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Old 03-30-17, 11:50 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Outside of Ann Arbor, MI
Posts: 189

Bikes: Ventana El Rey, Surly Ogre custom, Schwinn High Plains dropbar beater

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Home built vs. production frame?

I was on a small group ride the other day and was talking with someone who has been part of the bike industry for years, and has built some frames. I'm flirting with the idea of building a lugged gravel frame for my wife and maybe one for me. I asked him if he thought that someone building a lugged frame, at home, who is new to frame building could produce something that is better quality, better riding than a mass produced frame. I was a little surprised that his answer - "No". He did make the disclaimer that someone who has been building frames for decades would make something that is superior. He also went on talking about expensive jigs, which from my reading, is not a necessity for a lugged frame but helps.

So this is causing me to pause a little. If my first effort, with properly selected tubing, and working carefully (I'm very patient, very detail rush to get these built) won't produce something any better than something made in Taiwan, it sounds like I'm better off just buying a frame (according to him).

Did this guy speak the truth or is he misinformed? It did not make sense to me, and contradicts the increase in the number of custom frames and framebuilders I see around. I read in a few places that a production frame is designed for the worst possible scenario (heavy rider, abusive terrain, making the liability lawyers happy, etc.) so it may not be as light, lively, etc. as it could be for a lighter rider. This makes sense. It also makes sense that a custom frame with hand selected tubing and lugs tailored to the rider and riding (even if assembled by a novice framebuilder) would produce the best frame for that rider. So I'm a bit confused.

I was hoping to get some opinions from this crowd. For those of you who do this as a hobby and/or only made a couple frames, do you feel your effort created a better alternative than what you could buy?

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