Monday, December 2, 2013

Good or Great Restoration? : Chapter 1 - Build Accuracy

Before arguing about the fact that people often kept their bikes for a long time and upgraded them from time to time, or simply replaced parts that wore out with new ones, it's important to ask yourself why are you restoring a bike? If you simply want an old bike to ride and you don't care that parts don't match or were not available when the bike was made, that's fine. If, on the other hand, you are trying to build a bike as it was spec'd back in the day or attempt a custom build from that time period, then do the research and find the correct parts.

Knowing the manufacture date of your frame is a good place to start when selecting the proper components to complete the build

Just don't be surprised or offended when someone picks at the fact that you used Mavic 117 rims on a bike that was made in 1988, seeing as those rims didn't come out until 1994, and identifying and sourcing some period-correct rims would not have been that hard. Again, there is nothing technically wrong with it, but a little more effort would have gotten you a more period-correct build. This logic can be extended to all manner of components, tires, cables etc.

There are several categories one can work at when trying to be period-correct. I use the word category loosely and the number I chose doesn't mean there aren't intermediate 'catregories' or that there aren't a dozen more ways to slice things to suit your own needs. Also I'm not directly implying that C1 is better than C2 or on down the line. This is just my take on things based on what I've done and what I've seen others do with solid results.

Category 1 - A build utilizing only components that were listed or shown in a catalog, a replica of a team bike or something along those lines. Someone undertaking a build like this will make sure that everything down to the inner tubes is correct per the spec.  All part date codes and stamps are aligned with the frame manufacture year and/or minor details like stickers or brake pads will be accounted for. A basic example would be using correct M900 coded XTR parts on bikes made from 1992-1994 and using M910 parts on bikes made in 1995. A more specific example could be only using Salsa stems with the correct decal for the given year of manufacture of the frame.  Knowing which sidewall stickers on your Specialized Ground Control is key for a build like this.

Good example of a catalog spec bike (excuse the seat in this pic)

Good example of a faithful replica show bike

Category 2 - A build utilizing only period-correct parts but not adhering to any specific spec or build guide. Typically, in a build like this, the aftermarket parts will be from the same manufacturer or represent a region where the components were made (e.g. all Syncros or IRD build). As in Level 1, all part date codes and stamps correspond to the year of the frame manufacture. Typically builds adhering to a high degree of uniformity tend to elicit a better response among fans rather than a build that utilizes parts from multiple manufacturers. Again, there is nothing wrong with a highly mixed build. In fact, an argument can sometimes be made that cherry picking parts across manufacturers can result in a better performing bike (e.g. Bridgestone MB-Zip), but these cases tend to be rarer. So, in some cases a highly customized build backed by proven performance benefits or perhaps manufacturer relationships can win out over a more consistent build. But simply throwing a ton of pretty CNCd parts from one year onto a frame of that year with limited though to match or performance won't win you any points among purists.

Good example of a non-catalog spec period correct build

Category 3 - This is really just a broader expansion of C2 to include parts that may not have been made during the exact manufacture year of the frame, but were definitely available during the production life for a frame. Obviously this opens up the range of what's acceptable to put on a bike, while trying to keep within the scope of what would have been doable back when the frame was manufactured/sold.

Fair example of a Cat 3 bike (easy to cheat with frame that was built for over ten years)

There isn't much point in going down past Category 3 as at that point you're simply just throwing random parts on a bike and calling it vintage just because something is no longer made. In my mind that sort of defeats the points and frankly is just too easy.

1 comment:

  1. Frankly speaking I'm positively surprised by your scientific approach of the restoration of vintage mtb. This point of view defines new area of expansion and potentially new services.
    For example the customer send you a list of the intended mtb build and you suggest the replacement to do in order to obtain a category L1 instead of L2...
    I totally agree that this matter of vintage has a large spread of the possible build for a bike!