Bicycle Restoration – A contrasting view

I don’t normally publish comments arising from my blog posts, but this one from Bruce in The United States was interesting and thought provoking:

‘There seem to be two diametric schools of thought on the preservation / restoration argument. Though neither of them seem to agree, there is the same school of though that some antique collectors subscribe to. Dirty is better and clean is not cool. Patina is a nice word for dirt and abuse in the minds of some. I have antique furniture, and though I am not tempted to refinish pre-Colonial antiques, I am always looking at some of the bikes I have.
The second school of thought is the complete replacement of the paint and decals for an out of factory look. Many of the restoration painters will exceed the quality of paint done by a factory or even that done by small hand made marques.
I have received many frames that few wanted because ‘distressed’ look doesn’t sell to the public. I admit that a good refinish is expensive, but if you only want it done once then it might as well be a professional job. If you have ever been at a cycling ‘jumble’ or show the ones that stop the crowds are those refinished to perfection, and parts restored and polished. One you would like to display in your home would be one done by some of the best custom painters in America.’

My first article about restoration was a personal opinion about my approach.

I have a few observations relating to this comment:

‘I have received many frames that few wanted because ‘distressed’ look doesn’t sell to the public.’

The fact that they don’t sell to the public doesn’t mean that they are ‘undesirable’ either from a historical or aesthetic point of view. I don’t prepare my bikes to be saleable, I preserve them to retain originality and to make them usable.

‘Many of the restoration painters will exceed the quality of paint done by a factory or even that done by small hand made marques.’

Exactly! Refinished bikes will often look nothing like the bike did originally. Many original finishes, particularly to lightweight bikes, were in fact a little on the crude side and showed the marks of hand finishing designed to be purposeful rather than showy. Bikes were designed to be used not to be shown. In this country there is a restorer of vintage Rolls Royce motor cars called P. & A. Wood. The quality of their restorations are incomparable, but their refinishing work is probably considerably better than the original finish, perhaps giving us a distorted picture of the original qualities of these cars. Modern materials are not like the ones used 50-100 years ago, so there is no way that a re-finish is going to look exactly the same as the original. Polishing alloy components is another grey area – I know from my examples of NOS alloy components that they often weren’t highly polished to start with, yet polishing to mirror finish seems to be widely accepted in the restoration fraternity. Likewise reproduction transfers are often not at all like the original versions, so once again the ‘flawless refinish’ is in fact highly flawed.

‘..the ones that stop the crowds are those refinished to perfection, and parts restored and polished.’

I think that there is a very considerably growing number of people that will take more notice of the slightly distressed original machine as opposed to the show example. This is evidenced by the market for all types of vintage and veteran bikes where prices are higher for totally original machines.

‘One you would like to display in your home would be one done by some of the best custom painters in America.’

Not for me, thank you!

Originality like in these examples is impossible to reproduce. Once it is lost, it’s gone forever…..

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