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Lotus Bikes - Help Please

Old 01-28-11, 02:58 AM
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ingmanjc
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Lotus Bikes - Help Please

Can anybody tell me a little history on Lotus Vintage Road Bikes? Some things I would like to find out would be where did they get their frames? (did they make them? or import them?) Also where did they get their forks? (did they make or import them) I'm specifically interested in the 1982 Lotus Challenger. A manual or brief history of this bike and any information would be much appreciated. I know the were a high end Japanese bike company that emerged in the late 70s and died out in the early 90s. Websites or anything would be helpful, thanks.
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Old 01-28-11, 07:17 AM
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From Wikipedia:

Lotus was a brand of bicycles designed, specified, marketed and distributed by Lotus International Corp. of Syosset, New York, which had been founded by Sid and Ernst Star. The bikes were offered as a complete range, from entry level to professional models, and were manufactured by Tsunoda Bicycle Corporation of Nagoya, Japan (founded in 1926, still in business) and subsequently by other manufacturers — including a group of mid-1980s high end models manufactured in Italy, in conjunction with Cinelli.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_%28bicycles%29
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Old 01-28-11, 08:28 AM
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They were very popular around the Philly area and several shops stocked them...there was one, I forget the name, by the KOP mall (later a Bike Line) that sold a TON of them. They had different ranges of bikes, like most Japanese lines...if memory serves the Challenger was on the lower end. I think they were headquartered in PA and also were prominent in NYC.
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Old 01-28-11, 08:34 AM
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Lotus made brochures and sales calls (OK, they designed them and spec'd them out as well, but how much control they had over companies like Tsunoda, I am not sure). Great bikes, but made by others. +1 Lotus was not a Japanese company, but many of their bikes were made in Japan. I have three Japanese Lotus bikes right now, plus one made in Taiwan.

There were a lot of bike companies doing that back then (farming out their manufacturing to others), and a lot of them doing it now.

I would not characterize them as a high end Japanese company. They sold a full line of bikes, from low end to high end and everything in between. And the company itself was not Japanese.

+1 Challenger was on the lower end of the product line. You can judge that yourself based on what the frame is made out of, and what level of components were used to build the bike.

Last edited by wrk101; 01-28-11 at 08:39 AM.
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Old 01-28-11, 09:17 AM
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The Challenger wasn't high end, it came with stem shifters. Made with Tange tubing it delivers an ecellent ride. Shimano SIS. I replaced the stem shifters with DT shifters on mine and love the bike.
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Old 01-28-11, 04:20 PM
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From what I remember about Lotus is that they came about around the time that Panasonic and a few others were getting popular. They were always a brand that wasn't sold around here but you saw them here and there on the road. From the few I ran across back in the day they were nice looking bikes, probably on par with those from Panasonic and other Japanese brands.
I did try one years ago, I believe the model was a Supreme or something similar. A guy I met at an event had one, all Dura Ace with clincher wheels and Champion tubed frame. Compared to my Motobecane Grand Jubile, it felt far lighter and much more of agile. Something that always got me was that they were a PA based company from what I heard, and there were no local dealers in my area in NJ. If it weren't Schwinn, Panasonic, Raleigh, or maybe Shogun or Trek, you had to travel to find it.
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Old 01-28-11, 04:36 PM
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There's no catalog archive for Lotus online and it seems, similarly to Univega, that the model hierarchy can be difficult to discern unless your bike catalog memory of 30 or so years ago is good.

I facilitated a Lotus Unique for a buddy of mine over the summer. Its a decent mid level, lugged cr-mo, Universal Japanese Bike. I think 'forgettable' describes it best like a toaster. It works perfectly everytime you need it but you never come away from it saying "Hot Damn! That is AWESOME toast!!"
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Old 01-28-11, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
There were a lot of bike companies doing that back then (farming out their manufacturing to others), and a lot of them doing it now.
Thank you all for the info, it was very helpful. This makes sense. The reason why I ask is because the fork off a 1982 Lotus Challenger (unique) is the same thats on my bike which I am trying to identify. Does anybody know who made frames or parts for lotus? Im trying to track down what my bike is through my unique fork if that is even possible.

This is my other post that talks about my mystery bike
https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...tage-Road-Bike
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Old 01-28-11, 08:31 PM
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Here is a 1981 catalog, unfortunately the Challanger is listed.


https://www.wooljersey.com/gallery/v/...lotus/catalog/
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Old 01-28-11, 09:41 PM
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Good link, I think that's the first I've ever laid eyes on a Lotus catalog. I've owned two bikes and info on them is scarce to say the least.
For being within 100 miles of what the company listed as it's headquarters there are very few of these around.
The few I've owned and seen over the years were fine looking bikes. I always sort of thought of Lotus along the ranks of Nishiki and Centurion. Although Lotus wasn't a Japanese company, the bikes were built by Tsunoda who was and still is a respected bike maker.
I'll never understand why any entry level bike gets kicked around so hard here and on other forums. As far as I know the Challenger was a good ride, I don't recall ever hearing of any issues with any of the Lotus bikes as far as quality, the two I've owned were certainly comparable to any other Japanese built bike I've seen, maybe even a bit better in some respects. Its not as if were talking about a department store Huffy or Murray here.
Its been my experience that many lower end or entry level bikes make the best daily riders. After all, how long would a minty clean Raleigh Pro or any Schwinn Paramount last locked up out on the street while you grocery shop? How about those rides that take you down dirt roads full of what every last nights partiers tossed out the window? I doubt many would run a high dollar set of tubular tires over that type of surface, or for those in Philly, try riding over cobblestones or trolley tracks. Bikes like the old Schwinn Varsity and other steel wheel rides sure to a lot better in those conditions than do the high end highly sought after rides. I as someone who owns several dozen old bikes, mostly old road bikes from the 70's, I find myself more apt to ride a lesser model or mid range model bike before chancing damage or theft to something high end.
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Old 01-28-11, 10:13 PM
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Lotus's were quite popular in NYC back in the early 80s. I saw many being ridden in Manhattan on a given Sunday. The models I saw were mid to higher end, on par with any Centurion Iron Man. The lower end models were similar to a Giant road bike that came in the early 90s.
I wouldn't thumb my nose at a Lotus. I wouldn't mind a nice example of one of their road racers for my collection.
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Old 01-29-11, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by WNG View Post
Lotus's were quite popular in NYC back in the early 80s. I saw many being ridden in Manhattan on a given Sunday. The models I saw were mid to higher end, on par with any Centurion Iron Man. The lower end models were similar to a Giant road bike that came in the early 90s.
I wouldn't thumb my nose at a Lotus. I wouldn't mind a nice example of one of their road racers for my collection.
The Lotus I'd most want is an Odyssey...their touring bikes were really, really cool.
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Old 01-29-11, 01:30 AM
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Originally Posted by reelfishin View Post
Good link, I think that's the first I've ever laid eyes on a Lotus catalog. I've owned two bikes and info on them is scarce to say the least.
For being within 100 miles of what the company listed as it's headquarters there are very few of these around.
The few I've owned and seen over the years were fine looking bikes. I always sort of thought of Lotus along the ranks of Nishiki and Centurion. Although Lotus wasn't a Japanese company, the bikes were built by Tsunoda who was and still is a respected bike maker.
I'll never understand why any entry level bike gets kicked around so hard here and on other forums. As far as I know the Challenger was a good ride, I don't recall ever hearing of any issues with any of the Lotus bikes as far as quality, the two I've owned were certainly comparable to any other Japanese built bike I've seen, maybe even a bit better in some respects. Its not as if were talking about a department store Huffy or Murray here.
Its been my experience that many lower end or entry level bikes make the best daily riders. After all, how long would a minty clean Raleigh Pro or any Schwinn Paramount last locked up out on the street while you grocery shop? How about those rides that take you down dirt roads full of what every last nights partiers tossed out the window? I doubt many would run a high dollar set of tubular tires over that type of surface, or for those in Philly, try riding over cobblestones or trolley tracks. Bikes like the old Schwinn Varsity and other steel wheel rides sure to a lot better in those conditions than do the high end highly sought after rides. I as someone who owns several dozen old bikes, mostly old road bikes from the 70's, I find myself more apt to ride a lesser model or mid range model bike before chancing damage or theft to something high end.
I'm a Philly guy and have some fairly high end bikes. I'm not going to debate tubulars with you because I happen to agree...but none of my bikes have them. It isn't that hard to find quality clincher wheel sets...or to build some up. As far as theft goes, I've commuted and lived in Philly for 8 years...and I've never lost a bike. Lock them up correctly, don't leave them over night, don't lock it outside in the same place during work. Follow common sense rules and you're fine. I also lock my bikes at parking garages the times I'll be leaving them for over a few hours...tip the guy a buck or two and you're golden.

As far as road condition, trolley tracks, etc...road bikes are able to handle the roads in Philly just fine...even the cobble stone of olde city. We also, as I'm sure you know, have a lot of bike paths here. Yes...flats are an issue...but flats are going to be an issue with any bike or tire you use here. Patching a tube isn't very expensive or time consuming.
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Old 01-29-11, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by ingmanjc View Post
Thank you all for the info, it was very helpful. This makes sense. The reason why I ask is because the fork off a 1982 Lotus Challenger (unique) is the same thats on my bike which I am trying to identify. Does anybody know who made frames or parts for lotus? Im trying to track down what my bike is through my unique fork if that is even possible.
As mentioned earlier, they were made by Tsunoda in the early 80s. By the late 80s, they often were made in Taiwan.

Sounds like your bike has been stripped of its decals and badges and the original paint. If so, to me, it no longer matters. The Japanese bikes from that era are just about interchangable (kind of like the toaster comment). Whether it was a Univega, a Lotus, a Panasonic, a Nishiki, etc., they all are pretty similar, particularly at this grade level. The high end stuff tended to have more differences. Whoever removed the decals (and perhaps the paint), turned it into a generic, Japanese bike. If that is the case, returning it to its original condition would be cost prohibitive.

Yep, looked at your original post: headbadge: gone. Paint: gone. Decals: gone.

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Old 01-29-11, 07:22 AM
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I paid $20 for this Classique at a LBS bike swap last spring. Immaculate condition--look at that chrome! Unfortunately, way too small for me. It all worked out, though--I traded it for a similarly immaculate Miyata 610 in my size (the earlier, less desirable model with center-pulls instead of cantilevers), which I made some improvements to, rode for most of the summer, then sold to another tall guy who really liked it. I found another Classique in my size at a reasonable price, though, I'd snap it up.
If I remember right, Thrifty Bill has another Classique exactly like this one, even down to the paint color.
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Old 01-29-11, 11:05 AM
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Lotus Excelle

I bought a Lotus Excelle in the Spring of 1986. I had very little bike savvy and didn't know what might be a good value, so I looked in Consumer Reports! The Excelle was listed as the top bike in its price range (I paid ~$340) in the most recent CR bike review.

I visited several shops close to my South Jersey home (near Philly) that carried Lotus, so they weren't hard to locate around these parts.
That model Excelle was made in Taiwan, and had 12-sp downtube SIS (indexed - new!) shifters on a Tange frame. Weight was listed at 25.x lbs. I chose a black one.
I rode it only occasionally for 21 years, and did not put a lot of miles on it.

It is a good bike. I only upgraded to a new bike when I started riding again in earnest and decided after a year that STI was the way for me to go. My last ride on Ol' Paint was my first MS150 (tho I only rode the 75 miles down to the Shore).

My college-age nephew still rides it happily (and may still have the Lotus catalog I also handed over to him). After only having ridden dept store bikes, he told me, "Man, it is fast!" Made an old uncle feel good. Someday I may refurbish it.

Last edited by NJgreyhead; 02-01-11 at 08:38 PM. Reason: Edited to read Spring 1986, not 1985.
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Old 01-29-11, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by NJgreyhead View Post
I bought a Lotus Excelle in the Spring of 1985. I had very little bike savvy and didn't know what might be a good value, so I looked in Consumer Reports! The Excelle was listed as the top bike in its price range (I paid ~$340) in the most recent CR bike review.

I visited several shops close to my South Jersey home (near Philly) that carried Lotus, so they weren't hard to locate around these parts.
That model Excelle was made in Taiwan, and had 12-sp downtube SIS (indexed - new!) shifters on a Tange frame. I chose a black one.
I rode it only occasionally for 21 years, and did not put a lot of miles on it.

It is a good bike. I only upgraded to a new bike when I started riding again in earnest and decided after a year that STI was the way for me to go. My last ride on Ol' Paint was my first MS150 (tho I only rode the 75 miles down to the Shore).

My college-age nephew still rides it happily (and may still have the Lotus catalog I also handed over to him). After only having ridden dept store bikes, he told me, "Man, it is fast!" Made an old uncle feel good. Someday I may refurbish it.
My first "real" bike was a Lotus Odyssey and that consumer reports article is why I ended up with a Lotus. My father has a 1985 Lotus Excelle as well...very nice bike!
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Old 01-31-11, 11:43 AM
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I bought a Lotus Eclair in 1984, for $400. It was the maroon color, and came with front & rear racks, 3 water bottle cages, & canti brakes for touring. I think it had a triple.

I flew with it out to Ann Arbor, and rode back to NJ with my buddy, camping along the way. I remember doing a century across Ohio one day, and wore a hole in the chamois of my shorts! I think we did over 800 miles in 11 days, and the bike was up to the challenge. I kept it for many years, but donated it to Pedals for Progress when I decided I preferred a race bike and wasn't going to be touring again.
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Old 02-01-11, 12:47 PM
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The Lotus I'd most want is an Odyssey...their touring bikes were really, really cool.



I am almost finished rebuilding an '82 Classique and have a way-too-small for me Eclair touring frame in the barn.

:-)
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