Sunday, February 13, 2011

A temporary solution to a permanent problem.

This post was actually written awhile ago. Because of the critical nature of the content, my wife persuaded me to edit it and delay publishing it. I'll say that even though the thoughts contained here are pretty strong, they are only my opinions and really don't count any more than another person's view. I know that the personalities I am assailing in this post are largely figurative and not anyone in particular . I have some personal codes of conduct that I attempt to live my life by and I have this blog to call out the folks that I feel are diametrically opposed to what I think is the best way to approach our craft. That said, you can label me a narrow minded shit head if you like-in some ways I fully qualify for that moniker.
If you are a builder and you have a fragile ego I suggest that you skip this post , even though it is most likely not directed at you.

If you do something long enough and don't screw it up that much, there is a chance that you'll get some sort of approval from folks-a fan base, perhaps. Even if you don't understand or even want this thing ( although I think deep down, even the most curmudgeonly of us wants friends ) people will , by their good nature and enthusiasm elevate you somewhat over where you thought you were in the craftsman food chain. This in my opinion is a good thing , that is if you can have these accolades and not let it change who you are.
Back when I first started getting words of praise from customers ( some deserved, some not is what it is. ) My first reaction was to dismiss the good words, essentially tell good meaning folks that I was no good and did not deserve any praise. This was effectively not allowing anyone to have a positive opinion of my work. Maybe it was false humility, more likely self loathing with an extra helping of insecurity-nevertheless , it was pretty stupid and even I eventually realized that.
I guess I went too far in trying to avoid a thing that we as builders really need to be mindful of-the mistake of feeling too bitchen. What I and a few other builders talk about is the 'kiss of death' of taking praise from people as a license to feel like a special being.....a demigod of the torch. If somebody says you are a 'Master frame builder' , the best thing to do is to say 'Thank you." The worst thing to do is to call yourself that on your website or anywhere else. If one starts believing that one is " The Master" there is a certainty that a great fall is imminent. I have witnessed such falls over the course of my career and they aren't pretty, but usually the person is deserving of such a rapid and public decline-especially in the wake of a campaign of extreme pomposity and/or arrogance. While I feel it is fine and actually healthy to be proud of a job well done, there is some real sickness out there in folks that take the pride thing too far.
My question is this : why does anyone really feel the need to be disingenuous to sell bicycle frames ? What goes though the mind of a person that attempts to create some sort of divinity image about building a frame....... " Hell, I'm good at this and I deserve to be on top! " ........or something like that. How do you make yourself believe such crap ? Is it from outside influence ? Is it from some major psychological insecurity ? Is it a feeling that one hasn't gotten a big enough piece of the pie ? Or is it that one is just falling in love with one's self.....again ?
When the sad day comes , the day I feel I have to start quoting myself in the third person-example :

" The wind came up on the bluffs and we were riding very was only a training ride but the speed we were attaining was making it so my tires were drifting in the corners. I pressed the bike as fast as I dared , sliding both wheels in a kind of cycling-ballet on the edge of the ocean-it was here that I knew I had found the ideal bike geometry ." ....Paul Sadoff.

I don't know about you, but if I had just read that thinking that the person writing it was serious I would reach for the vomit bucket.
Maybe it's just me, but something tells me that the product should do most of the selling. Building some sort of 'spin' around your craft is definitely a skill in itself but it is for the most part a skill I avoid. There's truth that we as framebuilders are not just selling bike frames, we are to a degree selling lifestyles. In the best cases, these lifestyles are things like racing, touring or commuting. In some , one might be selling a rolling object of art-I do understand this and don't really think it is wrong. In the worst cases we are selling stuff to make people feel connected to our supposed, often self-proclaimed 'greatness' this bike and you'll be part of a very exclusive club , a club that makes you wait a really long time and pay lots of money to be a member. Essentially this club wants to make you want to be part of it enough to endure the wait and expense that is the entry fee. If you don't like the terms, you are shunned. I really don't understand how or why intelligent people put up with this. Is it really worth it ? Is it going to enrich your life so much that the huge price tag and monumental delay in getting your frame are inconsequential ? Or is it that if this purchase did not involve these hardships it would not have the appeal ? I don't get it......I guess I was never supposed to get it-I'm not a member of the club.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oh,no....not another quiz ! ?

Yes, is time for a quiz. This one is something of a character study , kind of. The names have been eliminated to protect the well.....errr.......I'll leave it at that. Am I insinuating that the person(s) possibly although not necessarily referred to in the quiz are factual ? I'm not telling'll have to guess, just like you'll have to figure out the proper answers to the questions. First of all, I would like to explain the photo above. I never do this usually-I think the photo is mostly there to convey a mood or perhaps an inside joke that maybe .000135 % of the readers of this blog might get. There's no joke in this photo today. The book is one that I have been writing in for over 33 years. It contains the spoke lengths for a variety of hub/rim/cross combinations. Why don't I use the online spoke calculators available you might ask ? Well, I guess I see other folks getting wrong spoke lengths from these calculators enough that actual documented tested data in a book might save me a step or two. Call me primitive.....I don't even take credit cards at my business. O.K. on to the quiz.

The theme of today's quiz is what kind of person might your framebuilder be if **********. There are many types of folks hanging up a shingle proclaiming that they are framebuilders.......some of them actually are . The rest are, well....lets just say that maybe they ought to have a different job.

If your framebuilder takes your deposit ( and maybe a few others ) and does not actually build the frames that have been ordered......ever.......he is :

A. Just a poor guy trying to make a buck.
B. Just a poor guy trying to steal a buck.
C. Just a poor guy succeeding in stealing a buck.
D. Kind of a pathetic poseur/criminal
E. Maybe has fallen on hard times.
F. Maybe has not fallen on hard times and isn't a framebuilder at all.

If your framebuilder does not return your phone messages and/or emails he is:

A. More important than you, stupid.
B. Probably overwhelmed with his position as king of the dung heap.
C. Wants to cultivate an air of mystery.
D. Needs to heal from the interactions with his fellow humans for a time.
E. Had his phone turned off.

Say your custom frame has an issue that has nothing to do with how you ride or maintain your bike and the framebuilder refuses to service the bike. His/her possible reason(s) are :

A. There is no stated warranty , butthead.
B. Too busy making more frames for folks like you except that they don't actually ride so they have no complaints about the bikes.
C. The customer is always wrong.
D. There's a Jersey Shore marathon this week/month/year.
E. He/she has left no forwarding address and is off to parts unknown.

Your framebuilder teaches other folks framebuilding because :

A. He/she is not threatened by new talent and actually wants to help.
B. He/she/it needs the money and orders are down.
C. There's some sort of sick satisfaction in teaching what one has regarded as a sentence.
D. It's a chance to have people listen to you for once.....
E. Somebody has to carry on this stuff.

What if your framebuilder tells you that you'll get your frame in 5-6 weeks and after nearly a year you still haven't gotten your frame and you payed all the money up front. His/her reason is :

A. Can't be bothered at this time, there's work not to do.
B. Can't be bothered at this time , there's lots of bickering to do with other numbskulls online.
C. Can't be bothered at this time , I have seven blogs......whoops-
D. Can't be bothered at this time , there's a Jersey Shore marathon again.

If you finally get your frame from your builder and the rear wheel does not center....not even close-I'm talking totally cacked , the frame has not been chased, faced, tapped, etc. seatpost won't fit and you told the builder the actual brand of post you were going to use , the builder would describe the parameters of precision as :

A. Tolerance of +/- 2 mm.
B. Tolerance of one hair past a freckle.
C. Tolerance of two fifths of Jack Daniels.
D. Tolerance of "Did I build this ? It doesn't look like my work..."
E. Tolerance of "Just had a bad hell, I'll fix it."

Say your framebuilder is creative, causes a stir at the bike shows and really has some interesting original ideas that fly in the face of convention in almost playful disregard. What if the buying public does not support this talent and after some time he/she is forced to quit and get a day job. The upshot is:

A. Yee hah ! Don't have to worry about that one any more !
B. Well, he/she did it to him/herself being so damn clever......
C. Probably didn't have enough stainless on them there frames.
D. Maybe we all lose as this particular talent won't be able to fulfill his/her artistic contribution to the craft at large.

Last question. This one is bound to ruffle some feathers but I hope all will see the good natured aspect of the humor contained.......or not. Feel free to hate me.

Framebuilders are creating little guilds or groups to:

A. Have some fun.
B. Create standards that protect builder and client alike.
C. To attempt to elevate themselves above other builders for the sake of ego gratification.
D. To get together for Jersey Shore marathons.
E. Because everyone's doing it.
F. There's power in numbers.
G. Mainly out of boredom.....
H. Because we all really can't quite get along.

Thanks for reading....please don't firebomb my shop-I can burn it down myself.