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Leader Bike Frame Review w/Pictures(12 posts)

Leader Bike Frame Review w/PicturesCJMeredith
Jul 8, 2002 4:28 PM
Several people have posted in the last few months asking if anyone has had experience with frames built by a company called Leader Bike. I bought one of their frames several weeks ago and just wanted to make a few comments for those who might be interested.

I've been riding for a couple of years now on an older steel Bianchi frame that I purchased used and built up with Ultegra components. It was a great frame, but I wasn't completely happy with the fit or the weight. Unfortunately, my wife wasn't completely happy with the idea of my spending several hundred dollars on a new frame, so I labored on with it. Then I ran across one of the eBay auctions run by Leader Bike USA and figured I couldn't go too wrong for the money they were asking ($109 for their all aluminum frames and about $100 more for their aluminum frames with carbon seat stays).

I did a search for reviews on this site as well as others on the internet and found limited information (which is why I'm taking the time to post this). The limited information I did find, however, was positive. They've been an OEM manufacturer for Look as well as a few other companies since about 1990. They're now attempting to sell under the Leader Bike name in the U.S., but are known as Argon-18 in Canada. They've only got two retailers in the U.S right now, but are attempting to get picked up by others. In the meantime, they're selling at deep discounts on eBay and directly through their site in an attempt to build some name recognition. The bikes are manufactured in Taiwan. A few people have written some short one sentence reviews which have all been postive. They've recently gotten their web site up and running and have released an improved version of their LD-715 and LD-780 frames which they designate with an "R." These 2002 models are apparently far superior to the older style and have a slightly different geometry. That seems to be the extent of the information I've been able to find on the internet.

I eventually ordered directly from Leader Bike USA and got their LD-780R frame (aluminum with carbon fiber seat stays). I originally ordered in May when these frames were running $225 plus $20 shipping - I think they're running closer to $300 now. The point of contact at Leader was Sal Lombrosso and he was very friendly, easy to deal with, and never gave me a hard sell. I also purchased a carbon fiber seat post from them for $40, but passed on their carbon forks at $99. The frame shipped quickly and, although I feel like the packaging could have been a little stouter, it arrived in great condition (rough handeling might have damaged it though). The frame looked perfect and I found no structural or cosmetic flaws of any kind (and I eyed and measured it carefully).

I did the build up myself using Ultegra components from my old Bianchi and a Kestrel EMS Pro fork. I tried to make this bike a model of value - I avoided using the "best" components and opted instead for "best bang for the buck." However, I've always admired the Chris King headsets so decided to violate my value principle in that department (I probably should have settled for a Cane Creek). I built the wheelset myself using Mavic Open Pros (I know, I know...) with Ultegra hubs (28H 2-cross - I built these wheels a year ago and they've been incredibly solid performers).

The bike weighed in at about 18lbs, but I wasn't a weight nazi on the build up (I'm also not certain of the accuracy of my scale). The frame itself came in at 3lbs 9oz on a scale that I am sure of (nearly 1/2 pound heavier than advertised - not so good). However, the rest of the specs listed on the Leader Bike USA site were dead on.

After I got all of the adjustments dialed in, I took the bike out on my harshest course and was extremely surprised at how smooth it was. With the carbon fork, seat post and seat stays, it was even smoother than my all steel Bianchi.
Nice review! Thanks. -nmTig
Jul 8, 2002 4:42 PM
Very good review.....Dave Hickey
Jul 8, 2002 4:42 PM
Informative, objective, and honest. Great job.
Part 2 of ReviewCJMeredith
Jul 8, 2002 4:43 PM
After I got all of the adjustments dialed in, I took the bike out on my harshest course and was extremely surprised at how smooth it was. With the carbon fork, seat post and seat stays, it was even smoother than my all steel Bianchi. I have limited experience on other bikes, so I'm not really qualified to draw comparisons, but it has been everything that I'd hoped it would be. I proceeded to shatter every one of my personal best times on every route I ride - particularly the hilly rides. I'm not a big guy (165lbs), but it feels solid and responsive with no flex. All in all, I don't have any negative comments to make - especially for the money I spent.

One of my concerns for the long run is obviously the carbon/aluminum glue joint on the seat stays. However, with the lifetime Leader Bike warranty I should be able to get service if it gives me any trouble (assuming they stay in business). They also have a crash replacement policy that sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I put much stock in it.

I think their LD-715R frame continues to be one of the best deals out there at $109 (identical to the 780R with the exception of aluminum seat stays). However, the LD-780R frame that I purchased seems to be inching up in price to nearly $300 now if purchased on eBay or direct through their site. At $229 it was a great deal for a brand new carbon/aluminum frame, but at $300, I'm not sure I would have purchased from an unknown company. Nevertheless, my experience with Leader Bike has been extremely positive and I think they are an up and coming company. The bottom line is that I heartily recommend them at current prices. If you're in the market for a new frame and can stand to ride something other than a name brand, they're an excellent value and are worth a look. I'll buy myself a really nice name brand frame someday, but for now this is exactly what I need.
Are the decals clear coated or can they be removed? (nm)Dave Hickey
Jul 8, 2002 4:49 PM
Unfortunately clear coated (nm)CJMeredith
Jul 8, 2002 5:10 PM
Unfortunately clear coated????viperbob
Jul 8, 2002 7:45 PM
The ones that on my sons bike that I bought recently just peeled right off. Actually, on the head tube, it was only half stuck on. Other than that, the frame is GREAT.. Well woth the money. I figure I can just keep moving components every couple of years for my 12 year old son onto a new frame for MUCH less than buying a new bike every year or two.

Bob
What kind of Bianchi?McAndrus
Jul 9, 2002 4:49 AM
I've had a couple of steel Bianchis - an Eros and a Veloce. If you can tell me what kind you had it'll help me understand the ride qualities of the Leader. Thanks.
quick questionterry b
Jul 9, 2002 5:09 AM
were the BB shell and headtube already prepared or did you have to face them?
will be adding Leader bikes to our database for review soongregg
Jul 10, 2002 12:44 PM
working on getting the specs together, should be available for review in about a week or so.

-gregg, Site Manager RoadbikeREVIEW.com
will be adding Leader bikes to our database for review soonRead Spear
Jul 12, 2002 1:38 PM
Good. In the meanwhile allow me to relate my experience with Leader Bike's main man, Sal:

Me:" Are your frames available unpainted? I would like to have one custom painted at Airglow, and if I can avoid having them strip it that would be all the better. I'm interested in the LD780 or LD7955. Also, what are the head tube diameters of those models? Thanks!

Sincerely,

Read"

Sal: "Dear Customer,

As you are aware we are in the business of promoting Leader Bikes in the USA.

Best Regards,

Sal Lombroso"

Me: "So you're *requiring* that they be sold with your name on them? It hasn't occurred to you that the following conversation is likely to take place (over and over again with other cyclists):

"Hey cool paint job, what brand of frame is that?"
"Glad you asked, it's a Leader Bike frame. It's a great frame and very affordable."
"Cool, where can I get one?"
"Visit the great guys at LeaderBike.com."

Now, do you want to sell a frame? If so: I want one unpainted, to customize for my girlfriend, and I'd like to know what size diameter the head tubes are. Does one frame/one customer matter to you? It's regular riders like me who are ultimately going to build your business, Sal. Think that through thoroughly, Sal, because I can post our thread on roadbikereview if the little guy *doesn't* matter.

Sincerely,

___
Read Spear"

So, folks, Sal is so busy "promoting", he doesn't have time to "sell" - brilliant. Think twice about the great deal you'll get from Leader Bike if customer service means anything to you - it does to me.
sounds a little harsh to me, Read...gregg
Jul 16, 2002 3:43 PM
...I don't think it's unreasonable that a manufacturer would not be willing to sell a stripped frame. I mean, Trek or Giant wouldn't do the same thing, so why would the small guy? In fact, the small guy needs way more promotion than the "big" guys and most people wouldn't expect much response if you emailed them (Trek or Giant) and asked the same thing.

This is not meant to criticize you, but I can't imagine the paint shop charging all that much more to strip the frame. And in your example, how many people would stop and ask your hypothetical question vs. the number of people that would see the words LeaderBike as you roll on by?

Basically, I'm just saying that I can see entirely why Sal wouldn't want to sell a bare frame.

-g