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Friday
May142010

To repaint, or not to repaint; that is the question

A friend of mine recently bought a Fuso bike; we met to go on a ride and when he showed me the bike for the first time, he remarked, “I am so pleased it has a few paint chips; if it were in pristine condition I would be afraid to ride it.”

I had to agree, the original paint on this frame I built in 1987 still looked nice. There was no major damage, just two or three little chips in the paint that were result of normal use. So my friend could ride this bike knowing that if he put another chip in the paint it would be no big deal.

Many of us know the feeling of owning a brand new car. We park it in the far corner of the supermarket parking lot, away from all other cars. Eventually the inevitable happens and some careless idiot puts a little ding in the paint.

We feel annoyed, but at the same time relief that we no longer have to be so paranoid about protecting the car’s perfect finish, because it is no longer perfect.

My friend bought this used Fuso at a good price, Campagnolo equipped for $500. He will now get many years riding out of this bike and if he eventually sells it again, he will at least get his $500 back and most likely make a profit, at least enough to cover the interest on his $500 investment.

If he decides down the road to repaint the frame, a professional paint job would probably set him back another $500, or maybe more. Would he now get $1,000 if he sold the bike? Maybe, but it would be less likely than if he sold it “As is,” and got his $500 back.

I built almost 3,000 Fuso frames; there are still plenty out there. The best bet would be to look out for another in better condition. Even if you picked up a completely trashed frame for $100 or so, and repainted it, the money you have invested has not really increased the overall value over and above what you have put into it.

Apart from the economics of re-painting, another thing to consider is this. There will be no more Fuso frames built; or any of the other frames I built. There are plenty right now to meet the demand of people who would like to own one.

The number available will not increase, in fact it will decrease as frames are neglected and rust out, are damaged in an accident, or more often than not, just get lost because people don’t know what they have, and throw them in the dumpster.

Those that remain will still be around long after I am gone. I hope during my lifetime, people like my friend I mentioned, will keep riding them. It is what they were built for.

Most vintage bikes being ridden today are from the 1980s. This is an important era; it marked the end of the hand-crafted bicycle frame. Somehow I can’t see today’s carbon fiber creations being collected in large quantities in the future.

Bikes built before the 1970s, with a few exceptions, are not being ridden on a regular basis. They end up in museums and in the hands of serious collectors. Like this typical collection of racing bikes dating from the late 1800s to the 1980s. You will find in such collections, frames are all with original paint.

There are two ways of looking at ownership of a classic bike, or any other antique for that matter.

  1. You paid for it with your hard earned cash and you are free to do with it as you wish.
  2. You are a caretaker of this item, preserving it for future generations. The money you paid for it entitles you to enjoy it while you have it, maybe make money on your original investment. However, at some point you pass it on for someone else to enjoy.

At the moment 1980s classic steel bikes and frames are plentiful; some more plentiful than the Fuso, some less. The ride is comparable, some argue better than a modern bike. So your riding enjoyment costs less, and as I have mentioned, comes with the possibility of a return on your investment.

If a frame is completely trashed, but never-the-less rare, it would be worth restoring; otherwise, keep it, ride it, and look out for another in better condition.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn't matter either way to me. If someone is spending cash to restore one of my frames; that is pride of ownership, and makes me feel nothing but good.

However, my advice would be, don’t repaint unless the original paint is completely trashed; the reason is, down the road collectors will want bikes with original paint. Every frame repainted means one less with original paint, making those with original paint even more valuable.

This is a topic that brings forth many opinions; the above is mine, I would be interested to hear yours

 

                         

Reader Comments (12)

Dave I fully agree with you on frames built from say 1970 or so on, BUT as a collector of bikes and frames from the late 40s and early 50s, UNLESS the frame paint is 100% original, I feel that you NEED to refinish it, RUST is the worst problem, Bikes from England have been ridden in the Brit weather as you and I know they sit for days, weeks dripping wet, Plus the paint then was NOT what it is now, even BOOOO! powder coat will put a finish on the old ones that SHOULD last another 40-50yrs, as long as any rust HAS been removed, This will mean that the next generation will be able to enjoy the classics built with true workmanship, John Crump

May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

I am the lucky owner of the FUSO in this post. All I can say is WOW. It is my daily commuter, my recreational ride, my something to look at in the office.

I love its patina. Care for the inside (Framesaver, redo the grease, etc), and let the outside show its age. A little Turtle Wax maybe.

I have bikes that are too nice to ride. Ughh. This FUSO is the right condition. Enough beauty to turn heads, enough chips to want to ride and earn some more.

May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeterW

I spotted a Fuso needing just a bit of TLC, but more importantly, a fork. There are just three basic kinds of 1" forks these days: original, generic cut-to-length threaded, and racer threadless, typically carbon.

The first one is out, so how do you feel about the other two options? Neither is terribly faithful.

May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChamps

Champs,
A number of people have fitted Fuso frames with threadless carbon forks, both 1'' and 1 1/8". They seem to work fine. A new threaded steel fork would probably be a cheap version of poor quality.
Dave

May 14, 2010 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I agree with most of the post - keep the original paint if at all possible. If it's totally trashed however, sure - get it repainted with original decals if possible.

I'd also agree most carbon bikes will not be collectable - at least to ride - 20 or more years down the road. Who knows, maybe we'll be proved wrong on that.

And yes, most steel replacement forks are probably junk. However, there's frame builders out there that will weld up a sweet fork - for some serious dough.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

My feeling is that some bikes, particularily those with a specific history, probably ought to wear their "patina" as such. Other bikes, those which have not specific event in ther life, or are more common, would do well with a new coat of paint, and if brought back to original condition, all the better.

I have fought with the paint/not repaint issue on several occasions, most recently with the 1975 Dave Moulton touring frame which you showed on here several months ago. The frame had been well used by the time it came into my posession (estimated well over 30,000 miles), though I do not feel abused. It is, I feel, and unusual bike that also happens to fit me pretty well. Though it's use as a daily commuter is over, I do intend on some extended jaunts. My original intention was to clean it up as best as possible, replace some of the worn/broken parts and enjoy it as such.

What sealed it's fate for a full restore was when one of the welds on the fork crown showed some signs of beginning to seperate. It has an Italian style crown, and it would be nearly impossible to tell if this was truely the case without taking the fork apart, thus requiring a re-paint of the fork, regardless of the circumstances. At that juncture, it simply made sense to refurbish the entire frame. This has lead to other issues. The components, most notibly the cranks, show their miles as well, through there is nothing wrong with them. Used parts on a new-looking bike can look a bit odd.

The bike is nearly fully assembled. I have been trying to track down one or two parts related to the lighting system, and I need to re-build the rear wheel, but hope to have it on the road before the snow flies this fall. In the end, it will be close in specification to as it was when Dave delivered it 35 years ago.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbalindamood

I had my 1987 Fuso repainted recently. It needed a new downtube. I couldn't have gotten another for the money it cost me in repairs and now the frame is as good as new.

Would still like to get the rest of the decals; any updates on getting new ones made?

before and after pictures here: http://gallery.mac.com/bbattle#100121&bgcolor=black&view=grid

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbbattle

Dave,

If memory serves me, you painted the Fuso with Dupont Imron paints, in my opinion, one of the longest lasting and most durable paints to come along. Unfortunately, the chemical makeup of the paint was anything but green and very hazardous to the health of the painter and the environment. My Fuso has only one chip of paint missing from the derailer hanger. The red is nearly as vibrant as when it was painted and the pale lilac color of the front half looks even better. Not bad for a racer that saw 1500~2000 miles a month for its first three years! No, it's not for sale! Tnx agn for #987.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim

I find this topic very interesting as I just got my hands on a powdercoated 1971 Masi Gran Criterium that had a Miyata Pro fork attached to it. Since this frame was in very nice shape, I decided to look for a matching Masi fork, which I now know is almost impossible to find. So..off I went to find a frame builder to build me one and as one of the posters previously stated, it is an expensive propostion. And...once again....as that process started, I thought "what the hell..I might as well get this thing back to its original status" so that process is now in place as well. And to further echo one of the previous sentiments, I then, of course, had to find a Nuovo Record set to fit on the bike...and I did. I won't get what I'm putting into the bike when it's time to move on, but I am going to enjoy the living begezus out of it when it gets put together. Although, unlike a car (and I have done that) I'll park this little machine as close to me as possible when I stop for coffee.

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaltese Falcon

I recently restored a c. 1983 Raleigh SBDU bike. I bought the rather tatty frame without a fork and had a very nice one, with the correct Cinelli sloped crown, welded up by Cycles Marinoni in Montreal for what I felt to be a very reasonable price. It is Columbus SLX tubing, rather than the original Reynolds 753 the bike would have had, but is otherwise very similar. Marinoni did the repainting as well, and you can see the results here:

http://www.tindonkey.com/2010/01/heron-arises-new-old-bike-for-new.html

The bike rides beautifully and I am not afraid to take it out. It has been built up for l'Eroica later this year and is meant to be ridden. But I am waiting to compare it to a 1981 Dave Moulton-built Masi in prisiine original condition I am getting this weekend!

May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSprocketboy

Would anyone want to see a gorgeous woman in ragged clothes? No, not really.... unless you had no choice. So why would anyone want to see a beautifully crafted frame with ragged and worn out paint?

I say refinish it if you can and if you want. Enjoy the shine and luster. Make people remember what real bikes looked like. Add your own character marks to it if the old ones weren't yours. Then you have a story to tell about a gorgeous woman that took you for a ride you never regretted.

July 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpoweredbypoptarts

Maltese, I feel your pain. I have a 72 Gran Criterium that was missing the original fork when I bought it. On the up side, there was no way to prove the age of the bike — its previous owner thought he had a mid to late 70's Prestige (the CR list guessed 72 GC with the wrong decals) — so I ended up scoring a bike much older than he thought it was.

There's also a third way to look at owning a classic 70's ride, and that's to keep it forever, but with the idea of restoring it, as time, money, and parts become more available. My Masi sees a lot more road time probably than most 70's era bikes, but I still treat it like the jewel it is. It's easily the best road bike I've ever owned, even friends who ride it instantly notice the difference in feel from their other bikes. I have no intention of selling it but at the same time being what it is, I feel it deserves a little more TLC than the average bike.

July 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterevilgenius

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