Greg Parker Wrote:
>How can we say that the current crop of TIG-welded whatevers made by >the
>gazillions in the Orient (or a factory in the US for that matter) >are
>"equal" in style and purpose to the craftsmanship of, oh, I >dunno..., a
>Confente for example?
I gotta say you're example is a canard. Comparing a custom made bike by the era top-builder and production bikes is just silly.
A more appropriate comparison would between a thoroughly modern Sachs and a Confente. (A Mr. Sachs noted, his bikes are made with the latest technology, but an unusual joining method in today's bicycle industry.) Or a custom Holland titanium with a Confente.
If you are going to comparison would between a club racer from 1972 and 2002. And while I love the old bikes, the workmanship and attention to detail is much better on the new ones. I have couple of old Peugeots and the filing is horrific. I love them and have been gathering spare parts to keep the all original one going for the rest of my life; but it's finish compared to modern bikes is embarassingly bad. I do think that the decals have panache and love the appearance of the components, but overall the workmanship is much inferior to comtemporary bikes.
Likewise, with my Gitane touring bike. The finish of the bike is jut plain poor compared to a contemporary Taiwanese bike. And while my Meral is refinished, we all know how horrible people think these bikes originally looked.
Think back on all the shoddiness in other such bike as Raleigh (Internationals falling apart as a result of being just tack welded), Cinelli (huge file marks), Paramounts (Nervex lugs with points filed off), etc. Hardly the peak of craftmanship. Of course, bikes were less objects to be hung on walls in those days and regarded more as tools.
(I must add, that the Meral is nicely filed and otherwise finished, in particular in comparison to the other French bikes and just in general.)
I will add that all these bikes ride nicely and I think that their mechanical simplicity is a big advantage over over comtemporary bikes. But they are not hugely superior to contemporary bikes. (Particularly the Gitane because of that evil Simplex SX-610 rear derailleur on my Gitane.)
Conversely, look at small manufacturer modern bikes. I think my Merlin Road (1995 vintage) and my Breezer Jetstream are very handsome bikes and they routinely garner large amounts of praise for their elegant, understated appearance. These are top-end production bikes and their looks, while different in style than many of the classics discussed here, are in the same league as though classics.
So, again, I say compare comparables. Compare that Specialized Club racer with that Batavus or Atala. Compare a Confente with a Sachs or a Holland. Compare a Paramount with a Waterford.
John "De gustibus non disputatum est" Taglia Chicago