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Thread: Too many great builders - how do you pick?

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    Default Too many great builders - how do you pick?

    I'm new to this forum, but have been involved with others and have spent countless hours looking at various custom builder websites the past month.:adore: There seems to be a lot of great, talented builders.

    How did you guys choose which builder to go with?
     

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    Look at the finished work. Which ones speak to you?
     

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    Talk to them as well. Your priorities should line up with those of the builder.

    -Eric
     

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    Vibe atmo
    laughter has no foreign accent.

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    my plan...save a ton of cash and get on the wait list for everything I want. life is short, spoil yourself :D
     

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    the process of discovery and deciding for yourself who you want to try is the best part.
    shrink, terrorist, poet, president of concerned cyclists for the abolishment of bovine source bicycle parts and head of the disaffected commie dishwashers union.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ergott View Post
    Talk to them as well. Your priorities should line up with those of the builder.

    -Eric
    I agree with Eric. Pick 1/2 dozen folks who build the type of bike you are interested in and check out their websites and more importantly give them each a call and talk with them. The builder should give you the time you need to ask your questions and express your wishes. Being able to communicate with the builder and having the feeling you are understood is paramount. I'll bet one of the 1/2 dozen with click with you and you'll know who to go with.

    Dave
    D. Kirk
    Kirk Frameworks Co.
    www.kirkframeworks.com


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    paint, bondo & a fancy webpage can hide allot. distill your list to the builders who specialise in what you want & contact them & see who you "click" with. the process is 1/2 the fun.......
    Steve Garro, Coconino Cycles.
    Frames & Bicycles built to measure and Custom wheels
    Hecho en Flagstaff, Arizona desde 2003
    www.coconinocycles.com
    www.coconinocycles.blogspot.com

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    Default This is hte best way;

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Kirk View Post
    I agree with Eric. Pick 1/2 dozen folks who build the type of bike you are interested in and check out their websites and more importantly give them each a call and talk with them. The builder should give you the time you need to ask your questions and express your wishes. Being able to communicate with the builder and having the feeling you are understood is paramount. I'll bet one of the 1/2 dozen with click with you and you'll know who to go with.

    Dave
    Listen to Dave ... not me.
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
    http://kapelmuurindependent.be


    Shortest TFC Member (5'6 3/4") & shrinking

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    Default Custom Builders

    Make a list of what you want and prioritize:
    Materials- Steel, Ti, Caarbon, Multi, Aluminum
    Joining style- Tig, Fillet, Lugs
    Fit and build philosophy
    Purpose of bike- type of riding
    Timing- Some builders are so popular you will wait years

    Fortunately for you, you have many good choices locally
    Steelman- Redwood City
    Rock Lobster- Santa Cruz
    Lighthouse- Santa Ynez (bit of a drive but worth it)
    Steve Rex- Sacramento
    Della Santa- Reno

    Also many good choices on this site: Kirk, IF, Hampco, Speedvage, Etc. (not to slight Sachs but I don't think he is taking orders)
     

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    Did you ever meet and have a conversation with someone who makes things you covet and find useful? I'm sure you have. Infact the neighborhood baker is an example. Would you buy a loaf from that guy / gal if the bread was garbage but they had a stunning personality? Prolly not.

    Honestly I'm not self promoting when I say that a number of folks who attend our Spring Training Camp for the past two yrs. ordered frames from T.Kellogg because he is a superior person with infinite abilities to fit rider to bike and design some really finely crafted work. What a cool way to get a new bike...ride with your builder...am I right? :thumbs_up:

    This is just one way to go.

    Mr. Garro makes a great point, his blog is a fantastic way to gain insight exactly who are and what do these cats create from steel and glue? AND WHY THE HECK DO THEY DO IT??? Steve G. really hides nothing, he is one of the most geniune and transparent folks in the biz....this is apparent once you begin to read page after page in his blog...it's all there!

    In similar fashion Steve Hampsten sets a tone of elegant abilities. You'll soon realize that it's about Steve and his immaculate work with talented builders to spec. bikes that have a signature look and purpose....honest!!! It's all there!!!!

    Am I rambling?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Too Tall View Post
    Am I rambling?
    No more than usual.....

    life is too short to drink bad wine....

    Stuart Levy

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    Quote Originally Posted by hokoman View Post
    I'm new to this forum, but have been involved with others and have spent countless hours looking at various custom builder websites the past month.:adore: There seems to be a lot of great, talented builders.

    How did you guys choose which builder to go with?
    I went through the very same thing that you're experiencing now. There weren't quite the same resources in 2003/2004 when I was in your shoes as there are now, but I was still getting the same overload that you are.

    All the builders here are terrific so my advice to you, as others have stated here; Dave Kirk has it right. Do what he says.
     

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    Hokoman:

    I have been lucky, as I clicked with Tom Kellogg back in the late 1980's and he has built me several bikes.

    Sacha White was also a delight to work with for designing a bike. Definitely, interview and maybe visit.
    life is too short to drink bad wine....

    Stuart Levy

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    the golden age of choice and smack in the era of ease of contact... brings you shoppers-neurosis.

    the world is at your finger tips... from craig's aluminum race bikes, to dario's living hands as part of the last great tradition of italian cutting edge handmades, from zullo, to crisp, over to japan, to garages in the hills of montanas.... to portland's finest... as well as the uninspired derivative copiers of the moment making gender bikes, to the recent graduates that are better at blogging than torching, the guys that have been at it for years... all the way to walker's big party, and the short hobby builders of giant ego and little interest... down to texas for the space age materials meets handmade mastery, to boat builders back east....

    its all here. they all can be interesting conversations. and no one says you only get one (that's what classifieds are for).


    and they're all great choices if you have fun with it.

    so much choice right now. so much access. everything so possible.

    start with your budget... and know what you like. and then let it happen.
    shrink, terrorist, poet, president of concerned cyclists for the abolishment of bovine source bicycle parts and head of the disaffected commie dishwashers union.

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    Default Show Season

    There are more and more local shows going on as well. If you are just starting out you may not yet have the experience to know what to look or ask for (there is a lot of variety in the world). If there is a local show in your area, it may well be worth the drive to use it as a crash course in custom bikes- from fit to joint method to finish work, etc. I'm headed up to Portland to show some bikes at a bike and beer fest this weekend, then again for the OHBS on Halloween. It seems that along with NAHBS there are local shows in Oregon, California, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota and...?

    Seems that this sort of event would be a great way to meet a bunch of builders. Use that as a stepping stone for a more focused conversation after the event. There are a lot of quality bikes out there- use the time to talk and ask questions to find the builder that best fits you.

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    Another important consideration is what's your time frame? Lots of great builders but their wait lists can be anything from a few months to a bunch of years. Do you want it custom and want it in the near future or do you like your current ride and don't care if it takes a while?? Something to think about when you're having all those great conversations with all these great builders referenced above.

    For example I ordered a custom bike a while back. At the time the builder said his wait was 12-15 months, "just to be on the safe side". Its now going on 2 years and I haven't heard a word. In this case it doesn't matter that much because I have other bikes, and the guy's an artist and sometimes that's the price you pay. But still, be aware...
     

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    Find a builder that sings to you. Literally. I was on the fence with Dave Kirk until he busted out with the entire soundtrack to Brigadoon...right on the NAHBS floor. He moves just like Gene Kelly!
    Sharp as a lemon, with the zest of a knife

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    Default What's that saying...

    I always come back to the same principals when I get my consumer on...

    Find what you want used or get the best you can that will be produced as locally as possible.

    This may not translate very well to the custom bike game but just more food for thought.
     

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    Default some thoughts based on recent experiences

    As a guy who makes frames for folks I have a new insight into this dilemma that has been resonating with me quite a bit lately.

    I've been looking recently at getting a new guitar amplifier. That led me to tube amps and from there it was a quick hop, skip and jump to 'boutique tube amp' builders that cover the gamut of various historical/famous/prevalent amplifiers with their own take on circuits, features, power, speakers, cabinet design, coverings, transformers, tube selections and on and on and on.

    On top of that there's the guitar you play, the type of music you want to play and the 'tone you hear in your head.' Right now I'm personally apoplectic about various tube amp builders. There are very few for me to try in my immediate area and how things work in a store and how that work at home are two separate things. Not too mention my general skill level at playing the guitar and just my own hands. It's very daunting to just show up at a store and try and pick something by making a decision based on how something sounds in completely different environment than the one you have it home. To help educate myself I've been spending time on various guitar forums and reading post after post about various amps and various amp builders. Of course, the big problem here is that how other people interpret how an amp sounds with their gear and their hands playing their music probably isn't the best approach either - although certain trends start to emerge regarding certain builders.

    Certainly part of this is 'fun' - I do enjoy the process of discovery but I can also imagine the frustration and disappointment of making a purchase and not being happy with the outcome.

    I've been finding this experience very analogous to framebuilding and framebuilders. I guess I always knew that it was confusing for someone interested in a custom frame to come in, do some shopping/research and make a decision. You think, oh I'll go to a show and that will be great - but the visceral barrage you take in a short amount of time can be somewhat paralyzing as well as invigorating. It can be a very intimidating experience - as well as expensive. :)

    Moving forward with framebuilders I would suggest making a list of wants/musts regarding your frame project like; it must be lugged, it must be steel, single-speed, track, road, etc., etc., then you begin to narrow your list of builders that work in those areas.

    Talk to those builders. I have no problem talking to someone on the phone or answering emails discussing bikes, frames, or whatever. There's a reason we make bikes - we love bikes.

    Talk to other folks that have dealt with those builders. Do any patterns emerge? Did they get what they wanted? We're they happy with the experience? Their enthusiasm should be telling.

    Find someone that not only makes what you want and is able to deliver on what they say but also someone that will work with you on delivering your vision - or if you don't have a clear vision - work with a framebuilder that you trust and that will take your initial ideas and create a vision based on what they do. It's very powerful for a builder to have a client say "do want you want, I know I'm in good hands."

    Overall there are lots of factors, style and aesthetics also come into play of course, cost, delivery times, etcetera but ultimately though the key is the relationship between you and the builder.

    Conor
     

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