While talking to those attending Cirque this year (thanks Wayne and MJ!) I was surprised at the amount of interest I received about learning to build frames. I didn't think the CR group was a market for my framebuilding classes but I was wrong. I'll need to provide some information.
It might be of some interest to know the characteristics of those now attending my classes and how this profile compares with builders from the past. Now days students typically come from messenger or I-don't-have-a-car-and-am-proud-of-it background. Of the 34 frames that have been made in my classes the last 2 years, only one has been a performance frame while all the rest were transportation, randoneuring or touring frames of some kind. About 1/2 have some kind of artsy/craft training while the others come from engineering or mechanical fields. I don't know of any that had gotten a racing license sometime in their past. 26 is the mode age although I have students from every age group. 1 in 3 have serious tattoos.
At the North American Handmade Bike Show in Portland this year, they took a group picture of all of us that had been building for 30 or more years. When the shots were over, I asked my colleagues if they raced and everyone (except me) said that is why they they got into cycling in the first place. I've noticed that present day students are really into studying classic frames. They are more English style (fancier lugs, multiple colors) fans than Italian. My Italian V Masi doesn't get as much attention as the British stuff.
My theory (which I'm willing to open up to discussion) is that racers see bicycles as tools which should never overshadow their results. They are to be acknowledged when a race is lost (implying that might have been the reason) but not when one is won (all glory to the victor). It also wouldn't be cool to have a frame with too much foofa (a word I'd roughly define as embellishments). Some of the other types of riders like beauty in what they ride and look to the past for inspiration. The British had more going on in the looks department.
I also notice a difference in ability in students from when I started teaching framebuilding classes in 1976 and today. Many now don't have a background in working with their hands and it takes more effort for them to get things right.
There is a real resurgence in wanting to learn to build frames. I get many requests for information and I don't even have a website up and running (my web designer has said for a long time it is almost ready. Sure it is). It isn't exactly a problem yet. Classes fill anyway. I teach 5 or 6 a year with 3 students in each class.
Doug Fattic Niles, Michigan USA