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Old 03-30-17, 01:17 PM
Doug Fattic 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Niles, Michigan
Posts: 909
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Iím certainly not a hobby builder since I was one of the 1st Americans to go to Europe to learn how to build frames after the 1970 bike boom but have plenty of perspective on the subject. I believe with the right knowledge a hobby builder can make a better frame for his specific bicycle position and riding style than almost any production frame. The exception would be if someone lacked the innate skills and wasnít sure what to do or how to overcome mistakes. Here are my observations.

A production frame is designed to fit people proportioned in the middle of the Bell Curve with the addition of some more compromises. Companies are going to use 700C wheels, they will design the frame so there is no toe overlap and that longer cranks will not hit the pavement while cornering. And they will overbuild so heavy people wonít break them. The most likely person to find a good fit on a production frame is somebody wanting a performance bicycle suitable for fast training rides similar to racing conditions.

For women these production compromises are exaggerated. Companies will use a steep seat angle combined with a shallow head angle to get enough toe clearance and still use 700 wheels. The fork probably doesnít have enough fork rake to match the shallow head angle either. Many women like to sit more upright to keep the pressure off of their crotch which results in them needing a shallower seat angle and not a steeper one. I could go on but this one example should illustrate my point.

Of the many students that have taken my frame building class almost none of them fit well on their production bicycle they brought to class. As a matter of fact they have almost always found the bicycle they were riding to force them into some compromised position. Once they have reestablished their position on some kind of fitting bicycle and actually built their frame around that new position, everyone has exclaimed what an improvement their class made bicycle was over whatever they rode before. Iím not saying just some found this to be true but almost everybody.

Of course I am going to suggest this as a frame building teacher but I believe the best way to start making your own frame is to take a class. This way you know if you have the interest and/or ability to make a 2nd one and if you donít you still leave class with a frame better than a production frame and the equal of many custom frames. I can make up the difference doing the hard parts when I see students that lack some skills. You will also now have a proper knowledge to make more and know what tools are necessary. It is only fair to mention that I notice a lot of students get themselves into trouble even after an explanation and demonstration. There is a lot to remember. I often wonder what would happen if I wasnít right there to bail them out.

The one thing a student canít do that I can do is braze really light heat treated tubing (for example .7/.4/.7mm). That to me is the ultimate ride. Occasionally I have had a student really want light tubing and let me braze those joints for them.
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