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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 02-15-08, 05:44 AM   #1
tokyofixedgear
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Japanese Frame Builders Vs US

I live in Tokyo so I`m well into all the Japanese framebuilders. There`s a broad range to choose from in Japan but prices for a standard geometry single coloured track frame seem to start at 80,000YEN (panasonic) and end at 160,000YEN for frames from the older builders who work alone; Nagasawa, Samson. Waiting lists hover round 6-8 months. Rarely much higher. Lately I started looking at the US builders and couldnt beleive the waiting times and prices. 5 Years for Vanilla is the longest I saw but others come close. Prices above $2000.
What Im getting at is whats the diference? Why pay so much more for a custom US made frame? Not getting into custom paintwork or lugs, just talking about the quality of the frames for whatever purpose your build is for...
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Old 02-15-08, 06:08 AM   #2
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I'd say that the only reason for buying a frame from Jonny Cycles or Vanilla or any of those builders, besides the obvious hype/hipster/trend-factor, is that you want to support your local framebuilder, which to me makes sense. But the prices these people put on their work DO NOT make any sense me.

They also seem to give a good guarantee their work. When buying a frameset from abroad dealing with those issues will be much more difficult even if they would give you same guarantee on their work.

But ok, I guess many non-locals seem to buy those expensive US made frames as well.
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Old 02-15-08, 06:11 AM   #3
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Keep the money in your own country.
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Old 02-15-08, 06:38 AM   #4
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I live in Tokyo so I`m well into all the Japanese framebuilders. There`s a broad range to choose from in Japan but prices for a standard geometry single coloured track frame seem to start at 80,000YEN (panasonic) and end at 160,000YEN for frames from the older builders who work alone; Nagasawa, Samson. Waiting lists hover round 6-8 months. Rarely much higher. Lately I started looking at the US builders and couldnt beleive the waiting times and prices. 5 Years for Vanilla is the longest I saw but others come close. Prices above $2000.
What Im getting at is whats the diference? Why pay so much more for a custom US made frame? Not getting into custom paintwork or lugs, just talking about the quality of the frames for whatever purpose your build is for...
What are you getting for waiting 5 years with a vanilla? Knowledge that you waited like a ****** for 5 years.
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Old 02-15-08, 07:01 AM   #5
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That doesn't really represent all US framebuilders... some have pretty short waiting lists and comparatively reasonable prices. Forum user tehz's Hufnagel frame will not take that long or cost that much...

Vanilla does do some extensive custom lugs and stuff on some of their frames though but I would never wait 5 years for anything haha. HYPE.
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Old 02-15-08, 07:09 AM   #6
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But the prices these people put on their work DO NOT make any sense me.
If you've got a wait-list that is several years long, and people are still putting down deposits, why NOT raise your prices? The builders who are charging $2000/frame have done what it takes to build demand for their frames.

Better to have a queue that is a couple years long full of people who are paying $2,000 than a queue that is a couple decades long full of $1000 paying people; odds are you are going to piss off a lot more people by charging less.
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Old 02-15-08, 07:50 AM   #7
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high fixed cost+high variable cost=high prices.
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Old 02-15-08, 07:51 AM   #8
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in 5 years you many not be riding bikes....more so, hover boards !
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Old 02-15-08, 07:56 AM   #9
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Keep the money in your own country.
I guess you have an all Canadian bike? No import parts on it?
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Old 02-15-08, 08:02 AM   #10
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I guess you have an all Canadian bike? No import parts on it?
I guess ryansexton's answer was to the question of "why would one buy US built frames". And the answer tried to be "so people can (think they can) keep their money in their country".

I might be wrong with my interpretation, though.
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Old 02-15-08, 08:05 AM   #11
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I guess ryansexton's answer was to the question of "why would one buy US built frames". And the answer tried to be "so people can (think they can) keep their money in their country".

I might be wrong with my interpretation, though.
Ah yes. I think youre correct. Sorry ryansexton.
That makes sense too. A lot of Americans have that mentality. Thinking theyre keeping America alive by buying ****ty American parts. Not that custom American frames are ****ty...probably not. But ie: Ford or GM cars. **** like that.
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Old 02-15-08, 08:39 AM   #12
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64 miles to Don Walker vs "We could not calculate driving directions between West Lafayette, IN and Tokyo, Japan." miles to Japan.
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Old 02-15-08, 09:16 AM   #13
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But the prices these people put on their work DO NOT make any sense me.
Your time is worth whatever you want it to be worth in that arena. Vanilla bikes are serious bling factor, you pay for the time it takes to make it. I can't hate on his prices at all...if people are willing to pay him that, that's their loss. Man, if I had to wait that long on a bike, by the time I got it I have a feeling I wouldn't be nearly as stoked on it anymore.
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Old 02-15-08, 09:18 AM   #14
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Ford or GM cars. **** like that.
****tiest cars:
http://www.betterworldshopper.org/r-cars.html

(OT but awesome)
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Old 02-15-08, 10:08 AM   #15
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Wowee, the "ignorance" abounds in this thread.

I have covered this about 20 different times on bike forums. Guess I need to do it yet again.

Materials;
Tubing is anywhere from 100-300 for a quality set
Lugs run anywhere from 30-100 for the main 3, plus 15-75 for a good BB shell,
dropouts, add another 15-45 bucks.
Fork crown...20 bucks minimum.

So, adding up conservatively, thats 350 before adding on braze ons such as bridges and hey, dont forget
filler rod...56% silver is running about 25 bucks an ounce...takes about an ounce or two per frame/fork.

Now were up to 400+

Hmmmm, a good painter is going to charge me about 350 minimum for a 1 color job.

$750

Thats before we have even begun the labor.

Lets say it is a "true" 40 hour frame and the builder works on it for the entire week.
a standard "shop rate" should be around $45 an hour. That rate covers salary, electricity, insurance,
and wear/tear on hand tools and if you are lucky, maybe 20% profit margin. Thats 1800 alone in a "fair market" labor value.

1800+
750=
2550
and you are complaining about 2k?

Now, since many of the younger builders dont associate these costs with the "price of doing business", i suspect there will be a fire sale of sorts when alot of them figured out they didnt make any money. Surviving on a net profit of $300 a week is, well, weak.

The fact that so many framebuilders are based in their garage accounts for at least a savings of a bit of overhead. But its still not enough. Any other business not using the model above is destined to fail, even if they have a decent backlog.

Now, how does this compare to the Japanese model? They are not on the same playing field. They are able to make a bike or more a day with a streamlined operation. If it took them 40 hours to make a bike, you surely would be paying much, much more for it.
The bigger companies there are able to turn them out in 3-4 hours, including paint...

So, what is a better deal for you? The idea of having a faceless person that you dont know build your bike, or the guy that answers the phone build your bike? Thats kind of the spirit of NAHBS, you get to talk to the guy that makes your bike, not some guy that punches a clock and does a job.

DW
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Old 02-15-08, 10:36 AM   #16
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Thanks for the insight Noestaencasa......the Japanese framebuilders are pretty much the same, in most cases (the guy that answers the phone .... ) . The only 2 big companies are Bridgestone/Anchor and Panasonic. Nagasawa, for example builds every frame himself.
Ideally, a Japanese builder will have in-house painting, which saves a lot of dough, but most do not. I can imagine a $350 USD paintjob might be of higher quality than most Keirin frames.
Most of them, from what I have heard, make a pretty modest living.
I am guessing Japanese steel is cheaper in Japan too....lugs/tubes.
Keirin frames are all fitted with pretty low-tech NJS headsets, and BBs, which the builders all get direct for very cheap prices....
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Old 02-15-08, 10:44 AM   #17
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Now, how does this compare to the Japanese model? They are not on the same playing field. They are able to make a bike or more a day with a streamlined operation.
The bigger companies there are able to turn them out in 3-4 hours, including paint...
How is it possible to make a handmade, lugged frame in that short amount of time? What are they doing different from the 40 hour people?
Also, how do companies like Marinoni, Brew, etc manage to sell their frames for much closer to the Japanese price? Just standardization, or what? Conversely, how is it that Waterford bikes are generally way close to the cost of a US handmade one than a Japanese one, despite having a really automated manufacturing process?
Not challenging, just interested in how this works.
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Old 02-15-08, 11:32 AM   #18
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Thanks for the insight Noestaencasa......the Japanese framebuilders are pretty much the same, in most cases (the guy that answers the phone .... ) . The only 2 big companies are Bridgestone/Anchor and Panasonic. Nagasawa, for example builds every frame himself.
Ideally, a Japanese builder will have in-house painting, which saves a lot of dough, but most do not. I can imagine a $350 USD paintjob might be of higher quality than most Keirin frames.
Most of them, from what I have heard, make a pretty modest living.
I am guessing Japanese steel is cheaper in Japan too....lugs/tubes.
Keirin frames are all fitted with pretty low-tech NJS headsets, and BBs, which the builders all get direct for very cheap prices....
Ideally, the builder knows to keep his overhead low, he has to "batch".
Since most Keirin bikes have the same BB drop, they will put dropouts in the blades and stays in bunches.
maybe 20-40 bikes worth at a time. Same thing with stays being slotted and caps put on.
The lugs they use require minimal prep, so they can do it fast.
I know for a fact that Aki Nagasawa has 2-3 guys helping him and they build 2-4 frames per day.
When you dont have to carve lugs or modify shorelines, this stuff goes by much faster.

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Old 02-15-08, 11:40 AM   #19
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How is it possible to make a handmade, lugged frame in that short amount of time? What are they doing different from the 40 hour people?
Also, how do companies like Marinoni, Brew, etc manage to sell their frames for much closer to the Japanese price? Just standardization, or what? Conversely, how is it that Waterford bikes are generally way close to the cost of a US handmade one than a Japanese one, despite having a really automated manufacturing process?
Not challenging, just interested in how this works.
See above post for answer to first question.

Marinoni and Brew have extensive, time saving machinery. I believe BREW tig welds everything, which means he goes from mitered tube to welding in a couple of minutes. Once done, your done. With lugs, there is flux that needs to be removed, maybe a bit of shoreline needs to be cleaned up and made presentable, etc.
Waterfords are a bit more custom in their lugs and options. And with the high cost of doing biz, you can expect to pay more for the truly handmade stuff.
Waterford also offers production units, such as Gunnar and they also do subcontract work like the Milwaukee and rivendel brands.

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Old 02-15-08, 11:46 AM   #20
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Well I think using Vanilla is a rather bad example for comparing custom frames. His bikes are more like practical art than a typical bicycle. And people love his work which is why he has a 5 year waiting list and high prices.

You can find good US builders that start around same price as higher end ones in Japan (based on the OPs figures of around 1100-1200 USD). I imagine our working wages and importing more materials makes our base cost a bit higher. Land Shark, Hufnagel and Pierre are all bike builders out of the same general region as Vanilla but without such the exorbitant prices.
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Old 02-15-08, 01:09 PM   #21
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Maybe its because i realized how big he is in real life, maybe its because he's right, but I agree with Don Walker.

I'm getting a frame built locally by Jordan Hufnagel. I could get one done in Japan for around the same price, maybe even a little cheaper, but I'd prefer to get a solid frame from a solid dude who I can talk to face to face. Kalavinka is not going to fly me out to nippon to look at, test out, or pick up my frame, but I can ride 10 minutes to jordan's shop at any time. I mean that's basically it. I know Jordan's going to do a good job and I know if there are any problems he's going to be right down the street to work with me.

His prices prices haven't raised much, but from what I hear his waiting list is building quickly after NAHBS.
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Old 02-15-08, 02:37 PM   #22
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take labor, parts, design, name, and then add collector and/or pro athlete demand.
in a lot of cases the purchasing power and emotional desire of The Collector is what sets these prices apart.
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Old 02-15-08, 04:11 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Noestaencasa View Post
Wowee, the "ignorance" abounds in this thread.

I have covered this about 20 different times on bike forums. Guess I need to do it yet again.

Materials;
Tubing is anywhere from 100-300 for a quality set
Lugs run anywhere from 30-100 for the main 3, plus 15-75 for a good BB shell,
dropouts, add another 15-45 bucks.
Fork crown...20 bucks minimum.

So, adding up conservatively, thats 350 before adding on braze ons such as bridges and hey, dont forget
filler rod...56% silver is running about 25 bucks an ounce...takes about an ounce or two per frame/fork.

Now were up to 400+

Hmmmm, a good painter is going to charge me about 350 minimum for a 1 color job.

$750

Thats before we have even begun the labor.

Lets say it is a "true" 40 hour frame and the builder works on it for the entire week.
a standard "shop rate" should be around $45 an hour. That rate covers salary, electricity, insurance,
and wear/tear on hand tools and if you are lucky, maybe 20% profit margin. Thats 1800 alone in a "fair market" labor value.

1800+
750=
2550
and you are complaining about 2k?

Now, since many of the younger builders dont associate these costs with the "price of doing business", i suspect there will be a fire sale of sorts when alot of them figured out they didnt make any money. Surviving on a net profit of $300 a week is, well, weak.

The fact that so many framebuilders are based in their garage accounts for at least a savings of a bit of overhead. But its still not enough. Any other business not using the model above is destined to fail, even if they have a decent backlog.

Now, how does this compare to the Japanese model? They are not on the same playing field. They are able to make a bike or more a day with a streamlined operation. If it took them 40 hours to make a bike, you surely would be paying much, much more for it.
The bigger companies there are able to turn them out in 3-4 hours, including paint...

So, what is a better deal for you? The idea of having a faceless person that you dont know build your bike, or the guy that answers the phone build your bike? Thats kind of the spirit of NAHBS, you get to talk to the guy that makes your bike, not some guy that punches a clock and does a job.

DW
This was probably the best thing I've read on this forum in a long time. Thanks DW.
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Old 02-15-08, 04:17 PM   #24
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This was probably the best thing I've read on this forum in a long time. Thanks DW.
Yeah, DW does know his sh*t.

Still, it doesn't make me feel like a US-made frame is any more desirable than a Japanese one ('cause both countries are far from me )
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Old 02-15-08, 06:44 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Noestaencasa
Now, how does this compare to the Japanese model? They are not on the same playing field. They are able to make a bike or more a day with a streamlined operation. If it took them 40 hours to make a bike, you surely would be paying much, much more for it.
What point did Noestaencasa mean to make?

Did he mean to explain how Japanese framebuilders can make the same quality frame for less money?
Or, perhaps that they make a lower quality frame?
Shortcuts, and all that?

And, if American builders have such long waiting lists, why can't they streamline their operations?

I imagine the Japanese framebuilders make as many custom accommodations to professional racers as do the American builders, except the named Japanese builders make only fixed gear or track bikes.
I like track geometry, so I can live with that.

And, I'd like to know whether Nagasawa has aprentices or assistants, and what role they play: because I have heard time after time that he has a one man shop.

And, how many frames has Nagasawa made?
Maybe the guy just knows how to do it by now.

And, Noestaencasa = DW?

Not Don Walker?

I have long considered having a custom frame made, because I would like to have a lighter version of my beloved Bianchi Pista frameset.
However, I come away from most custom framebuiler's sites impressed more with the hype than the value or quality of their frames.

Some of the frame builders post closeups of their framesets to show the alleged quality, and I wonder if they really looked at the picture before they posted it.

Hype, hype and more hype.

Now, some builders, such as Co-Motion Cycles, make a custom-proportioned frameset in a production environment, and I appreciate the development of the system that allows them to do this.

Still, they want a lot of money for a TIG-welded frame.

At my age and station in life, I can afford any bike I might want.

However, everytime I think of writing a check for the custom frames out there I have seen, I just can't do it.
It seems like a rip-off.

Of all the frame-builders, Mercian seems like the best value for the money.

They may not make the "best" frame (whatever that means), but they make a good frame and they make a lot of them, and they'll make them to the customer's specifications for no extra money.

I can get a full custom Mercian frameset, say a Super Vigorelli made of 631, FedExed to my door in less than two weeks, for $1088.
If I get crazy and insist on Reynolds 853, all custom proportions, FedExed to my door in less than two weeks, I will spend the grand total of $1470.
Two weeks.
Mercian has made a lot of frames, and I suspect they know how to do it by now.

From the time I send the e-mail to Mercian until my new, custom-proportioned bike shows up at my door...ding dong....two weeks.

I talked to Mercian awhile back, and you couldn't ask for more helpful people.

They wanted me to use their fit kit to measure myself; send a picture of myself riding a bike I presently like; send me the geometry of the bike I like; and, write a description of what kind of riding I like to do.
When I said I wanted 853, they asked why.
Lightness, I said.
They told me to not try to save weight in the frame, but to trust them to put together a tubing mix that would best serve my riding style; and, in the end, it would still weigh less than my present frameset, and it would cost less than an all-853 frameset.

In talking to people in the bike business, I have heard only one slight negative from a former Mercian dealer regarding Mercian framesets.
He described them as well-made, best paint job in the business, but a little sloppy on the inside where the customer usually doesn't look.
Of course, he said, he saw this in the days when Mercian made huge numbers of non-custom framesets for bike shops, and he didn't know if this would apply to their present day custom framesets.

Also of note, of all the custom builders, only Mercian charges more for their fillet-brazed framesets than they do for their lugged framesets.
I find that interesting.
Actually, it makes sense to me.
Because of my fitting issues and preferences, I might go with a fillet-brazed Mercian frame (I don't know if lugs will allow the proportions I want).

Quick review of the numbers: $1088 - $1470; two weeks to your front door; Mercian.

http://www.merciancycles.com/frame_vigorelli.asp
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