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Small American steel frame builders(20 posts)

Small American steel frame buildersAmbishawn
Sep 29, 2002 9:00 AM
I'm interested in getting a custom steel road frame from one of the small american frame builders. I'm looking at Independent Fabrication, Steelman, Landshark, Spectrum and Strong. Does anyone out there have any experience with these or any other companies? I have noticed that this is a rather pricey proposition.
Recommend including Teesdalesn69
Sep 29, 2002 9:12 AM
In that past I would have also recommend Dean, but they've dropped their steel bikes in 03. Tom Teesdale has a stirling rep and good prices. Other good options include Curtlo, Sycip, and Jerico. There are plenty of them out there that offer great frames, good service, and competitive prices. If you check Sheldon Brown's list of links and Bouldercycles' links, you can find a host of options.

Good luck,
Landshark feedbackPdxMark
Sep 29, 2002 9:47 AM
Just bought a Landshark for my wife thru GVH has a special in which you can get an ultegra-equipped Landshark for $1995. We opted for Campy Centaur instead at a higher cost. GVH has in-stock L's, but the special price applies to custom L's too.

We opted for a full custom job to get the right fit (top tube shorter than seat tube). The bike is beautiful - with a lugged BB and all other joints brazed. The ride is silky but stiff (I had to test it). The frame builder calls to see how you want the frame painted... wife opted for a slightly tamer L look. Luscious dark blue in the frame corners with patterned fades through light blue to white in the tube centers.

I have no comparison to the other makers, but I can highly recommend Landshark. As a sidenote, Andy Hampsten apparently rode a L in his Giro win in 1988... Not a reason to buy a L, but interesting trivia.
So many choices!DMoore
Sep 29, 2002 10:06 AM
What kind of frame are you after?

"Steel" covers so much ground. There are lugged frames, in traditional tube diameters and shapes, made with exquisite workmanship by some of the best craftsmen in the world. There are TIG welded frames, using the very latest in lightweight steel technology that can shave frame weight down to the level of Ti or even some Al frames. Do you race? Are you looking for all day comfort in the saddle? Are you looking for a piece of art? Do you want a frame built by a single person, or by a small factory? These are all questions you need to answer to narrow your search.

If you're looking for traditional lugged steel, with workmanship that approaches art, there are Richard Sachs, Brian Baylis, Richard Moon, Columbine, Ericksen, Eisentraut, Weigle, Spectrum, Rivendell, and more.

Looking for the lateset in lightweight steel fabrication? There are Anvil, Strong, Simonetti, Landshark, Steelman, Serotta, IF, and others.

Personally, I'm a fanatic for a well filed lug. I have steel frames from Sachs, Baylis and Bill Holland. I would recommend any of them in a heartbeat. The downside to builders like these is time and expense. I waited 7 months for my Sachs frame, and his frames are now approaching $3K. One look, one ride, and the money's irrelevant.
Here's a list of 90Tig
Sep 29, 2002 11:09 AM
I don't think you can loose from the list you have! There are many good choices that aren't as expensive though.
This site is good to bookmark:
re: Small American steel frame buildersCliplessjoe
Sep 29, 2002 11:31 AM
I got an IF Crown Jewel in May and I love it. The process works best if you go through a bike shop -- in my case, Sid's in NYC. They measured me so well, the bike fits me like a glove. I had the completed bike in six weeks.

It's a light steel, lighter than many titanium bikes, and the handling is surgically precise. I just did the Face of America on it last weekend and I was comfortable throughout. (As comfortable as you can expect to be on a 270 mile ride.)

It is no doubt expensive, but you can make component decisions that make it more do-able. I went for a Centaur triple and brought the bike in for under three grand. (Frame and fork are $1500 -- not a bad deal, really, for a custom bike.)

Enjoy your quest.
So far IF has given Me the best vibe.Ambishawn
Sep 29, 2002 12:45 PM
I'm thinking the Crown Jewel is a good choice. I've contacted Matt Bracken of Independent Fabrication and he seems to be very knowlegable and insightful in regards to My needs. Jon Avery (owner of Open Air Bikes in Ventura CA) has performed an extesive fitting and interview session involving the Serotta Size cycle.

Cliplessjoe, rides like the face of America or certainly along the lines of My goals. In other words long ride comfort and efficancy are inportaint to Me. Not gonna do any crits with it. I Kinda like the old school lugs that some of the Builders offer. I'm not hell bent on having them though.

Based on My fitting sesion I'm a good canidate for a custom frame. My torso is long and My legs are short. Most off the shelf Road bikes either require a long 140 or more stem or no standover clearence at all. I suppose that I'd be O.K. on an off the shelf frame but at these prices and the price of a completed bike I think most custom upcharges are a good investment considering My build.
So far IF has given Me the best vibe.Cliplessjoe
Sep 29, 2002 4:23 PM
When I was getting fitted for the Crown Jewel, I was asked if I wanted the bike designed more for speed or for comfort (too bad these things seem to be mutually exclusive). Like you, I went more for comfort. Nevertheless, the bike is fast!

Most of the small companies, like Serotta or Seven, will tune the frame in a similar way.
Ask yourself more questions to help narrow it down.Ash
Sep 29, 2002 11:52 AM
Like a previous poster suggested, you need to ask yourself what exactly do you want. A lugged steel frame isn't going to be as light as other frames. Do you want it to look like a piece of art and are you willing to pay for that.

Are you racing it? are you needed to be fit for out of normal dimensions, etc. What is your price range? A lot of the larger builders have 'signature series' which are made by them but in stock sizes, these tend to cost significantly less, and they usually have a better size range than big brand names. So if you are an average build you could save some $ here. Strong, Soulcraft, Kelly, have these.

Custom builder range from $495 for Zona frame/fork ( to $2k and $3k for JUST the frame alone depending on what bells and whistles, and chrome lug work you want.

When you start narrowing the builder list down, contact all of them to find out their current schedule and build time, how they size frames, tell them everything about you from your physique to the roads you ride and how you ride.

See if what they suggest makes sense to you and do you get a good feeling from them. Your gonna drop a chunk of change so you want to make sure that they are someone you trust. See if you are willing to wait the months and months that some builders take.

Personnaly, I have BREW mtn bikes, a Richard Moon road bike and a Wanta cross frame on order. The Richard Moon is f**ing incredible. Everytime i get on the thing I just LOVE it. It's not a light bike when you look at those featherweight scandiums. But that's wasn't my intent. It is so solid and supple on the back roads here. The same road that would beat me up on a Cannondale road bike is a piece of cake. And I just stare at bike sometimes. It is incredible.

Here is a link for an article from asphalt magazine (made by the former Bicycle Guide fella)

Moon has Richard Sachs recommendation, at half of Sach's price.

He worked with me and picked the tubing for my size/weight and where I would be riding, and tuned the geometry to fit my long legged, short torso body. On top of that Bryan Bayliss paints his frames. Bayliss is renown as one of the best frame builders around and now one of the best painters.

My Allan Wanta frame is on order. It's a cyclocross/commuter. I just couldn't see droping $1k+ on a commuter but I have funky dimensions so I couldn't find a stock frame that would really work for me.$595 for Columbus FOCO frame/fork. Made to my dimensions with everything from cable routing to water bottle bosses decided by us.

Go to a reputable coach, bike shop, or someone who knows what they are doing and get your measurements take too. Some shops have the Fit Kit or similar system that can help you choose the right size.

good luck, and enjoy. Getting a custom is (hopefully) a great experience and riding one is something you can't describe or justify to people until they try it.

email me if you want any of my free opinions. I've done this 5 times now.
re: Small American steel frame buildersPicshooter
Sep 29, 2002 12:29 PM
I have a Strong. Full FOCO, all round tubes. The ride is incredible.I feel I got a great bike for my money too. Carl was great to work with. It's nice to be able to talk to the guy who designs, picks the tubes and welds it. A tigged frame allowed him to slightly slope the top tube a few degrees, hardly noticeable but it helped the standover and gave a slightly taller front end. When I was trying to choose a color they sent me a box of tubes, not just a color chart. The delivery was on time too.
I lust after a lugged Sachs for it's beauty, but I doubt it will ride any better than The bike Carl Strong built.
Sound simular to the setup recommended for MeAmbishawn
Sep 29, 2002 1:00 PM
The slight slope of the top tube is what gives you good standover height and requies fewer spacers on the stem(or less stem rise).These are exactly the things that attract me to going custom. According to Spectrum lugs have to be special made to accomodate changes in geometry. The tig welded frames are easier to manipulate as far as fit is concerned. The newer steel apparently dont lose the stength of the tubesets of yesteryear. I too like those custom polised stainless lugs but it seems to be a cosmetic advantage only.
re: Small American steel frame buildersFrank121
Sep 29, 2002 1:54 PM
I wanted a Steelman for quite some time, but my bike budget didn't allow me to buy one until I found a great like-new used one on this site last fall. It is a Steelman SR525 and I love it! The welds, geometry, paint, ride...everything is first class. I recently had an opportunity to contact Steelman about getting an extra seat collar and their communication and service was great. Lots of nice bikes and builders out there, but Steelman is certainly at the top for me.
Sep 29, 2002 3:16 PM
I've looked into Steelman as well. I like the photo gallery on his Site. I've never seen one in person let alone ridden one but the reviews are really high on this site. He also offers the signature which is the Custom frame. There product seems a lot like IF. Tig welded steel frames. Antother builder I liked was Ibis. Too bad there not around no more.
Sep 29, 2002 3:45 PM
The last incarnation of Ibis's were built by Carl Strong in Bozeman MT.
IbisMe Dot Org
Sep 30, 2002 7:47 AM
Yeah, I'm not sure this was a happy marriage.
Sep 29, 2002 4:59 PM
My wife and I both have Steelmans. SHe has an SR525 purchased over the summer and I have a Manzanita (mtn.) purchased April 2001.

Both bikes are beautiful to look at and ride great. Hers is a nice sky blue and mine is persimmon sparkle (or, as I like to think of it, orange).

Dealing with Brent Steelman was a nice experience. He is very knowledgeable about all the minutiae revolving around a high end frame purchase. We conversed pretty extensively via email and he called me at home a few times.

I also found his prices to be quite reasonable. I believe he has an inventory clearance special going on right now.

Before I bought my Steelman, I also considered IF, Strong, and Sycip. I quickly elinated Strong and Scycip because they were not a known commodity to me (at that time I'd never seen either; now, I wouldn't hesitate to get a Strong, still haven't seen a Sycip). That left Steelman and IF. I emailed both thru there websites. NExt day, got a response from Steelman. Nothing from IF. In fact, I'm still waiting on that response from IF.

Best of luck in your pursuit. It seems like half the fun is researching your options when it comes time for a new frame.

smaller ain't always better...sprockets2
Sep 30, 2002 8:38 AM
I have talked to a number of builders over the years-when I bought my tandem, and also before I recently bought my Gunnar-and I found that many of the smaller guys are limited to some degree by the economies of their size: limited tubing types and sizes, lack of flexibility in concept, design, and engineering, need to charge a fortune as they don't make many frames, and so on. What it came down to for me was the stock Gunnar frame fit me, they used 853 and OX Platinum throughout, and the wherewithall present at Gunnar (they are a branch of Waterford) insures that they really know what they are doing. They do custom work as well, which is not as inexpensive as the standard frame ($600 for an 853 frame), but does give you some nice options.
smaller ain't always better...Picshooter
Sep 30, 2002 1:31 PM
Tell that to Carl Strong, Richard Sachs, Brian Bayless, Brent Steelman, and so many more... (And the people who ride their frames.)
From personal experience, Carl Strong can build with any tubing available. He personaly will Tig, Fillet or Lug it himself. He works with you and designs it himself He went as far as sending a cad drawing for approval before starting to weld.
Now I grant you Waterford is a fine bike, but I can't imagine the welder calling you up and saying " I am welding your frame today" Then sending jpegs of your frame in the jig and finished,with a close up of the welds before thy are powdercoated.
The guy who puts his name on the tube has a lot more to lose than an anonymous welder.
Nothing is always better.Ambishawn
Sep 30, 2002 7:25 PM
It's true that the smaller companies lack some of the cutting edge resources of the big manufacture. The two things you can count on from big manufactures is they follow all the trends like intergrated headsets, carbon rear triangle, weird propierty superaluminums and whatever high zoot bandwagon comes along. Have you ever noticed that the people who are new to cycling always walk around a bike shop picking up all the bike to see which one is lightest? Those forks blending into the frame seem rather appealing to the person who dosen't realize the bike dosen't pedel itself. I'm not knocking bicycle technology, I just prefer time proven designs, good ride and good fit over the latest trends. One tempting offering was the 2002 Litespeed Vortex that Colorado Cycliest was blowing out for 4 grand. The only one they had left was a size 57cm (too big for me). I would have probably snatched it up if it were a 56cm. Not ment to be I suppose.
re: Small American steel frame buildersripSRV
Sep 30, 2002 1:24 PM
Talk to Chris Kvale 612-724-8843. You will not be disappointed. TC in Minneapolis