Pardon my indulgance, but I am compelled to write this. I have had many hours of filing frames recently and the resulting time for contemplation inspires the thoughts I am about to express here. As usual I won't bother checking spelling and whatnot; so if you don't like reading "raw" material then check out now. My mind blurts it out, my fingers type it.
I have had this growing feeling in recent months that the general appreciation for vintage handmade (and production) frames and current devotees of "traditional" framebuilding (meaning the way frames were built before the advent of investment cast lugs) is on the rise. I'm not saying that a huge market will suddenly appear from it; just that consumers are beginning to realize that the craftsmanship and the character of traditional style frames is something the industry is lacking. The only people who will be abel to fill this void as the demand for such things increases, will be the very small or one person operation that is didicated to quality work delt directly to the customer by people who are truely dedicated to their work. The pure simple and personal operation will always be the best source for the finest and most unique creations. There is little doubt in my mind that as this "trend" builds for another cycle through the industry, there will be larger and more profit oriented companies looking to take advantage of the trend, as usual. No need to whine about it; it will happen and that's just the way it goes. But don't forget that during this time there will always run a thread of the real thing that was there before the trend and shall remain once the trend passes through the industry.
Anyway, to my point. As every day passes and I spend numerous hours thinking as I do the tedious parts of my work, I frequently reflect opon how much I enjoy doing this. For one thing, it's the tedious parts of the job that allow me the time to soul search as well as make up the differences between one product and another. When I look at the work of some of my colleuges like Richard Sachs, Peter Weigle, Roland Della Santa, David Bohm, Doug Fattic, Phil Brown, and Richard Moon I see the kind of craftsmen who will be there when more people demand to have a bicycle of the "traditional" type built. There are numerous others out there that I don't know, but are certainly doing top quality handwork on lugged steel frames. I feel the trend is also going in the same direction in Canada and England and most likely other parts of Europe and Asia. I predict a minor return to the system of framebuilding that was considerably more predominant, particularly in England, Italy, and France in the 50's and 60's. The system never totally died anyway; but I think an upswing of the "cottage industry" system is evident. The guy working out of his small bike shop or home workshop which is common in England and Europe. The benifits of this system of framebuilding are many, due to the simplicity of the bike frame and the ease with which top quality work can be done with a minimum of inexpensive tools.
What this means is that consumers who are seeking unique frames of very high quality along with the personal service and attention that only a one to three person shop can provide, will be making high demands on these kinds of operations. We may very well see quite a few lesser known or new entrants into the craft become well established during this time. The older generation will set the standards of this type of work and I predict a rennaissance of new styles and talents amongst framebuilders worldwide. I find this very exciting. I also feel it is important for persons in my position to maintain an openness towards elevating the level of understanding of both vintage and collectable bikes along with contemperary works of art and function. The free exchange of information is a catalyst for development of new talent and a higher level of understanding about bikes and parts and other historical issues. Amongst framebuilders I feel that each persons' work should inspire others to appreciate how much we are the same, and at the same time allow us to express our individual tastes, talents, and personalities freely. I grew up this way. Every frame I saw or owned impressed me in some way or another to either do, or not do, something when I did my own work. My style and inspirations come from many places. I would imagine all other traditional framebuilders are similar; everyone is a collection of various inspirations.
I realize that subscribers to this list are either already hip to this trend that is already on the horizion, or are only a step from the edge of falling deeply in interest to the point of seeking a classic handbuilt road frame. I see the possibility of a trend similar to what exists in Japan starting up in the US. That is modern classic frames hung with vintage (or anything non current and trendy like fancy areo wheels, etc.) parts. Replica frames could become a small sub-culture. It could happen. The other parts of the bike industry are not going away, just the vintage interest will increase amongst consumers.
To be able to do this kind of work and to keep a tradition of low production handbuilt frames alive through the recent "dark ages" has been difficult at times. But the satisfaction of the job is similar to completing a complex jigsaw puzzle. One can stand back and admire the results to great satisfaction; and better yet you can put it between your legs for an extra thrill! I feel strongly that the very finest the framebuilding craft has to offer will come from cottage industry craftsmen from all over the globe. Personally, I would be disappointed to know anyone who would seek to obstruck or complicate the development of this system, since the ultimate benifactors of this trend will be the consumers wise enough to seek these accomplished constructors. I expect the "brotherhood" of framebuilders will also act honorably (as it always has in the past) within the ranks and work together to benifit the group as a whole. Yes, folks. As odd as it may sound, I truely feel it's a great time to be alive and to be a framebuilder! A rennaissance IS upon us and all this time craftsmanship has NOT been dead; it just smelled funny! I now begin every day with renewed interest in doing things the same way I've done them for almost 30 years. You have no idea how refreshing that is in light of how quick and drastically things change in the "modern" world. Does anyone else feel this, or am I just imagining it??
Brian Baylis La Mesa, CA Plenty of time to ponder life lately; can you tell? Ever wonder how many file strokes it takes to make a frame? Several hundred thousand I'll bet!