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« 1982 Custom | Main | Britain's bike friendly cars of the 1950s »

Everything Clamp-on

The pictures here are of a 1968 Pugliaghi. Everything clamp on even the bottom bracket gear cable guides. Pictures from TheRacingBicycle.com

In the late 1950s through the early 1970s there was a slump in bicycle sales in Europe. In the 1960s the economy was booming and although in many places the bicycle had always been the mode of transport for the working classes; many were now buying cars for the first time. At the same time the fitness craze of the 1970s had not yet begun.

Racing bicycles and framebuilders were also hit by this slump and the price of a frame rose very little in that decade even though inflation did. Framebuilders had to look for ways to cut costs and one of them was to leave off all braze-ons.

Building a frame without braze-ons does save a considerable amount of time and therefore labor costs. The only braze-ons seen in this era was a chainstay stop and sometimes a little stop under the down tube to prevent the gear lever clamp from sliding down the tube. 

Having done that framebuilders could not tell their customers they were doing this to cut costs, hence the story that braze-ons weaken the frame. I think Cinelli started it; framebuilding was never their main source of income (Handlebars and stems were.) so the price of a Cinelli frame was always high. Everyone’s thinking was if Cinelli can get away with it so can we, and most framebuilders followed suit.

Do braze-ons weaken the frame? Maybe very marginally but it is part of the framebuilding process. I have seen down tubes break right at the clamp on gear lever. Imagine a shock wave from hitting a bump in the road, or the twisting forces on a down tube.

Normally these stresses would be dispersed around the frame, but instead are stopped rather abruptly by a solid clamp around the tube. Clamps require more maintenance they collect moisture under them and if over tightened can dig into the tube and start a stress riser.

Prior to the “No Braze-ons” craze, all the various derailleur manufacturers provided clamp-on fittings because there was no standardization in gear lever design, for example, and clamp-on gear lever had already been standard practice for the most part.

By the 1970s, when braze-ons made a return, Campagnolo so dominated the market that most frames (Especially Italian.) came with a Campagnolo brazed on lever boss. Other manufacturers (Shimano for example.) were forced to design their gear levers to fit the Campagnolo lever boss. 

I do feel if anyone is restoring a bike with a “No braze-ons frame” from this era should keep the cable clamps because they are authentic for that period.


Footnote: Re-posted from March 2006 with aditional content added.


Reader Comments (3)

That's fascinating.

Never knew the background.

Thanks for that bit of cycling history.

June 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheBigRider

Beautiful bike! Look at the size of that chain stay bridge! I have a 72 Motobecane Le Champion (bent fram from encounter with a car) with all clamp on parts. I imagine painting the frame was easier without the braze ons too.
Dave, did you use brass on all your frames or did you do some silver brazed frames as well? I assume the same brazing rod was used for both frame lugs and braze on parts?

June 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

People had less money for a racing bike because of car ownership?

If bicycle sales slumped because transport was replaced by autos, why would racing bikes be hit so hard? Everybody rode racing bikes for transport?

I would think racing bikes were not used so much as transportation as utility bikes were. I mean really... skinny tires and no fenders to get to work and go shopping?

For greater sales aftermarket clamp-on parts was already developed and then an opportunity (obligation?) for builders to put less work into each frame arose. They didn't have enough buying power to get OEM parts made until Campagnolo had dominance and decided to engineer and manufacture braze-on parts.

I mean race bikes used bar tape for cable clamps. Who needs that stuff. Pump pegs? Maybe. Water bottle braze-ons? Not with handlebar bidons. Lamp or rack mounts? That's for transport bikes, not racing bikes.
Did race numbers ever have Campagnolo clamps or braze-ons?
Did racers with those braze-ons feel that it weakened the frame?

What was the availability of braze-on parts before, during and after this era?
Were there dominant sales of complete racing bikes (with braze-ons) before this era?

Yes, it's cheaper, and that served builders AND Campagnolo well to go clamp-on. French builders? English builders? Non-racing builders?
I suspect they were more willing to make more specialized designs, and racing would be better off with a standard design in which parts could be updated each or every couple of years.

What did the UCI have to do with it?

June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChimpanzee
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