Framebuilding school student extraordinaire

27 07 2010

A recent student posted a blog entry about his new bike frame.  I had a lot of fun with this student and this bike and yes, I did a little extra at the end, which I must say is part of what I offer.   That is I will do as much or as little as the customer wishes.  This was a very intensive frame though and would be impossible for me to finish in two weeks let alone a student.  The foundation was there and he did an excellent detailed job.

It really goes to show what can be done with conscientious, meticulous work even by a padawan learner.

Blog entry here: Campagnolo Delta

A sneak preview…..


How long does it take?

22 04 2009

So how long does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll Tootsie pop?  The world may never know…

No, what I am talking about is how long does it take to build a bike frame.   I am also going to touch on how long it takes to do anything well by hand.  Something a lot of people today have no concept of.

O.k.  the last point first, then we will talk about how long it takes to make bike frames specifically.   Modern industrialization is an amazing thing and probably one of the biggest things to ever hit society at large.  Not many people would argue with that.   But the ability to have almost anything we want as soon as we want it has distorted our sense for how long it takes to make, craft, assembly, create anything by hand on a small scale.   From our cheese to our coca cola to cars, cabinets, carabiners, candles and carrots everything is mass produced (did you like all that alliteration?)  Well, I for one am glad for that,  It has filled my house with all I could want for cheap, but what I find interesting is that most individuals really have no idea how much effort and time can go into a handmade product.   Oh, sure some would think 10 hours is a lot.  20?  What about 200 or 400 or 4000 hours.   Yes, some of the very finest things can take that long and longer.  Think about spending a year of your life on something or even months.   Then think about why something might cost what it does.

On to bicycle frames.   To say the amount of time to construct a bicycle frame varies widely is an understatment but here are some actual numbers.   About the fastest that one can assemble a frame in a small production environment is around four hours.   You have to be very, very efficient to do this.  Good, dedicated machinery and efficient layout and good skills are necessary for this.   These types of frames are also typically TIG welded or bonded as these processes are very quick.   Next are frames that can take about 8-12 hours.   Many frambuilders, building simpler TIG welded or unfinished fillet brazed bicycles can do this.   None of what I speak of here includes the paint BTW.  That is a whole other thing I will discuss.   Now we move into Lugged bikes.    Anything that is decently made typically starts at around 12 and goes up from there.   Many of the “famous builders” spend around 18-25 hours of actual construction time.   You will get a very nice, clean frame with this kind of time input.  You will not get heavy modification, polishing, stainless, cut-outs, lug thinning or the like.   Fillet brazed frames can also take this kind of time depending on the complexity and overall finish of the fillets.   Now we move into very complex frames.  Heck, that can go from 25 up to the stratosphere.  Yes, 100’s of hours and even a little bit of bling or complexity here can add massive amounts of time, not only in the construction process but also in the paint process.   From a business POV, the fast bikes and short term lugged bikes make the most per hour.   As of yet the hyper intensive bikes can’t command the kind of dollars it would take to bring anywhere near the same profits.

Carbon fiber?  well there are kits that take just a few hours, but most carbon that is the tube and glue (not unlike metal frames) take a fair bit of time.  Often the rear ends are pre-manufactured but getting the joinery smooth and doing the joint layup well takes time.  About 15-20 hours depending.   Some a little more some a little less.

Paint.  Some powders can be done from start to finish delivered in 30 minutes and cost a couple of dollars in materials.   Paint can go from cheap at 100 dollars and 2-3 hours to once again 50 hours for complicated  graphics and decorative treatments.

Don’t underestimate how much time good work takes.   Like Orson Wells said.  I will serve no wine before it’s time….

Why buy a Rivendell or Rene Herse bicycle?

9 04 2009

Naw, Both are great.  You are not going to find a negative blog entry here.

What I really want to talk about is Mark Nobilette.

Marketing is a wierd, wierd thing.   Both the top of the line Rivendells and Recreations of Rene Herse bicycles are made by Mark.   You would think with such a gem laying about of a builder that customers would be clamoring to get the frame directly from the source but no.   Mark sells far more Rivendells and RH’s than he does his own product.   Am I the only one who finds this strange?  It would not surprise me to find that in the future these brands are more collectible than the man who made them.

We see this in all sorts of businesses.   Jewelry manufacturers like Cartier don’t  make the jewelry.  Jewelers do.  The very same quality of jeweler in fact may be right around the corner in NY city but demand is high for the name, not the work.  I read once that a particular Ferrari was extremely valuable while the actual guy who made the whole chassis was alive and making them for a fraction of the price.   Sorry Enzo, but I rather have the real deal.   Here the car can command 8 million but the 80 year old guy who built it is looking for work.  Odd.

So to keep this short.   The best bicycles ever are being produced right now all across the world.   Consider buying your frame from it’s source not some company that name is based on a J.R.R Tolkien novel or another that bought a name from a gentlemans family who has been deceased since 1976.

Richard Schwinn saying it like it is.

3 07 2008

This is an audio link of an interview between Georgena Terry and Richard Schwinn of Waterford (yes the Schwinn of the Schwinns almost all of us rode on)

This audio is about 30 minutes long and deals with international trade, materials, strengths, and design.

Hype free and well worth listening too.   You can be a resident expert after listening.

Terry interview with Richard Schwinn