Retro Rides – Finding A Good ‘Un Part 2

As I’ve mentioned previously quality of bicycle frames varies massively from make to make. Often the price a of a second hand frame doesn’t reflect its quality but rather its collect-ability. This is especially the case when you talk about Tour De France winning bikes, and manufactures which supplied bikes for pro teams.

There a world of difference between a factory built frame such as a Colnago, Peugeot or Raleigh and a handbuilt frame such as Ellis Briggs or Woodrup etc. So how do you spot the difference if the manufacturer is unknown to you?

How To Spot The Difference?

It was often the case that they would bling them up with Campagnolo dropouts, good quality tubing and fancy paint jobs, chrome and transfers and then they would make savings on the amount of time and labour that went into the building of the frame.

There are lots of ways that manufacturers used to save time and money when building a traditional lugged frame.

Here are a few of the more obvious things to look for when looking at a frame.

Seat Lug

Always look at the seat binder bolt. Most manufacturers used pressed lugs, but they always look cheap and unfinished where the seat bolt fastens.

Most handbuilt frames from the mid 60s onwards will have a allen key seat bolt, which involves modifying the lug and brazing an allen key boss on instead.

Bottom Bracket

Another well known place to look is inside the bottom bracket shell at the quality of the mitres.  Factory frames are usually very rudimentary and often not even mitred at all.  Where as a high quality frame will have nicely mitred tubes.

While this shouldn’t be the only part of the frame you are looking at, it does give a good indication.  If you look in the bottom bracket of a cheap Raleigh or Dawes, you’ll see the lack of workmanship involved.

Fork Column

Another little detail that goes unnoticed on a lot of frames, mainly because they are usually sold with a headset fitted.

If you’ve ever taken a threaded headset apart, you’ll have noticed there is a special washer which has a little notch in it.  The idea is that it helps stop your headset from coming loose.  The fork column needs a slot filing into the threads which needs to be a good fit with the washer.

Often this little detail is down to the mechanic that is fitting your headset and not always the frame builder, but on complete bikes it is of course the manufacturer.

Lugwork and Brazing

Finally look for tidy brazing around the lugs and braze-ons.  Lugs should be crisp and clean looking, shouldn’t have file marks or gouges.  Also you shouldn’t be able to get a fingernail under the edge of the lug!

Well that’s all for this week folks.  Stay tuned for more info.

One Reply to “Retro Rides – Finding A Good ‘Un Part 2”

  1. I’m delighted I have find this website the tips are very useful especially to someone like myself who is constantly learning about vintage and classic style bikes – OK I admit it I’m totally obsessed. Looking forward to following your blog. Cheers


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