The Frame Building Biz #3 (specialization)

30 04 2010

Customers was specialists not generalists.    This business is a little like college.  Your 18-19 and you are supposed to determine what it is that you are going to do the rest of your life and pick a major (I never could, guess some things never change).

I have always prided myself on the breadth of products that I can offer.   I like building all sorts of bicycles and it adds to the fun of it all to be challenged with a new and difficult commission.   Problem is this is bad for business.   You have to figure out what you are, who you are and what you are going to offer the public and then build that brand/niche.

I just saw a short commentary on CBS Sunday morning about humans and choice.   Scientists have been studying how we make decisions.  Sometimes it is logical but mostly our brains are incapable of processing too much information at once and we rely on our emotions to guide us through the process.   One experiment showed two tables with various Jelly’s.   One table had 24 choices.  One had six.   Although people flocked to the table with 24 choices the table with only six garnered many more sales as people were just so overwhelmed with the 24 choices that it was easier to make no buying decision at all.

This is the same with bicycles.   Ever wonder why it seems that the frame builders that borderline on semi-production or build a very specific type of bicycle and do not deviate from that very much also seem to be the most successful?  Or companies that do one thing, lets say Titanium road bikes are seemingly popular but Ti companies that make road, mountain, tandem etc are not?

It’s not really about the builder, most of them could build something outside their scope and do it well. No, it’s the customer.  The customer wants specialization and they want the choice to be made for them.   The choice really was picking the framebuilder  in the first place.   The myriad of choices of what the frame will be usually stresses out the customer more than anything.   That is typically why they want to pick a bike just like one they see on a website or a model, even though the builder only builds 30 a year and having a model seems kind of redundant but it’s not there for you, the builder-its there for the customer.

I realize I do not fit this mold at all.   I am one of maybe 6-12 builders that I personally give the distinction of full custom builders.   That is anything is possible.   I have no models, no set style but this is my downfall as a business.   Like the Jelly experiment people flock to my website, at shows I almost always have a crowd around my booth.  People take pictures, they emulate my style or touches and I get lots of great comments but the reality is that I don’t sell anything like what some other builders do.    Too many choices and too much variation cause an overload in the consumer.

So my advice?  Keep it simple, keep it targeted produce bikes that are essentially finished and leave but only a few overall details up to the customer (paint colors, Shimano vs. Campy etc.)   This will ease the decision on the part of the consumer and in the end garner you more business and make your life easier and more efficient by not having to work on custom product.

Then again, if you are in it for the “art” of this whole thing you can ignore everything said up until now but I warned you….


Whats up with in the shop?

27 04 2010

Well, as usual I have been amiss in posting what I am really up to.   Yes, some builders give you a play by play of every aspect of their day including their morning constitutional but I just can’t seem to do that.

So in the meantime I had two students I think.  I built a few frames and painted a few frames.

Frame student work:

Paint Jobs:

Frame Student:

Frame Student:


Well, that’s it for now….