Support Your Local Framebuilder

I won’t hold liking cats against you, but if you don’t like dogs, you’re dead to me. Some things aren’t left to opinions, like whether Star Wars is good or not. You’re free to be an outlier – and I loves me some outliers and I loves me a rebel – but in some cases, being an outlier doesn’t make you clever. It just makes you wrong. Also, the Laws of Physics show that the more lightsabers you have in a movie, the better the movie. Except for Episode I and The Matrix, two anomalies which balance each other out.

Similarly, loving carbon bikes is no crime. They are light, they are stiff, and many (most) are beautiful. My stable is filled with them. But a bike handbuilt by an artisan in a small workshop is something different altogether, and each one’s singular beauty is not a matter of opinion, unless you’re comfortable being wrong. I only have one so far, and it’s the custom steel I had made by NAHBS founder, Don Walker for my failed Hour ride last summer. (I’m planning a rematch with Weather this coming June.)

At this point every bike I own is custom, if only the paintwork. But even then, having a hand in how the bike is finished bonds you to the machine in a way that off-the-peg bikes simply can’t. And my Walker, even though I don’t ride it as much as a practical bike (you know, one with gears and brakes) every time I climb on it, I can feel its magic. There is something about custom in general and steel in particular that feels uniquely magnificent.

We’re in a crisis, my fellow Velominati. The North American Handmade Bicycle Show is only a few weeks away and I just heard from Don that many of the builders who have been stalwarts of the event are struggling to the point that they can’t afford to attend, much less keep a booth there. People aren’t buying bikes as much as they were, apparently, and the bikes that are being bought aren’t custom, handmade ones. We’re buying kittens, not dogs. Cyclists are watching Star Trek, not Star Wars. It’s a fucking disaster.

This isn’t a call to go buy a custom frame, we aren’t made of money. But it is a reminder that there are giant corporations behind some bikes, and there are individuals behind others. And if you’re in the market for a bike, I’m asking you to remember that. And if you aren’t in the market for a bike but love looking at them, I’ll be at NAHBS this year (in godforsaken Salt Lake fucking City no less) and I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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159 Replies to “Support Your Local Framebuilder”

  1. Someone supported a local framebuilder a while ago… This might be something for @Frank: for sale on Dutch-ebay-like-site:

    Description: Bike will be sold as is, fresh barnfind, has only seen soap since found
    Ex pro bike and an extremely rare size
    Reynolds 531 tubing (probably with a mix on other tubes to improve stifness)
    Clement tubes (completely fucked up)

  2. I’ve posted up my custom Hollands before but here it is again. Reynolds 653 with Kinesis carbon fiber fork (the original fork was Reynolds 531). Built way back in the day (circa 1990) by John Hollands (now retired) in Reisterstown, MD. Re-painted by Grant Soma as my homage to the Prophet. Drivetrain (Dura Ace) set up as my homage to Andy Hampsten’s win on Alpe d’Huez (you can’t see it in the pic, but that’s a downtube shifter for the front derailleur).

  3. @chuckp

    And therein lies the crux of this article yes?

    >>> “It’s the best period of my life for work, one of the worst periods for money.” <<<

    Support your Local Framebuilder

    I just need a local framebuilder.


  4. @Randy C


    And therein lies the crux of this article yes?

    >>> “It’s the best period of my life for work, one of the worst periods for money.” <<<

    Support your Local Framebuilder

    I just need a local framebuilder.

    Exactly! My next bike (whenever that is) will either be custom or some “esoteric” Euro frame. Good article about custom framebuilders.

  5. Frank,

    Don was a Junior racer on my team in Sacramento back in the early 80’s.  He was a tough kid who grew up with very little.  He raced hand me down gear we would put together.  When my health was suffering 7 years ago he built me an amazing custom road bike and encouraged me to get back in the saddle.  I did.  I have 4 of Don’s bikes now… Road, Cross, Track, and TT.  They are all magnificent to ride.

    Thank you for featuring Don and giving the shout out to NAHBS.  It is by far the only show that has soul.  You’ll run into legends of the industry and the peloton there.

    Continue the fabulous work you do preserving the wonderful traditions of our sport.

    I had the honor of meeting Merckx, Hinault, Fignon, and LeMond back in the day.  It is a great sport.

    Kindest Regards,

    Jim Stone


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