Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How not to order a custom frame

In this blog I have commented mainly on my fellow builders. Some I greatly admire, some I think are maybe not quite so admirable.....and some are just total posers. Maybe it is time to pay some attention to the folks that order the frame, our customers. I am quite lucky in that I seem to have what I think are the best damn customers on the face of the earth. They are fully aware of what I do and don't ask me to go way outside my comfort zone in terms of the build. Of course, 'comfort zone ' is not the best way to describe what is the way I choose to build but it is the best term I can come up with after a 10 hour day in the shop.
What I want to present here is a kind of guide-a bit of a sarcastic one and not aimed at my customers at all, unless of course they are looking for a cheap laugh. In my may years of torching I have been asked to do all sorts of things to construct a bicycle frame. Most of these things worked out......a few did not. I learned a thing or two from these unsuccessful builds and will present these 'rules for engagement' when ordering a custom frame.

1. Do not ask a builder who specializes in racing bikes to build you a fancy 'heirloom' art frame. There is no doubt that the builder will hate the experience of the lengthy filing and polishing and the customer will not wind up with the builder's best effort. Result ? Everybody hates everybody.

2. Don't try to order three bikes in one. a bike that weighs under 16 lbs. but can fit full racks and panniers , has ability to run two brake systems, has sliding dropouts, an eccentric bottom bracket and two sets of brake bosses so that two different wheel sizes can be used will no doubt be a big rolling piece of shit. Please narrow it down or figure on having more than one bike.

3. Never ask a builder to use some hardware and/or tubing he/she has no experience with. The phone call starts :" I really like what I see on your website but can you do something entirely different for me ? How about some stainless dropouts from Swaziland ? I hear on the web that they are really nice." I have personal experience with this situation and I can tell you that the result was pretty awful for myself and the customer.

4. Do not order a frame until you pretty much know what you want. This happens when a customer has a few friends who all ride the same builder's bike. Not to be left out, the person lacking the said custom bike sends a deposit in prematurely . In some cases the decision on the bike never gets made and the bike never happens......I have a few folks on the list that gave me money and kind of just disappeared.......weird.

5. Don't get your sizing done by anyone unless you are 100% sure in their accuracy. If I, the builder does the sizing and I mess it up , I build you another frame and take the mistake frame back. If some shop employee screws up your fitting and you get a frame that is wrong......you are going to have to deal with it yourself . Craigslist, anyone ?

6. Do not ask a builder to make a 'copy' of another builders work unless you want your builder to 'interpret' the design and have his own approach based on his/her strong suit . there is a reason each builder has his/her own style. Order from the person who's style is really what you want.

7. Please don't try to get a faster delivery time by bribing the builder with money , booze , flat screen t.v.s, free carpet cleaning , bootleg d.v.d's , etc. Plan ahead and wait like everyone else......it's the right thing to do.

8. Try not to visit or call constantly while your frame is being built-you will only delay the build and probably have a pissed off builder doing a hurried job to get you off of his/her back. I know it is hard to be patient and the whole process can be really exciting. Trust me, back off a little and you'll probably get a free pair of socks or a hat for it.

9. Don't ask for a free frame just because you have a blog. I have a blog....seven of them. Does that mean I am supposed to get seven free anything ? I think not..........and I wouldn't ask anyway.

10. If something isn't right with your frame , be sure and let the builder know. Don't take the frame to some other builder to have it fixed-this is not fair to the original builder who will need to know what he/she screwed up so that it won't happen again.

11. If you have a complaint about a builder, complain to the builder-don't crucify the builder on the web......you will only look like an asshole. If the builder takes your money and doesn't build you anything , that is a job for the courts or collection agencies...........not the internet chat forums.

12. When ordering a frame from a builder, do not hold back any information that might be really important. If you absolutely must have a level top tube, be sure and state this . There's nothing more humiliating than presenting someone with a frame and having them look at it as if it were a dead fish .


  1. Great stuff Paul.

    #5 & #6 are words to live by.

  2. Damn.

    Screwed out of a Rock Lobster by #9.

  3. Hey, your race resumee would get you a discount. Not free but not retail. The blog is a plus, too.

  4. That sounds really reasonable. Well said. After Builders Cleaning.

  5. brilliant and hilarious. and i certainly resemble #5 a bit.

  6. Very clever post Paul. Those dropouts ARE sweet. Being plied with liquor is a tradition older than the bicycle!