"An intermediate crome-moly sport bike for those who do a
lot of riding and some light touring"
                     ~~ 1981 Sales Literature ~~

"As in the past the UNIQUE combines economy and technology to yield a spirited versatile machine well within the means of the average cyclist."
                      ~~ 1987 Lotus Catalog ~~

Through the 10+ years that Lotus sold bicycles, the Unique always occupied the place of a modestly improved version of the top-selling and popular Lotus Excelle.  We always think of the Unique as the sister bike to the Excelle, perhaps for the cyclist who had a few more dollars to spend than the price of the Excelle and wanted a different Lotus than the one everyone else was riding. Maybe you were just too unique to own an Excelle. 

The first-generation Lotus Unique improved upon the Excelle by offering half-chromed chain and seat stays, slightly upgraded crank, and brakes with gum rubber hoods minus the extension levers. As far as we can tell, the Unique shared the exact same frame as the Excelle with the addition of the half chrome stays. Both models used Shimano 600 EX derailleurs and shifters and rode on the same size Ukai rims and IRC tires.
The Unique was never sold in a mixte frame and came equipped with gum brake hoods minus the extension levers. This may have given the cycling public the impression that the Unique was a much more performance oriented bicycle than the Excelle. Early on, Lotus probably had no idea which bike would become the better selling model, so the upgrades between the various bicycles were made in more gradual increments. 

The first-generation Unique does not seem as common as some of the other first-generation Lotus models in the used market, we believe that if the customer didn't want an Excelle, the Unique was passed over in favor of the Classique (if you wanted a road bike) or the Eclair (if you wanted a touring ride).  In later generations, Lotus designed more obvious differences between the two sister models, Unique and Excelle.
1980 or Earlier Lotus Unique in Black.

The Black Unique shown above is a first-generation example in almost original condition (with the exception of the bar-end shifters).  Not only does it show many of the early, circa 1980, features like the head tube decal, narrower range freewheel, and short cage Shimano 600 derailleur, it also has
clamp-on top tube cable guides

We've never seen any Lotus with clamp-on top tube cable guides.  We suppose someone could have ground off the brazed-on guides, then touched up the paint and installed nasty-paint-scratching-dirt-accumulating clamp-on guides, but why on earth would someone do that to such a nice bike?  Especially on a relatively original bicycle that still has "uncool" vintage parts installed, like the original pedal reflectors, crank chain guard, and plastic spoke protector. This Unique also has a complete Sugino Super Maxy crank set, more commonly found on the Lotus Excelle, but may have been used on an introductory or prototype model. 

What we'd like to think is that this Unique
is  a very early production model, possibly an introductory version, but we just aren't sure.  

Shown below is the Unique page from the 1981 Lotus catalog.
1981 Lotus Unique Catalog Photo

Second-generation, circa 1983-84, Unique models changed frame tubing from Tange Champion to Tange Mangaloy and now offered a contrasting painted head tube with a matching LOTUS panel on the seat tube.

Ukai 27 x 1 Rim Decal on 1983 UniqueLotus began to separate the two sister models Unique and Excelle and the second-generation Unique featured slightly narrower 27 x 1 rims and tires than the 27 x
 1-1/4 rims and 1-1/8 tires used on the Excelle. The Unique used the Suntour Blue Line S derailleurs instead of the Shimano 600 EX still used on the Excelle. Both bicycles still shared the same frame and Tange Mangaloy tubing, but the Unique frame had half-chromed seat and chain stays.  The Unique was moving more up-performance and the Excelle was being groomed for mass popularity.

The second generation Unique and Excelle models were now skip-sized in one inch increments to compliment each other (Excelle: 19-21-23-25-27 and Unique: 18-20-22-24-26) this way, between the two models a similar bike was available in every inch from 18 inches to 27 inches.  The Excelle was still available as a mixte model, the Unique was not.

Mouseover the 1983 Unique below to see the same generation 1983 Excelle. 
1983 Lotus Unique
1984 Lotus Unique Chrome Fork Crown
Later second-generation Lotus Unique models, circa 1984, were changed to include a chrome fork crown with an 
engraved lotus flower, LOTUS engraved seat stay caps, and the crank now came without a chain guard, enhancing the sporty appearance.

The UNIQUE decal on the top tube is now in a block letter font, the 1983 models still used the Edwardian Style script font from the first-generation bikes.

The second-generation 1984 Excelle offered the seat stay engravings, but not the engraved chrome crown.
1984 Lotus Unique w/ Chrome Fork Crown
Below: a reader submission, nicely accessorized original second-generation 1984 silver Lotus Unique, click on any of the small thumbnail photos to enlarge in the main window.
By 1986 the third-generation Unique arrived as complete re-design from the earlier models.  Most noticeably, the chromed fork, stay ends, and fork crown were now painted and Lotus returned to the original-style plain spooned seat stay caps. A stylized LOTUS decal was now on the down tube.  The early third-generation Unique, circa 1986, was the entry model in the Lotus Super Sport Triathlon Series  but does not carry Triathlon Series script decals on the top tube. The Unique was still one model above her sister, the Excelle. Although, perhaps to give the sister bikes even more of their own identity, the Excelle was now the top model of the Sport Series.  Both bicycles were made from Ishiwata Tubing. 

The 1986 
Triathlon Series  lineup included the Legend, Cyclone, Classique, and Unique.

The 1986
Sport Series  lineup included the Excelle, Challenger SX, Challenger, and International.

A full scan of the 1986 Lotus Catalog page featuring the Unique is here.

For more photos and information on the 1986 Unique, please visit our Featured Bicycles page.
Third-Generation Lotus Unique

The Lotus Unique above appears to be equipped as an 1986 model in Azure Blue. Note how the extended frame peg for a tire pump is mounted to the head tube lug on small frames, where larger frames used a peg brazed directly to the head tube.  

The 1987 Unique still shares the same frame design as the 1986 models, now with a Tange Mangaloy fork.  The 1987 components were almost all different from the 1986 version.  Easily identifiable as an '87 model, the seat tube is now painted to match the head tube.  A Triathlon Series decal is now on the top tube.

In 1987 Lotus introduced a special small-frame Unique model with a 24" front wheel, as shown below.  This frame style could also be found on the Elite 600.  This design avoided having to slope the top tube and allowed for a more proportioned frame for smaller men and women.  Many of the components on this GM Grey Unique have been owner modified, but it still sports the original bottle cage.  
1987 Lotus Unique w/ 24 Wheel
1987 Lotus Unique Catalog Scan
1980-82 Lotus Unique
Frame Details Top tube cable guides, down tube shift lever support bracket, Suntour forged vertical drop outs, half-chrome seat and chain stays.
Frame Tubing Tange Champion Cro-mo
Headset Tange Chrome
Fork Tange Champion Cro-mo, 1/2 chrome fork Handlebar SR Custom Alloy
Colors Black, Red, Blue Stem SR Alloy
Frame Sizes 19, 21, 23, 25 inches 
No Mixte Available
Brakes Dia Compe 500G Side-Pull w/ QR, Drilled Levers w/ Gum Hoods
Crank SR Custom SD w/ Chain Guard, 42-52 Seatpost SR CT-P3 Alloy
Pedals KKT Top Run Alloy Saddle Kashimax Super Anatomic Black
Shift Levers Shimano 600EX Arabesque on Down Tube Rims Ukai 27" x 1.25" Alloy
Front Derailleur Shimano 600EX Arabesque Hubs Shimano AQ-11 QR Front and Rear
Rear Derailleur Shimano 600EX Arabesque Long Cage Spokes
Freewheel Shimano 6-Speed 14-32 Tires IRC 27" x 1 1/8" 100 psi
Chain Shimano Uniglide  Gold Weight 26 lbs.
Notes 1980 (or "early") Models have been noted to have fragile water-slide seat tube decals.
1981 (or "later") Models have been noted to have more durable Mylar-type seat tube decals.
1983-84(?)  Lotus Unique
Frame Details Forged vertical drop outs, top tube cable guides, bottom bracket cable guides, brazed on bottle bosses, shifter bosses, chain peg, 1/2 chromed seat and chain stays, spoon shape seat stays. 
Frame Tubing Tange Double Butted Mangaloy all 11 Tubes Headset Tange, Chrome
Fork Tange Double Butted Mangaloy, 1/2 Chrome Handlebar SR Custom Alloy, Cotton Tape
Colors Silver Champagne, Violet Blue, Red Stem SR, Alloy
Frame Sizes 18, 20, 22, 24, 26 inches Brakes Dia Compe G Alloy Side Pull
Crank SR Custom MD Alloy, 42-52 Seatpost SR CT-P5 Laprade Alloy, Micro-Adjusting 
Pedals SR-SP 150 Ally w/ Toe Clips and Straps Saddle Kashimax Anatomic Super, Black
Shift Levers Suntour Blue Line S on Down Tube Rims Ukai 27" x 1" Alloy 16A
Front Derailleur Suntour Blue Line S Hubs Suntour Sealed Bearing QR Front and Rear Alloy
Rear Derailleur Suntour Blue Line S Spokes
Freewheel Suntour Pro Compe 6-Speed  Tires IRC 27" x 1" Hi Center Ridge
Chain Shimano Uniglide  Weight 24.25 lbs. for 21"
Notes 1983 Specifications as listed, 1984 specifications are similar but may vary.
1986-87 Lotus Unique
Triathlon Series
Frame Details Pump peg on head tube, chain peg hanger, recessed brake bolts, under bottom bracket cable guides, water bottle bosses, micro adjusting screws on rear forged drop outs, top tube cable guides, shift lever bosses on down tube.
Frame Tubing 1986: Ishiwata Quad Butted Chrome Moly
1987: Ishiwata Triple Butted Chrome Moly
Headset 1987: Tange UQ-7 Sealed
Color Coordinated,  LOTUS Inscribed
Fork 1986: Ishiwata Cr Mo w/ Engraved Crown*
1987: Tange Mangaloy w/ Engraved Crown
Handlebar 1986: SR Custom, alloy
1987: LOTUS Engraved Kusuki Aero Indented, alloy
Colors 1986: Pearl Coral, Azure Blue, Satin Black
1987: GM Gray, Azure Blue, Crimson
Stem 1986: SR, alloy 
1987: Kusuki S-Win alloy
Frame Sizes 18, 20, 22, 24, 26 inches
Brakes 1986: Dia-Compe G500N w/ 160G Levers
1987: Dia-Compe Alpha 5000 w/ Aero AC-260 Levers
Crank 1986: Sugino DGP, 42-52 
1987: Sugino GP 130, Cycloid Rings, 42-52 
Seatpost 1986: SR Micro-adjust CRE-100
1987: Sugino KCL w/ Scale
Pedals 1986: SR Pro Vic II
1987: MKS-AR-3  w/ Clips and LOTUS Straps
Saddle Vetta Anatomic 
Shift Levers 1986: Suntour Sprint
1987: Suntour Alpha 5000 Accushift
Rims 1986: Araya 16B 700c x 25c, alloy
1987: Araya SS-45 700c, alloy Bronze Color
Front Derailleur 1986: Suntour Sprint
1987: Suntour Alpha 5000
Hubs 1986: Suzue Sealed Tech Small Flange QR
1987: Sanshin Alpha 5000 Sealed Small Flange, QR
Rear Derailleur 1986: Suntour Sprint
1987: Suntour Alpha 5000 Accushift
Spokes 1987: 14 Guage Stainless Steel
Freewheel Suntour Winner, 13-26, 6 cogs, Silver Tires 1986: IRC Roadlite 700 x 25c Skin
1987: Panaracer Vertex 700 x 23c Skin 100psi
Chain 1986: Suntour, Silver 
1987: DID Lanner Silver/Black
Weight 1986: 24 lbs.
1987: 23.5 lbs. for 20" Mens
Notes * Observed models have Tange Cr-Mo Steel Forks.
1987: Accessories: LOTUS water bottle and alloy cage.
1987: 18 inch models came with Araya 20A 700c rear wheel and 24 inch front.
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