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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I went to the recent bike builder event at the SJCC.I had two big Ti names in mind to pick/choose from. I learned the big two are actually owned by the same parent company.

I saw some custom Ti, low volume, " fast turn-around" builders with nice welds just as the big name frames. I think the custom builders are more conservative in that they rarely shape/bend the chain/seat stays.

One custom builder in particular got my notice. Welding Ti for 14 years, his work looked just as good as the BIG two or three that were present. Hint, frame looks like a Moots.

Can you really get a Big-name frame put together by someone with that much experience?

It seems obvious now to buy from a builder you can talk to, but I had to see to believe. Anybody share the same conclusion?
 

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BS the DC
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What's with all the secrecy? It's OK to use names. Most of us know Merlin and Litespeed are owned by the sam parent company. So who's got 14 years experience and looks like Moots?
 

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Squirrel Hunter
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Conclusion or Questions

Hmmmm, your statements made you reach a conclusion while it only raised more questions for me.

Road cyclist said:
...low volume, " fast turn-around" builders...
Could this mean poor quality, poor marketing, overpriced, part time hobby rather than profession?

Road cyclist said:
...more conservative in that they rarely shape/bend the chain/seat stays...
Is the builder conservative or does he lack the equipment and engineering skills to to determine the best shapes and bends and then actually produce them?

Road cyclist said:
...Welding Ti for 14 years... ...buy from a builder you can talk to...
Isnt fit the most important aspect of custom built frames. Does he have the experience to determine the best fit for you and your riding style or does he just make pretty welds?

Road cyclist said:
...I went to the recent bike builder event...
Had you just taken a tour of the Big Two factory your enthusiasm might have led you to a totally different conclusion. A custom build might be just what you need but the statements you made do not necessarily support the conclusion you reached. Not so obvious to Mr. Obvious.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
bsdc said:
What's with all the secrecy? It's OK to use names. Most of us know Merlin and Litespeed are owned by the sam parent company. So who's got 14 years experience and looks like Moots?
Jim Kish Fabrication.
 

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Road cyclist said:
Welding Ti for 14 years... frame looks like a Moots.
Jim Kish?
He's taught some of those Moots guys how to weld. Also does a nice steel frame - I have one and love it. Great guy to work with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Keeping up with Junior said:
Hmmmm, your statements made you reach a conclusion while it only raised more questions for me.

Could this mean poor quality, poor marketing, overpriced, part time hobby rather than profession?

Is the builder conservative or does he lack the equipment and engineering skills to to determine the best shapes and bends and then actually produce them?

Isnt fit the most important aspect of custom built frames. Does he have the experience to determine the best fit for you and your riding style or does he just make pretty welds?

Had you just taken a tour of the Big Two factory your enthusiasm might have led you to a totally different conclusion. A custom build might be just what you need but the statements you made do not necessarily support the conclusion you reached. Not so obvious to Mr. Obvious.
I see nothing wrong in a guy keeping his overhead low, it does not say he is a bad builder.
Lower overhead can translate to a better bargain. Just check the welds, I think Jim is a
master craftsman. I think you should go to a builder with a plan of ideas, why should
someone swamp you with theirs?
A big factory tour does sound sexy, but who it that big factory is going to do the welding
on an individual's frame?
I was trying to say what the choices were to me due to marketing hype was all it was.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
FTM said:
Jim Kish?
He's taught some of those Moots guys how to weld. Also does a nice steel frame - I have one and love it. Great guy to work with.
Damm, from your info, I think fate is pointing me in that direction. Thanks
Just trying to debate over getting a frame with sculpted rear stays or straight
like a Moots. Too bad there are none for me to test drive now. :(
 

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Road cyclist said:
Damm, from your info, I think fate is pointing me in that direction. Thanks
Just trying to debate over getting a frame with sculpted rear stays or straight
like a Moots. Too bad there are none for me to test drive now. :(
He's only a little over a 3 hour drive from you, to further complicate things. Always better to get the measurments done and talk in person.
 

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wheel to wheel
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Road cyclist said:
So I went to the recent bike builder event at the SJCC.I had two big Ti names in mind to pick/choose from. I learned the big two are actually owned by the same parent company.

I saw some custom Ti, low volume, " fast turn-around" builders with nice welds just as the big name frames. I think the custom builders are more conservative in that they rarely shape/bend the chain/seat stays.

One custom builder in particular got my notice. Welding Ti for 14 years, his work looked just as good as the BIG two or three that were present. Hint, frame looks like a Moots.

Can you really get a Big-name frame put together by someone with that much experience?

It seems obvious now to buy from a builder you can talk to, but I had to see to believe. Anybody share the same conclusion?
It was pretty obvious from the original post that you were referring to ABG.
It was also obvious, to me, that you were subsequently referring to Jim Kish.
Why?
Because your words describe who he is, as a builder and a person. It seems that after one meeting with him you were impressed, by the person himself, as opposed to some brochure. That should have real some value, no?

There are at least a few of us (on RBR, more outside) who have Kish frames (FTM surely, he has one of the most beautiful mint green rides I've ever seen (I saw it in Kish's shop), and austin comes to mind as well) and I think all are happy with the work. Do a search (unfortunately, it was easier in the old, non-new, non-improved, RBR dispensation) for "Kish" and read the threads: all complimentary.

I also was fortunate enough to meet Jim and now have 2 Kish frames. They are both really superb, perform perfectly, and are beautiful. I'm thinking of ordering a third.
I know Jim fairly well by now, and I feel absolutely certain about his commitment and precision.
What FTM said is correct. And all the truisms about "getting to know the builder"; "communication"; "relationship"; etc.: they are, in fact, all true, and all available if you work with Jim. If you want fanfare, look elsewhere. If you want to build a really good steel or ti bike, you're there.

So, yes, I strongly recommend Kish, and I am pretty sure that if you order a frame from him you will not be disappointed.
Feel free to PM me if you wish for more info or have any questions.

I lust after many, many frames; it's my nature and I enjoy it.
But I surely don't need 10 or 20 bikes and so there are only a few frames I actually want to have.
All Kish.
They work just fine, trust me. And they fit perfectly.
I'd willingly drive 3 hours to meet him (got a speeding ticket once though, be careful out by Santa Maria).
Straight and true personal work is a real blessing, in our current world.
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Oh, and what is up with "Keeping up with Junior"? All those "questions" (and not a single one verified, strangely), just straight-out-of-the-box-like-that? From a fully-etched ABG owner, to boot.
Wow....
Then, again, my LBS, who had to drill out one (not even both, mind you) L*t*sp**d cable adjuster and swore (and I do mean swore) that Airbornes now have better qc...well, really, what does he know?

Go with your instinct, lad.
 

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Squirrel Hunter
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What is up

Well the original post was pretty cryptic and the reasons given did not lead to an obvious conclusion. I posted some questions I would ask and then evaluate the answers to and you will note I did not answer them since we did not know who the mystic builder was. Go back and read the questions I posed again and you can probably see that the answers would vary depending on which custom builder you were trying to decide on.

Small builders are just as capable of putting their own spin on things. Also some custom builders are craftsmen while others are just welders. From the subsequent posts it sounds like Kish is a craftsman and will be able to build your dream bike.

As you noted I do own a Merlin and at the time I got it I also looked at custom builds too. For my body and riding style I was able to get the fit I wanted with a production bike along with some other intangibles that were important to me. I got my Cyrene prior to the full etching which I find rather gaudy and would probably not have chosen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Didn't want to mention any names initially until I felt some people out,
did not want to get stoned.
The great thing about production houses is that they can easily make those
hour-glass rear stays. That is got to make a nice difference in the ride.
Also, its probably easier to test drive a production bike. I like your Merlin model
Right now I am in-between a Merlin and a custom builder. Too bad new Merlin's
have such loud decals. But they are still making their flag-ship bikes like the
"Cyrene" which is a beautiful frame. Seeing them in person was worth it.
 

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Keeping up with Junior said:
Well the original post was pretty cryptic and the reasons given did not lead to an obvious conclusion....
I apologize for the tone of the latter part of my previous post.
And you're right: you posted not knowing who the subject was, whereas I did, and that certainly colored my reaction to your words.
In terms of evaluating an unkown builder, your post makes some valid points.

Personally, I tend to disagree that the primary reason for ordering a frame from a custom builder is fit, though: obviously that is a critical reason, but there are many other advantages, in my opinion. In my case, the reasons are as much social (i.e. civic) and about process as they are about geometry, etc.

I agree with you completely regarding the issues of quality and intangibles.
 

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Road cyclist said:
Didn't want to mention any names initially until I felt some people out,
did not want to get stoned.
The great thing about production houses is that they can easily make those
hour-glass rear stays. That is got to make a nice difference in the ride.
Why? History is replete w/ frames that had regular old straight seatstays or chainstays and rode fantastically. Just like CF rear triangles and frames of Material X, you can't draw any performance conclusions on something like stay shape.


Road cyclist said:
Also, its probably easier to test drive a production bike.
You need to find the right small builder. When I was considering Moots, Moots sent a bike to the LBS for me to test ride for 4 days. I'm sure that there are other small builders that will do that, too.
 

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If you're in the california area then you might want to check out Bill Holland too (3/2.5,6/4,isogrid,exogrid). I've written some stuff about him here. If you like the curved seat stays I think the builder should be able to bend the tubes to your liking. I asked Bill about hourglass stays and he said it would be possible if that was my preference (I'm still waiting for my frame). However he did point out that the wall thickness of the tube is more important than shape. (thinner lowers axial stiffness) So he usually uses straight stays.

If merlin/litespeed graphics are too loud check out Spectrum. Tom Kellogg gets great press from owners. Lots of options here to think about. However I personally feel going directly to the builder is best. It prevents any communication break downs. So if you find a builder you really feel comfortable talking to and get along really well with and he has a stellar reputation.....well what's left to decide?

Oh and yes....a good builder should have some demo models around. In my case I actually got to ride a customer's Holland who lent it to Bill for me to try out since I am looking for some serious stoutness. This frame apparently was the stiffest thing he had built to date. It allowed me to give him some great feed back for my own frame.
 

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I'm very doubtful that shaped stays have any real, noticeable effect on ride quality (they certainly weren't invented in order to produce "better ride quality"), and surely they do not have any greater effect than can be achieved by tire pressure, position, etc.

I would not consider Moots a "small builder", though, not in the sense of the one-man shops. They're no ABG, but they do have a complete distribution chain, and their production is pretty high, so of course demo models are available; they're often on a showroom floor. I think very few shops have Kish frames (2 or 3 maybe). Very few have Hollands, etc. on hand, I'm sure.

I'm not sure too many small builders offer test rides: 1) the bikes just aren't available and 2) the whole point is it's a custom frame. Someone building custom frames, with that level of personal attention, is unlikely to have a similar frame just lying around....

I think one can get very well close enough, by understanding the builder's philosophy, by getting feedback from other owners, etc. I know that Carl Strong (and probably others) have a referral list, and if Kish asked me to let a seriously interested client of my size see/ride my bike, I'd certainly let them. Like the Holland example, but I think you were pretty fortunate, HXTi, no?

To want to really "test ride" a pending custom frame seems a bit incongruous, anyhow, if one knows what they're looking for in the first place. It's more logical to ride similar (or even dissimilar) frames, describe what one likes/doesn't like, and then go a bit on faith and experience. And, no, it's really not all the rocket surgery it's cracked up to be. Then again, I'm surprised that so many people agonize over a frame from one shop and then get their next frame from someone else (unless the first purchase just really didn't work out for some reason), in a sense negating the entire custom exercise: but the vagaries of the buying cyclist are pretty astounding, all things considered.
 

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Cadence90 I just realized you also post on WW. :) Okay we need to see some pics of your sweet frames. Jim has a very characteristic style of welding indeed. I've seen some fine examples. You're lucky to have more than one. A nice guy from france posted some fine pics of his kish mtn bike which has the mega tech BB. I was looking into this for a while but in the end I went a different route.

http://weightweenies.starbike.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=9529&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

As for testing out a rig.....cadence90 is right, I was very fortunate to have a similar rig to try out. A one man show like Bill Holland, Jim Kish ( I think) etc isn't going to have demos to ship all over the country to let people try them out. But like you said if you agree with the builder's philosophy and really trust the guy...well again a no brainer. Plus you know who welded your frame.....the main builder himself.

Anyways enough talkin about it all. When's your custom going to be ready Road Cyclist?
 

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"I'm very doubtful that shaped stays have any real, noticeable effect on ride quality (they certainly weren't invented in order to produce "better ride quality"), and surely they do not have any greater effect than can be achieved by tire pressure, position, etc."

from what I have gathered from cannondale's info they went to shaped stays for a "more comfortable ride". I believe they absorb more of the road vibrations. I haven't done a comparison so I can't comment if it is noticeable. I personally don't want to vary tire pressure to change the ride characteristics. I want to ride with my tires pumped up towards the high end of their recommended pressure to get lower rolling resistance. But yes I agree with you that change your tire by 5 or 10 psi probably/most definately has more of an effect on ride than curved stays. Now you got me curious...who has ridden shaped stays and non-shaped stays of similar bikes (ideally the stays being the only variable)? Can you tell a difnce?

fwiw (original post made comment about who in big big company is gonna weld) I just sold a 94 litespeed and it had purty purty welds-all of them. looked like a work of art.....now I haven't seen the moots or kish welds in person but these welds looked like the ones I see in their pictures.
 

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Squirrel Hunter
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School Me

cadence90 said:
...shaped stays ...certainly weren't invented in order to produce "better ride quality"...
Perhaps someone with some real knowledge can school me properly because I have no claim to factual knowledge in this area. But I recall at one time hearing that builders shaped stays and made subtle frame differences as a way to identify their bikes in the pro peletons. At one time weren't there limits (UCI or sponsors?) on what identification could be put on the frames. It was the seat stays that allowed everyone to identify the rebadged Trek time trial bike that Lance rode early on.

Friction_Shifter said:
...who has ridden shaped stays and non-shaped stays of similar bikes (ideally the stays being the only variable)? Can you tell a difnce?...
Well similar geometry but other significant differences. Went from an EL/OS steel Bianchi to a Ti Cyrene. Both had similar geometry and both had shaped tubes but the Bianchi had straight seat stays while the Merline has the hourglass. I think the differences in the two bikes had more to do with material choices as well as tubing size and thickness particularly in the bottom bracket area. I really find very little difference that I could attribute to seat stay shape. I view the hourglass stays as more of a fashion feature than a function feature. If I had gone custom shaped seat stays would not have been something I requested unless the builder recommended it based on what ride qualities I was looking for. Kind of like the excessive use of carbon in many areas on current frames and components.
 

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HXTi said:
Cadence90 I just realized you also post on WW. :) Okay we need to see some pics of your sweet frames. Jim has a very characteristic style of welding indeed. I've seen some fine examples. You're lucky to have more than one. A nice guy from france posted some fine pics of his kish mtn bike which has the mega tech BB. I was looking into this for a while but in the end I went a different route.

http://weightweenies.starbike.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=9529&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

As for testing out a rig.....cadence90 is right, I was very fortunate to have a similar rig to try out. A one man show like Bill Holland, Jim Kish ( I think) etc isn't going to have demos to ship all over the country to let people try them out. But like you said if you agree with the builder's philosophy and really trust the guy...well again a no brainer. Plus you know who welded your frame.....the main builder himself.

Anyways enough talkin about it all. When's your custom going to be ready Road Cyclist?
Yes, I used to be active on WW, not too much any more.

Here are some old links to some threads re: my Kish frames.

Kish ti road; RBR

Kish ti road; WW

Kish ti hardtail; MTBR

Kish ti hardtail; WW

I sure hope we see photos of your Holland when it's finished!!!
 

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Keeping up with Junior said:
Perhaps someone with some real knowledge can school me properly because I have no claim to factual knowledge in this area. But I recall at one time hearing that builders shaped stays and made subtle frame differences as a way to identify their bikes in the pro peletons. At one time weren't there limits (UCI or sponsors?) on what identification could be put on the frames. It was the seat stays that allowed everyone to identify the rebadged Trek time trial bike that Lance rode early on.



Well similar geometry but other significant differences. Went from an EL/OS steel Bianchi to a Ti Cyrene. Both had similar geometry and both had shaped tubes but the Bianchi had straight seat stays while the Merline has the hourglass. I think the differences in the two bikes had more to do with material choices as well as tubing size and thickness particularly in the bottom bracket area. I really find very little difference that I could attribute to seat stay shape. I view the hourglass stays as more of a fashion feature than a function feature. If I had gone custom shaped seat stays would not have been something I requested unless the builder recommended it based on what ride qualities I was looking for. Kind of like the excessive use of carbon in many areas on current frames and components.
I'm not a builder, so I don't claim "real knowledge", but I think that shaped stays, such as the hourglass stays, originally came over to road frames from mtb (tire clearance, etc.) requirements, which were also adapted to road because of larger rear cassettes, etc. I do not think they were "invented" in order to produce a "better" ride quality per se. The marketing guys did see the opportunity, though, of course.

I remember that LS, etc. all claimed (of course) that their curved (not hourglass) stays dampened vibration, but I don't know and I really doubt it. Now the Colnago Cristallo, etc. curve them in the other direction. Pinarello goes "Onda." But still, the argument regarding vibration absorption rages on. Etc. Etc. Etc. Whatever.

Comparing a Bianchi EL/OS to a Merlin Cyrene is definitely two different grovestands, though, regarding The Great Shaped Seatstay Debate. To each his own. Personally, I think straight-gauge tubes and straight stays are absolutely fine; and if those leave less room for sponsor logos, even Cannondale ones or any others, well, I'm not too distraught about it. ;) :)
 
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