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But a substantial, broad-shouldered, forged or cast fork crown is not only strong, but beautiful to look at, offering a point of visual interest, as well as being another area on a bike frame where a skilled builder can impart a unique and creative look. Not only that, but many traditional fork crowns offer much more tire and fender clearance than their modern counterparts -- especially when compared to most of the carbon forks available today.
Look at bikes from the classic era, from the mid-80s and earlier, and you'll see all kinds of interesting and beautiful fork crowns -- even on mass-produced models where the factories did little if anything to "pretty" them up. Cheap mass-market bikes in that time were usually built with inexpensive "stamped" steel fork crowns, and yet even many of those looked more interesting to my eye than the unicrown and carbon forks that are used on most bikes today.
Take a look at some of the fork crowns from the classic era -- most of them forged or made from castings. These first few are of the flat-top style which I find particularly attractive.
|A sampling of some of the forged crowns by Vagner. These were very popular on bikes throughout the 60s and 70s.|
|A sampling of crowns from Nervex. Also very popular in the classic era.|
|A Cinelli twin-plate crown - spotted on eBay for big bucks. These are gorgeous, but I've read that true twin-plate crowns like this are notoriously difficult to braze with. When finished, though, it is a cool look.|
|Here's one of the above semi-sloping Cinelli crowns on an '81 Masi (California built). Earlier Masi's used Fischer flat-topped crowns, and some of the most highly-sought-after ones used true twin-plate crowns.|
|Proof that mountain bike forks weren't always ugly. Early versions of the Specialized Stumpjumper came with this nice looking twin-plate style "bi-plane" crown. Note also the lugged frame -- I wouldn't get a mountain bike any other way.|
The Classic Fork Crown is Not Dead.
|Bridgestone RB-1 fork crown -- illustration from the '93 Bridgestone catalog. Like the MB-1 crown above, this crown was designed by Tom Ritchey (there's definitely a family resemblance between the two!). A modern interpretation of a vintage look.|
|Here's a Rivendell Roadeo with a creative-looking flat-topped fork crown. Very pretty.|
|Kirk Pacenti produces several classic-inspired fork crowns, including this nice investment cast twin-plate style crown (above) and their "Artisan" crown (below).|
|Richard Sachs also produces several traditional fork crowns, including the "Newvex" model, which is styled after the vintage Nervex crown. This crown complements Sachs's Newvex lug set.|
|Even a number of welded bikes are now available with traditional-styled fork crowns. The Pass Hunter frame from Velo Orange comes with this gorgeous twin-plate styled crown to add a touch of vintage class to its welded frame. The reinforcing rings on the head-tube improve the look, too. Soma Fabrications and Surly also produce welded frames with traditional crowned forks.|