Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Klein..."there is no substitute."

From a thread over on Retrobike...regarding the popularity of the Chehalis-built Klein frames...

It's really simple...Kleins are popular because they are Kleins.

Nothing else is a Klein.

Nobody smoothed aluminum frames and painted them to glass like Klein.

Nobody payed attention to details like Klein.

Noboy else made as many reaching advancements, for the day, available in frames comparable to Klein.


Many slick features, like internal cable routing, chain suck plates, square to round chainstay swagging, sloped top tubes, quick angles, light weight, etc, are pretty standard fare today, but they were the cat's tits in 1992. Sure the zip-grip seat collars, MC headsets, and press-fit bottom brackets were a pain, but Klein never hid from trying something new. Even those dubious 'advancements' had strengths on paper. A seat tube that provided for tool-less adjustment without the weight or complication of a quick release? Oversized sealed bearings in the bottom bracket? In the head tube? Seems like forward thinking to me. Brand lethargy didn't doom Klein...Only after Klein got rolled into Trek did they die off. Same as Bontrager. (Fisher and Lemond were companies in name only, so they don't get tears from me the way Klein and Bontrager do.

(boad mamber1) once posted a picture of a maroon Rascal for sale. Months later, I asked him if it was still available, and he confirmed that it was. I asked him how much and he replied, make an offer. I made him a buyer friendly offer (translation, I low-balled him) and never heard about the frame again. Why? Because he knows what he has. Knows it has enduring value. Knows that there are no real valid questions to that value. And knows not to be suckered by a cheap offer. Kleins are the real deal. Chehalis, pre-Trek Kleins are still respected today for being exactly what they are, handmade, handpainted pinnacles (no pun intended) of engineering packed with technology that back in the day, pushed the envelope hard. Technology not for technology's sake, but for the genuine purpose of creating a better bike, advancement after advancement. Very few companies did as much to create products as distinctive as Klein. Quite frankly, and I've owned a multitude of aluminum frames over the years...Aliens, Stumpjumpers, Cannondale Beasts, my estimation, nobody did aluminum frames better. And as long as you stayed out of the proprietary headset frames, they were pretty reasonably priced to boot! (Rascal!)

The reason why Klein gets crapped on today is simple, and two fold...first, they are pretty. They are glamorous. Nobody likes glamorous mountain bikes, at least, nobody takes the idea seriously....unless they owned one or aspired to. Mountain bikes shouldn't twinkle like a disco stage AND ride like the wind too, should they? People hated then and hate today, on the paint. SURELY, a bike that looks THAT blingy just can't be legit, right?

Secondly, and this it the big sticking point to me...Kleins are considered toys of the rich. Props to the midlife crisis sufferers like Jerry Seinfeld, who would just buy the things to hang them on the wall. Sad but true, yet this isn't Klein's fault, any more than its Porsche's fault that they are the automotive equivalent. How many Porsches get used on track days? Does that make a Porsche less of a sports car? Is that really Porsche's fault? Am I concerned that if I show up at the trail head on my Rascal that others will think I'm a rich old poser fart? Uh...NO! In fact, I'm glad that many Kleins were purchased by rich old fart posers back in the day, it means that there are clean examples of the brand available to us now, probably in percentages of total manufactured numbers far higher than other high-zoot brands from back in the day. Is that really bad? Is (board member2) supposed to be SAD that Adroits are hanging on walls in retired executive garages, just waiting for the auction block?

On the durability front...let's be real here. Kleins are not brittle. 15-20 years later, we are talking about cracked seat tubes and some other niggles...YEARS! I know that Zaskars have broken too, but I'm not labeling them as brittle (although admittedly, the 1st gen Zaskar is a burlier frame than anything Klein ever made). If you broke a Klein using it for cross country work, you'd have probably broken a Beast too, or an American, or a Yeti, or (certainly) a Manitou. Finish work? I've never seen 'fragile' Chehalis paint. You can whack my Rascal with a hammer and it wouldn't chip. Why do you think (board member3) has to do all that scraping?

Don't blame Klein for being Klein. Embrace Klein for being Klein. In the immortal words of Porsche..."There is no substitute"

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