[CR] can a better KOF frame be bought?

(Example: Framebuilding:Tubing)

Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 01:55:23 -0400
Subject: [CR] can a better KOF frame be bought?
From: "Doug Fattic" <fatticbicycles@qtm.net>
To: "classicrendezvous@bikelist.org" <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>, "brianbaylis@juno.com" <brianbaylis@juno.com>


Just recently I've been musing that in the upper end custom bicycle market, there are few "way beyond average" frames. I'm not talking about a typical great frame that Peter Weigle or other experienced builder makes on a daily basis. Those are "way beyond average" compared to production stuff and marvels in themselves. No, I'm talking about something that might be the ultimate that could be done if given a big budget. The closest thing I can think of is Brian Baylis's "Aerotour" that he made to show at the NAHBS. I just loved that bike. It was a bit over-the-top for some (not for me) but it was Brian at his best stretching himself to advance what was possible. H e incorporated special features in lugs, braze-ons and paint. I never asked him how much time he put into it but I'm sure it was large. It was no ordinary job and I¹m sure he had to sacrifice to make it. That brings up my main question, is there some way for a framebuilder to be commissioned to build something that is extraordinary and not just what he usually does wit h variations?

I own what I believe is the finest frame ever made by Johnny Berry in 1953. Note that I¹m not saying the best frame Johnny ever made, I¹m saying the best frame anyone ever made. That opinion could be challenged and it¹s status isn¹t why I¹m writing or care to defend. I¹m trying to discover if there are any circumstances that can bring out the full ability of a framebuilder. Johnny did it for some show. When his widow sold it to me (when I as getting the bulk of his framebuilding equipment), she said she keep asking him ³are you working on that frame again?² It takes a special effort to make a masterpiece. Personally I think this can only be happen with someone providing big money because it is unrealistic for a framebuilder by himself to have the resources to accomplish such a project on his own. It would probably take 2 or 3 months of work and who can spare that time at his own cost?

The problem for such a project I think is that the bicycle market is cheap. Business plans for making frames are not based on costs + reasonable profit . If you want to play, your prices are connected to the competition of mass-produced high-end bicycles in the international market. It depresses what someone is willing to pay (or think they should pay) for even one-off stuff. I'm not here to whine about this but want to make the observation that the attitude that a frame costing more than $3000 is a rip off prevent s really special stuff from being made. I¹ve been asking around and a typica l custom paint job on a Harley Davidson motorcycle is around $6000. That¹s right, just the paint job. They certainly are not 10 times more time consuming or difficult than a paint job I do on a bicycle. We are just pai d on a different scale not related to talent, quality or difficulty. So the question naturally arises why are Hell¹s Angle types willing to pay so much more for their passion then their two wheeled cousins? The effect of this is that the best that could be made isn¹t being made (or maybe more accurately stated, made very often). I would really like to see what could be done.

I was watching a PBS special about Frank Lloyd Wright. This program made th e observation that great artists need great patrons. In other words, their creative powers were unleashed because someone was willing to pay more to get something special. The implication was that the patron understood he was not getting the best deal but the best end result. I wonder if this could happen to bicycle makers. Millions of dollars are spent on unneeded but elegant luxury items. Why doesn¹t this happen in the bicycle industry? People will spend a half million or more on a car, why not $10,000 on a bicycle frame? Am I the only one that ponders this?

Doug Fattic - who drives a "98 Chevy Prism but wants more in a bike Niles, Michigan