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  1. #1
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    Calfee Factory Visit

    I was recently in Berkeley, CA,visiting my daughter who was working there for the summer. Prior to leaving, I contacted Calfee to see if a visit was possible while i was near their factory. They said yes,and I told them i would call if/when I got close to their place.

    I don't have great eyesight, so I didn't want to drive the CA freeways. I worked out an Amtrak/Santa Cruz bus combo that got me close to their factory at about 11AM.

    I called, and Steve picked me up and delivered me to their place on Monterey Bay. The setting is quiet and peaceful, on some land owned by a church. Now about the tour.

    This was not a factory in the sense I imagined-there are no production lines. Each type of frame-Luna, Tetra, Dragonfly, Bamboo,Tandem, Recumbent, has its own "assembly"area or room. A jig is located in the middle of an area, maybe 15 or 20 feet square, and all frames of a type are built on that jig. Around the jig are the tubes, lugs,and other parts needed for that type of frame. They have full machine shop capabilities and turn their own headtubes and I suspect other parts.

    I had imagined that there was an assembly line, where some work was done,say the main triangle , then it would pass on to have the rear triangle installed,but it was not that way. Each frame was completely hand built, 1 at a time,in its own room.

    I now understand the semi-custom nature of even the stock bikes. When a Calfee frame is ordered, the riders weight is listed on the order form. Also,things like headtube/seattube extensions can be chosen on the order form, along with finish options and decal choices.

    Working from the order form, the builder can choose stiffer(I'm not sure about softer) tubes, or stiffening sheets can be added, or other measures to build the frame to the weight of the rider. So even a stock frame is semi-custom, though no geometry changes are done. The jig is changed to make a different size frame.

    Forks are individually checked on a jig, to make sure thay are in spec in all directions. Those that don't meet spec are returned to the manufacturer. Forks are finished to match the frame. My understanding is that even clearcoat forks are refinished.

    Tetra and Dragonfly frames are also available as custom, so custom lugs or hand wrapped joints are also possible.(The Luna is only available in stock geometry).

    They may change only one tube, or as many as they think will make the frame correct for the rider. Each type of tube (Luna,Tetra,Dragonfly) comes in several
    stiffnesses, so the variations are extensive.

    The Bamboo room had a huge assortment of tubes, sorted by wall diameter and thickness. I was surprised at how light the tubes were, and the large assortment of tubes stored there.

    I saw several Bamboo frames, and they are stunning. Something about them seems more like art than machine. I even got to see the show bike that had steer horns.

    After being built, the frames are trimmed/prepped,and the rear dropouts are aligned, using a reference wheel. No wonder my frame is the straightest frame I've ever measured or owned.

    Calfee has their own paint shop in the same building, so they control the finish process. The customer chooses the finish and decal kit they want. There are no delays in dealing with an outside painter, so they also offer in house repaint/refinshing service.

    I saw lots of other brand frames hanging up, and then I remembered they now offer repair service for all makes of carbon bikes. I assume that many companies that sell carbon bikes have no means to repair them.

    I saw several custom tandem frames hanging, which made me think they are doing quite well with tandems. I'm really attracted to the new "open" style tandem frames that don't have a lateral tube.

    Dan
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  2. #2
    Semper Fidelis
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    nice write-up
    "Advantages Must Be Pressed, Disadvantages Must Be Overcome"

  3. #3
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    Question

    Wonder if you saw my tandem frame? 64/52 custom with ti couplers, blue/purple prismatic? Ordered a bit over a month ago.

  4. #4
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    My 7 year-old Tetra Pro just came back last Tuesday after having the translucent violet top coat removed so, depending on when you were there, it may have been there too. I opted to go 'nude' instead of having a top coat put back on and I'm really glad I did: there's nothing as visually interesting as raw carbon when it's done right. This is a "project bike" that's still in work, i.e., I'm still short a few parts (Deda seatpost, FD, cassette, chain, and polished seatpost clamp) but expect them soon.

    A Calfee Tetra Tandem remains a distinct possibility for the future depending on how my long-term test ride of this new-to-me Tetra Pro goes. The bike came to me outfitted with a tired Campy 8 speed Record group and Zonda 16R wheels. The newer Campy 10 speed chorus components and sharing the Eurus wheelset from my Erickson single bike should go a long way towards levelling the playing field.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 06-09-08 at 04:47 PM.

  5. #5
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    Replies

    I was there 7/16/07,so both of those frames may have been there. I noticed that the tandems had tags on them that said "custom".

    TandemGeek- I can't believe that you had a Purple Pearl finish stripped.I think that is the finish I wan't for a tandem....BTW,does your Tetra have an English or Italien BB?

    One of the things I meant to do and forgot was to see and maybe even buy a set of sample painted tubes that dealers can get.The website does not do justice to the colors.

    Craig gave me a T-Shirt that is a blend or Bamboo fiber and cotton.It feels like silk.

    dan
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  6. #6
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    303

    I dunno,I think a battered,chipped,peeling purple pearl would still be a thing of beauty...

    What i like about purple and pink are if someone drops me,they only dropped some old geezer on a purple/pink bike.If I would ever drop someone,they would be crushed.
    Last edited by dfcas; 08-06-07 at 06:17 PM. Reason: should have read link first.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Calfee factory visit

    Craig Calfee has quite the operation/reputation and well deserved.
    Did you by chance get to see his one-of c/f 'spider bike'?
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  8. #8
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    Yes

    Yes,I saw the spaghetti bike,along with some other one-offs.As I was getting ready to leave,I noticed a Bamboo cross bike with canti brakes on the rear leaning up against a shelf. He said it was ridden at worlds.

    Thats what was somewhat strange about the visit-there were incredible,unique things sitting in a mundale,factory setting.I'm sure I missed as much as I saw.

    I saw a bamboo double-triple crown suspension fork lying on a shelf-I almost missed it.
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  9. #9
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    Prismatic Samples

    Here are some photos of prismatic samples I got from Joe of Joe's Bicycle Painting (http://www.joesbicyclepainting.com/), I was led to believe he does the painting for Calfee. My dealer asked if he could have them after I was done with them :-) (I sent Joe $50 for the bother). Two on the left are opaque prismatics, four on the right are translucent (allowing you to see the carbon fiber through them). My pick is the blue/purple translucent, which is second from the right. Looks blue straight-on, purple at an angle, and green at another angle.
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  10. #10
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    Joes

    My understanding is that Joes did the painting until a few years back,when Calfee brought it in house.I kinda thought Joe came in house,but apparantly I'm wrong about that. I-think-my 02 frame was painted by joes.

    Steve took me to the room in the back and said "here is the paint shop".

    When did you get those samples from Joes?
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  11. #11
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    With today's paints and paint techniques, the colors you see online seldom do justice to seeing the real thing.
    Calfee's paint/fades are gorgeous and when seen from a diffferent angle the colors do change. On some Calfees the carbon weave shows through the paint . . . daVinci, Co-Motion, Bohemian, 'tana, and most others have executed some unique paint schemes.
    Our last 4 tandems all were custom paint; the Assenmacher was gloss black with lugs outlined in gold and a scene airbrushed on boob tube; the Colin Laing was a shaded/faded lavender; our Co-Motion was gloss black with a custom desert scene airbrushed on the boob tube and our c/f Zona has a clearcoat on main tubes while the lugs are black/gold mist.
    A fancy paintjob does not make the bike any faster and adds a a bit more $$$ to the overal bill, but it let's you express your individuality just a bit more.
    If you're gonna get your dream bike, go all the way!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

    Photo of Craig with one of his bamboo tandems; photo of rear BB area on our Zona.
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  12. #12
    High Octane superunleaded's Avatar
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    Bamboo Tandem

    I wish I took a picture of that tandem when it was full of sand and wet with pacific seawater during the 1st Calfee Owners Ride.


  13. #13
    Senior Member
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    Misc

    dfcas, got the samples from Joe last week. Haven't given my local dealer or Calfee any specific guidance on who is doing the paint, but they all know I was after samples and Joe was kind enough to send them to me! I agree with zonatandem that it is hard to go by pictures, but I was having trouble even finding pictures of prismatic paint options!

    zonatandem, what is the eye above the BB on your frame?

    All, have been working on speccing out my new bike, think we have most of it sorted out, but curious about cranks (are those XTR on the bamboo tandem?). LBS is getting a set of carbon cranks from Santana, maybe made by FSA. Have seen some not great stuff about FSA BBs, but I think these Santana cranks are octalink, so I assume we will be doing Shimano (or compatible) BBs. Anybody have experience with these Santana carbon cranks, or thoughts on upper-end options?

  14. #14
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    Calfee Factory Visit

    FWIW - I just purchased my Calfee Tetra Tandem in March. I know that Craig has been doing his painting in house for awhile. My color is Cabernet Fade, Tip to Tail, which allows the carbon to show through with the color of the cabernet through the stoker's compartment. The captain's compartment looks more like candy apple red with some carbon showing very close to the captain's seat tube. Again, Craig's painting is fantastic so you can't go wrong with any of the colors.

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