From: "Thomas Rawson" <twrawson@worldnet.att.net>
To: "Richard M Sachs" <richardsachs@juno.com>, <Classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 12:59:38 -0800

Tom & CR,

Where are the customers? I think Mark Reilly/Mark Joynt must have been asking themselves that question the whole of the last 18 months. They were the ones who tried to cop the Hetchins name--while the myth was still about that every one was hand-made down to the screws--and they sold maybe three bikes in 18 months. I think THEY thought there was a gold mine in making Hetchins (replicas), and they got it wrong. David Miller made no more than a dozen Hetchins in a good year, and he hasn't had a good year in a while. He does more renovations than new production, I suspect.

David Miller makes retro-Hetchins, too; a customer recently ordered a new Hetchins to fit a Super Record groupset. As long as there are a few NOS Super Record sets out there, there will be a demand for 1980 spec frames. But increasing the supply of retro-spec frames is not going to increase the supply of NOS groupsets.

You wanna see yer builder sweat blood? Take a look at the Carminargent at http://www.hetchins.org/camin01.htm. There's a frame hand-made down to the SCREWS. Cost double what a Hetchins did in its day! There's a market for that, too. But I very much doubt that increasing the supply of such completely hand-made frames would increase the demand for them.

The point I'm getting at is this: Reilly/Joynt probably thought that by increasing the supply of Hetchins, they would increase the number of takers. But the speciality cycle market does not work like that. It is less governed by supply and demand than by the whims of customers' taste. Those who want a hand-made as well as custom-made bike are as choosey about the frame builder as they are about the fittings and the paint and the groupset. Brand loyalty counts for a lot among these buyers. The number of customers who want a bicycle (or a car, or a rifle, for that matter) hand-made down to the screws, or a retro-spec, probably remains roughly constant in every decade, regardless of the number of builders prepared to invest their sweat in producing them. When there are fewer producers than the natural level of such buyers demands, then the desirability of HISTORIC frames increases; when there are MORE producers than the natural level of such buyers demands, then some of them go bust.

In my opinion, there is only one way to increase the demand for such items, and it is not to produce more of them. It is rather to educate the public that such things exist and why they are valuable. The mass of people who know only mass-produced toasters, mass-produced televisions, mass-produced steroes, and so on, do not know the difference and would not recognize it if they saw it. They have to be initiated into the world of the craftsman. Where are the customers? First, you have to impart a sense of taste to an otherwise plebian market. The public must first be enlightened. In other words, hand-made cycle building is a consciousness-raising exercise.

Is this beginning to sound like religion?

Regards, Flash Historic Hetchins Web Site, http://www.hetchins.org