Klein Quantum Pro 1998
Klein Bikes are just cool. They are kind of like the Ben & Jerry’s of Cycling with an MIT Graduate Founder who was fond of funky paint jobs and just wanted to make bikes he liked to ride.
Gary Klein is recognized as one of the 3 “Gary” pillars of biking history: Gary Turner (GT Bikes) the Holy Father of BMX; Gary Fisher who is credited with inventing the mountain bike; and Klein himself who is recognized as the messiah of fat & welded aluminium tubes that forever changed the look of race bikes.
Klein attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the early 1970s and worked with a group of fellow engineering students under a bike loving Professor Buckley who experimented with aluminium framesets.
Before the MIT Project, aluminium bike frames were typically made of thick and heavy tubing that was flexible and relatively fragile at the joints. Sean Kelly raced on one built by French company Vitus in the 1980s – and they typically lasted him about three months before becoming wobbly.
The MIT research revealed that with thinner but oversized aluminium tubes it was possible to make an aluminium bicycle that weighed around 15% less than a conventional steel model while having a similar ride quality. And weakness in the welding joints could be addressed by a special heat treatment process.
After graduating from university Klein took an entrepreneurship course and launched an aluminium frame building start-up. The new company’s bikes were a big hit and throughout the 1980s and early 1990s Klein was on a roll – even Jerry Seinfeld had one on the wall of his sitcom apartment.
In addition to their innovative design, Klein bikes were famous for their funky patterned paintwork that used an expensive Durethane enamel paint that changed colours in different light conditions.
The Flandrien Hotel’s Quantum Pro model was introduced in 1993 and rocketed the company to European fame via sponsorship of the German cycling team Gerolsteiner.
Our top of the range example is from 1998 and boasts the industry’s first ever press-fit bottom bracket bearings and integrated headset fork with threadless aluminium steering shaft. It’s fitted with a Campagnolo Record Titanium groupset, which finally brought the Italian manufacturer on-par with its Japanese rival Shimano.
Almost all of Klein Bikes’ technology was swiftly adopted by the rest of the bicycle industry. But the company struggled to compete with the marketing & distribution muscle of bigger America & Asian competitors and Klein eventually sold the company to rival Trek. He then went and made telescopes.
Production of Klein bikes was fully absorbed by Trek in 2002 by which stage much of the magic of the brand had faded due to the rising dominance of carbon fibre. Klein-branded bikes were manufactured by Trek for another five years but disappeared from the North American market altogether in 2007.
Today Klein bikes have become highly collectible – but make sure you get a pre-2002 model as these are considered the only “true” Kleins by serious aficionados of the brand.
And what’s the most collectible model of all? It’s the green 1987 Klein Pinnacle that hung on the wall of Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment, visible every time Kramer made an entrance.