RE: [CR] Bruce Gordons Rant - WE ARE TO BLAME!

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From: Edward Brooks <>
To: <>, <>, "'Mann, Dave'" <>, <>
Subject: RE: [CR] Bruce Gordons Rant - WE ARE TO BLAME!
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2006 21:47:14 -0600
Organization: Edward Roberts International
In-Reply-To: <>
Thread-Index: AcZDLnXERzOWtNzsSZG/yePzLXA1KQBj4oCQ

Mike, Well said. We should all support these guys to the best of our ability. Skilled hand craftsmanship in any form is a rarity these days. Those who cannot personally afford a frame of this caliber can still help spread the word. It's that kind of show of support that may motivate and in some cases reinvigorate these guys to keep plying their craft rather than giving up in disgust because they don't want to play the marketing game or don't feel they are appreciated.

Edward Robert Brooks Managing Director Edward Roberts International Auctioneers of the Fine and Rare 1262 West Winwood Drive Lake Forest, Illinois 60045 Phone- 847.295.8696 Facsimile- 847.295.8697 Email- Website-

-----Original Message----- From: [] On Behalf Of Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 10:03 PM To:; 'Mann, Dave'; Cc:;; Subject: Re: [CR] Bruce Gordons Rant - WE ARE TO BLAME!

Well I'm going to step on toes here....and it rambles - but here it goes.

I've been around the bike biz a bit, and I'm convinced that the business is totally driven by marketing. There are wonderful modern bikes out there, but for the bulk of the market, the bikes folks buy are the wrong ones. A great modern steel frame really is optimal for most folks - a perfect blend of comfort, handling, fit, stability, the list goes on and on.

But most folks who love their vintage bikes are too quick to fall for the latest material for their "go-fast-bike" when a custom steel frame that is done right will be the best widget to get the job done. And too many folks dismiss bikes such as those Bruce Gordon is building as mellow touring bikes unworthy of the weekend peloton.

But I think it is just the opposite - traditional race bikes are designed mostly for those who are often less hard core and who ride shorter distances. The machines that Bruce Gordon, Peter Weigle, Alex Singer (and that famous Baylis guy) are building are amazingly well suited for riders that know what its like AFTER the first 50 or 100 miles of a days ride are done. What gets you on a long ride isn't a pound of weight - its the constant pounding of the miles.

Here in Colorado, so many folks train so that they can do well on the club 120 mile event rides in the mountains. Yet the race bike which only takes 23mm tires, has no bags to carry clothes for changing mountain conditions, and which has no fenders for the inevitable rain on a summer afternoon is tragically unsuitable.

So Bruce Gordon and a few other builders are making gorgeous custom machines that are ideal for the majority of riders - riders that frequently pride themselves on a quick 50, 75, or 100 mile jaunt. Each of us as an example should ride these machines and recomend them to our friends. But why don't we? Because so many of us are swept up believing the marketing. We chase the false idols of weight and perceived stiffness. A good steel frame is not much more than a waterbottle away from a Ti frame in weight. And it isn't about stiffness - its about a bike that flexes in sync with your riding style - and getting that match right is where the custom builder comes in.

When I owned Bicycle Classics inc. I rode them all - especially the modern Italian Scandium and titanium. I had a Merckx SC, a Pinarello Prince, and others - yet I am most at home, even when "sprinting", on my Weigle. Sure the modern bikes did great things - but the Weigle is so much better for nearly every type of riding I do, I can't imagine life on an alternative material.

So folks need to answer the question "what is the optimal bike for my needs" - and if you answer the question without being swayed by fads or misinformation, we should be swamping builders such as Bruce Gordon with orders for ourselves and from our friends. American custom frames are inexpensive - it is a crime that Bruce Gordon isn't complaining that he is swamped. So lets get cracking!

Mike Kone in Boulder CO

From: "Bruce Gordon" <>
> Sorry about the cross posting - But, I thought this might be interesting to
> people who do not subscribe to all the groups
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mann, Dave []
> Sent: Tuesday, March 07, 2006 11:15 AM
> To:;
> Subject: RE: [BOB] NAHBS Thoughts (late and long and opinionated)
> """""While I find this to be very interesting, I'm not sure what
> to do with this information. Perhaps I'm confused with what
> your desired affect is with putting this information out."""""
> Someone asked my purpose in writing about this.
> I'm writing to expose "the dirty little secret of the bike biz", that no one
> wants to talk about.
> First I want to commend Don for the show. It was the most unique gathering
> I have been to in my 35 years in the bike business, it was also the most
> troubling.
> I write this because I think most of the visitors are totally unaware of the
> plight of the small builder.
> First - I really like bikes, I like making them, I like thinking about them,
> I like riding them - I hate the bike business. Like many of you - I might
> say that I am passionate about bikes.
> One of the most disturbing moments of the weekend was when I was having
> dinner at the hotel after spending an exhausting day at the show talking to
> people. A builder whom I really respect, who has been building about as
> long as I have, quietly ordered a bowl of soup. I could tell it was not
> because he was not hungry - it was because entrees were $15 to $20.
> In the last 18 months I have been to 5 shows like the NAHBS. Don's show in
> San Jose was the biggest. I have been to the Velo Rendezvous in Pasadena 2
> times, the Cirque in North Carolina, and the Handmade Bike Fair in Tokyo
> Japan. In each show except the NAHBS I have won first place awards for my
> bikes. I am humbled and honored by the awards. However, it has cost over
> $20,000 with almost no sales. I have sold 3 frames in the last 16 years. I
> was hoping to sell some of the prize winners at the NAHBS show to recoup
> some of my expenses. No luck (they are still all for sale) and I spent
> $2000 to attend and display.
> Making the fancy lugged frames bikes is very therapeutic for me. It gets me
> back to my roots.
> At the NAHBS I got to talk to some builders I have known and admired for 30+
> years. We talked bikes, but we also talked business. I handed out an
> anonymous questionnaire I had printed up about the business. Some of the
> answers might shock you. The first question was "what should a competent
> frame builder earn a year?" The most common answer was $40,000 to $50,000
> per year - certainly not Greedy. I have a 30 year old friend who is a Union
> Plumber who just turned Journeyman. He just started a job in San Francisco
> doing copper piping in a new Condominium at $43 per hour + health coverage +
> retirement. I should have been a plumber. I could have afforded to go the
> Plumbing Shows and show off my fancy edged carved Copper plumbing fittings.
> I found in the questionnaire that no one including the well known small
> builders even made $35,000. Most were about $20,000, which is where I fit
> in. I asked if they could ever retire on their current income - everyone
> replied NO. As for health insurance - 75% had no insurance, or if they had
> insurance - most had it through their spouse.
> When I started building in 1974 with Albert Eisentraut he would say: "You
> won't get rich building frames, but, you can make a living."
> For the first 28 years of my business I could always afford an employee,
> that has not been the case for the last 4 years. Even working alone I have
> had to dip into my personal savings to pay the bills. If sales stay the
> same, I have 1 or 2 more years left before my savings are gone.
> Most of my business for the last 16 years has been making more utilitarian
> TIG welded touring frames and racks. But even those TIGed bike sales have
> dropped from 60 to 70 bikes a year to 25 last year. Is it because my stuff
> is lousy?? I don't think so. I think I make pretty good, reasonably priced
> touring stuff.
> What has happened is that the business has been taken over by what I call
> "Marketers". People who have discovered that "Why make it yourself if you
> can have it made overseas for a lot less?". That way you can spend more on
> marketing, which seems to work better. Fine, some will say, THAT IS
> CAPITALISM!. But, something to think about is this. Over the past 30 odd
> years I have seen many innovations in the bike biz. Almost all were from 1
> to 3 person shops. A couple that come to mind are Merlin, the first viable
> Titanium frames (early TI attempts, Teledyne, etc. just did not work) and
> especially Mountain Bikes. Now, if you go into a bike shop - 90 to 95% of
> Mountain Bikes are made in Taiwan or China. If we were to wait for the
> Taiwanese or Chinese to invent the Mountain Bike - we would still be
> waiting.
> One of my most vivid memories of my first trip to France in the late 1980's
> was that it was a country that almost everyone drove French cars. Not
> because they were the best, they weren't (they have vastly improved since),
> but because they were built by French people, and they liked to support
> their own industry.
> What has hurt my business the most are the Rivendells, Surlys, Somas,
> When Rivendell started - they were only going to be made in USA, then, maybe
> some made in Japan, then, OK maybe some from Taiwan. It is a slippery
> slope, and there is NO chairlift back to the top of the mountain.
> For me in California, I cannot compete with a $249 wholesale Surly Touring
> frame. I know the argument - we are better in the USA doing the designing
> and outsourcing the production. B.S. - People in India, Taiwan and China
> have the same computers we have. In fact, my Hewlett Packard computer as
> made in China. They also have people who can use them. The only jobs that
> can not be outsourced are the jobs pouring your coffee at Starbucks, and the
> job wearing an "Orange Apron" and saying - "Welcome to Home Depot".
> That gets me back to the question of why I wrote the original post. If we
> want to have the passionate, small, innovative builders - we have to start
> buying from them. We need to buy from the people who are passionate about
> building them, NOT just from the passionate people who Market them. I doubt
> that the factory workers in Taiwan, or China, etc. are passionate about
> bikes like you are.
> If you got this far - thanks for reading and letting me get this off my
> chest.
> Regards,
> Bruce Gordon
> Bruce Gordon Cycles