snipped from post:
>"What they do have in spades over the vast majority of
>US builders is a complete vision of the bicycle as a whole.
>Most US builders seem to think of the frame only and not
>as integrated unit. This is where they excel and US
>builders tend to fall short."

my reply:
that's not entirely true. the so-called "constructeur" rigs that mike
refers to were made famous in the era that preceded the concept
of a component "gruppo" from the various suppliers. the need to
source or "invent" one's own brakes, cranks, lights, etcetera was a
fact of life pre 1970. in that respect, the french guys had to think
of the unit as integtrated because so many seperate suppliers were
part of their food chain. it is no longer a necessity to take this route.
also - far be it from me to have an opinion on such a nebulous issue
as "workmanship", but those old frames, while possibly charming,
rarely looked well finished by any standards, much less modern ones.
the french were notoriously ambivilant wrt "hand-work".