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  1. #1
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Custom Frame Problem - Suggestions?

    I am not sure if this is the correct forum, so forgive me if this is not an appropriate post...I generally am in road cycling but that forum is not custom frame oriented...

    I decided early this year to get a new custom frame to replace my 24 year old steel frame. After some research I chose to get a titanium frame and selected Harry Havnoonian as the framebuilder, as he is only about 15 miles from where I live in suburban philly.

    I met with him in late february and got fitted, and gave him my $1000 down payment. He told me the bike would be ready in late March or April, as he was getting his new frame shop set up. I told him fine, no rush, April would be reasonable.

    I called him in April and he said it would be May, due to some delays in setting up his shop. OK.

    I called him in May, and he said he had my tubeset ordered and was in the process of putting it together, give him a few more weeks. OK.

    I called him in June, and he said it was all ready to be welded by his Titanium welder (I did not realize he outsources his titanium welding, but ok no biggie). Wait another month.

    I called him in July and he said his Titanium welder was doing a lot of overtime in his daytime job and it would be a little bit longer. OK.

    I called him in August, and he said that since his welder was not able to come to his shop, he would let him take the frame with him and that would allow him to finish the job sooner. OK.

    Are we noticing a pattern here? My patience is wearing thin. I am still waiting for a bike that was promised in April.

    I have checked in with him weekly the past month, and I get the same story. He says the welder is not answering his calls, must be very busy, he said he even went by his house and left a note on the door for him to call.

    So it is September 21st and I still do not have the frame.

    I don't want to be a prick about this, and I am certain he shelled out a lot of money for the titanium tubeset and a lot of time to set up the frame...so I am trying to be patient. But it is getting ridiculous.

    Any thoughts? I would especially appreciate from hearing from framebuilders, as you have firsthand knowledge about the hassles of running a shop.

    Any suggestions or ideas are welcomed!

    Doug

  2. #2
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    So a framebuilder is offering custom Ti frames, but doesn't actually do TIG welding himself? This is mighty suspicious. And it took him 4 months to order the tubeset? Is your bike the first one he's ever done? See if you can get your money back.

  3. #3
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    Havnoonian is a pretty well known and regarded framebuilder; he was Dave Lettieri's favorite. I'm surprised the OP has run into such troubles, and IMO he is not wrong to be pretty upset by now. And the fact that Harry is apparently acting more as a contractor than a builder here is a real headscratcher to me.

    I don't have any specific advice for the OP. In his shoes I would seriously consider demanding my money back, but unless there is a written contract stipulating a completion date, I don't think his demands would carry much legal weight. The best advice is advice that's already too late to take: when having a frame built, ask the builder whether he is willing to put a completion date down in writing, with a penalty clause for missing the date. That sort of thing goes a long way toward separating the talkers from the doers.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by cycle_maven View Post
    So a framebuilder is offering custom Ti frames, but doesn't actually do TIG welding himself? This is mighty suspicious. And it took him 4 months to order the tubeset? Is your bike the first one he's ever done? See if you can get your money back.
    THat about sizes it up right there.. I had a similar experience in waiting. I'd figures from the outset that I'd be waiting a few months longer than the man said. it detracted from the whole experience which is why I avoid discussing / recommending or not.. custom.. as the subject pops -up daily here in the forums, often times by those who've never S/O a frame or bike. THINK ABOUT THIS... IF it's such a problem for your man to get a handle on this ...IF HIS Ti. dude is too busy to deal... well .. I reckon that the frame's completion is to occur later.. you are NOT bein' a prick .. THEY are ! GET your $$ back !

  5. #5
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Thanks for the suggestions. I went back and looked at the actual receipt I got...it was actually January when I went in, not February. Unfortunately, the promised date of March/April was not in writing. I will contact Harry and let him know that unless he can deliver the frame by a definite date, say the end of this month, I will want a refund.

    Hmmm....I had dropped off about $500 worth of parts for the bike: wheels/pedals/saddle/seatpost...hope he gets THOSE back to me.

    Doug

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    Not to ruffle any feathers, but whats up with Pa. builders? I'm going to give Bilenky a call to discuss my frame.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by wsteve428 View Post
    Not to ruffle any feathers, but whats up with Pa. builders? I'm going to give Bilenky a call to discuss my frame.
    It's something in the water here.

  8. #8
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wsteve428 View Post
    Not to ruffle any feathers, but whats up with Pa. builders? I'm going to give Bilenky a call to discuss my frame.
    I hope it's only suburban philly.....if Havnoonian does not pan out, my 2nd choice is probably Kellogg.

    Doug

    Addendum: I just got off the phone with the framebuilder and I told him that if the bike is not forthcoming soon, I will ask for a refund. Stay tuned.
    Last edited by datlas; 09-24-09 at 01:58 PM.

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    Browse through any of the various framebuilding forum and you'll find that due dates are ephemeral. Whatever you're promised? Double it. Then be willing to be flexible from there. You'll be much happier.

    Doug, this is not aimed so much at you, but at anyone considering a custom frame who might be wandering through.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Impossipede View Post
    Browse through any of the various framebuilding forum and you'll find that due dates are ephemeral. Whatever you're promised? Double it. Then be willing to be flexible from there. You'll be much happier.

    Doug, this is not aimed so much at you, but at anyone considering a custom frame who might be wandering through.
    To anyone considering a custom frame who might be wandering through,
    Don't accept the above post as fact. Every pro builder I personally know sets a due date and delivers on time....every time.
    The OP here has every right to be frustrated in his situation, but that in no way reflects how the vast majority of framebuilders do business.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Live Wire View Post
    To anyone considering a custom frame who might be wandering through,
    Don't accept the above post as fact. Every pro builder I personally know sets a due date and delivers on time....every time.
    The OP here has every right to be frustrated in his situation, but that in no way reflects how the vast majority of framebuilders do business.
    X2
    My frame was ready earlier than promised.

    Good luck to the OP, both on actually getting your frame and recovering your build parts if you don't.

  12. #12
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    To be clear, I'm not saying that framebuilders can't be trusted or that you're sure to get your date pushed back...I'm just saying that if you mentally add four months to your timeline, you'll be pleasantly surprised rather than posting anxiously to the internet about your missing bike.

    Most framebuilders are pros, but they're also mostly one or two man shops and lots of things outside of their control can affect delivery. Someone can get sick or hurt. The guy in line before you can change his frame specs 5 times. The painter can shuffle your bike to the back of HIS line, or HE can get sick. Lots of things can go awry that have nothing to do with a builder's level of professionalism or control.

    I'm just saying that when you order a frame, you're ordering a custom, one-off piece of art, and that process doesn't happen with the precision of an assembly line. Set your expectations accordingly and you'll set yourself up for a less stressful time.

  13. #13
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    OP Update: I just got off the phone with the framebuilder. Sadly, he says he has no news for me. He still has not heard back from his Ti welder. He did offer to return my money...I told him that since I can't come by there this week anyway, to give it until next week but if no news by then I would swing by for a refund and to get my components back....stay tuned.

    Doug

  14. #14
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    "I called him in April and he said it would be May, due to some delays in setting up his shop"

    If he is involved in some big move etc... that can be a huge time issue, you might want to look into that first.

    There are lots of reasons to be slow, but builders who can't deliver on dates reliably should not take deposits. I know some craftsmen who won't do it because they end up spending all their time with people who want their stuff. Bettert to have the flow under control, but if you can't don't take money up front. Or call for a deposit when the frame is being started.

    I know a few big names who don't do their own welding.

  15. #15
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    OP Update:

    I just came back from the shop, I got my components and a refund check. That's the good news.

    The bad news is that I am back at square one with getting a new bike. The next closest builder to me that does Titanium is Kellogg/Spectrum...but the cost is $1500 MORE than the Havnoonian quote...and even Kellogg outsources his Ti framebuilding to Merlin.

    Any suggestions? I am on a budget, and would love to save money by getting a stock frame but my measurements are wacko...I need a ST of about 63-64cm with a TT of about 56-57cm, and that can't be done easily with stock sizing (the closest I have seen is a LOOK 585 Optimum, XXL).

    Doug

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    Does it have to be Titanium and Custom ?

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    and in PA ?

  18. #18
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Does it have to be Titanium and Custom ?
    And in PA ?
    No and no, at least not necessarily.

    I do think I need custom. I have a very odd body type, my cycling inseam is 38 inches and my overall height is "only" 6 feet...so I have been utterly unable to feel comfortably fit with a stock frame. I would really need a super-short stem (like 4 cm) if I went with a stock bike.

    So I don't absolutely need custom, but I think if I want a good fit I do.

    Next is the material. I would consider steel, but would prefer something lighter and want this bike to last as long as my current bike has, which is 24 years and counting. I can't afford custom carbon fiber, and I am concerned that steel is too heavy and aluminum too harsh and has fatigue issues that limit its longevity. So I am leaning towards titanium.

    Pennsylvania is not mandatory, either...although I somehow feel I would get a better fit if I was fitted in person, and I cannot travel too far away from home for fitting, pickup, adjustments etc. Any spare time I have I want to be riding!!

    So I am not 100% committed to Custom, titanium, or Pennsylvania. I do strongly prefer all of them. But I am willing to consider other options.

    Doug

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    Ok... you're saying about... I can come close www.excelsports.com
    GIOS Compact Pro, atypical of most modern road bikes in it's short TT.
    Not so unique in comparing it to Race Bikes 25 or so years ago.
    difficult for me to imagine a six footer with a 38" anatomic inseam,
    off the charts actually but if so, I can think of nothing else.
    Click-on road Bikes, it's all there.

  20. #20
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Carl Strong. He welds his own custom Ti frames and does a terrific job, but he's in Montana.
    - Stan

  21. #21
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by old and new View Post
    Ok... you're saying about... I can come close www.excelsports.com
    GIOS Compact Pro, atypical of most modern road bikes in it's short TT.
    Not so unique in comparing it to Race Bikes 25 or so years ago.
    difficult for me to imagine a six footer with a 38" anatomic inseam,
    off the charts actually but if so, I can think of nothing else.
    Click-on road Bikes, it's all there.
    Thanks for the tip. I had considered this bike, I would probably get the 62cm and crank up my seat a bit...but it's steel and the weight of frame+fork = 6 POUNDS! I am not a weight weenie but this is heavier than I had in mind. It's on the list but I would like to think I could get something with this type of geometry in Ti and shed a couple of pounds.

    Doug

  22. #22
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    The thing with the Gios Compact is the seat angle. At 74* it's a bit steeper than usual. Since you have long legs/femur you might prefer sitting back and thus the shorter TT will be offset by the saddle setback (if you can push it back sufficiently in the first place! I have a compact 57cm and I'd like my saddle further back but my seatpost/saddle won't allow it).

    For Ti I know Mike Terraferma in Florida can do it. I just got a steel frame from him. Local to me in Canada Marinoni can also do it, as well as custom carbon/Ti. Both these two are relatively affordable.
    homebuilt commuter, mixte, road and track (+ Ryffranck road)
    bla bla blog

  23. #23
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    I've spent a few hours in Kent Eriksen's shop in Steamboat Springs, CO. One of the better Ti builders out there and well regarded by his peers.

    Best Builder- Rocky Mountain Bike Show 2009
    Best Ti frame- NAHBS 2009

    http://www.kenteriksen.com/
    Shamrock Cycles- Hand built frames from the mountains of Indiana
    www.lugoftheirish.com

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by hmbatrail View Post
    i've spent a few hours in kent eriksen's shop in steamboat springs, co. One of the better ti builders out there and well regarded by his peers.

    Best builder- rocky mountain bike show 2009
    best ti frame- nahbs 2009

    http://www.kenteriksen.com/
    good links !

  25. #25
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Thanks for the links. I am wondering how important it is to be fitted "in person," I had thought that this would be very important but if I can get a decent frame for $1,000 less by ordering via mail is that worth doing??

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