this entry is a composite based on posts from two very similar threads about the framebuilding trade -
>>> I'm new to this forum, but have been involved with others and have spent countless hours
>>> looking at various custom builder websites the past month.:adore: There seems to be a lot
>>> of great, talented builders. How did you guys choose which builder to go with?
buy a frame from a professional framebuilder who has some degree of experience
and a history in the trade, the sport, or both atmo. the electronic era age has made
it possible for many who have short term work periods and outputs seem like career
veterans. find a way to filter through this.
>>> I've heard you say this before, and I agree with it. That being said, say I found a 'new'
>>> builder whose personality jived with me. They seemed to know what they were doing,
>>> and their work spoke to me.
>>> How would you objectively judge someone who's new to the scene?
>>> Thanks for the info.
i'd wait until they weren't new atmo. these are vehicles,
not macrame. i say that with respect and love.
>>> I agree, but playing devil's advocate...
>>> So if that was the way everyone went around doing things, how would they get their start?
>>> First working for a bigger parent company and then branching off and using their history to
>>> market themselves?
since there's no accredited house of learning nor apprenticeships as such, well - yeah, ya have to
learn somewhere before you operate. don't make me state the obvious because it tends to alienate,
and that's never the intention atmo. how do you choose others with whom you spend money? your
physician, accountant, home appliance contractors, etc? they didn't just "start working" without first
developing a skill set, a routine, some level(s) of expertise...
>>> Slightly OT, but going in this direction...
>>> Why aren't there more apprenticeships offered? Impatience? Lack of opportunity? I'm
>>> assuming that that's the right way to learn, no? When these guys get out of apprenticing,
>>> are they still "new," or are they established?
>>> I think I've read an answer on this before, but I can't recall it (or maybe it never existed).
there never were any to speak of atmo. the term is misused to the nines. and the reason we
have what we have now is because of the internet, and the fantasy that comes when looking
over the electronic fence and trying to appropriate a career when one has zeal but no training.
framebuilding has always (999999.9 percent, that is) been about folks wanting to do better,
or finer, or with less restrictions, or fewer managers, or simply wanting to tell the conventional
market and industry to get the eff outa' my face. most cats, at least at the front end, got sick
the eff of the routine of the workplace and left. what they began with was an experience level,
some connections, and a fresh attitude - and were now their own boss. but most importantly,
they all had been through the work stations, and the repetitive drills, and all things in between.
they didn't learn the basics in year one of their eponymous (i LOVE that word) firm's existence.
they didn't start a business with 20 frames under their belt. shut me up already. and they knew
how to make frames, period. they simply made them for themselves now rather than for the man.
these are different times atmo. industrial frames in the last 20 years have become so incredibly
well designed and made that any need for a trip to a frame shop is not for the same reason it may
have been a generation or so prior. in the pre-MTB era, it was unthinkable to get a good bicycle for
racing from the rank and file LBS because most of them (the bicycles) sucked. over the course of
20 or so years, while all of that did a 180, the number of folks building frames suffered as a result.
many simply vaporized atmo. the newer crop, those from the internet and forum era, have another
calling altogether. most have built and incredibly small number of frames, either before they went
commercial, or since. the business they are in is a unique model. actually, i don't know what it is.
some of us do what we can to plant seeds and nurture a few bright lights. i believe the door is
slamming shut on the number of folks that can pull off the "...handcrafted frame" in this era and
still make a career of it. enthusiasm, blogs, picture pages, and the like can only sustain so much
atmo. i often make analogies to latin; an interesting language with some special needs that demand
a grasp of it. framebuilding is not unlike that. with the fine (and getting finer) wares being made en
masse, the road to a frame shop will be narrower and narrower as time passes, and only the best
and the brightest will make the cut. these are different times.
>>> I thought some of you might enjoy this, which just popped up on Competitive Cyclist;
"I worry that our industry is being polluted by inked-up indie rock kids who spent a week at the UBI (the framebuilding equivalent of the poetry workshop at your local library). With zero basis in anything measurable (be it something heartfelt, something visible, or something feel-able on a ride), they charge 80% of a Serotta/Sachs. Where are their stories of apprenticeship? Where is the evidence that they've had consistent reps on the jig with good results? Where is the admission that theirs is a craft that will improve over time therefore now, in the teeth-cutting stages, hey I'll sell you a frame for $800 since I'm new here and covering my cost of materials is a win-win?"
apprenticeships in the traditional sense never did exist in this trade atmo. what we had (or i should say
"they" had) was more akin to local boys doing day rate work after school or between race weekends.
>>> Of course this is all predicated on being single and debt free like I was when I started
>>> building but if I had it to do again, I’d beg for a job from IF, Seven or Serotta. Those are
>>> the three domestic builders I admire the most for quality and have the volume needed to
>>> really learn what you’re doing. I’d work for free if I had to sweeping floors and fetching
>>> lunch until I had a chance to prove I was worth paying. If needed, I’d live in my car while
>>> I worked my way into a paid position. In short I’d make whatever sacrifice and effort was
>>> required of me to get into one of those companies and work through the ranks. In my opinion
>>> there isn’t a better way to become a Framebuilder. Dave Kirk is the perfect example. Once
>>> you're a Framebuilder it's a whole different thing to become a small business owner.
we have to remember one thing atmo. the need to have a frame made (now) is not what it was
then. in the pre 90s era, all frames were made by hand, even the factory ones, and all the folks
who depended on the sport to earn a living raced on bicycles that were made by hand. since that
time, the shift to industrial made has all but supplanted the needs and markets that once existed.
there was a time that, no matter where you begged for a job, the units were made by real people
doing real hand work. whether they loved the job or could work at another station than the one
they were manning is another story. those types of places really ceased to exist once the mtb era
changed the industry forever. and forget about the branding and all the offshore stuff atmo; that
just puts the carrot further out of reach for a noob. as far as i am concerned, the market spoke,
and in this era, industrial made is more than good enough. prices are decent. bicycles are attractive
and in good supply. racers win on them. makers and lbs cats earn a living. i hate to keep saying
it, but the framebuilding gig is, for the most part, not unlike a dead language. it works for a core
group, but the need for it to grow larger really hasn't been there for a long time. atmo the thinning
out process has already begun. eyes wide open atmo.
>>> if the market has spoken then the noobs should respond. address it with modern materials
>>> and technique. modern doesn't have to mean crap. how do i put this delicately, do you wanna
>>> be a successful frame builder or to you wanna replicate antiques and art in a space already
>>> being thinned. no offense here but richie said thinning out has begun, why try and compete
>>> in a space as a noob that is being thinned? create a new space. get creative, take a risk and
>>> turn some heads.
atmo i believe the issue is not so much about materials and aesthetics, it's about being
in business as a noob rather than someone with some dna in the chosen vocation. bicycles
are not art and they are not craft. even the beautiful ones are vehicles used in traffic on
open roads. this discussion can't overlook the responsibility and liability that comes with
selling someone, anyone, such a vehicle atmo.
>>> so then i can only ask, when the market spoke, what did it say?
like i said (wrote) several times already over the years, it said that the
need to see a framebuilder for that bicycle that works well (enough), is
designed well (enough), and has a modicum of aesthetic flourishes that
allow the purchaser to feel like he's not riding a flat black painted ford
from the 1940s - that need is not what it was back before the industry
went so, well - industrial made. there was clearly a time when it was
impossible (and even laughable) to think that the bicycles at the LBS
were good enough and all one would need to fulfill a passion, do an aids
ride and achieve a PB, race, do a PBP, and, dare i use the word - etcetera.
a framebuilder once was the point man for high quality, better fit, and
personal attention. atmo that era started to vaporize when the ability
for manufacturing bicycles as well as they have been made for at least
15 years now supplanted our niche from being in the mainstream to placing
it in the margins. that's a lot of words, and a long-winded way for me to
say what i say each time this subject comes up: framebuilding as a career
path or as a viable commercial pursuit is more tenuous now than ever before,
and it's only because of the internet do folks think that there's more to it
than really is there. some can bring enough to the table to get a slice. most
can't and won't.
>>> i couldn't agree more. sounds like the bar is raised and the language is dieing because it
>>> fails to adapt. my point is that its a bigger challenge today. meet it with something that
>>> challenges the manufactured bicycles.
it fails to adapt because it's no longer relevant because it fails to adapt atmo...
whatever comes or happens next won't include a framebuilder. it will come
from a think tank thingy that attempts to deconstruct one established 'way"
and replace it with a hipper, unique-er, rarer version and sell it for more cashmo.
>>> IMHO this whole "explosion if U.S. framebuilders" will fizzle down in the next couple years,
>>> but by 2025 there will be a new revival of folks desiring a nice handbuilt product. Of course
>>> only time will tell.
atmo a framebuilder is and always will be someone who has come up through the industry and sport,
knows what goes where from working at various stations, and has spent time taking orders to file 200
of this and tack up 400 of that, yada yada blah blah when am i gonna shut up about this bsmo etc? a
framebuilder becomes what he is when he's finally gone through the motions, taken all the cues for the
sub-assemblies, and realized he's sick of working on the inside where his ideas are stymied and the man
is always on his case, and then leaves, skill sets and experiences in hand, in order to stake him claim as
an individual. atmo building a frame doesn't make you a framebuilder, and i am here to take heat for stating
this with such conviction. there are many, many beautiful, well crafted, over engineered, better-than-they-
have-to-be-made bicycles out there produced by folks who have gone through the learning curve systematically.
these cats are framebuilders atmo. and ps when my studio is finally done, i'll go back to being one too.
this entry is a composite based on posts from two very similar threads about the framebuilding trade -