Friday, December 16, 2011

Let's talk about Treks, baby...

In the broad spectrum of bicycle collecting, it's easy to focus on the exotic, rare, and expensive, but there's an entire population of bicycles that have sat under more rear ends than all of the Cinellis, Bottecchias and Colnagos combined. I'm speaking, of course, about mass-produced, or production bicycles, and if you think these aren't worth your time as a collector, then that's fine because the people who collect these would rather keep their niche to themselves. 

Vintage Schwinn Paramount - Photo from Spoke Sniffer

In America, the most popular mass production bicycle for collectors is Schwinn. But if we narrow the collecting category to lightweight road bicycles, Schwinn has only a few models that are still sought after; the most prominent of which is the Paramount. Ask any Paramount collector, though and he'll tell you that these thoroughbreds fall far from the production line. 

There are plenty of manufacturers that manufactured great road bicycles throughout the 20th century, and many of these are still available today. That's one of the things about mass-produced bicycles - they were many, many of them made. The flip-side of this though, is that owners may not have considered them special enough to take care of for the long-term. 

I discovered a 1970s Univega Gran Premio the other day at the Show of Steel Bikes, and was pleased to see it for many reasons. Back when the best bicycle I could afford was a Univega Viva Sport, my best friend's parents bought him a brand new 1980 Gran Premio. I was so envious. His bicycle was three and a half pounds lighter than mine, and had double-butted Chro-Mo, and all the best Japanese components from the day, while mine had a frame of straight-gage steel, "safety" levers on the brakes, an outter chain ring guard on the crankset (apparently to discourage wayward pant hems from finding their way onto the greasy chain,) and a heavy padded seat. 

I modified my bike the best I could with the budget I had. I removed the safety levers and hacksawed off the mounting pegs for them and put rubber hoods on the levers, replaced the seat with a Selle San Marco that I found at a yard sale, changed out the 13 - 32 freewheel with a 12-21 and removed the chain wheel pant guard. I also put narrower tires on the Araya 27" x 1" alloy rims. I might have shaved a pound off the bike, overall, but that would have to do for several years until I saved up enough to buy my Batavus Professional in 1984. 

Meanwhile, my friend, who really wasn't all that much into cycling, left the Gran Premio outdoors and, exposed to the elements, became un-ridable after only a couple of years. What a shame, but my point to all this is that the Gran Premio, although not considered a "classic collectible" by most back in the day, is now appearing at vintage bicycle shows and finding its way into and, as in my case, back into people's hearts.

Photo from

Trek was started in 1975, and I'm not going to go into details on the company history because that's what Wikipedia is for. Nor do I have any personal anecdotes surrounding the brand. I will say that, if I were to start collecting mass-produced bicycles, I'd look seriously at Trek. The main reason for this is the vast amount of information on the company and its bikes from 

Photo from

No, I haven't been commissioned to write anything by the owners of the site. They don't even know I'm praising them...yet; although I'll send them an email with a link to this, eventually. I'm one of these collectors that loves to have the provenance and marketing materials to accompany my bikes. I've purchased brochures that match the years and models of my Kleins, and Bianchi, and love reading up on their history, in general. I'm certain Vintage-Trek would satisfy my passion for researching any of the Treks I found. 

Let's leave this post right here for now. I want to talk about Specialized, Raleigh, GT, and Fuji bicycles as well in the follow-up to this post. If you have anything to say about these brands or other mass-produced bicycles, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

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