On Sunday, February 9, 2003, at 04:32 PM, Jon3084@aol.com wrote:
> Do you think we are trying sometimes to keep a flame that was never
> really lit for some of these builders in the first place? Are you and
> Mr. Bayliss and a few others actually pretty rare in the history of
> frame building in that you are keeping a flame going and seem to
> intend to?
Jon, I can't speak for e-richie or Brian, but I can speak about the industry as a whole. Builders who "do it all" are very rare particularly outside of the US. If you look at the really successful one-person builders they have a niche. Let's step away from bikes and use an analogy that isn't so close to home. Think in the world of watches; Trek is Swatch, Masi is Rolex, and a Richard Sachs, Keith Lippy, or Jeff Lyon is the german guy you found about through a friend of a friend you write a letter too and he makes something just for you.
Of course you also need to define a one man shop. e-richie doesn't paint his own frame, but the other two builders I mentioned do. Does this make e-richie less of a builder? I think not. It's like the little german watch maker using pre-made casings. When you start thinking that whenever somebody farms out work it's bad or "less" in some way that becomes a slippery slope. Is a Curt Goodrich frame with his name on the DT automatically better than a Rivendell that he built? Rivendell itself is quite interesting since it seems to have "one person shop" cache but has been built by lots of different hands over the last few years, including two good sized workshops.
What you're buying when you buy a Rivendell is Grant's design philosophy. When you buy a Richard Sachs you're buying a frame from a guy who races hard and knows how a race bike should perform. If you call Bruce Gordon for a custom touring bike your getting a bike built by someone who KNOWS touring. Art Stump didn't really build bikes he built bike shaped machines. It's a mindset and philosophy, that is what you're buying. Some people might call it hype and that's OK too, because it really is and some of it you'll believe and some you won't.
I've worked on thousands and thousands of bikes by hundreds of makers and they are all really different in some way. Lots of folks call todays bike cookie-cutter, but the same can be said about bikes in the 70s. They were all lugged steel bikes, maybe the nicer ones were Reynolds 531 and Nervex Professional lugs. One more steel bike woopty damn doo. Sure now people look at them now differently, but Giant and Trek are just the Raleigh and Peugeot of today. The big difference I see with buying from the one-person builder is you get the building philosophy unwatered down and deluded by a larger corporate structure. Just as you can look at all the different makers with Eddy Merckx on their DT and see the differences, you can also look at all the different brands built in Giant's factory and see the differences.
It all comes down what you want in a bike and how much your personal
philosophy matches with your own. Personally I wouldn't buy one of
e-richie's bikes. Not because he doesn't make absolutely stellar
bikes, because he does. I won't buy one of his frames because one of
my largest personal philosophies is to spend my money locally and my
buddy Richard is almost as far away as you can get from me and still be
in the US. If I ever move to the New England states that would be
another story. On the other hand I wouldn't buy one from the local
builder because he and I have almost diametrically opposed philosophies
and personalities. Brian Baylis and some of the other good LA builders
are kinda close by about 125-200 miles. Brian's philosophy and mine
are pretty damn close, but I don't know if I could support his Krispy
Kreme habit. So Phil Brown might get the call. Of course I could
always go a lot further north to the Grants Pass, Eugene, Portland, and
Seattle where I have old close friends that are builders too. If a
particular guy who's never had his name on a DT in Seattle stopped
looking at computers for a living and went back to bikes I'd have to
give him a call. These are the kind of choices you make if you're
going to go with the small builders. The question you need to ask
yourself is, "Am I going to buy a Swatch, Rolex, or am I going to hunt
down the little german watch maker?"