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.
- You paid for it with your hard earned cash and you are free to do with it as you wish.
- 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