Disk brakes on classic road frames a big no, no….

27 11 2012

Certain items just don’t work with classic diameter steel very well.

A prime example of this is disk brakes for road, road race or cyclocross use.   I look forward to the day we have great hydraulic disk brakes for road bikes but in the mean time there are maybe more disadvantages than advantages.

Steel road fork design currently dates back at least 60 years and they were not engineered with disks in mind.   If you visualize a traditional caliper or cantilever brake you can see that the braking forces are equal on each side and that they are closest to the strongest portion of the fork (the crown)  Disk work differently.    The braking forces are on one side only.   The force is as far away from the crown as possible creating a large leverage ratio.  The forces are also typically pushing straight towards the rear of the frame as well.   In the worst scenarios this can cause the fork to twist permanently and essentially it is damaged beyond repair.

In order to alleviate this one would have to use fork blades that are much thicker and therefore heavier, stronger crowns and disk brake mounts.  This is next to impossible with traditional forks that have a brazed crown.   It is possible with unicrown steel forks but there is a weight penalty as well and it does not fit the aesthetic of a traditional lugged frame.   Even carbon forks optimized for disks tend to carry a fairly hefty weight increase for the needed strength, around 150 grams.  Many of these new carbon forks are of the newer taper standard and this requires a huge head tube on a steel frame which is once again heavy as hell (at least a 100grm penalty) and no lugs are made to fit them which means by default you are welding or fillet brazing a frame.

Now onto the disk brake.  The only one that currently works well for road/cyclocross  is the Avid BB7 and although admirable it has its issues.   Disk rub and squeal for one.  Weighs a lot itself, add in the beefed up fork and downtube and it weighs more.   They interfere with rack placement and fender attachment as well.   The only thing I think one could really claim as being superior is alleviated rim wear but good ceramic coated braking surfaces will last at least 3 years under the hardest of use and honestly don’t cost a lot more than a new disk so I consider it standard wear items.   Maybe someday we will have much better options but heavy, noisy, and mounting difficulties make them not the best choice in my book for Randonneur or cyclocross bicycles.

Now, you may ask, “Hey Dave,  I have seen students who had disk brakes on their builds at your shop.”  Yes, that is the case but you may also notice that the build method was different.   I will do this but typically the frame must be fillet brazed to take advantage of the tubing that can handle this sort of thing.  The frame will weigh more.  Usually I suggest using nice Paragon drop outs for the rear which incorporate a disk mount and they cost more and are more difficult by far to work with.

You may also say, “Hey Dave, my Google-fu shows me that lots of other builders have done just such a thing.”   Well,  I am open to many different concepts with framebuilding and many ideas are great ideas.   Although in my opinion most of these builders doing this are just plain wrong.   Many do not have the technical expertise to make a reasoned decision on this.    Second, most of these bicycles are city bikes and the like which really will not experience high loading factors over the units life, like a mountain bike or a road race/touring bike.  It is very different if you really plan to use it to a high degree.  This singular choice pretty much dictates the design and construction methodology of the entire frame/fork so please keep these issues in mind when deciding to use a disk or a traditional brake.


Trust your builder!

13 10 2012

This will serve as one of my eventual list of canned responses.   I get a lot of various types of e-mails.

This one is a classic.   The “I hired another framebuilder and I am doing research into how, when, where, why for them.”

Examples of this are everything from where did you get your tubing to what are your exact design specs.   Most of the questions border on flat out asking for proprietary design elements but really what is the more annoying thing is this.

You (the client who is contacting someone other than their primary builder) has hired a professional to service you and that you should let them do it.   Either this comes from two places.

First and probably least likely is that the framebuilder really doesn’t know where to get said product or how to design/build the product and that alone should be a warning to the perspective client.

More likely though is that the client is not allowing the framebuilder to actually do their job and that is provide the contracted services to the client.   Maybe its that the client is trying to run over the framebuilder? or maybe the framebuilder is trying to put off the client and the client isn’t getting the point?  Could it be the client is trying to have made a product that is out of the scope of the builder or more likely trying to get a less experienced builder to make something that is made by the specialists for much more?   One can only guess.

Dear Client of another framebuilder.   Trust your framebuilder!  You have paid them for a service, let them provide that service.   If they cannot provide that service then seek out someone that can.   If you are just being anal, backoff.    At the very least have your framebuilder contact me directly.  I will be much more open to answering professional peer questions than I am a random persons e-mail.

Oh and by the way.  Inevitably these e-mails are practically a demand for information.  A couple of “pleases and thank-you’s” would go a long way.

Framebuilders come and go

6 05 2010

Framebuilders come and go.

One would think that if a person or company did high quality work and became admired for that work and continued to do such work that a steady stream of commissions would almost be guaranteed.

Framebuilding though, or that is the customers that support what we do have a tendency to go for the new, the glam if you will.

I have notice over my 15 years so far that framebuilding, nor any craftsman like endeavor  is not purely a supply vs. demand issue.   It is a popularity contest as much as anything.  Newer builders are capable of entering the market not because the existing builders cannot satiate demand but purely because the existing buyers are looking for something new and different.

So for as long as I have been doing this, there have been some Juggernauts of framebuilding.  Builders so good and so experienced and yes, still needing work that it is hard to fathom why anyone would go anywhere else.

I watched one of those motorcycle building shows.  Orange County Choppers I believe and they had a 16 year old come in and build his interpretation of a chopper with their help and facilities.  Now, it was a damn fine build, especially for a young man.  At the show, this motorcycle was purchased, for a kingly sum.  Only reason, while experienced builders abound?  With obviously infinitely better quality?   He was new and associated with a well known bike building crew (which are entertaining but that is about it).

Same thing happens with bicycle framebuilders.   Buyers like to seek out the new and unusual.  Some of it is helping a new person prop themselves up and get started.  Some of it is that often that person is cheaper than the established builders and there are deals to be had.   Some just like the rock n’ roll of the new guy.   Maybe he is hip, has an awesome sense of style.  Maybe he is specializing in single speed off road track bikes.  The old guys don’t understand.   They don’t live the lifestyle, thus they are not “core”

So here is the thing.  We need new builders surely.  Who will replace the old timers when they retire?  So a natural ebb and flow is bound to occur.  New builders, the ones that bring something new to the table, be it high quality or a new un-represented niche are necessary.   But what is baffling is during this time of framebuilding growth, much of the old guard who have skills, experience and an aesthetic far beyond most of the industry languish.  I heard recently that a framebuilder I admire greatly was down to one order on the books.  It is really a travesty.

So, in my opinion don’t just assume that a “famous” framebuilder is wallowing in work.  Most likely they are not.   Don’t assume they will always be there. They may not be.  Don’t assume they are too expensive or don’t “do” what you want unless you ask.  Don’t assume they have a five  year backlog.  They probably don’t.

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.

Cargo bikes, the next hypocritcal mass?

14 03 2009

Cargo bikes.

I am all into cargo bikes. Honestly, I can’t think of a better use of a bicycle. But…..I can’t get into the hypocritical nature of what these really represent for most people. Here is what I mean.

First you have to get a “cargo bike”. What is a cargo bike? I mean I call a cargo bike any bike that you can put a ton of shit on and go from point A to point B. As in millions of flying pigeon bicycles in China or any of the other single speed English type bicycles throughout all of Asia that are routinely loaded to the hilt everyday and turned from bicycle to impromptu fruit stand or chicken stand or TV truck.

My flying Pigeon:


Various shots:


Bike shop on a Bike (really a trike) that I ate next to in Beijing….Those were some good noodles BTW.  But I digress.


No, No, here in America we have to have a “special” vehicle for this so we can go to the stupid Safeway or Wally and pick up three bags of groceries. Was anyone every broke enough here to remember hanging five or six bags on the handlebars of your beater MTB and getting back home at like 10pm?

Today you need a 3k wonder cargo long bike with wood baskets and fenders from some super rare irreplaceable rain forest tree. Worse yet, is getting a Chinese equivalent, stripping the whole thing down and replacing the crappy parts with “good” parts. Then throw all the crappy new parts in the landfill (cause you can’t recycle chrome plated steel or make some “bike art” with it uggh) and ride that thing with a huge smug smile to the coffee shop to pick up a pound of Starbucks French Roast. Repeat at least three times a year. The other 297 trips a year. Complete with your dino sucking Escalade.

So lately I have heard many people talk about wanting one of these cargo bikes. Generally the concept is…..Well if it was cheap enough, I could park it next to my other dozen bicycles and my three cars….but only if it is cheap enough, then I might go to Home Depot and cause I can, buy concrete, and ride home with it.   Funny thing is most of these people don’t know the difference between a nail and a screw.

That is not the idea, people. Even if it costs 5k for a cargo bike, the concept is that you do a large chunk of your trips with it. If that is the case, then it would pay for itself in short order with savings in auto payments, insurance and fuel. Cargo is not some sort of freaking bike accessory. And if you want to be cheap, nobody needs a cargo bike. It is nice for sure but you can load up the simplest of English three speeds and carry most anything reasonable.

If you have to pick up 400lbs of concrete or a new 60’’ television, you know a car is a pretty darn nice thing to have.

Cargo bikes should not be a fashion statement nor a advertisement for green values, but sadly to some, they seem to be.  I like when we don’t give names to things.  I think using your car less is really smart, Going car-less is generally stupid and if you are going to use your bike for cargo hauling either buy something nice, locally made with sustainable materials or use what you got.


Fight Back! with David “horowitz” Bohm

30 06 2008

Today’s installment of “fight back” is Serotta’s Paint program.

Here is the Jive assed shite lingo on their website…

“Serotta has the largest selection of custom finishes in the industry. We offer natural carbon and titanium finishes as well as twenty six colors of paint with a wide variety of unique paint schemes and decal options to choose from. Each of our bikes is meticulously finished in our Saratoga Springs paint shop with three coats of fine metallic clear for a deep 3D appearance. You choose from the SE and GS finish options offered for each Serotta Custom model or create your own Dream Bike where the options are unlimited.”

O.k. let me get this straight. 26 colors… WOW! with a capital sarcastic WOW!  that certainly must qualify as the ” the largest selection of custom finishes in the industry”  That is if you consider the “industry” to be Serotta and Huffy.

In my shop I technically have the ability of producing more colors than the human eye could differentiate. In other words that is somewhere around 10 million. A little like calling Fords colors of the year a custom car program. But hey, it gets better.

The price is awesome. Awesomely, stupendously, expensive that is. Now don’t get me wrong everyone deserves to make a fair rate for work performed. But you want your bike two colors with you name on the top tube and a head badge? Yes sir that will be $1200.00 dollars. That by the way is added to the 8,395.00 that they are charging you already for what is essentially a production bicycle that has about 700.00 of hard costs, not all that unlike the 300 dollar carbon special from Taiwan.

What I am getting at here is that probably a MeiVici is a fine bicycle but really….The marketing hype is so thick on this one, I would have to get my grinder out to get through it. 26 colors is all they can offer you? Decals? (stickers) Wan’t them to paint the Serotta name on their own bike? $395.00 Carbon tubes that cost 65 bucks a piece and 20 man hours later it becomes $8395.00?

I have a bridge for sale in Arizona….. cheap….Call me anytime.

london bridge in Lake Havasu, imported brick by brick

How many women or how many paint jobs?

8 06 2008

There is a whole heap of impossibilities in the bike world. Really think about what people claim, write, etc and analyze it, because custom framebuilders exaggerate with the best of them.

Here is an example for you. Coat “a paint shop” created by Sacha white….


Now, Sacha is one of the kings of marketing in this business. Once you get past the numerous adjectives…delicious, science, solid all of which on their own mean nothing. You can read that year one capacity is 200 frames and on the last page Jason Weber can paint “two to three thousand” bikes a year.

Yes, I said thousand/s

Now this reminds me of the late Wilt Chamberlain who claimed to have 20,000 booty calls. Now lets break this down a bit. I assume that most of the booty happened when Wilt was a younger man. Lets say between 17-50 or 33 years. So if we have 33 years of active humpage, that would turn out to 606 women a year or nearly 2 new ones every day. Even Wilt has to take a day off once in a while, (Stud horses are only up for 150 days a year for Gods sake.) So that would be even more per day on, lets say three. Hey man, anybody who can bed three women a day is more dedicated and type A than I could ever be.

But lets get back to claims of exaggerated production in the bicycle world. 3,000 painted bikes a year? by one guy? Who the heck would even want a painter that was moving this fast ( 12 painted frames a day) So unless this guy has a paint gun glued to his hand there is no way that anybody could accomplish this or would want too, but for some reason this number is impressive? Small numbers are impressive to me. JB (Joe Bell or as I think about him the great and wonderful OZ) paints around 600 frames a year as I understand it and has a team of 2-3 employees. He doesn’t advertise to speak of, he doesn’t use meaningless buzz words, he doesn’t have tats or earplugs or an aloof look about him at all times. What he does do is paint, and paint spectacularly well.

I remember Wilt for the great Basketball he played, that didn’t need any exaggeration. Great painters and framebuilders, like Sacha and numerous others don’t need it either.