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Thread: Strong Frames

  1. #61
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    Carl-

    Can you talk about how you adjust tube sets for tall/powerful/heavy riders? I grew up hearing (mtb in the 80s) that steel frames for guys like me (6'4", 180 lbs, plenty of HP back then) were too 'flexy'. Aluminum was the way to go for a while, until it became the famous 'it's what beer cans are made of' ads came out. FWIW, I've been on Alu frames ever since.
     

  2. #62
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    Carl, what are your thoughts on the hobbiest builders out there? The builders that have gone beyond their 10th or 20th or 30th frame and want to contiunue to build but don't necessarily want to "go pro". I'm really wondering your thoughts on pricing...should a hobbiest price based on about what the going rate for the type of frame he's made, or price according to what he thinks is his "cost'?

    There seems to be alot of us out here that are in that kind of boat. We want to build more, just because it's great fun...but we've already built ourselves and our family members all the bikes they're ever going to need. Now, is it worth the price of insurance to keep building, and if so, how to price them? Put the price at whatever sells? Do the hobbiest builders as a whole run the risk of driving the cost of frames down because we under-value the business end?

    One more: how many frames had you built before you sold one for profit?

    Best regards, Spooner
     

  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Kirk View Post
    You have an apprentice. How did you go about picking one from the many that most approach you?

    Do you have an apprentice just so you can have a really bad hair day at some point and look across the table and bark out "you're fired"?


    dave
    In the case of Erik I can just look across the table and see he's having a worse hair day.

    I get approached all the time from people wanting to intern or apprentice as well as people wanting jobs. I'm not in the habit of having an apprentice around all the time but when the right person comes along I take them in. What I look for more than anything is the right attitude, whatever that means. To me they must have no illusions of what the business is, they must understand the market and know who all the builders are, what they build, where they're located and what their pricing is. If the person doesn't know those things I assume they haven't done their homework. Unless someone has done everything in their power to learn everything they can I won't waste my time doing what they could have done themselves already. The other things I look for is someone I like and get along with, we'll be together a lot so I can' afford to have someone that isn't a good fit. How will I know if I like them? That's the last part of the what I look for, they have to have consistently been in touch with me letting me know they are interested and willing to work if the opportunity arises. They also have to be willing to commit to me for a certain period of time and give me free labor in return for what they learn from me.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoB View Post
    Carl-

    Can you talk about how you adjust tube sets for tall/powerful/heavy riders? I grew up hearing (mtb in the 80s) that steel frames for guys like me (6'4", 180 lbs, plenty of HP back then) were too 'flexy'. Aluminum was the way to go for a while, until it became the famous 'it's what beer cans are made of' ads came out. FWIW, I've been on Alu frames ever since.
    Basically what I do is work with the client to determines priorities. Then we establish a baseline, typically their current bike. We can then use that reference to develop a common language so that as we go through the design process we are on the same page. Next we decide on a material. Ride feel rarely goes into that choice, it's usually based on frame weight, price and durability. Any of the materials can produce a frame as soft or as stiff as the builder designs it to be. We tune the frames relative stiffness with tube diameters. As a rider gets heavier and the frame gets larger we have to correspondingly increase tube diameter to yield a frame of similar stiffness to smaller tubes for lighter riders and smaller frame but the real measure is how it compares to the riders current frame. If the rider wants to stiffen their frame we look at what they have and decide how much stiffer we want it. We can then choose tubes based on that.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by MDEnvEngr View Post
    Carl, what are your thoughts on the hobbiest builders out there? The builders that have gone beyond their 10th or 20th or 30th frame and want to contiunue to build but don't necessarily want to "go pro". I'm really wondering your thoughts on pricing...should a hobbiest price based on about what the going rate for the type of frame he's made, or price according to what he thinks is his "cost'?

    There seems to be alot of us out here that are in that kind of boat. We want to build more, just because it's great fun...but we've already built ourselves and our family members all the bikes they're ever going to need. Now, is it worth the price of insurance to keep building, and if so, how to price them? Put the price at whatever sells? Do the hobbiest builders as a whole run the risk of driving the cost of frames down because we under-value the business end?

    One more: how many frames had you built before you sold one for profit?

    Best regards, Spooner
    That's a tough one Bob, I think it all boils down to what you want out of the hobby. In the strictest sense, once you sell a bike you're not a hobby builder anymore and insurance is a must if anyone other than yourself is going to ride your frames. When it comes to pricing I'm not sure I have much to offer. I think it's important to pay all your costs at the very least, including indirect costs. Otherwise it's up to you to decide what you want to work for.

    I don't see the hobby builders driving prices down. I think there is a certain customer to whom it's worth saving a buck to go with a hobby builder but I also think a customer that is considering an established pro understands the value that come with the extra cost and won't be swayed by a lower priced hobby built frame.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl S View Post
    In the case of Erik I can just look across the table and see he's having a worse hair day.

    I get approached all the time from people wanting to intern or apprentice as well as people wanting jobs. I'm not in the habit of having an apprentice around all the time but when the right person comes along I take them in. What I look for more than anything is the right attitude, whatever that means. To me they must have no illusions of what the business is, they must understand the market and know who all the builders are, what they build, where they're located and what their pricing is. If the person doesn't know those things I assume they haven't done their homework. Unless someone has done everything in their power to learn everything they can I won't waste my time doing what they could have done themselves already. The other things I look for is someone I like and get along with, we'll be together a lot so I can' afford to have someone that isn't a good fit. How will I know if I like them? That's the last part of the what I look for, they have to have consistently been in touch with me letting me know they are interested and willing to work if the opportunity arises. They also have to be willing to commit to me for a certain period of time and give me free labor in return for what they learn from me.
    " Unless someone has done everything in their power to learn everything they can I won't waste my time doing what they could have done themselves already."
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  7. #67
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    How in the heck did you get such a great website? Did it take long to develop and what would you consider good website content? Also, with the increased popularity of Facebook, how important is social media to guys like yourself?

    One last question, what brand and style are your glasses?
     

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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Carl,

    What's your lead time for builds? Up for a special 29er?

    PM me if it's better.

    Serious Jack
    Ultraendure.com

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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Carl,

    When you decided to add carbon to your offerings, did you set a target number of frames per year for yourself? If you don't reach your target, would you consider the decision to add carbon a business failure? How long will you give the carbon offering to reach its target? Also, I think most would consider you a TIG master, so why would someone buy a Strong carbon frame? Given the limited number of carbon custom builders relative to other materials, do you think custom carbon is underserved in the marketplace or is it just a tough nut to crack?
    Goosebumps never lie

  10. #70
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Cool thread.

    Couple of questions:

    Did you have anything to do with the fact the Dave Kirk moved to Bozeman or is that a coincidence?

    Only a couple of builders have that multi-years backlog, what do you attribute this to ?
     

  11. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by theckeler View Post
    How in the heck did you get such a great website? Did it take long to develop and what would you consider good website content? Also, with the increased popularity of Facebook, how important is social media to guys like yourself?

    One last question, what brand and style are your glasses?
    I've been working on my site for a long time, since about 1995, it's an ongoing project and my number one marketing focus. I believe a site isn't something that you just put up and forget. They need to take on all life of their own and reflect what is going on, on a day to day basis.

    Content is the key to a good site. It's my job to create content that is valuable, interesting and informative. While it is important the site is attractive, professional and easy to navigate, it's the content that gives it value and the site is the package by which the content is delivered. I'm constantly working on my site, writing new copy and pages (I have three new pages coming soon) and Loretta adds new images almost every week. I also maintain a blog and try to add entries at least three times a week.

    I do take advantage of social media. My blog feeds to Facebook and Twitter where people can interact on a somewhat more personal level. I'm still learning how to really harness the power of Facebook but I think as I continue to understand it, it may play a more and more valuable role as time goes on. I also think there are new media types out on the horizon and while I'm not sure what they are I'm always keeping my eyes open.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by JackB View Post
    Carl,

    What's your lead time for builds? Up for a special 29er?

    PM me if it's better.

    Serious Jack
    Hi Jack, right now my lead is about 12 weeks. That's pretty average this time of year. In the Winter and Fall it usually goes up a little.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackB View Post
    Carl,

    What's your lead time for builds? Up for a special 29er?

    PM me if it's better.

    Serious Jack

    In other words, Carl, "It's not about you, it's about me."

    Thanks for sharing your story in this thread.

    Demure Roman
     

  14. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by shorelocal View Post
    Carl,

    When you decided to add carbon to your offerings, did you set a target number of frames per year for yourself? If you don't reach your target, would you consider the decision to add carbon a business failure? How long will you give the carbon offering to reach its target? Also, I think most would consider you a TIG master, so why would someone buy a Strong carbon frame? Given the limited number of carbon custom builders relative to other materials, do you think custom carbon is underserved in the marketplace or is it just a tough nut to crack?
    All very good questions. My plans for carbon sales aren't very ambitious, I expect carbon frames will make up 10% to 20% of my total output. If I don't reach that number I suppose I could consider it a "business" failure but I didn't really get into carbon for business reasons so in that sense it can't be a failure. I got into carbon fiber construction because I love framebuilding and I love exploring, learning and understanding the different material. I've had so much fun over the last couple years learning about and working with carbon and consider that process to the be the success in itself. I've also gotten to know Nick Crumpton a lot better and he rules. A matter a fact I'd like to add him to my favorite builder list now if I can. Also Jared Nelson of JW Engineering who's been an invaluable resource and I have had a ton of fun together and will continue to work closely, ride and BBQ for a long, long time to come.

    Why would a person buy a carbon frame from a TIG guy? I like that question a lot. As Richard Sachs says "the material is not the frame"...or something like that. On a given TIG frame I spend under 5% of the total time between Design consultation and completion on welding. 95% or more of what I offer to a TIG frame customer I offer in a carbon frame customer right out of the gate. As for understanding the material and construction, that is learned based on a foundation of experience. I'm not starting from scratch and I've also had two leaders in the subject (Nick and Jared)to work with.

    Currently there aren't many custom carbon builders but I think that's going to change a lot over the coming years. It hasn't been that long that people have accepted that fact that there is such a thing as a custom carbon frame and that a small builder could match or exceed the quality of a large manufacture with all their money and resources. Even I was under the impression that you need molds and autoclaves to really produce good carbon frames until I started to lean more about the material. As we continue to see builders trickle into the material I think more will start to take a good hard look at it. I definitely think it will be a certain kind of builder that moves that direction and it will always be the minority but you can see that in TIG as well. Compared to lugged and brazed framebuilders TIG steel and ti builders make up a small percentage.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lionel View Post
    Cool thread.

    Couple of questions:

    Did you have anything to do with the fact the Dave Kirk moved to Bozeman or is that a coincidence?

    Hi Lionel,

    Only a couple of builders have that multi-years backlog, what do you attribute this to ?
    It's just coincidence that Dave and I are both here. A couple years back we also had Stan Johnson and Jason Grove building in town as well. At that time we probably had more framebuilders per capita than Portland.

    I think different builders have backlogs for different reasons. For some it's because their output is so low. If a builder only builds 20 frames per year it doesn't take many customers to create a back log. If my output were 20 units a year I'd build a four year backlog in a single year...assuming people would wait which I don't think they would. For others it's the "it" factor.I don't know what the "it" is that some framebuilders have but they have it. For whatever reason people want their frames and are willing to wait. I think that's cool if everyone is happy.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  16. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl S View Post
    Hi Steve, thanks for the complimnet on my site, it's my baby.

    1. In the beginning I developed a long range marketing plan as a component of my business plan. It was pretty detailed but unfortunately I didn't really know what I was doing so it wasn't very effective. As I continued along I learned where money was well spent and where it wasn't. One thing to remember is that when you are new you need to work really hard to get people to know you. Now that I've been around a while it seems I'm pretty well known. These days my marketing plan includes NAHBS writing my blog which feeds to my Facebook and Twitter accounts and a lot of happy customers that really work to spread the word which I back it up with a good site, fast email replies and friendly phone demeanor.

    2. I don't really measure the success of my marketing efforts, I don't really spend much money on marketing. I focus my efforts on creative ways to generate interest and excitement that don't cost money. My site is nearly free, I've had it for more than 15 years and the cost is primarily time and the occasional remodel and development. Otherwise NAHBS is my only expense and I believe I owe it to myself and Framebuilding in general to attend and the results easily pay for the expense.

    3. I spend about 10 hours a week on marketing and consider it part of my core business. I've scheduled it into my routine and I'm sure If I stopped my business would suffer. Marketing is an ongoing process with no end and you can't just throw money at it, you need to create the content no matter what the medium is and that takes commitment and work.
    Carl,

    Again, great thread and thanks for participating.

    With some of the discussion regarding marketing you had also mentioned the idea of branding. I think on page 1 or 2 you said that e-Richie had developed a strong brand (I'm paraphrasing).

    How do you see marketing different from branding? Or are they?

    Given the idea of having a brand and being conscious of your brand do you find that they are things you won't do because they don't fit with your brand?

    Some builders seem more aware of branding than others and provide outlets for their brand with t-shirts, coffee mugs, mousepads, bikini-mesh undergarments, etc., etc., - do you think that these types of items actually help promote a brand or in the long-run dilute it?

    I guess what I'm asking is: shouldn't it be about the bikes? And if not, how do you think we as framebuilders can find the proper balance?

    As the 'go-to' business guy in the industry I'd really like to hear your thoughts on the subject. I'm sure there's a Venn Circle Diagram in there somewhere.

    Thanks,

    Conor

  17. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by conorb View Post
    Carl,

    Again, great thread and thanks for participating.

    With some of the discussion regarding marketing you had also mentioned the idea of branding. I think on page 1 or 2 you said that e-Richie had developed a strong brand (I'm paraphrasing).

    How do you see marketing different from branding? Or are they?

    Given the idea of having a brand and being conscious of your brand do you find that they are things you won't do because they don't fit with your brand?

    Some builders seem more aware of branding than others and provide outlets for their brand with t-shirts, coffee mugs, mousepads, bikini-mesh undergarments, etc., etc., - do you think that these types of items actually help promote a brand or in the long-run dilute it?

    I guess what I'm asking is: shouldn't it be about the bikes? And if not, how do you think we as framebuilders can find the proper balance?

    As the 'go-to' business guy in the industry I'd really like to hear your thoughts on the subject. I'm sure there's a Venn Circle Diagram in there somewhere.

    Thanks,

    Conor
    How do you see marketing different from branding? Or are they?

    Hi Conor, I'm no expert in this area but I see branding as building a message that you want to relay and attaching it to yourself and your products via icons, style, etc. Marketing are the methods by which you get the message out to the people.

    Given the idea of having a brand and being conscious of your brand do you find that they are things you won't do because they don't fit with your brand?

    Absolutely! There are all sorts of things for example I never swear, I think it's unprofessional and a big part of my brand is being uber professional.

    Some builders seem more aware of branding than others and provide outlets for their brand with t-shirts, coffee mugs, mousepads, bikini-mesh undergarments, etc., etc., - do you think that these types of items actually help promote a brand or in the long-run dilute it?

    I think they can do both. If you know what you're dong I'm sure it can help build your brand. Alternately if what you are producing isn't consistent with your brand it could confuse people and dilute your message. It can also be a royal waste of money.

    I guess what I'm asking is: shouldn't it be about the bikes? And if not, how do you think we as framebuilders can find the proper balance?

    Framebuilding is not just about the bike. People buy you,the builder. Framebuilding is a service business, the frame is the deliverable. This is a key point that I think most never figure out. Once you understand that you are selling yourself branding and marketing becomes a lot clearer.

    PS, hopefully that answers your questions. This is a big subject so if you'd like me to elaborate let me know specifically on what and I'll try.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  18. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl S View Post
    How do you see marketing different from branding? Or are they?

    Hi Conor, I'm no expert in this area but I see branding as building a message that you want to relay and attaching it to yourself and your products via icons, style, etc. Marketing are the methods by which you get the message out to the people.

    Given the idea of having a brand and being conscious of your brand do you find that they are things you won't do because they don't fit with your brand?

    Absolutely! There are all sorts of things for example I never swear, I think it's unprofessional and a big part of my brand is being uber professional.

    Some builders seem more aware of branding than others and provide outlets for their brand with t-shirts, coffee mugs, mousepads, bikini-mesh undergarments, etc., etc., - do you think that these types of items actually help promote a brand or in the long-run dilute it?

    I think they can do both. If you know what you're dong I'm sure it can help build your brand. Alternately if what you are producing isn't consistent with your brand it could confuse people and dilute your message. It can also be a royal waste of money.

    I guess what I'm asking is: shouldn't it be about the bikes? And if not, how do you think we as framebuilders can find the proper balance?

    Framebuilding is not just about the bike. People buy you,the builder. Framebuilding is a service business, the frame is the deliverable. This is a key point that I think most never figure out. Once you understand that you are selling yourself branding and marketing becomes a lot clearer.

    PS, hopefully that answers your questions. This is a big subject so if you'd like me to elaborate let me know specifically on what and I'll try.
    Thanks for your quick reply.

    I've had several thoughts/theories/discussions regarding branding and they role it plays in building a business and how it sets a "course." I'm glad you were able to reinforce my general line of thinking.

    I definitely understand the idea of selling yourself and creating a relationship with the client/customer. Providing a positive experience is key to creating a long-term business.

    Garrett and I have had several conversations around "what's the promise of our brand?" and how do we wrap that in an experience.

    You're right, it is a BIG subject.

    Conor

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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl S View Post
    Hey Craig!

    1. I really don't have a personal preference on material. I guess I like to build with whatever I haven't been building with lately except aluminum, I never like building with aluminum.

    For riding I think I also prefer whatever material I don't have a bike made with at the moment. Currently my cross bike is carbon and my road bike is steel. I'm going to make myself a titanium MTB shortly. Then once I've ridden each for a while I'll sell them off, probably to Terry B or Toomanybikes and build something new. I think all material is good in it's own way and you just need to know how each differs and adjust accordingly. I will say that they all have strengths and weaknesses when compared to each other that you cannot build around and that is how I guide my clients to the correct material for their needs and priorities.

    I can't say I hate any material but I'm no fan of building with aluminum. It's a fine choice for a frame but it's stinky, loud and hot and working with it is no fun for me.

    2. why does everyone keep asking that?

    3.That came to me when I was having a dream about Don Ferris.
    If that is the grand plan - keep my measurements in mind when building them.

    Terry has enough bikes.
     

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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by toomanybikes View Post
    If that is the grand plan - keep my measurements in mind when building them.

    Terry has enough bikes.
    Of course, we have we have a set of toomanybikes dedicated fixtures we can build them on.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

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