Monday, August 10, 2009

Should I build myself a new frame?

So based on the responses to my previous post, it seems that folks don't mind that I'm kind of a smelly guy who rides a beat-up bike. Which makes me very happy. But I was sort of hoping that I'd get some responses which would give me an excuse to build myself something new.

Here are my complaints about my current frame (pictured here in all it's dirty glory after a race), both important and trivial:

-It uses cheapish cromoly tubing. At the time it was built, nice heat treated/OX platinum (I love you HOXPLAT13!) 29er downtubes didn't exist. So it's arguably heavier/weaker tubing than optimal. There's nothing unsafe about it, certainly, but I would not build a bike for a customer (or myself) with those tubes today. Annoyingness: 7 out of 10.

-It has Paragon sliders, but single-bend chainstays. This means that I, captain duck-foot, have scraped all the paint off of both chainstays with my heels. This was the first bike I ever built with the paragons (and one of the first 10 or so ever done with them, to my knowledge) and I didn't realize that s-bends would be a better way to go. Annoyingness: 6/10.

-It doesn't have a cool seat lug. I've only been doing these for about 18 months, but I ALWAYS do them now - they're super strong, the same weight as a standard externally butted tube, and just plain neat to look at. I'd really rather have one on my bike. Annoyingness: 4/10.

-The sliders are the old-style non-relieved models (all that was available at the time). So they're 40ish grams heavier. Does this matter much? No, not really. But I pretty much exclusively use the "SL" model ones now, since they're just as strong and a bit lighter. Annoyingness: 3/10.

-Tire clearance isn't outstanding. I'm not the type to run 2.5s in the rear, but with the sliders most of the way forward, there's only room for a 2.1, really. I wouldn't mind either A) more tire clearance, or B) a bit shorter stays, just to see how that would feel (if it felt crappy, I could always slide the wheel back a bit). Annoyingness: 4/10.

-You can't run a belt drive. I'm on record as saying that I think the belt setup is pretty dumb, but since I've never actually ridden a belt drive setup for any significant length of time (or on a trail) I really should keep my mouth shut. I could easily use a bolt-on seatstay to make the bike belt-compatible, just to try the system out. If the belt sucks like I think it will, I can always swap back to a chain easily.
Annoyingness: 5/10.

So what say ye? Should I build myself a new frame? Or should I stay "core" and keep riding what I'm on?


Corey said...

I'd build a new one, but of course keep the old one for when you feel like taking it out.

The new frame, even dirty, would accurately reflect what you're building for customers, just in case yuo do meet a real customer on the trail.

And I suspect the owner would cut you a pretty good deal!

Ed said...

I think you're due for a new frame and have fun with it. Build it exactly as you want it and enjoy!

I'm not so sure I'd experiment with the belt drive thing just to "see" if you like it. Find a belt drive bike somewhere and borrow it.

I can't wait to see it.


Anonymous said...


Dave said...

A vote for Corey´s comment. Should reflect the current stuff you´re building.

So get building. :-)

Chris said...

Another vote to build a new one. I expect the upper end custom builders to know how the new stuff rides and be able to tell me accordingly IE the belt drive. I also think it's a dumb idea but I haven't ridden one and don't have the money to buy one just to try out. So I'd rather you do it ;)

kw said...

Keep the belt drive on the shelf and fully embrace the niche market custom bike concept by building yourself a 36er.

A big rolling 7' long billboard that is both lateraly stiff and verticaly compliant with a BB height that is neither too high nor too low and handling that is seems quick and relaxed all at the same time. :)

Corey said...

Heh, that last comment sounds like a Dos Equis commercial...

Jon said...

Not worth your time yet. Give it another year or two. The negatives don't seem to add up to a whole new frame since (I am guessing) you already nailed the geometry and set up. That's where the huge improvements would be and you already have them. If you're actually gonna build a much different bike, than I can see it.

Yeah, the tubing's a little bit of a bummer, but, it's making you stronger every ride, right? And the s-bends would be cooler... okay, wtf.... build it!

Manicmtbr said...

Hmmm. That depends where it would fall on the build list (IE, before or after me!!).

I say build a new one!

Bikewright said...

Build yourself a new one and like Corey said keep the old one.

Your draw is that you are still building a classic style bike..your customers are looking for classic steel, great workmanship ex. your welds, and a custom bike that will give them a great ride for years. Also a good price point for most people.

Maybe look at offering a adventure/bikepacking bike. Checkout your follower Groovy Cycleworks on that belt drive thing.

maelgwn said...

Keep riding it to prove your products stay the distance and think of all the new, even better, stuff you will come up with in the next five years that will just mean you will want yet another frame!

Feldy said...

You've built several hundred more frames than I have, but I think we're about tied for frames you've built for yourself (I may even be winning). I think you could justify a new frame for yourself on the s-bend argument alone.

If you want to build a belt drive, you may be looking at 2 new frames since the belt drive will have extra long cs's and/or very little clearance.

And why didn't you call top ride last weekend??? I rode Kenosha (first really big mountain bike ride since Asher was born) and it was spectacular.

Rob Young said...

Of course most people here will say build it! :P

Tubing.. meh? Lots of people love their cromoly frames, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. But nicer steel is good!

Single bend chainstays - that does sound annoying.

Seat lugs - neat!

Tire clearance - would be good for dirt and mud too!

Belt drive - meh? Having first hand experience with one would be good.

Jason said...

I definitely think you need to build yourself a new bike . Between the design/material tweaks that have become standard for your bikes and the belt drive merit analysis you've given more than enough reason for me. Plus it's been many years and bikes for others since you built one for yourself- you've earned it.

Anonymous said...

You have my blessing to build yourself another frame.

In fact, tell your wife I told you you have to do it.

Nowork said...

I have 6 WW bikes, not including my first one which I wish I kept.

So 7, As far as I can remember, you have only built for yourself, 7 total ever, including SS's, Cross, towny, DH1 and 3, Travel bike (don't include the Ventana). I think you need a new one.

Or build me a new one....... ;-)

jamesb39 said...

Hey Walt.

Your a frame builder. Build yourself a new bike. You deserve it!


Walt said...

Thanks, guys. Now I have an excuse to give myself a birthday present this year: a 36er soft-tail tandem with S&S couplers and rack mounts for touring!

Just kidding. But I probably will build myself a new frame in the next few months, once the weather starts getting crappier and I'm riding less.

Anonymous said...

Of course you need a new frame Walt. You are the moving flagship for your own craftmanship. So, logically you need to be riding the nicest, latest and greatest frame that suits your needs. Sheesh!

jeremy11 said...

You should totally build a new one. Especially if you have any new ideas to prototype. Then sell off the old one as a collector's item for triple the cost.