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.

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