Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Seat Lugs

198? Mercian
That's a cute seat cluster. British. Nice brazing, carefully shaped and smoothed, a little florid but not ridiculous. Mercian frames are said to be "hearth brazed," which I believe means that a joint is heated over a bed of coals (rather than by a torch) prior to having the silver flowed in. The purple candy striping goes all the way down to the bottom bracket-talk about a challenging pinstripe job. Even now, faded and cracked and scratched, this is beautiful paint, and I'll strangle the vain fool who has a frame like this repainted (oh, I mean, "restored"...). Do you think you could find someone to do new striping like that?

197? Flying Dutchman
In its favor, I will tell you that this bike has seen about the worst treatment you can give an old road bike. Freezing rain, ice, snow, miles, dirt and rocks, mud, built and rebuilt, running into and jumping over things, dropping in on trails, bent, broken, repaired, repainted, etc...and it has SURVIVED. That's the good news. The bad news is, don't look too close. See the nasty repaint? See the file marks? See the rough edges? See the clamp ears which have deformed and now need to be shimmed with a Pepsi can? I'm being too critical-the stay end is shaped nicely, and there aren't any gratuitous globs or runs in the braze. A little rough perhaps, but durable enough, and the bike is said to handle well. The little window cut into the top of the lug lightens it a bit, looks interesting, and allows the builder to see when the silver has made good penetration. Probably Italian, built by an anonymous maker and rebranded by a (now defunct) Denver shop.

2008 Waterford RS-22
This is a Brand-New Hand-Made American frameset. (how many things are that these days?) Nice work-clean edges, minimal shape, fastback stays for lighter weight. This is probably a cast lug, quite strong and with a beefy, integral clamp which will never bend or break. The head lugs and fork crown are polished stainless steel, but you'll have to imagine those for the time being. Taken as a whole, the frameset has excellent workmanship, well-chosen materials and a high-quality finish, and presents a complete and elegant package. Arguably producing as good as any production frames ever made, certainly better than the vast majority, Waterford almost reaches the very top tier of custom framebuilders (though not quite, which is really not disappointing at one-half the price and one-tenth the wait!). I hope that whomever buys this frame will ride the hell out of it, and then pass it on to someone else who will ride the hell out of it. Looking around at some of my other fine, old bikes makes me wish to see it as it will be thirty years from now.

198? Centurion
Japanese. This is a pretty nice job for a production frame-slim, stylish, smooth finish, looks strong, but having a tasteless decal on those nice semi-wrap stay ends kinda cheapens it. And in its time it WAS cheaper than equivalent European frames-look close-compare it to other clusters pictured here-is this not as good as the best of them, almost? It's especially remarkable for a production frame-imagine some Japanese craftsman/woman brazing dozens of these a day-its amazing they could produce such uniform work. Imagine yourself in the same position, week after week month after month. Would you not, like I, grow bored and jaded and sloppy?
I'm a hypocrite for saying so, and I may be a snob too, but this a frame that could use a repaint-get those meaningless brands and ugly stickers off at least, so it's more of a "nice frame" than it is a "Centurion." I mean, who wants to ride a Centurion? It's none of anybody's business that your nice frame was made in (gulp) Asia. Hang some Campy stuff on it, nobody will ever know. But ride it, in any case. A good road bike is always a good road bike, and it should be ridden.

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