Friday, November 20, 2009

Don't thank me...

Every day I come to my shop and get to work , building the next frame or doing some sort of repair or modification. My day started out typically-I had a frame that I had started the day before and needed to finish it today or else I would be falling behind my self imposed shedule. The more efficient I am, the more money I make and the sooner the customer gets the frame-this is why I work many hours without thinking about who I depend on for the stuff that makes my job easier....sometimes making it possible at all. Today was a day where the lightning bolt hit...all of a sudden I realized that this particular frame was coming together really well and inspite of my need for expediency was actually fun to build. This isn't to say that framebuilding is normally not a fun thing , but it is often hard work with many chances for frustration. This brings me to a subject that is often on my mind: Good materials for small builders are not something that large companies want to produce any more. One by one the large companies that used to make quality stuff for the US market are deciding that there isn't enough profit in supplying small framebuilders , now that the large bicycle companies are all having their bikes made in Taiwan or China. With this being the case small framebuilders have a real problem looming in the near future.......the stuff they depend on to build with may be soon an extinct species. The solution ? Build the stuff here-and fortunately, there are a few folks still willing to do this. These folks are heros in my book because they don't care about the bottom line as much as they care about this symbiotic world of suppliers, builders, painters and others. The frame in the picture has yokes and dropouts designed by Mike Aherens. Mike's stuff is what he uses on his own bikes but he sells these excellent fittings to anyone who wants to build with them. I could not build this type of frame without Mikes stuff. Another US manufaturer of framebuilding suppies is Mark Norstad of Paragon Machine works. Nearly every frame I build has one of his bottom bracket shells , made right here in California. Paul Price of Paul Components makes a terrific steel track isn't a product he makes a lot of money on -he makes them because builders want them . Kirk Pacenti may have his lugs and BB shells made overseas but he creates them for US builders for the most part. Hank Folsom of Henry James has been having lugsets cast in the US for thirty years and sells the last US made tubing, True Temper. These folks are going out on a limb financially to keep a small industry alive and none of them are getting rich . While large bicycle companies go away from metal frames in favor of carbon fiber ( No need for skilled labor such as welders or machinists ) the folks that make supplies for the small builder see value in sustaining the craft . Carbon fiber bicycles are very popular but they are probably the least green bike available. Metals of all kinds can be recycled and some can easily be repaired. This is not the case for carbon fiber for the most part . Essentially ,every carbon fiber frame is destined for the landfill. Today I though about that.....and the folks I depend on. I hope you all are thinking about it as well.


  1. right on, Paul - credit where credit is due. here at Coconino i use Paragon & True Temper just about exclusively {totally if they can make a 29er chainstay} i see the circular demand - if i want to buy what i need in the USA then i better put my $$$$ where my mouth is because well, i make stuff in the USA.......Steve Garro, Coconino Cycles.

  2. Paul,

    thanks for the honorable mention. For what it's worth, I too have been thinking along these lines. So much so that I'm now investigating making my castings in the US.