There are a lot of bikes out there.
Many people collect bikes and each has their own reason. Some are lucky enough to collect bicycles of great value or importance and are admired by many. Even the uninitiated will go “wow that’s Eddy Merckx’s bike” (or “wow that’s Lance Armstrong’s bike” to bring it into today’s context).
Like many others I didn’t plan to collect bicycles, rather it grows out of an irregularity of logical thought and a passion for something that exists in the real world. Once started it takes a life of its own. Collections that have a large pool of varied items (like bicycles) change over time as the collector finds other pieces that they would like to add.
There are road bikes and track bikes and mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes and touring bikes and work bikes and commuting bikes and “lifestyle” bikes. There are bikes that are made of steel, aluminium, titanium, carbon fibre and other rarer composites & materials. And within those broad categories are many varied types and subcategories that boggle the mind of those that do not have the passion to focus on the details.
Some collectors are very focused and collect certain pieces within a defined context. The collections of Colnagos, Bianchi’s, Hetchins or Rene Herse attest to these collectors. Some collect bicycles or bicycle components from certain periods. Other collectors buy whatever catches their eye and have a more ad hoc and often more interesting and varied collection (at least to the average bicycle enthusiast). The lucky collect so much that they have collections within collections.
It is a small but magnificently diverse world for these enthusiasts. The enthusiast of steel bikes with decorative lugwork may take a Bill Hurlow frame and plonk it beside a Ron Cooper or Art Stump. There are comparisons of workmanship (and all handcrafted frames show subtle differences), details of the lugwork, paint (and if it has that desired original and unrestored paint), date of manufacture, and provenance if someone of importance once rode it (esp to victory in an important race). There are others who will look at the same frame and wonder if it is the right size for them to ride it. Whether the wheels are true. Whether the brakes work. Of course many enthusiasts are both, appreciating both the workmanship and function that so characterizes the bicycle.
Here is part of a collection of bikes that have importance to me (an average and undistinguished club racer in my younger days). They are all essentially production racing frames which any amateur could purchase from a frame builder or bicycle store. They are lugged steel frames in the standard diamond configuration. The lugs are simple and without any embellishments although some are more refined than others. Their previous owners could have raced them at the very highest level if they had the qualities and good luck to become a champion.