trade musings – part two of three

by | Jan 9, 2012

some of you might enjoy this article, which just popped up on Competitive Cyclist.

from the text –
“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, what 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. 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; 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 selling them. 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. 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.

i believe the issue is not so much about materials and aesthetics, it’s about being in business as a noob rather than as 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.

to be continued atmo …