Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lug Samesies! Vintage Bianchi vs Trek

I was initially going to sell my vintage Trek in October, but decided to wait until Spring. Now I am glad to have waited, because it is interesting to compare it to its replacement, the Bianchi. While the two bicycles differ in purpose and geometry (the Bianchi is a racing bike whereas the Trek is a "Sports Touring" model), what amazed me when the Bianchi arrived is that their lugwork is nearly identical. I had camera troubles on the day these pictures were taken, so excuse the quality - but have a look:

Plain and "pointy" lugs on the Bianchi with fork crown.

Identical style of lugs and fork crown on the Trek, only with "Trek" engraved into the crown instead of the Bianchi's "B".

Classic seat cluster engraved with a "B".

Same classic seat cluster engraved with "Trek." I don't have good pictures of the drop-outs, bottom brackets and brake bridges, but those are equally similar. Even the spacing of the braze-ons for the rear brake cable along the top tube is the same.

As far as tubing goes, the Trek is Reynolds 531 for the main triangle and the Bianchi is Columbus, both with cro-moly stays and fork. And they were produced just one year apart - the Trek in 1982 and the Bianchi in 1983. I guess I should not be so amazed that just because one bike is American and a sports turing model while the other is an Italian racing bike, there are such similarities in lugwork. After all, both are factory-built frames and these lugs must have been popular at the time. The Trek and Bianchi ride very differently and there is no mistaking one for another once I am on the saddle. But my disappointment in the generic frame construction makes me aware of how much I value difference in bicycles. I like looking at a bike and being able to distinguish its lineage from another by details of construction and not just by the stamped brand name and the decals.

34 comments:

  1. I actually prefer the plain and pointy lugs. Overly ornate lug work can apear frilly and excessive.

    Then again I prefer your Trek to your Bianchi so maybe I just have poor taste.

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  2. The fork crowns are very similar, but the seat clusters are quite different. The seat stays on the Trek come up farther and wrap around more, the Trek's lugs are longer and more pointed, and the top of the seat tube is scalloped with a peak in the front on the Trek, and is cut flat on the Bianchi. I think if you look at the dropouts and BB area you'll find similar differences. Not so "generic" as it seems. A bit like saying that old SLRs all look the same at first glance.

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  3. Ryan - My preference for the Bianchi over the Trek has to do solely with ride quality, precisely because the aesthetic differences are virtually non-existent. The Bianchi rides smoother over potholes and handles more stably, at least to me.

    Jules - While not all SLRs are the same, some are more similar to each other than others.... The seat cluster differences you mention are exaggerated by the angle at which I held the camera in each picture; the Trek's don't wrap around but are attached a tad higher than Bianchi's, and the peak of the seat tube lug is only marginally scalloped - maybe a 2mm rise. While it is not the same lugset, I think safe to say that it is "in the same family".

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  4. "But my disappointment in the generic frame construction makes me aware of how much I value difference in bicycles. I like looking at a bike and being able to distinguish its lineage from another by details of construction and not just by the stamped brand name and the decals."

    While some bemoan the sameness of mass production I never concern myself with that sameness 'cause I just see it a basic platform for me to customize!

    And I think all manufactures see their product as basic platforms too...........

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  5. I am finding it hard to verbalise what it is exactly that I "bemoan" - but it's neither mass production nor the lack of ornateness. Rather, it's the lack of diversity. I like difference. I like it that Raleigh's mass-produced factory bikes with crude, simple lugs looked different from Gazelle's mass-produced factory bikes with crude, simple lugs. It doesn't have to be fancy or handmade, but I like it to reflect the frame's history and country of origin.

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  6. Velouria said..
    "I am finding it hard to verbalise what it is exactly that I "bemoan" - but it's neither mass production nor the lack of ornateness. Rather, it's the lack of diversity."

    One can't expect much ,if any, diversity in a mass produced product of any kind. For that one must either customize a basic platform that is mass produced or one must buy a made to your order product be it bicycle or waffle iron.

    Then one must also be mindful that diversity in a mass produced product really doesn't sell that well at a profit. Diversity in a mass produced product is often called "defects" .

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  7. If memory serves, I believe there were two or three choices of steel tubing in 1982: Columbus, Reynolds, and perhaps Tange. Putting out a bicycle at a decent price point meant choosing standardized components and churning out bikes by the thousands. If these two exemplars seem nearly identical, it would seem that manufacturers then (as now) distinguished themselves largely by label and price, with the global supply chain dictating the rest.

    I have a soft soft for bicycles from that era. But I have to contain my nostalgia with a bit of reality. I remember breaking many spokes on poorly made wheels, snapping a faulty brake cable in half (which put me on the ground), dealing with outright physical pain with toe clips, using awkward downtube shifters that were difficult to reach on a climb, tinkering with balky derailleurs, etc. In many ways, I find that the bicycles of today are better than their recent forebears, with more choices in materials and construction (including custom-made, if you want), componentry that's made to finer tolerances, broader gearing choices, cheaper prices, and so on.

    (Incidentally, I recall paying $600 for a mid-level Bianchi in 1986. More than two decades later, you can still buy a decent bicycle for $600.)

    All that said, someday I'd like to find a mint mid-80s Colnago, with Campagnolo Super Record components and rims to match. I'll then probably hang it on the wall and mostly look at it.

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  8. My Peugeot has lugs that are very similar to the Bianchi's on its frame, but the fork lugs are completely different. It's a 1981 PFN10 so it's from the same era as the Trek and Bianchi, but its tubing is Vitus 181. So now we have an American touring bike, an Italian racer, and a French racer all with different tubing but similar lug work.

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  9. Walt - I don't mean diversity between different bikes built at the same factory. I mean diversity between one factory and another. How hard would it be for a manufacturer as huge as Bianchi to stamp large quantities of lugs that are distinctly "Bianchi-esque"? I mean, they had to get those "B"s engraved anyhow, why not change the lug profile to distinguish it from their competitors' lugs?

    examinedspoke said...
    "someday I'd like to find a mint mid-80s Colnago, with Campagnolo Super Record components and rims to match. I'll then probably hang it on the wall and mostly look at it."


    Then I will be compelled to "rescue it" and ride it : )

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  10. Velouria said...
    "Walt - I don't mean diversity between different bikes built at the same factory. I mean diversity between one factory and another. How hard would it be for a manufacturer as huge as Bianchi to stamp large quantities of lugs that are distinctly "Bianchi-esque"? I mean, they had to get those "B"s engraved anyhow, why not change the lug profile to distinguish it from their competitors' lugs? "

    Vel, what you are referring to is called the "culture" of that business or manufacture. "Culture" is expressed in the tiny countless , and often very subtle things, that distinguish one business/manufacture from another.

    "Culture" can be the difference between success and dismal failure for any business or manufacture.

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  11. "How hard would it be for a manufacturer as huge as Bianchi to stamp large quantities of lugs that are distinctly "Bianchi-esque"? "
    It is common practice to use off the shelf items whenever possible to avoid the costly in house manufacturing cost. Lugs are one item that is time consuming to make so they get "jobbed out" to hold cost in line. Jobbed out parts almost always look alike or function alike no matter who's name is on the main product.

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  12. So what about factories like Raleigh, that did have distinct fork crowns, lugwork, etc?..

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  13. No, it would not have been that hard - or that much of a risk to anyone's business plan - to make distinct lugs that would have distinguished a Bianchi from a Trek. No one it talking here about hand-cut lugs for production line bikes. If you look today at the offerings of say, Long Shen - one of the biggest manufacturers of lugs - they make them in quit a few varieties and I daresay if one of the major manufacturers wanted something different in a lug - just say for argument's sake that massed produced lug frames were coming back - then such a thing could be designed and turned out at competitive cost.

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  14. I think I understand. All other things being of decent quality, something has to speak to your heart if it's going to be true love! I am totally hung up on the chainrings on cranks, which I do understand is completely insane - but I can't help what my heart wants.

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  15. This is why I love my Trek 520: it has unambiguously unique lugwork, as the lugset is Trek's own investment cast set, which started being used on mid-80s Treks. Even though Trek was producing bikes by the thousands by then, with automation, it's still nice that no other bike brand has these lugs, they are uniquely Trek's.

    How hard would it be for a manufacturer as huge as Bianchi to stamp large quantities of lugs that are distinctly "Bianchi-esque"?

    It wouldn't, and I'm sure some bike manufacturers did do this on their top-flight models, but for their mainstream production models, I'm sure they didn't care to go to that trouble since 0.1% of their target buyer would care about such style minutiae.

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  16. I am totally hung up on the chainrings on cranks, which I do understand is completely insane - but I can't help what my heart wants.

    I'm curious to hear what chainrings "speak to you".

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  17. I like chainrings and cranks as well - though I am attracted to forms rather than particular manufacturers. The most beautiful crankset I've seen is probably the retro Stronglight Pedalier, but alas they are hard to get here.

    somervillain - I agree that the lugwork on your Trek is unambiguous, but those fastback stays just aren't my thing. Still it does make your model special, in my view, compared to models with more generic lugwork.

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  18. Well, since you ask! I think it is mostly because I love the sleekness of the four circles on my Schwinn Suburban so much. It seems so happy, somehow. It looks like this, except my bike is never this shiny: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28639223@N07/4056673125/

    The detailed web on a Raleigh Sports, please, be still my heart: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovely_bicycle/4024721864/

    And then, in general, I love when there's some attention to detail at all, in such a dull workmanlike part: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phoenix_chainring.jpg

    (See prev. re: completely insane!)

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  19. Melissa - I love that chainring on the Schwinn Suburban!


    The little heron and gazelle cutouts on vintage Raleigh and Gazelle bikes never fail to make my heart skip a beat, but alas those kinds of details are a thing of the past.

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  20. "Velouria said...
    So what about factories like Raleigh, that did have distinct fork crowns, lugwork, etc?.."

    Not all manufacture elect to job out certain parts that are a part of their "culture" i.e. their way of doing things. Cost containment often decides what parts job out & what parts stay in house to make.

    Again, business culture decides what goes in and what goes out to make. If the culture decides that lugs should be made in house then some other parts may go out to cover the increased cost of in house lugs. It really is a number crunching game.

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  21. BSA has a cool chainring: old roads has a picture.

    And of course who can forget ANT's chainring we photographed during one of his open houses.

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  22. Does anybody know who makes those "full suit" chainrings? I like the rings, but not the crank arms.

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  23. I believe they're from Paul Components.
    http://www.paulcomp.com/cranks.html

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  24. I don't think it is silly to say that a lot of people do actually notice the chainrings and other thoughtful details. Initially I never gave it too much consideration, but I have had several people on the street and bike shops comment on my heron chainring (Raleigh) and it really did strike me at that point how people really do notice those little details, especially since newer bikes don't seem to have them as much.

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  25. Velouria, I've been sorry to see you disappointed with the aesthetics of your Bianchi, especially since you started with lust for "Celestial Beings." I've had a very different reaction to my own 1980s Bianchi. It's a 1988 Super Leggera, and I love both how it looks and how it rides. The Celeste color alone exudes a history and tradition that goes back decades. Fausto Coppi himself would immediately recognize the color of the bike. How many other companies have maintained that kind of distinctive color and appearance over time?

    The lugwork on my bike isn't fancy, but it doesn't look generic either. "Bianchi" is etched as a full word in attractive cursive script at the top of the seat stays. A raised B sits on the lug between down tube and head tube. And a distinctive Bianchi eagle has been embedded into both sides of an attractive sloping fork crown, which looks quite elegant to my eye compared to the squared off earlier forks. And the glint of chrome and Italian alloy is everywhere on the bike. The entire bike is chromed beneath the Celeste paint, so any knicks reveal silver highlights rather than bare metal. The original Chorus group from the C-record era was a time when Campagnolo was going to extra lengths to design truly beautiful components. Nearly every shiny component on the bike looks like a work of art, and many of the parts combine both old and new functions. The brake levers can be set up in non-aero or aero mode. The beautiful Syncro shifters work in either friction or indexed mode. And the rear derailleur can be swiveled between either a drop parallelogram mode for racing gearing, or a slant parallelogram mode for wider range freewheels. The bike is light and fast to ride, with a responsive, prancy feel that is much more spirited and fun than my more utilitarian bikes. The Super Leggera is a higher end model, but I think Bianchi did a great job producing a distinctive Italian racing bike, with paint, details, and components that all come together into a beautiful combination of both form and function.

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  26. Ryan: I agree with you, even though I am generally not a fan of Treks. The Trek's lugwork shows evidence of more finishing than the ones on the Bianchi. Plus, I think the shade of blue on the Trek highlights that work while the "Celeste" paint, although it's a lighter color, actually mutes the lugwork on the Bianchi.

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  27. No, we are not the same height. Plus she does not want bike like this one; she wants a modern roadbike.

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  28. My 89 trek has the same lugs more or less and would be so pretty if it wasn't the most hideous nondescript grey with bad 80's lettering in teal. It's funny when I looked at your loving photos of your bianchi I kept noticing the lugs looked like my trek's lugs. 80's bikes became very understated and lugs simplified-maybe to save money or just the fashion? I can see why you might have been a bit let down on your no nonsense bianchi, but it is still beautiful! I am not sure when or where I will find my bianchi.
    I know you are meh about the trek, but I was reading an article about randonneuring and many a trek 'sport's touring' bike has been turned into a randonneur because they are stable but fast, have braze ons for fenders and racks, have toe clearance etc.. Brevets have been won on modest trek 420's that have mongrel steel. Sheldon Brown deemed the older treks to be very good bikes, but that the stock wheels were crappy and to replace them with good wheels. Do you think the wheels on your trek are original?

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  29. Heather-- I have one of Trek's "racing" models, the 520, and even though it lacks the braze-ons needed for racks and fenders, it was designed with relatively lax angles for a "racing" bike. It is supremely comfortable and the frame has an absolutely wonderful feel to it-- supple and smooth--better than any other of my six bikes, and that's even more meaningful when you consider that it has the narrowest tires of my entire fleet. Trek got something right, and whatever it is, it's undervalued.

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  30. My 1985 Miyata has the exact same lugwork and fork crown, and the seat cluster and fork crown are stamped with "MIYATA." I guess that stuff was just standard in that era!

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  31. Oh, and: The little details are for sure, a huge part of why I love my fifty-year-old Raleigh Sports. The heron chainring--with eyes!--and the "thimble" fork crown...they also make my heart happy.

    If the bike were a piece of crap, then those things wouldn't matter much. But the bike still rides beautifully, and so the details are something I take pride in.

    When I first started riding the Raleigh, I worked in a suburban medical office. The only other cyclist in the building was a doctor who lived in a much wealthier suburb, and twice a week or so he biked the twelve miles to work on a fancy racing bike, in clipless pedals and all that spandex. He saw my old Raleigh and got a huge smile. He said he had a Raleigh when he was younger, and when he got older and the bike became unrideable (I forget how) he saved the heron chainring, and it's still hanging above his mantel.

    My Miyata having the same lugs etc. as other manufacturers of the time doesn't bother me. Partially because Miyatas, like Treks and Bianchis, were well-made bicycles. Also partially because the Miyata was a low-to-mid-range bicycle, at least in the two-ten model that I own, so I'm not expecting fancy details, I'm just pleased that the bike rides well!

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  32. One thing that happened to my 1983 Trek 760 is that the seatpost binder stopped being effective - I couldn't tighten it enough to prevent my seat from dropping down. I don't know if this is a unique or common occurrence, and if it has something to do with the particular metal in the tubes (Reynolds 531c) or the lug. I fixed the problem by cutting away enough metal to keep the binder edges from touching under pressure. Other that that, the frame has been terrific, very comfortable even on century rides. I personally like the fastback stays, dropouts and fork crown.

    The rust is now getting to be a problem on the cable guides, so I'm going to clean up and repaint the frame, but don't want to spend a bundle. Any recommendations?

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