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abominable slowman
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi there. I'm just starting to do some research for a new cutsom steel frame. This will replace a steel Lemond that has never quite fit me right. I'm trying to decide whether I should go with a frame that really grabs me (like Vanilla or IF) or a less pricey frame (like Curtlo or Gunnar). Here's the rub--if I get a pricier frame, I can't afford a new build for it so I'll have to use the Ultegra stuff (4+ years old) off my Lemond (and then just sell the Lemond frame). This old stuff is in pretty condition. If I get a less expensive frame, I can probably afford to get a new kit with Ultegra 10. Either way, I'm going with a custom frame, so proper fit should not be an issue.

So those are the general options I'm looking at: Vanilla or IF with old stuff VS Curtlo or Gunnar with new stuff.

A Vanilla or IF is definitely going to make me drool more when I look at it, and I haven't yet decided how important that is to me. But will there be much difference in performance/weight/quality between the more expensive options and the cheaper ones? All the reviews I can find seem to be positive, but I figured I'd look for more input

Thanks
 

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Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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9,416 Posts
It sounds to me like you already have a good grasp on your decision--now you just have to make it.

Funny, as much as I agonize over things like that, I hardly worried about my own custom choice. I emailed a couple of guys, and only Dave Kirk replied in anything like a reasonable amount of time (he replied within a day or so). And his wait time was reasonable.

After speaking with Dave on the phone and by email a couple of times, I felt totally confident that he would do me right, and I went for it.

Of course, I had determined up front that I wanted lugged, and that I wasn't going to be too picky about price (on the theory that I'd only be doing this once, har har), and I already had a near-new Campy Veloce setup on another bike that never really fit right.

I think that no matter which way you go (price or bling), if you get a nice paint job and the bike fits just right, it'll be the apple of your eye, and you won't regret doing it.
 

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eminence grease
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18,538 Posts
I own a Vanilla and I own a Gunnar. I also own a Strong and a Kirk. So three at the high end and one at the lower level in the world of custom steel.

Physically, you won't be unhappy with any of them. They'll ride like dreams.

Mentally, you have to decide if you're going to be happy in the long term with the less expensive frame. If you know yourself well enough to think that you might, save the money, put better components on it and ride on. However, if you're like me and the higher end bike is what you want, then just get it. Otherwise that $1000 investment in the lower end product is going to turn into $3000 when you junk the cheaper bike for the bike you wanted in the first place.

Now, having said that, consider the fact that the Vanilla comes with an 18 month-ish wait. Can you save the dough for better components in the next year and a half? The IF wait is less, as is the wait for the other bikes you've mentioned.

If this is designed to be a long-term dream bike I'd probably go with the better frame, the older components and just upgrade it over time. The frame will last forever, the components won't. Eventually you'll end up with perfection.

If you're looking for something snazzy to ride this summer, go with the less expensive frame and put the fancier components on it. And, erase that part of your brain that wanted the Vanilla in the first place.
 

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"It's alive!"
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1,454 Posts
llama31 said:
I'm trying to decide whether I should go with a frame that really grabs me (like Vanilla or IF) or a less pricey frame (like Curtlo or Gunnar).
It's hard for me to think of Curtlo as the low-quality alternative. I live in Santa Clarita, the old home of Curtlo before he moved, and everyone tends to speak of his bikes with awe and reverence. From what I've heard, you would not go wrong with a Curtlo.

And here is the other thing... You know that the LeMond does NOT fit you, but are you absolutely sure about the PERFECT geometry for you? You could use the el-cheapo Curtlo (tongue firmly planted in cheek as I wrote that) to make sure that you have identified a comfortable geometry. AND you could get that spanky gruppo that makes you drool. Then, when you save up for the Vanilla or IF, you can spec the geometry changes you want and transfer your top-end gruppo to the new frame.

But, I suspect you'll fall in love with the Curtlo and forget all about the other frames.

Yours,

FBB
 

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abominable slowman
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1,072 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
A few more thoughts

Just took the Lemond oustide for the first time since last fall (it's been on the trainer all winter) and confirmed once again that it don't fit right.

Anyway, I know generally what I want--long top tude and sloping geometry to get adequate standover. I have a compact, aluminum litespeed in XL that fits me very well.

This isn't exactly intended to be a dream bike (that would probably be custom Ti) but definitely something I plan to keep for several years.

The basic issue is the lust factor. I like what I have seen of both Curtlo and Gunnar, but they don't turn me on the way Vanilla and IF do. One problem is that I have not seen a Gunnar or a Curtlo in person. Only a few Gunnars in the gallery here, and for Curtlo i've only seen the one or two pictures on his website. Seeing more might help. I emailed Curtlo to see if he could send any.

I don't think I'm willing to wait 18 months, so maybe the Vanilla is out (3-6 months would be okay). I'll check on the wait time for others and see what I find.

Thanks for the thoughts.
 

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Windrider (Stubborn)
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22,021 Posts
I agree with Terry.......

terry b said:
I own a Vanilla and I own a Gunnar. I also own a Strong and a Kirk. So three at the high end and one at the lower level in the world of custom steel.

Physically, you won't be unhappy with any of them. They'll ride like dreams.

Mentally, you have to decide if you're going to be happy in the long term with the less expensive frame. If you know yourself well enough to think that you might, save the money, put better components on it and ride on. However, if you're like me and the higher end bike is what you want, then just get it. Otherwise that $1000 investment in the lower end product is going to turn into $3000 when you junk the cheaper bike for the bike you wanted in the first place.

Now, having said that, consider the fact that the Vanilla comes with an 18 month-ish wait. Can you save the dough for better components in the next year and a half? The IF wait is less, as is the wait for the other bikes you've mentioned.

If this is designed to be a long-term dream bike I'd probably go with the better frame, the older components and just upgrade it over time. The frame will last forever, the components won't. Eventually you'll end up with perfection.

If you're looking for something snazzy to ride this summer, go with the less expensive frame and put the fancier components on it. And, erase that part of your brain that wanted the Vanilla in the first place.
Either:

1.) Save the money for the higher components while you wait for the frame or
2.) Get the Higher end frame.......

Otherwise, you will get the higher end frame later anyway.

The other option is to get the lower end one now & get on the waiting list for a Sachs :D :D

That being said, I don't see IF in the same league as Kirk, Vanilla, Spectrum, Waterford etc. But that's just me.

I've got a gunnar, and it's a little harsher than other steel I've ridden, but I'm between 150 & 160 lbs....YMMV. A custom from the prime builders will tweak the tubing for the rider.

Last I heard, Dave Kirk had about a 5 to 6 month wait, Vanilla an 18 month wait...I don't know what the IF is (as I said, They do nothing for me).

Have fun, nice problem to have.

Len
 

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The custom process was important for me

I wanted a custom lugged steel frame a couple of years ago (I don't really need custom to be comfortable). I checked out Waterford, visited Rivendell, and searched the websites of numerous other builders. To make a long story short, I found a small local builder who made the custom process unforgettable. We talked tubes, lugs, geometries, and characteristics I wanted, etc. He went on a 30 minute ride with me that included some big hills. He had me ride a trainer while he took a few measurements. We talked braze-ons, paint and other features.

If you can find a builder who takes the time to REALLY understand your wants and needs, you should get a fine ride. Custom paint is a touch that makes your ride truly unique (if that's important to you).
 

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off the back
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15,267 Posts
if it's your dream bike, follow the dream. otherwise, you'll always be wondering "what if, i should'a"

the cheap components on a Vanilla won't matter a bit, it's the frame that makes the ride. and as oithers have said, you'll have 18 months or so to save up for a new group.

as len said, i don't see IF in the same leagues as Vanilla or even Curtlo or Strong. they're fine bikes, maybe a step up from the Gunnar, but in the same niche; the next step up from buying a mass-produced Taiwanese bike. i'd put them in with Seven, Litespeed, Merlin, etc. but not quite up there with a custom from a small independent builder.
 

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llama31 said:
Hi there. I'm just starting to do some research for a new cutsom steel frame. This will replace a steel Lemond that has never quite fit me right. I'm trying to decide whether I should go with a frame that really grabs me (like Vanilla or IF) or a less pricey frame (like Curtlo or Gunnar). Here's the rub--if I get a pricier frame, I can't afford a new build for it so I'll have to use the Ultegra stuff (4+ years old) off my Lemond (and then just sell the Lemond frame). This old stuff is in pretty condition. If I get a less expensive frame, I can probably afford to get a new kit with Ultegra 10. Either way, I'm going with a custom frame, so proper fit should not be an issue.

So those are the general options I'm looking at: Vanilla or IF with old stuff VS Curtlo or Gunnar with new stuff.

A Vanilla or IF is definitely going to make me drool more when I look at it, and I haven't yet decided how important that is to me. But will there be much difference in performance/weight/quality between the more expensive options and the cheaper ones? All the reviews I can find seem to be positive, but I figured I'd look for more input

Thanks
Now here's someone who dearly loves his Gunnar, and has ridden it hard for over two years - I wouldn't bother with a custom Gunnar. By the time you add in the cost of custom geometry and paint to a Gunnar, you're about in the price bracket for a Waterford - which is made by the same folk and has a lot more very nice details on it - corrosion-free dropouts to name but one.

My new toy - a full custom English built Bob Jackson that has a thread hereabouts - was intended as a compromise build - new frame, use the stuff off my Gunnar - full Ultegra 9 speed double, about a year old, hardly shabby. By the time the BJ showed up, I'd collected a pile of suspiciously new looking Ultegra 10sp bits to slap on it ...

Not sure how that happened, and still not desperately sure if the 10 speed is all its cracked up to be - that Shimano will be out of 9 speed as fast as you can say "Japanese Business Model" did impel me to buy the new toys.

But I sure don't regret getting the frame I really wanted. That is something I don't plan on doing again anytime soon, so the odd component will get replaced anyway. Yes, I'd vote for "THE Frame"

D
 

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eminence grease
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18,538 Posts
Aside from their butt-ugly decals, I've wanted an IF for a long time, but have resisted buying one for a variety of known (I hate the local dealer) and unknown reasons. I think you and Len have cleared that question up for me - nice enough bikes but not the same league as the others. Your comparison to Seven hit the nail squarely on the head for me.
 

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eminence grease
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18,538 Posts
I don't think anyone was saying Curtlo was lower quality, we're saying it's lower price. Just like the Gunnar, which is a darn nice frame for the money. The only thing lesser on the Curtlo in my book are the decals. Which I wish he'd change. Then I'd buy one of his too.
 

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I don't understand things about your decision tree...

You have talked about the price levels of the frames, which makes it seem as though other important aspects are essentially equivalent. What you don't articulate is what kind of riding you intend to do with the bike, or what performance level you are looking for, or how important the type/vintage of the tubing and joining technique is to you, or if you value the visual appeal of a fancier bike enough to spring for the bucks with all other things being equal, or how you have arrived at your present two-level/four-bike candidate pool. In other words, I am confused.

I think that you need to think about whether you want to specify some of the things I mentioned above. If not, and it really is just a $$ thing, by all means put the money in the frame. Components wear out and are upgraded, the frame--especially a nice one--will endure, and make you happy for many years.

I have been fortunate enough to have bought steel frames for which I lusted, and also steel frames that I could afford. I appreciate them each for their own characteristics.


llama31 said:
Hi there. I'm just starting to do some research for a new cutsom steel frame. This will replace a steel Lemond that has never quite fit me right. I'm trying to decide whether I should go with a frame that really grabs me (like Vanilla or IF) or a less pricey frame (like Curtlo or Gunnar). Here's the rub--if I get a pricier frame, I can't afford a new build for it so I'll have to use the Ultegra stuff (4+ years old) off my Lemond (and then just sell the Lemond frame). This old stuff is in pretty condition. If I get a less expensive frame, I can probably afford to get a new kit with Ultegra 10. Either way, I'm going with a custom frame, so proper fit should not be an issue.

So those are the general options I'm looking at: Vanilla or IF with old stuff VS Curtlo or Gunnar with new stuff.

A Vanilla or IF is definitely going to make me drool more when I look at it, and I haven't yet decided how important that is to me. But will there be much difference in performance/weight/quality between the more expensive options and the cheaper ones? All the reviews I can find seem to be positive, but I figured I'd look for more input

Thanks
 

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Follow your heart.

Now, if i I was so lucky to be in your situation, I would go for a Dave Kirk Terraplane. Extremely good feedback from users. Very few on Ebay. That probably means they are very well appreciated.

Disclaimer: I have no idea if the funky stays work in the slightest, but they are funky and unique! :)

I have a Waterford, and that is the last bike I would sell. Lugged, and Joe Bell painted Burnt Orange.
 

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abominable slowman
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1,072 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Well, i've thought about some of those things...

elvisVerde said:
You have talked about the price levels of the frames, which makes it seem as though other important aspects are essentially equivalent. What you don't articulate is what kind of riding you intend to do with the bike, or what performance level you are looking for, or how important the type/vintage of the tubing and joining technique is to you, or if you value the visual appeal of a fancier bike enough to spring for the bucks with all other things being equal, or how you have arrived at your present two-level/four-bike candidate pool. In other words, I am confused.

I think that you need to think about whether you want to specify some of the things I mentioned above. If not, and it really is just a $$ thing, by all means put the money in the frame. Components wear out and are upgraded, the frame--especially a nice one--will endure, and make you happy for many years.

I have been fortunate enough to have bought steel frames for which I lusted, and also steel frames that I could afford. I appreciate them each for their own characteristics.

...but i leave formal decision trees for my day job. The main objectives are to get a sweet looking frame, that fits me right (and all these choices shoud produce a good fit), and is unique. I'm not too worried about the pedigree for the builder as long as they have a good rep. I don't want a lugged frame (too retro for me), but have no preference between TIG or fillet brazed (don't really know anything about the virtues of either one actually). I race and train hard a lot--this bike won't see any races but it will see lots of hard, fast rides. It will also see long rides (e.g., I'll use this one for centuries). I'd like to think I will own it for a long time, but I get an itch for new bikes a lot--new cross bike last year, new MTB 2 years ago--and so 3-4 years is more likely. If I could, I'd get Ti, but i'm not wild about any of the offerings in the under $2k category, except maybe a Dean el diente, but I'm kind of excited about a custom steel frame now, so the Dean was eliminated from consideration.

I've got a mass produced aluminim bike (Litespeed) that is my workhorse. I'd like this new steel bike to be my unique bike.
 

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Windrider (Stubborn)
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22,021 Posts
Looks do matter........

terry b said:
You should have a preference, fillet brazed joints are vastly more beautiful than TIG'd joints.
at least to me. To some people a bike is a tool...if so, get the cheapest bike that is functional for what you want to do. To me, it's more than a tool.....I appreciate the simplicity and the beauty as well as the function.

I've never been able to keep a bike very long that I didn't like the looks of........shallow, maybe, but I am what i am.

Len
 

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Cross Bike Collector.....
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1,144 Posts
Gotta disagree

rufus said:
if it's your dream bike, follow the dream. otherwise, you'll always be wondering "what if, i should'a"

the cheap components on a Vanilla won't matter a bit, it's the frame that makes the ride. and as oithers have said, you'll have 18 months or so to save up for a new group.

as len said, i don't see IF in the same leagues as Vanilla or even Curtlo or Strong. they're fine bikes, maybe a step up from the Gunnar, but in the same niche; the next step up from buying a mass-produced Taiwanese bike. i'd put them in with Seven, Litespeed, Merlin, etc. but not quite up there with a custom from a small independent builder.
Putting Curtlo in the same sentence as "Carl Strong" and "Sacha White" Nope, don't think so, I own a Carl Strong and an Independent Fabrication, my wife owns a Curtlo.
Vanilla/Sacha is heads above all but Richard Sachs himself.
Carl Strong is very underrated and is a true artisan, If is right there with him.
Curtlo is in the Gunnar status. I'd rank Gunnar higher. There are lots of great steel builders out there, DeSalvo, Kirk, Kish, Yamaguchi, Steelman, there are tons of artisan builders out there.
Seven, Litespeed/Merlin are no different than Specialized, Cannondale, or Trek.
Go with your dream bike, if it's an IF, I gaurantee you won't be disappointed. And it's only a 10 week wait for an IF, it's a year and a half for a Vanilla.
 

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Defender of Freedom...
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611 Posts
Consider Ted...

Ted Wojcik is a master at fillet brazed joints. I have one of his MTB frames and always admire the welds when I look at it. He a small builder out of NH with a fairly large cult following in the east coast/Boston area. He stopped building a few years ago but recently resumed building. From what I understand his turn around time is pretty reasonable right now. Check out hios new 25 year Anniversary edition. http://www.tedwojcikbicycles.com/road_classic.htm

I've also had a thing for soulcraft bikes, very sweet in a utilitarian way.

http://www.soulcraftbikes.com/index.htm

My 2 cents
 

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abominable slowman
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1,072 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
How can I learn more about TIG vs fillet braze

terry b said:
You should have a preference, fillet brazed joints are vastly more beautiful than TIG'd joints.
Any suggestions on where to read up about the two? I've checked sheldon brown's site but only found the basic definitions.

Looks are key for me too, especially with this bike. I just don't know enough about the two techniques to know if i might have a preference.

thanks for all the input...this is a big help.
 

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Cross Bike Collector.....
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1,144 Posts
It's a matter of looks

llama31 said:
Any suggestions on where to read up about the two? I've checked sheldon brown's site but only found the basic definitions.

Looks are key for me too, especially with this bike. I just don't know enough about the two techniques to know if i might have a preference.

thanks for all the input...this is a big help.
Both are strong and functional bonds, Fillet is going to add a little more weight(no more that 10%) than TIG.
Basically since your concerned with aesthetics it's a question of what your eye wants to see, seamless transition between tubes(Fillet Brazed) or the welds themselves(TIG) There is no real performance gain/loss between the two methods. Fillet Brazing is a little more expensive due the the extra labor involved buy the builder.
 
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