Saturday, March 28, 2009

Back when....

In the days when virtually all good bikes were steel, custom bikes were truly deluxe. You could ride for years and never feel the need to order one, never feel there was much to be gained by a custom fit or custom fussing.

Especially if you were normally proportioned, you could find a factory road frame that'd work fine and inspire love and loyalty.

If you did order a custom frame, and if your builder sized you, you had lots of decisions to make and lots of conferring with that individual to do during the process of your frame's design and assembly. Hey, it was custom....

It was not just a bike. For instance, my Lighthouse, built in 1990, came with two Silca pumps painted-to-match, one for the usual pump mounting-place along the seat tube and a longer one for under the top tube, for days when I'd bolt both the painted-to-match bottle cages to the frame.

Sometimes, builders would paint the cable ferrules (the 1/2" long reinforcing caps that fit over the ends of your cable housings). And the vertical slots in your seat post. And the little windows in your lugs. And the cut-away or relieved areas of your crank arms. And the little arty reliefs in your brake calipers or levers.

A few builders, including ex-jewelry maker Rocket Tim Neenan who built my Lighthouse, cast their own head tube badges and riveted them to their frames. David Schnitzer's 30-year old Lighthouse is gone now, but he's hung onto the badge in the photo - for his new one.

1 comment:

Earle said...

OK, I'm normally proportioned, and ride a 56 cm bike, which is everybody's "show" size, that is, the size they build for trade shows. This means that over the years, I got to buy a lot of cool stock bikes. Yeah, they ride and fit fine ... to a point. I got my first custom frame in 1982, rode it until 2005, then couldn't find a stock bike that satisfied me.
So I bought another custom, and it was worth it.