WANTED: Custom Frame Builder Referral



WIGGUM1

New Member
Jun 7, 2007
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Hey Gang-
I am in the market for a custom frame. The shop I am being fitted at offers Seven and Parlee. I do not have experience with them and wanted to know if any of you had an opinion. I would rather go with an independent welder and would appreciate any references and why.
I am in Chicago, by the way and am a fan of Steel but these manufacturers seem to work mostly with Titanium. Any reason Ti would win my heart? Thanks in advance!

Sincerely,
Overly Eager Upgrader.
 

CAMPYBOB

Well-Known Member
Sep 12, 2005
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Ti is, accurately IMO, often described as 'soft' riding and able to absorb/damp road bumps and vibrations. Round tube shapes do not offer the stiffness required for racing...again, just my opinion. Hydroformed or mechanically formed tube shapes 'may' offer such, but the ones I have ridden (Litespeed) are not all that stiff.

On crappy roads, Ti can really be smooth as silk. Again, a lot depends upon the frame design (angles, lengths, shapes, etc.). It's damned durable stuff, easy to take care of and I'm told it you can ride the same Ti frame for decades if you don't fold it up in a crash.

What is your body size, weight and what type of riding (touring, sport, club, racing, climbing, etc.) will you be doing?

I have a Litespeed that I rertired after one season...not stiff enough to suit me. I spent 33 years on steel, one on Ti and the last 7 on carbon. I still ride my steel frames every now and again. You know the drill with steel...lively, good road feedback and a choice of many alloys, buttings, lugged/welded construction, good repairability, easy to build it as stiff as a brick or touring ride soft, etc.

There are riders here with far more time on Ti than me...Moots and Lynsky IIRC. They will have some good info for you.
 

WIGGUM1

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Jun 7, 2007
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Thanks for your feedback. You reaffirm what I have heard about Ti. I love the stiffness and responsiveness of steel and would like this frame to last many years so I am inclined to stay with it. I am 6'3" and 210lbs, with an athletic build. I like touring, club and century rides and really notice stiffness qualities when on climbs. I just find it interesting the two manufacturers I listed mainly offer carbon and ti with the steel option being what seems to be the low end option...
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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Take a look at Firefly. Their Ti bikes and stainless steel bikes are beautiful.
 

sitzmark

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Jan 12, 2010
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Last I looked (a few years ago), you had a well regarded custom frame builder not too far away. Not sure if he is still in business though.

John Cherry

Cherry Bicycles 676 Main Street LaFayette IN 47901
Phone: 765-423-4488
Toll free number: 1-800-263-9254
Fax: 765-742-5395
E-mail: [email protected]

I'd go Parlee, but to my knowledge he only works in CF. Bob is local to me and I've seen a number of his custom builds -attention to the smallest details - absolutely gorgeous bikes (IMO). But, they don't come cheap.

Seven is local too and builds nice frames. Circle -A in Providence, RI, Independent Fabrication, NH, Waterford, WI ... there are many builders out there.
 

CAMPYBOB

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Sep 12, 2005
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Tall and a bit of weight, huh? If you are going Ti, I think I would look only at the higher end of the sprectrum. Maybe the better 6Al/4V alloy with a semi-sloping geometry, tapered steerer, oversize seat stays (regardless of the current trend of using chopsticks for seat stays on all material to give that "vertically compliant" BS ride. Vertically compliant is another term for, "You'll bounce the hell out of this frame when spinning, climbing in the saddle under power or just plain old honking the bejeezus out of it in a sprint.".) and those fancy shapes used to stiffen the main triangle up.

You seem to big a big boy and Leonard Zinn caters to building for the big & tall crowd. You don't need to be 6' 7" to appreciate the ride qualities Zinn puts in his steel frames.

As to going with a carbon fork in a custom steel frame...I think at you weight and, I'm guessing here, power output that maybe a steel fork with stiff, round track blades, box crown with stiffeners would be something you might like. I always enjoyed a stiff front end on a road bike despite the increased harshness in ride. Wimpy forks can destroy the feel of an otherwise good-mannered frame. Don't even get me started on the Easton EC-90-SLX carbon fork...paper thin and freaky to watch it flex under power.

Punch up the short hills or power up walls? A stiff rear triangle can make the bike respond quicker to the gas pedal and maybe keep you on the gas for a few more yards up that hill...and if you ride enough to keep your posterior well used to the abuse, the power down application is worth the ride quality tradeoff to me. YMMV of course. I have been known to like the rear wheel skipping and spinning as opposed to the chainrings rubbing the derailleur cage as the botton braket flexes what little power I make away.

Good luck choosing a builder and frame type. I hear almost all of the American builders communicate well with their customers. Be honest with them and chat them up. I'll bet any of them can come darn close to your dream machine. They may take months to build it, but every recent custom I've looked at up close are as good or better to my eye than 'the old days'.
 

WIGGUM1

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Jun 7, 2007
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Youre speaking my language, Bob. I have been shopping for a new fork for a few years, yes years now because I hate the feel of my current carbon stock fork. The vertical compliant description is one I did not know. I am constantly bouncing the rear on climbs, not sure how much power I am losing but I have a DA crankset and even it seems to flex too much...not sure if I will ever be satisfied there. To clarify on vertically compliant, are you saying oversized is better at preventing the bounce or you like the bounce as opposed to the bb flex? I dont much like feeling any flex but accept I am a big guy.

I side on performance over comfort almost always- if I am uncomfortable it tells me I am not riding enough.

Thanks to you all for the replies- I love this forum and value all your feedback. I will certainly be looking into Zinn, Cherry and Firefly. But one thing is clear, I am sticking with good ol' steel.


Regards,
Andrew
 

CAMPYBOB

Well-Known Member
Sep 12, 2005
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For some reason...I will not elaborate here...baby boomers have been singing the echo of the cycling press (in turn, always in search of a catch phrase to sell ink muttered by manufacturers in search of a catch phrase to sell more gear to shmucks like us!)..."vertically compliant, but laterally stiff".

If the manufacturer uses huge "boxy/rectangular/tall/assymetrical" (Hey! Look! A list of the current chainstay catch phrases!) chain stays to control BB flex and then glues on pencil-thin seat stays to tune in a soft ride to soak up vertical bumps in the road...you still get a soft ride and a frame that flexes/bounces up-down. The latest sales attribute seems to be putting a tapered down section in the now 'too large/too stiff' chain stays to help the pencil thin seat stays flex even more. Awesome...build it too stiff...no...too soft...no...more soft...flex it only up/down...whoops!...too much side-side.

I will say the tuning is improving...for light goats especially. Put a 6' 3" powerhouse on one...not so much.

Steel can be the same. As a matter of fact, side-to-side BB sway was probably at its worst during the height of steel construction...although some of the early aluminum frames were just plain insane. It takes a skilled builder that utilizes the correct mix of tubes, geometry, braces and one that listens to his customer's wishes to get the performance and ride mix right where the rider wants it.

I'm a steel kind of guy, but I got to admit that if you shop around and ask some questions and try some test rides, the carbon frames are offering a wide latitude of rides and stiffness...especially in the head tube area (another pet peave of mine). They finally got front ends as stiff as they always should have been...'if' you can get that matched with a stout fork combination it's a dream come true for fast descents, sprinting, honking hills, etc.

if I am uncomfortable it tells me I am not riding enough.

I subscribe to the same newsletter!

Build it to go fast. Give me a decent saddle, almost any bar tape other than Celotex and put me on something that fits me. I'll get it to the finish.
 

alfeng

Well-Known Member
Jul 23, 2005
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Originally Posted by WIGGUM1 .

I am in the market for a custom frame. The shop I am being fitted at offers Seven and Parlee. I do not have experience with them and wanted to know if any of you had an opinion. I would rather go with an independent welder and would appreciate any references and why.
I am in Chicago, by the way and am a fan of Steel but these manufacturers seem to work mostly with Titanium.
If you're partial to steel, then include MIKKELSEN in your consideration.
 

danfoz

Well-Known Member
Apr 12, 2011
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Originally Posted by alienator .

Take a look at Firefly. Their Ti bikes and stainless steel bikes are beautiful.
+1 on the FF.

Would it be cheezy to have "Serenity" etched on the top tube?
 
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alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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danfoz said:
+1 on the FF. Would it be cheezy to have "Serenity" etched on the top tube?
It would only be cheezy if the head tube didn't have and etched image of Zoe, River, and Kaylee all nude, with limbs intertwined.
 

WIGGUM1

New Member
Jun 7, 2007
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Well I am very impressed with the Firefly frames. They will definitely get shopped. What about Firefly do you guys like besides the sexiness?

As luck would have it, one of my good friends knows an employee at Zinn and I plan to talk with him tomorrow. Updates to follow.

Thanks.
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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WIGGUM1 said:
What about Firefly do you guys like besides the sexiness?
  1. I love the look of Ti and stainless steel.
  2. Have you seen their welds? They're every bit as neat and perfect as Moots' welds (I used to own a Moots).
  3. I like that they offer etched graphics and anodized graphics in addition to decal graphics
  4. They list many options and will do things they don't even list. You can choose whatever BB standard you want, whatever head tube type you want, and so on. You can get a truly custom bike, with "custom" meaning more than just custom geometry and a one-off finish.
  5. Have you seen the Vader?
The Vader:
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WIGGUM1

New Member
Jun 7, 2007
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I def love that Vader. I was thinking a Black finish but am feeling the brushed or bead blasted finish with etched graphics (can I opt for no graphics?). As it turns out the shop I am getting fitted at works with Firefly, though they didnt tell me that when I asked them on the phone. I have to say Firefly and Zinn are the final two...
 

alienator

Well-Known Member
Jun 10, 2004
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WIGGUM1 said:
I def love that Vader.  I was thinking a Black finish but am feeling the brushed or bead blasted finish with etched graphics (can I opt for no graphics?).  As it turns out the shop I am getting fitted at works with Firefly, though they didnt tell me that when I asked them on the phone.  I have to say Firefly and Zinn are the final two...  
I don't know what Firefly's position on no graphics is. I wouldn't surprised if they didn't mind given how far they go to deliver the customer's vision.
 

Ohthewheelguy

New Member
Aug 13, 2012
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Consider Holland Cycles for a unique approach to titanium frames. They have a great video on their website that shows how they make their frames. www.hollandcycles.com. They'll also let you demo a bike before you buy one.