Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What differentiates are good restoration from a great one??

Emotions always seem to run high when people get passionate about their work or hobbies. Vintage mountain bikes are no exception. It seems every time a new build is presented or the next Bike Of The Month rolls around the age old discussion of why is one build or restoration is better than the next rears its ugly head.

While it's important to recognize that elements of sentimentality and personal preferences may and often do trump the accuracy, quality and presentation of any given build the latter elements are the main contributing factors in establishing a quantitative framework for judging a restoration or build. It's not my intention to tell people what to do with their bikes, rather provide some explanation why some people critique their builds when they are shown and especially when they are entered into competitions.

In my humble opinion a good example of a classic build with few minimalist flourishes, I'd subtract points for poor photo quality.

I believe, and seemingly for many others do as well that at the root of this passion is the desire to relive our youth. Many of us spent our childhood hours at the local bike shop ogling the high end builds, or thumbing through your mag of choice memorizing the specific build that the Pro's had that year. All of that emotion has been stored up over the years and now with a little bit of disposable income (some more than others) we have the opportunity to own the dream bikes we may not have been able to back in the day. These dream bikes may be radically different from one person to the next and because they often illicit such a strong emotional response it's hard to say that one dream is better than another dream bike. However, once you adjust for the fact that somebody may have an incredibly strong connection with that shiny black Trek 830 that their dad brought home one Christmas and that one bike, no matter how low end and heavy it is will always hold a special place in their heart and receive extra special consideration you have to allow for some objective standards by which to compare two builds. It is my hope and plan to outline a set of metrics which will be helpful in establishing why one build should get top honors over another, and perhaps to provide some insight into why some people tend to be 'anal' and 'perfectionist' when it comes to their builds.

A good example of a period correct build but there are a few flaws with build and presentation, can you find them?

For me, the main elements in objectively evaluating a bike are (more details on these in later posts)

1. Build accuracy - is the bike built using components that would have been available during the time the frame was manufactured / sold

2. Build quality / precision - are the frame & components in good shape, is the bike properly set up, are the cables run correctly, tires on the right way etc.

3. Rarity of the bike - are the frame / components very rare, does the bike have a unique history that contributes to it's significance (all other things being equal a rare bike will almost always beat out a mass produced one)

4. Originality - is the bike in original condition or has it been modified, painted etc. (all other things being equal and original example will almost always trump a restoration)

The more subjective elements are:

5. Is the bike aesthetically pleasing - is the total build well thought out and attractive

6. Difficulty of build - does the amount / difficulty of work that went into the build warrant special consideration, e.g. owner performed their own repairs / modifications or located some very unique part)

7. Attention to detail - this can be something small like aligning the tire label with the valve stem, making sure that the labels on the hubs point the same direction or that the saddle is set at an angle that clearly can be ridden

Perfect example of a faithful replica build, in some ways this is easier because you have an exact template to work from, the hard part is just getting the parts

I'm sure by now some people will think that this is a elitist point of view, that not everyone has the means to to build bikes on that same level, access to the parts, skills to do the unique repairs etc. Well, much like in everything else when someone comes along and raises the bar some people will respond in kind and elevate their game and others will fall back and simply attempt to stay in the game. My point here is not to play favorites and poke fun at those who are proud of their bikes but to provide some guidance on how move to the next level.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Winter bike building plans

I always get a little bit sad when the days grow short. However, living in LA has one advantage over the east coast, it may be dark, but it sure as hell isn't cold. So, although my daylight hours are limited, I can still hang out in the shop in the evenings and not succumb to frostbite.

With that spirit I am setting out to complete a barrage of builds this winter and try to increase my saddle time. On the personal side I need to wrap up the 89 Merlin and the 90 Yo Eddy. Two bikes I've been itching to try, but something always seems to get in the way. I've got the Merlin build mostly sorted out in terms of components, and it's just a matter of time until it's up and running. The Yo Eddy is not so lucky and I'm having a hard time picturing the complete build. Maybe I'll find some inspiration, but odds are it will just end up a somewhat boring XT build, we'll see. Beyond those two I'm really hoping to get started on the restoration of my 83 Mantis XCR. This is bound to be a massive challenge, as the frame needs repair before I can even set out to paint it, the parts are all rare and obtuse and I'm still missing some very critical parts like the stem. Following that is the elevated chainstay Mantis Valkyrie which also requires some surgery, but at least I have most of that build sorted out. Those two bikes more or less wrap up my personal builds for the winter. No doubt I'll need to service some other bikes here and there, but for the most part the remainder of my small fleet is up and running.

On the non-personal front it's gearing up to be a busy season. Kleins continue to rain supreme, although there are a couple Yetis and a Kestrel MX-Z in the mix as well. Of the upcoming projects the one I'm most excited about is the 87 Yeti FRO. I found this bike in the outskirts of LA in a state of neglect and mishandling. Luckily the frame was solid and with a little imagination it can be a magnificent bike. I'm going for a black/turquoise harlequin paintjob with offsetting cranks and brakes. A full Cook Bros kit to top it off and the old girl will be ready for another 25 years of dedicated service! It's really a great treat to see a forgotten bike return to it's original state and hit the trails, totally worth the hours spent working on them. Beyond that there are not one, but two Storm Attitudes, a couple Adroits, an NOS 94 Attitude and few miscellaneous Attitudes.

I finally managed to get my shop area cleaned up, moved some stuff around to make more room to work on multiple bikes at the same time and did a little bit of work on cataloging my parts binds. It's amazing how quickly you can lose track of how many derailleurs or brake straddle hangers you have only to find yourself stuck without a crucial part to finish something off. Housing, cables, ferrules and other consumables are all restocked and it's off to the races.