Bike Tech Newsletters from the late 1980’s

Some folks on the framebuilders list were discussing the much loved Bike Tech newsletter from the mid-eighties. I did not pay much heed until some whining about only the first few volumes were online. Thus, after checking the stash,I found the later issues and will now, for your scholarly indulgence, be posting them. It’s gonna take a while. I’m pretty slow these days.

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Early Suntour Catalog now up.

Been a while. Since moving to the wunderbar Windows 10, I’ve decided to go open source for most of my software. I was testing BlueGriffon to replace Dreamweaver and used an early 1970’s Sun Tour catalog as my guinea pig. Came out OK. Looks like BlueGriffon will fit the bill.
This catalog is rather spare. If you are looking for high end Superbe, you can look in my other catalogs on the site. This is strictly the bargain basement components. With one exception; Bar-Con control levers. Tried and true and still loved even today, this may be their first appearance.

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Seeking info - Fantini frameset

I received a nice note from Vic in South Africa. An alter kaker like myself, he wanted to know if I ever heard of a frame called "Fantini". I figured it was your typical Italian frame, but when he sent pics, it became clear that this was a little out of the norm. I asked where he got it and his reply,

"I bought the frame at Eroica Britannia (England, in June this year), for about US $250, from an Irish guy. He had it labelled as a 1989 Fantini, that’s all I know. I liked the frame and had never heard of the name, so, sucker that I am, I bought it!!"

Check out the front brake arrangement. Perhaps the oddest arrangement that I’ve ever seen. Also note the internal gear cables and the nice job done on the rear dropout attachment. If anyone can provide some further info, please post it to the blog and let’s help out the brother.

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What kind of tubing is that?

Several times a year, I receive an email asking about a what kind of bicycle tubing is being used on a bike. The decal is not in any of the catalogs and the owner is stumped. The most recent of these inquiries was from Ravi and it was a very Columbus looking decal on a Grandis. The tubing was for OVER-MAX. Tubing catalogs contain ‘stock’ sets of tubing that are available to builders. Framebuilders can do things to modify handling by changing individual tubes. For instance, many builders used to replace the Columbus SL down tube and chain stays with SP if the rider was of a certain weight. This would allow something between a full SL frameset and a full SP frameset.
grandis overmax decalWhen a manufacturer is large enough, they can go to a tubing supplier and ‘spec’ a custom tube set. In some cases, this will be to make something seem better than what is really is; like the Schwinn Premis of the 80’s with it’s Tenax tubing. This was a not very special chrome-moly that was most likely seamed. Probably similar to Aelle. Schwinn used the decal make the bike more ‘special’. At the the other end of the spectrum, you have folks like Ritchey, designing a tubing pretty much from scratch and working with the tubing manufacturer to produce a high end product like "Logic". In the case of this Grandis, it appears that they worked with Columbus to spec a tubing based on MAX, but has properties that Grandis felt could only come about with a custom product. The thing about these ‘custom’ tube sets, is that unless you have the specs from the manufacturer, there is no way to tell exactly what the butting is like. Apart from a hacksaw check.

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More mail on Aero tubing

Subject: Bottecchia

Would anyone know how I can find out more about an oval tubed frame, steel, Bottecchia? Even the seat post is Oval.

Please pardon my late reply. Ovalized (or Aero) tubing was all the rage for a brief moment in the early eighties. None of my literature shows a 'dedicated' Columbus set being available, but the fad was so short lived, it could have existed. My guess is that because Bottecchia is a fairly large builder, they could have had a proprietary set made by Columbus (or Dedaccia, or Reynolds, or whomever) for this model. Try to find a catalog for this bike. I'd guess 1981 give or take a year. I would also seek out a Bottecchia newsgroup and see what you can garner from them. Take good care of the seatpost, that is the most difficult part to find these days. Thanks for your note and visit.

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Some mail

Subject: Tenax tubing

Attempting to find info on this tubing used on my Premis. Is this
abbreviated in any way in this listing?

63 cm frame weight around 2340 grs. Be interested to find what size
frame is used for weight reference.. can not find that online.


Jay in Wis.
Jay in Wis.,
Tenax is not exactly a "Columbus Tube Set". Manufacturers like Schwinn (and Bianchi, and others) would often go to a tubing maker and get a specific tube set drawn for them. They could put their own name on it that way to acquire a certain 'cache'. In most cases it was just marketing hype. While the Premis is a fine bike (I sold them), the tubing contained in it is most likely very similar to either Aelle or Cromor. The only way to know for sure is to hacksaw the bike into pieces and measure the wall thickness. I'd rather you ride it instead (if summer ever arrives in your frigid parts). Thanks for your note and visit.

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Just added: Suntour Superbe from 1977

It’s been a while boys and girls.A Sorry to have kept you waiting.A I’ve got a big ol’ box of Suntour ephemera that needs scanning.A I put up a binder from Suntour that has the Superbe stuff in it.A Unfortunately, most of the road stuff is missing, but it appears that all of the track gruppo is intact.A This is old.A Like me.A No indexing, no aero, and all metal.

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Shimano AB-100 "Auto-2" Automatic 2-Speed Hub

I got a note from Matthias in Germany asking if I had any more information on the aforementioned hub that is shown in the Shimano catalog from 1975 on page 30.A I have never seen it in person and told him that I would post to my devoted followers (all eight of you) on my blog.A From what I can see in the picture, it would appear to use centrifugal (centrific?A I never get them right) force to engage the shift mechanism.A In any event, if any of you folks out there have any further information, let us know.A Thanks.
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Hard steel and stuff from Spain

A couple of new pages at the BIP.A Firstly, a bunch of material about Carpenter Technology’s Aermet 100 steel alloy for bicycles (and landing gear).A Man, did I get a hard one when this stuff came out.A It was 1994 and aluminum and titanium were pretty much the bee’s knees for frames.A Carpenter found a way to mill Aermet into tubing and make it braze-able.A No butting, 0.5mm from one end to the other.A I ordered some and built myself a new road frame.A I used Hank James’ mountain lugs and built it inAa ‘compact’ style.A Super hard, my files would not scratch it and I used grinding wheels to mitre the tubes.A End result was a 3.5 pound frame that my 250 pounds could ride.A Well, for a while.A After about a year I got a creak and discovered a crack in the seat tube where the front derailleur clamped onto it.A The tubing was so thin that the clamp deformed it just enough to cause trouble.A I replaced that with another aerment tube but with a ‘ring’ of chrome-moly pushed into the bottom to reinforce that area.A Did the trick.A I put a few thousand miles on it but then one of the chainstays rusted through (non-aermet) due to my lack of frame prep after the build.A Someday I’ll fix it.
I consider Aermet to be the grand-daddy of today’s high strength steel tubing like 853 an OX from True Temper.A I think that Carpenter had hoped to sell this technology to a bike tubing manufacturer.A They only made small amounts in an experimental mill.A I never saw very many frames made of it.A I think Bilenky played around with it for a tandem, but my memory is hazy.A

Zeus.A Or the Spanish Campy.A I have put upAa ZeusAcatalog from around 1985 that has their groups plus a bunch of other odd stuff in it.A I remember seeing my first Zeus bikes back in the seventies.A They seemed to be a lot of bike for the money.A The Zeus components were a blatant copy of Neuvo Record, but for a few dollars less.A Someone in Philly must have done well in selling them as I used to see a large group of African-American riders at the club rides on them.A We referred to them as the "Zeus Guys".A I remember doing a century around ’75 or ’76 and riding on River Road just north of New Hope.A The road back then was horrible, narrow and filled with pot-holes.A Rain was coming down in torrents and I was with one of the Zeus Guys.A The weather and the road were so bad we rode down the center of the lane to avoid the pot-holesAnear the shoulder.A We would build up a line of cars and every once in a while someone would honk.A We’d both turn and glare and that would settle matters.A Between the two of us, we must have totalled around 45o# and over 6′ 3″ apiece.

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More Suntour and CLB Brakes

Six inches of snow and my daughter is playing on her computer so time to put up some more stuff.A Another Suntour catalog from 1988Ahas both road and ATB in it.A Some highlights include the (I believe) last edition of roller cam brakes andAa very confusing chart of what Accushift parts will play nicely with others.A
Index shifting was still pretty new and in order for Suntour to get aroundAShimano’s patent, they designed the ‘play’ thatAindex shifting needs into the shifter.A (Shimano had the floating upper jockey pulley that did this for them.)A Unfortunately, by putting it into the shifter, you could never be precise.A In addition, Suntour, for some bizarre reason, made several versions.A This would require matching a rear derailleur with a matching shifter.A Shimano, on the other hand, only made the Dura-Ace line unique and you could mix or match the rest without too much of a problem.A At this point I think that one can begin to see the decline ofA Suntour.A Beginning around this time, shops started to see less and less bikes coming onto the sales floor equipped with Suntour parts.A I don’t think it was a quality issue.A More than likely it was due to more aggressive marketing from Shimano.A But I cannot help but think that Suntour’s lack of technical development was also a contributor.

And now on to another departed manufacturer; CLB Brakes.A This brochure/newsletter from around 1989 is a hoot.A The brochure, "Top" Line, shows the three different brakes by CLB; Space Line, Olympic, and Elite.A Apparently all came in plastic ‘attache-cases’.AA According to Steve Griffith at the Classic Lightweights UK site; CLB at this point was part of Sachs and this was probably the last ‘hurrah’.A Check out this marketing:A Beware! The new CLB levers are so good-looking that they will blind you to alternatives!A Wow.A I wish I was that talented.A I might have a job.

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