I figured I’d share this article written by John Schubert for Bicycling Magazine in 1987 and rewritten by Bruce Gordon for our reading pleasure.
If you’re thinking about having a custom frame built for you in the near future, I’d most definitely read this.
We spend endless hours pondering an old question: what are the actual performance differences between different steel tubesets? What is the rider’s real preference and how much is swayed by pretty decals and advertising? And what have the new developments in steel really accomplished?
Once upon a time, I was pondering these questions with frame builder Bruce Gordon and Shimano’s John Uhte, who promotes Tange tubing through the Shimano-led JNM group of bicycle component manufacturers. Uhte was frustrated: Tange Prestige, the company’s flagship tubing, is a stronger, lighter alloy than most bike steel, yet it wasn’t getting the publicity he felt it should. Many of us have respect for the qualities of Tange Prestige, but we didn’t have much to say about it except that it ultimately produced a frame a few ounces lighter than conventional tubesets.
“What about a blind test in a magazine?” Uhte suggested. “Bruce here will build two bikes. I’ll throw in the Tange tubing and components. You write it up. You won’t know which bike is which. Write it the way you see it.”
Thus a great idea was born. Columbus SL was nominated as the baseline tubeset. Uhte supplied the Prestige and the Shimano 600 components. Gordon built 2 frames. Some months later, two bikes, identical to the eye but the color, appeared at my door. The bikes, by the way, are absolutely beautiful. Of all the custom frames I’ve seen and ridden, these are the very best. The metalwork is absolutely flawless; the stylistic touches elegant and tasteful. The photos show that better than words can tell…