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Custom Frames - Small Company or Solo Builder(8 posts)

Custom Frames - Small Company or Solo BuilderMatty1010
May 9, 2003 3:40 PM
Hi,

I've been trying to decide which custom builder/custom company to go with for a new frame. There are a couple solo builders I really like but then Independent Fabrication also makes a frame that interests me.

Unfortunately, I am only buying one so I have to decide which way to go. Do you think when venturing into custom frames for the first time it is better to go one on one with a small reputable builder or get a custom done through a fitter/shop somewhere?

Price between the different builders is very small, although if I was getting the Independent Fabrication I'd probably pay the local professional fitter to do the sizing and then order it via a mail-order "LBS". The "local" IF dealer doesn't seem to have anything in stock to look at plus he is about 80 miles away. Please don't think I am anti LBS, but I don't see the value in giving the shop about an extra $800 for their services especially when they don't even have any of the models on the floor let alone one near my size to test ride.

The small guys I thought looked like they did a great job were Holland Cycles (1 man operation) and Strong Racing (3 man operation). Both seem to be very well liked and get positive reviews.

So I guess it comes down is which kind of builder is more likely to deliver the "best" bike. I think they are all excellent fabricators but when doing a custom is it better to work with a company possibly through an intermediary shop or is the chance of a positive outcome more likely if working directly with a builder.

If Anyone had experience with Independent Fabrication's custom design service, please let me know how that went. Who did you work with at IF? I've emailed them once about their frames but got more of a confusing marketing response then the answer I was after regarding their level of customization. I certainly don't hold it against them, I'm sure they get lots of annoying emails, but once you are actually buying a frame from I would guess you then get to actually talk to a frame designer.

Matt
re: Custom Frames - Small Company or Solo Builderpurplepaul
May 9, 2003 4:20 PM
I went with a solo builder because I wanted his expertise in getting the perfect fit. He spent hours positioning me on an adjustable frame, asked how it felt like this or that, and didn't stop until he and I were satisfied that he knew what I needed. I would never trust a LBS to get the fit right. Otherwise, I'd just buy a stock bike from them.
Strong experiencePicshooter
May 9, 2003 5:12 PM
I knew what I wanted fit wise, and Carl confirmed my size via my measurements. It was a good buying experience and the frame, a full FOCO delivers a great ride. Carl was a pleasure to work with. In my case I think the small company was definitely an advantage. I think it was a great value for my money.
Having worked in a marketing dept. I saw first hand the dollars going towards marketing.
Give Strong a call, chances are Carl will be the one answering.
If you know exactly what you want, I recomend WaterfordMR_GRUMPY
May 9, 2003 5:46 PM
If you don't, you are at the mercy of your local dealer, for fitting. If you try to do a fitting by mail, you're just kidding yourself. You would be better off just walking into a bike shop, where they tell you, "Yeah, a 56 will fit you real good. Yeah we have lots and lots of 56's."
Unless you can have a builder look you in the eye, you're making an expensive gamble.
re: Custom Frames - Small Company or Solo BuilderSantaCruz
May 9, 2003 7:12 PM
This is a good question and one I'm considering as well, even though I don't have any special fitting requirements. My last bike was a custom Calfee (local company) and we changed the head tube angle slightly. For my next bike I want to achieve some specific ride characteristics in steel and was considering Waterford or possibly Co-Motion, until I ran across a local framebuilder (Jon Tallerico) in the SF Bay Area. I've got to check him out a bit more thoroughly, but the idea of one or more fit sessions and having input into the details is of value to me.

I'm also one of those guys who believes in that silly idea of supporting local craftsmen.

Good luck.
re: Custom Frames - Small Company or Solo Buildergtx
May 10, 2003 8:49 AM
If you basically like the IF geometry and just want a custom tt length, cable routing of your choice and crazy paint I'd go with IF. If you think you need more than that, I'd go with the one man shop, and the best would be someone local to you that you can meet and deal with face to face.
take a look at Rivendell, too: www.rivbikes.com (nm)cory
May 10, 2003 1:02 PM
re: Custom Frames - Small Company or Solo BuilderMy Dog Wally
May 13, 2003 6:40 AM
Matt,

I just took delivery of a custom Indy Fab Ti Crown Jewel. I won't use this space to wax rhapsodic about it -- just know that it's everything I could possibly want from a bike. Including a perfect fit, which I wouldn't have gotten had I just mailed in the specs from my old bike.

Here's how it worked for me: when I decided to buy a custom bike, I test rode a Serotta Legend Ti and a Seven Axiom, both of which are fabulous bikes. I also wanted to test an Indy Fab Ti Crown Jewel, which the one local Indy Fab dealer didn't have on his floor. I called Indy Fab and asked them how I'm supposed to shell out a lot of money for a bike I can't test ride. I expected them to tell me what great bikes they make and that I didn't really need to do a test ride. Instead, they offered to send me a bike. Amazing.

I didn't take them up on that offer because I felt that it would obligate me to them. So they came up with another suggestion: they would call the LBS and see if he had a customer with a Ti Crown Jewel near my size that I could test ride. The LBS called a customer, offered him a free tune up...the customer was only too happy to bring the bike in, I test rode it for about an hour, and ordered a frame the same day.

In all, the LBS spent about four hours (two hours before the actual order was placed, and two hours after I received the bike) fitting me to the bike. He did an incredible job, and I now have a bike I'm in love with.

Truthfully, I would have been humbled to own any of the three bikes I test rode, since they all delivered the kind of experience I was looking for. But there was something about Indy Fab's response to my question about a test ride that convinced me they really wanted me to be a customer. And, hey, if they want me in the family that badly, I'm happy to join.

- Dennis in Seattle