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Frames - Quality vs. Price at Empire(14 posts)

Frames - Quality vs. Price at EmpireCharlie - Empire Cycle Craft
Jan 3, 2002 5:51 PM
A certain situation has arised that has led me post this question. I am looking for reponses regarding price vs. quality. How much are you willing to pay for a top-notch hanbuilt frame. Please check out for an idea of where my prices are now. This is not a marketing ploy to get you to my website, just trying to make sure that people get what they want. Thanks for the responses.
I don't understand the questiongtx
Jan 3, 2002 9:32 PM
do you mean, how much are you willing to pay for a hanbuilt frame from you? Having never seen or ridden your bikes, I can't answer. If you check the pricing at IF, Steelman, Moots, Ibis, etc., you'll get an idea of what people are willing to pay for those frames--all by established builders with top reputations in a very competitive market.
re: Frames - Quality vs. Price at Empired
Jan 4, 2002 6:50 AM
your frames look good BUT my merckx scandium frame & fork cost $1600. your prices are comparable but you are a no name frame builder, do you offer custom geometry?

at that price point you need to either
i)spend a ton of cash on marketing
ii)sponsor some decent amateur teams to slowly build recognition
iii) build frames and rebrand for a big name company.

nobody is going to pay those prices for an "empire" frame right now.
re: Frames - Quality vs. Price at EmpireCharlie - Empire Cycle Craft
Jan 4, 2002 9:12 AM
Yes, I do offer custom geometry. Thanks for the reply. Sponsoring a team is actually what led me to post this. I gave the team VERY good prices and the team captain is trying to get them cheaper. The prices are already as low as they can go. Basically he is trying to get my frames at the price of a cheap taiwanese built frame. This led me to wonder if the majority of people are more concerned about quality or price. As of now I have the best welders around(that is as my opinion anyway) building frames for me, wich makes the price go up a bit. I am not sure I am willing to find a less experianced craftsman or go to taiwan to get cheaper frames. The last thing I want to deal with is a broken frame. Thanks again.

Charlie Weisel
re: Frames - Quality vs. Price at EmpireTJeanloz
Jan 4, 2002 11:19 AM
I don't want to offend anybody here, but these are some realities:

1. Your reputation as a builder is miniscule. You have the best welders around? Who's welding for you, Nobilette and Gangl? If so, you'd be better off putting their names on the bikes. I'll point out that Mark will build a custom (steel) TIG welded road bike for the same price as you- and he has a reputation for good bikes.

2. You can't afford to set up this team with bikes? Take a lesson from Morgul-Bismark. If you're going to sponser a team, sponser a real team. Put your bikes under a Cat1/DIII pro team, not some BRAC Masters group.

You seem to want to take a shortcut to big bike company land- there are no shortcuts (M-B proved that). Guys like Ibis, Moots and IF built themselves over time from low-overhead, one-man shops to what they are today. This isn't a business where you can just hire a bunch of welders and start cranking out product. You need a long history of building good bikes for decent prices before you can get to where you think you already are. At your stage, I think $1000 for a frame is steep. There are quite a few proven frames out there that have no risk involved for less money. You may be confident in your product, but consumers are not.
take the loselaffeaux
Jan 4, 2002 1:23 PM
Why do you not want to sell the frames for cheap? Even if you loose money on a few frames, if the quality is as good as you say, these frames will lead to other sales. If no one ever buys a bike from you, there will be no word of mouth sales, and no "free" advertisment as your bikes rolls across the finish line at a race. Advertising and marketing cost money. Companies that refuse to pay for both (sounds like you want to pay for neither) inevitably go out of business.

It takes a lot more than a good product to run a successful business. If you're too tight to spend a bit of money on what could potentially be a huge marketing oportunity, I'd say you won't be around long enough to care if your prices are too high.
Most people look for their idea of value.dzrider
Jan 4, 2002 10:02 AM
People value different qualities in differing degrees. The buyers' question is basically "Is this bike worth the money?" For the general public this question is answered largely by price. For expensive bikes the question changes to 'How do I know this frame is going to be really good?' because people interested in a custom frames are almost always looking for quality.

Some frame builders (Peter Weigle or Richard Sachs in my area) have reputations built over decades of quality work. Others (IF for example) seem to develop good reputations more quickly. If you want to sell expensive frames, you have to find a way to convince people that your workmanship is worth the price.
My recommendations...ohio
Jan 4, 2002 2:04 PM
... from someone who is about start a bicycle business also (albeit a very different one).

For the market you're trying to break into, you need to enhance that website. It looks pretty and professional but it doesn't have the necessary content. You need close up pics of the frames to display the great welds. You need to post your welders' resumes prominently. You need pics of finished customer bikes as well as testimonials. And since you sponsored the team, get some pics up there of the team riding them, as well as their results and resumes.

If you're only selling direct, prices need to drop. If you're selling through dealers, you're going to have to hit the road and try to sell to them in person. You also need to provide more info on what you can do custom. I know, you can do anything custom, but list everything you can think of to get potential customers' imaginations flowing. At those prices people need to know they're getting something they can't get anywhere else. Is there anything innovative or unusual about your frames? Describe it in detail on the site.

That's all I can think of right now. If I come up with anything else I'll stop back. Best of luck.

re: Frames - Quality vs. Price at EmpireDrD
Jan 5, 2002 6:31 AM
I agree with the posts above - I think your prices are a bit on the high side, given how new your company is to framebuilding - take a look at TET cycles - Tom Teesdale, who has a decent rep, is under you by $250 on a scandium frame, $500 on a 7005, and will build a frame out of Columbus focus for the same or Reynolds 853 (all 853) for $30 over your EL-OS price - or with EL for $200 less... and that's without figuring in your additional $150 for custom. The Ti price is certainly competitive with high end Ti, but without the reputation - other frames such as those by Habanero or Airborne cost much less, and have better brand recognition (remember - when you are selling something people can see but not touch, percieved value and percieved quality are actually more important than actual value or quality - your frames may be much nicer than theirs, but people have heard of and likely seen and possibly even test ridden one of theirs)

I think to be successful as a mail-order builder, you have to consider the approach taken by places like Airborne if you want to go "global" so to speak - if local is more your style - get out there and work with the local shops - you have to get the bikes out there, get people riding them, and build brand recognition.

For sponsorship, esp. since your company is new, I think you really have to take a loss on the frames and sell them cheap - getting your product out there is more important than making a little cash on them at this stage in the game.
Sorry, Charlie,MikeC
Jan 5, 2002 8:06 PM
...but the other posters are right. High-end frames are sold on reputation and cachet. You may be the best builder and designer in the world, but until someone wins a world championship or major title on one of your bikes, OR until the media anoints you as the latest and greatest, buyers won't take a chance.
Look at it this way, in the TdF, the weights of the frames ridden by the various teams varied by up to 2lb, and the geometries ranged from Merckx to Colnago. So nobody's going to believe that your frames will change them from an also-ran to a podium finisher. That leaves quality and image as the biggest deciding factor.
Quality can be partially judged by eye and short-term evaluation, but most high-end buyers will want a track record that proves that the frames hold up over time and hard useage. That means getting a bunch out there, and the simplest way to do that with an unproven product is by offering a price advantage that will cause people to put their skepticism aside.
There is one other approach: innovation. If you truly come up with something that nobody else is doing, the "better mousetrap" scenario could take hold. It was the Odonata, with its carbon downtube and seatstays, that got Seven noticed, along with their unique customization program (and Rob Vandermark's Merlin heritage didn't hurt!).
The only real shortcut is to try to get the attention of the media in some way. That often results in cynical responses from veteran riders and the competition, but if you really do build a great product, you may outlast the cynics.
I saw something similar recentlyCT1
Jan 5, 2002 8:14 PM
A local shop owner had some imported frames from Italy that he was pedaling. His price for these no-name frames was AS-MUCH if not more than the list price of the big name brand frame he had.

When I left I was joking with my brother that it would be a cold day in Hell before he sold any of his no-name stock... at least at the price he quoted us. If his no-name frame price was 1/2 of the big-name frame I'd still just barely be interested.

Jan 6, 2002 8:55 AM
I do know that the Odonata has a carbon seattube, not downtube. Sorry.
Thanks for the commentsCharlie - Empire Cycle Craft
Jan 6, 2002 1:25 PM
I will take in all these comments and give them some thought. Thanks.
Reputation and timeEric
Jan 8, 2002 6:39 PM
I'm not sure it is all about reputation and the time it takes. For instance, Carl Strong seems to have developed quite a following in the past 4-5 years without a lot of advertising and sponsorship. He has a very strong internet presence, in that if you check into this forum,, and the Tech forum at Velonews you will always see his frames getting rave reviews. It is also worth noting that Carl and Tony both used to participate in the Cyclingforum site quite frequently. I believe this certainly helped to propagate their reputation. Heck, I live in Canada and even with our poor dollar I would buy a Strong if I was considering custom steel.

Charlie, your prices seem comparable to Strong's prices and you are building with a wide variety of materials. I would suggest a little more information regarding bike fit and your willingness to do a complete custom on your website. Also, it would be a good idea to offer some of the latest in steel like 853, Foco, Deda EOM, etc. BTW, you offer an excellent warranty on your SC7000 (scandium) frames compared to every other builder. Most offer 1-3 years.

Good luck and thanks for being interactive with the group.