforms that the mid-80s Specialissima did in fact have all the braze-ons, despite my never having see one with all the braze-ons.

What tubing does it have?
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Old 07-13-09, 01:09 PM
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Double butted Chromoly. I believe it's a Tange sticker but not quite sure.I added a pic to the link if you wanna have a look.

-John

http://picasaweb.google.com/7Juana.C...at=directlink#
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Old 07-13-09, 02:12 PM
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That makes me question the common wisdom that the Specialissima was better than the mid-80s Gran Turismo (which had a triple-butted cromoly frame).
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Old 07-13-09, 03:13 PM
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If the Univega's were made by Miyata and if the specialissima follows the miyata 1000 model, I kinda guessed the year of my bike by these Miyata catalogs scans linked below. The 84 catalog 1000 specs seem to match the sticker on my frame "Double butted " The 85 miyata 1000 spec says triple butted tubing. So maybe it depends on the year. I have no idea where the gran turismo fits in the scheme with miyata models either way to paraphrase Moses/Charlton Heston "you would have to pry my specialissima from my cold dead hands".

FWIW:Speaking of Ben Lawee last year I was at Rene Herse/Boulder Bicycles down in Boulder and I was talking about bikes with Mike Kone and he said the Univega guy was living in Boulder or Denver (at first I thought he meant Ben but now after this article I think he might have meant David ) . He also said he was one of the few people he knew that really made good money in the bike industry. Which kinda makes sense with the importing/spec model he had developed with Motobecane/Italavega/Univega.

p.s. sorry for all the linking but I can never get these things to show up right in the posts.

miyata spec 84
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_whtVpXkKwl...0-h/img075.jpg

miyata spec 85
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_whtVpXkKwl...0-h/img095.jpg
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Old 07-13-09, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Blue Order View Post
According to both Sheldon's site, and an anonymous poster on Velo-Orange, "Ben Lawee's" name was Ben Olken, and he owned Lawee Inc.

Do you know if that's correct, T-Mar?
Not so...I worked for Univega and Ben Lawee in early 80's. Ben Olken was the East Coast distributor for a number of Ben Lawee's lines, mainly Univega and Motobecane. I saw both of them together from time to time at bike shows and when Ben Olken would visit Ben Lawee in Long Beach.

Ben there..done that..
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Old 07-13-09, 08:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom Pedale View Post
Not so...I worked for Univega and Ben Lawee in early 80's. Ben Olken was the East Coast distributor for a number of Ben Lawee's lines, mainly Univega and Motobecane. I saw both of them together from time to time at bike shows and when Ben Olken would visit Ben Lawee in Long Beach.

Ben there..done that..
Thanks for clearing that confusion up!

(and what other lines did Lawee distribute?)
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Old 07-13-09, 09:35 PM
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Juana, I have the same frame and concluded the same thing. That the 1000 and the Specialissima were both labeled as double butted in 84 and triple in 85 and on (that is also the year that Univega started using triple butted tubes?). Anyway, from the pictures I've seen of 84 1000s the Specialissima shares a lot of similarities. Same fork braze-ons and rear brake cable holder, same lugs and cut-outs...

Mine is also that wine color though with more nicks and scratches. Someone upgraded to a Deore DX rear, and superbe front and pedals. But it still has the same wheels (sprint/Araya 40/36), nitto stem, sun-tour barcons, etc.

There seems to be a cult thing with the miyata and treks for sure, seeming that a lot of these bikes were made in the same factory with the same parts!

If anyone is looking for a 59/57 frame and fork pm me.
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Old 07-13-09, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Blue Order View Post
Thanks for clearing that confusion up!

(and what other lines did Lawee distribute?)
At the beginning, Bianchi & Legnano, then Raleigh & Motobecane. Ben told the French very bluntly (and he was always very direct) that Motobecane would sell better with a Japanese drivetrain. He was right & very successful as a result. Univega (Universal Star) was started partially out of his frustration with Italvega (Italian Star) production (not on time, inconsistent quality). Ben worked with Miyata primarily at first. I remember picking up Mr. Miyata at the airport. He was a very courteous man.
Later, production of some Univegas shifted to Taiwan as labor costs increased. One of Ben's continuing challenges was trying to get a foothold in the upper end market which was dominated in the early 80's by various Euro names (Colnago, Eddy Merckx, Pinarello, Masi, De Rosa etc.) To this end he created the Bertoni brand was made in Italy. It never really took off. One thing Ben never understood was promotion.
No teams rode his bikes and in fact Ben never rode a bike. He did however, have a great car collection and appreciated great design.

Ben never wanted his company to grow beyond a size that he could not personally manage. Delegating was not his strength. Micro-managing was. With Ben it was "I talk, you listen." I learned a lot while I was there for 3 years, but then moved on to Specialized for 8 1/2 years which to this day I think is the best bicycle company on the planet.
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Old 05-16-11, 11:21 AM
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Did you know David Lawee?
Ben and David Lawee visited with us @ Ben Olken's Bicycle Exchange in Cambridge (back in the 80's).
I was told that Ben Lawee was also credited for some of the earlier designs to the popular Raleigh Professional, International, Competitions of the 70's.
His Italvega used the same "Speed Lettering" on the top tube.
Bertoni's were made by Bianchi, Univega's were made by Miyata (japanese models) and KHS (Taiwanese models).
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