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Production vs. Handmade Road Frames(21 posts)

Production vs. Handmade Road Framesrob99
Feb 20, 2003 10:05 AM
Greetings fellow crank turners:

I am in the market for a new high end road bike. Have been looking at the new GIANT TCR 0 which retails around $3600. What I have quickly discovered is that for that price range I am now in the same market for some handmade European frames i.e. Merckx (which I have always said would be my dream bike). What benefits or disadvatages are we at when we decide to go with a mass production bike vs. a more rare European frame that you may not even get to test ride before you purchase? I have a hard time justifying spending that kind of $$$ for something I have never seen or rode. All I have is "word of mouth".

Any thoughts?
Don't get caught up in the romance, unless that's your thing,TJeanloz
Feb 20, 2003 10:11 AM
There isn't anything inherently better about a frame built in Europe than one built in Taiwan. Everybody has these dreams about some old Italian guy who's mastered the "art" of welding working on their bike. There's no magic in those bikes, don't get caught up in the implication that there is.

But some people like getting caught up in it all- my view is that if you believe your bike is a tool that makes you go faster, and lighter and stiffer are better, a production model is a better value. If you have some spiritual relationship with your bike, a European frame with more 'style' and quirk is probably better for you.
Euro welding rodsbigrider
Feb 20, 2003 11:08 AM
I think the high end european builders use special euro welding rods combined with secret chants in ancient velonese.

This accounts for the superior welding which cannot be mastered by the eastern countries who tend to be proficient in building many consumer products requiring adept hand eye skills.

The euro rods and chants are what you pay the extra money for and who can argue with that bargain.
my bike goes to church every sunday morning.colker
Feb 20, 2003 3:58 PM
i'm trying a jewish conversion so it'll become more of a neurotic and quit having visions of the holly spirit.
This is my bike's church...Spunout
Feb 21, 2003 7:25 AM
you mean there is no santa claus either?!!!!!!!ColnagoFE
Feb 20, 2003 11:20 AM
C'mon now...most of our bikes are not just the sum of their parts. If that were the case, nobody would buy Record or boutique wheels because the price vs performance advantage is nil compared to other alternatives. Why not have a bike with a little "soul". What's wrong with valuing aethetics as long as the bike can walk the talk? If it was all about function there would be no such thing as art. We would all drive the same cars, and the world would be a pretty boring place IMO.
Feb 20, 2003 11:52 AM

You've really nailed it. The bike is greater than the sum of its parts, or we believe it is, or we would all ride, drive, etc. the same. And be boring.

Go for the bike with soul! That is why it is your dream bike.nmSpunout
Feb 20, 2003 10:30 AM
re: Production vs. Handmade Road Framesbcm119
Feb 20, 2003 10:33 AM
And don't rule out domestic high end builders with great customer service and warranty perks, such as Calfee. Americans build sweet bikes too.
Steelman and Seven too, while we're at it. nmSpunout
Feb 20, 2003 10:40 AM
ummm, are any frames not handmade?PdxMark
Feb 20, 2003 11:13 AM
I'm just thinking that the usual process is... put tubes in a jig, weld (braze, etc) the joints. So it seems that putting the frames in the jig would be manual and the welding would be too. Is there any frame that's manufactured with more automation.
ummm, are any frames not handmade?wasabekid
Feb 20, 2003 11:37 AM
Yeah, but..... you're forgetting the secret chants and pixie dust application that enables the (custon made)bike soul to be born!


sure there arelaffeaux
Feb 20, 2003 4:56 PM
Why can't a machine do it? I can't say for sure which frames are machine built, but I'm positive that it's done.

Old Schwinn Varsities were were held together and electricity was passed through the frame. As an arc pumped between the tubes they fused together. Sheldon Brown has a good article on it.

One of the advantages of TIG over filet brazed, was that a machine has a lot of trouble brazing lubs. TIG welding is easier to automate. It's done on cars, why not bikes?
buy the geometry you want in the material/color of your choicegtx
Feb 20, 2003 11:51 AM
I happen to like US-built steel and knowing that the name on the decal is the guy who built the frame, but that's me. Some people like Italian romance or whatever is the most high tech. Whatever floats your boat.
It's NOT just a toolRJF
Feb 20, 2003 12:18 PM
In your price range, it's hard to find a bike that sucks.

Whether it is a mass-produced Taiwanese bike, from a small U.S. builder, or from Italy (my preference), buy the bike that makes you lust. All these bikes will ride well. You want one that stirs something in you.
Thanks Everybodyrob99
Feb 20, 2003 2:25 PM
I must say I just love this website. It's perfect to get differing opinions from all ends of the spectrum. I appreciate all your comments.

Bikes don't have souls.Lazywriter
Feb 20, 2003 3:13 PM
I think this whole romanticized notion that an Italian frame or a frame made by a small boutique being more than a machine is ridiculous. Appreciating craftmenship and detail in an ornate Italian frame is fine, but to attribute qualities such as soul is a joke. That is what you interpret into it when ultimately, it is a machine which is the "beauty of it".
Whether one guy sees a Colnago as a guady POS and another thinks it is a "work of art with soul" is obviously subjective. But what is a total truth and unarguable fact is that the bike is essentially and inherently a MACHINE. So are cars. Excluding your limited edition Ferraris and classics, all cars are the worst, most depreciating "investments" one can own. It is what you can do with them (cars or bikes) that gives the machine its value (ie. speed, high speed handling etc.).
Roadies are really the only cyclists that thnk this way and I think it relates back to my point about the obsessive nature of many of the roadies. Gear junkies that get more out of the equipment than the joy of the ride. Moutain bikes are just as well made, but their function is to get hammered and dirty. You won't see too many hardcore mountain bikers saying how their bikes are "works of art".
It is a machine that can withstand the abuse given and can be hosed off just to do it again. That is the beauty of it, not some ugly paint job or histrionic chromed fork or chainstay.
I have a Fondriest that is typically Italian with the chrome and although it is a pretty bike, it is no different than my unpainted ti bikes. The Fondriest is actually my beater. LOL
Bikes don't have souls.rob99
Feb 21, 2003 7:54 AM

You have helped me a bunch with your input. Somehow I have got mixed and confused into thinking that if I am going to be spending this kind of money on a bike, that I should have something that other people (including myself) are going to lust after. The interesting thing is that's not my personality. I am all about perfomance, the ride, the experience of being on the bike, always have been. Besides, the less flashy, rare, unique bike you ride, then the less others will notice when the guy on the $100 Huffy goes blowing by you on the local club ride. Thanks again for your perspective. Happy trails.
Well, this bike has soul:Spunout
Feb 21, 2003 10:53 AM
And this will end all arguments.
European frames rare???deHonc
Feb 20, 2003 3:38 PM

A perspective from someone outside the USA - It isn't really true to say certain bikes are rarer than others - it depends where you live - I can assure you that there is a place where European bikes are everyday common - Europe. In Europe, having a Trek OCLV is exotic. Buy the bike you want - don't worry what others think. Any top end bike will be a good experience if it fits.

Nice persepectiverob99
Feb 21, 2003 7:44 AM

Thanks for the European perspective. It's easy to get caught up in the romantics of it all. I guess it all comes from cycling having such a long history.