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Dr. Flats a lot
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I want a custom Ti frame for training. I played with the idea of a stainless frame but the tubes are so limited I doubt I could tune it as well to my specifications. Maybe in 5 years it will be differnt but currently the tubes are so limited I think Ti is the way to go. I'm going to mostly race on my carbon frame but want a frame I can put the bulk of my training on and also race in some events. As this is going to be a frame I'll in all likelihood never sell I want it to be a frame I can love forever.
Some of the folks I am considering are Indep Fab, Desalvo, Moots, Strong, Lynsky. There is a huge difference in price. I'm willing to pay it if it makes a difference. Not just in how gorgeous the welds are, but in how well it performs. My instinct is that folks like IF have a wealth of experience that smaller one man operations lack...but is this just hype?
 

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When I was at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show a couple of weeks ago looking at Ti bikes, one bike stood out for me and that was Dean. Esthetically, he had the nicest welds and this great looking Ti fork. The reality is anybody you choose from your list can build a great bike so for me it comes down to who has the best fit and finish. At the show I looked at Erikson, Moots, Strong, Black Sheep etc. and they were all great bikes but when you get to compare fit and finish, in my opinion, Dean stood out. And his prices were more than reasonable.

His website doesn't have a photo of the new forks but I can tell you they were really nice. I am not a carbon fan so it was nice to see a complete Ti bike.

But as you said there are other considerations, can the builder build you what you want, are you limited by their tubing choices or do you have say in the matter. How long is their wait list. If you don't need custom, you could just buy an off the shelf Merlin. Lots of choices which is a great thing. Good luck in what ever you choose.
 

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I just bought a Dean El Vado and built it up with 2008 Dura Ace. I, too, wanted a frame that I'd never sell, and Ti was an easy material of choice--no paint (in my case), low fatigue over the life of the frame, and sweet ride characteristics. Plus, I had already tried everything, and, to me, Ti rides the best. The El Diente is one step up, and that's all custom, plus they use double butted tubing. If weight matters to you, it weighs about 18.5lbs.: all Dura Ace, Neuvation M28s, Dean Ti post, Ritchey WCS bar/stem, Regal saddle, and Alpha Q CS10 fork. You can see by my component choices that I just wanted a bike that was fun to ride, and ride a lot. I don't sweat the grams anymore.

I have a carbon bike to race on if I ever feel like doing that again (former cat. 2), but now I just do a lot of solo riding and one fast group ride every week. I have a tt-bike to do time trials on. Now they're both just rain bikes, though. :)

The El Vado is such a nice bike. As was mentioned, the welds are beautiful. They also offer the possibility of an etched logo instead of stickers, which is what I went with. Although my frame isn't custom, John lengthened the head tube by 20mm for me so I wouldn't have to use spacers for my stem height adjustment--no extra charge. The geometry was perfect for me, so I just saved some money and went with the El Vado--it doesn't bother me that the tubes are straight guage. The etched logos were supposed to be $50 extra, but he threw that in as well. They were really nice to deal with. I ended up paying $1850, and I couldn't be happier.

One thing that has been said a lot of this forum is that Dean has slow and unreliable turn around. I didn't find this to be true. Communication with John (one of the owners and the builder of my frame) was very easy and never lacking. I recommend Dean without any reservations.

Hope this helps, and have fun picking out your frame. Here's a picture of mine:

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/_wqT6twIWv5k/SbjonO5GkbI/AAAAAAAAABQ/z-R2JHFK-y0/s1600-h/DSCF6559.jpg
 

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All builders mentioned are great, but I think the one you should use is the one you can easily see personally. i.e. get fitted by them, themselves - not by an agent etc.

For me as I live in Melbourne, Australia - my only Ti option here is Baum. Not a bad one to have locally either:thumbsup:

I would look at the one man shows more than the bigger guys too if you want a more personal service / experience.

Kish, Strong, Baum, Eriksen, IF etc are all excellent frame builders. Whilst Dean make nice rides i've heard horror stories of delays etc with em.

For a factory build a Moots is awesome - if stock sizes fit you - yes they do custom also.

Good luck, there is really no wrong decision here.
 

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Carl Strong is only about 5 months out now, a good time to buy. My neighbor just went to his shop in Bozeman, walked out with an order for a Ti bike. Expects it in June/July

b21
 

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zoikz said:
I
I played with the idea of a stainless frame but the tubes are so limited I doubt I could tune it as well to my specifications. Maybe in 5 years it will be differnt but currently the tubes are so limited I think Ti is the way to go.
just curious -
what exactly do you have in mind that requires a custom? do you have some special needs or use that precludes a production Ti or stainless frameset?
 

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zoikz said:
I'm willing to pay it if it makes a difference. Not just in how gorgeous the welds are, but in how well it performs.


so the look is a higher priority that performance?? zoiks... btw, dean is the sux when it comes to service/communication. plenty of horror stories on these boards if you want/need more
 

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Opinions only...

I'm not crazy about IF. Just aren't, mostly, but I'd prefer a specialist.

Don't be so quick to judge the one-man shops as a whole. There are those that were principals in the bigger names, but in one manner or another escaped the large corporate vibe.

For the small shop Ti, Eriksen would get my nod. No lack of experience there. Strong would be a good choice too; I just have a preference (that I honestly can't justify well.)

In the next tier, I like Lynskey a lot. That's Ti experience, there, and they work to a pretty good price point, especially considering the level of customization they can work to.

I never saw the allure of Moots. Great stuff and all, but I never figured out what it was that makes folks gush as compared to others.

Seven / Serotta - great bikes, a lot of the price is in the decals.


I'm a Ti sort, so this isn't any sort of attempt to steer, but your thoughts about steel's limitations seem off. That's a problem likely to grow rather than shrink over time, but there is a fantastic variety of tubing available to a builder that doesn't choose to limit himself to a particular brand. With Ti, the readily available tubeset range is much smaller, unless you go with one of the relatively few builders that butt their own. However, I wouldn't make that a prime decisioning factor, as it matters less to the intrinsic properties of the ride as many people like to market / imagine. I'd suggest having a discussion with one of the folks fluent in both materials (Strong comes to mind) just to make sure your thought processes aren't leading you in a direction you don't really want to go. It seems as if you have a certain amount of price sensitivity, and that could easily leave you with less 'tunability' in Ti vs. steel. It also may not matter at all, if the particular qualities you are looking for happen to be readily available (or not) in a given material or tubeset.
 

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I'm also looking for a custom ti frame. I need a frame along the dimensions of a litespeed sportive tall head tube shorter top tube, I know ugly but my lower back can't see anything just feels bad when I'm bent over to far. I'm a 50 year old recreational rider with no intentions of racing just enjoy riding with friends and solo. I've got a airborne valkyrie (rain bike )and a merlin cr2/3.5 but the problem is to many spacers about 5inches worth. I just won't ride anything else but ti, I had carbon, aluminum, steel and sold them for these 2 bikes for me nothing compares. pricing the sportive frame was anywhere from 2499-2999 and i don't want to pay that much, looking for 1500-1800. If there is no such animal I'll just keep what I have, ugly as it is but functional for me. any thoughts or help would be appreciated.
 

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so the look is a higher priority that performance?? zoiks... btw, dean is the sux when it comes to service/communication. plenty of horror stories on these boards if you want/need more

@FatTireFred
As a recent customer whose every phone call or e-mail was responded to right away every time, I really feel the need to reiterate that the rumor of poor "service/communication" wasn't true in my case.

They said 2 months, and I had a new frame 2 months later on the dot. Unless you have actually dealt with Dean yourself, It really seems irresponsible to trash on their reputation based on 2nd hand accounts. Then again, my experience is only one example. I realize that. Yet it's still based on personal experience.
 

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blakcloud said:
When I was at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show a couple of weeks ago looking at Ti bikes, one bike stood out for me and that was Dean. Esthetically, he had the nicest welds and this great looking Ti fork. ......
His website doesn't have a photo of the new forks but I can tell you they were really nice. I am not a carbon fan so it was nice to see a complete Ti bike.
Here's a photo of (at least the crown) Dean's ti fork that I took at NAHBS. Beautiful welds.



While Dean would not be my very first choice, the craftsmanship is impressive.
 

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I'm usually no cheerleader, but my experiences ordering my two frames from Carl Strong have been excellent. Here's what I like about Carl which may or may not be true of others:

He's an experienced builder and craftsman--he has years and thousands (not an exaggeration) of frames under his belt.
He's a good businessman and is concerned about his brand image, so he doesn't mess around.
He delivers on time, or in my case, ahead of schedule.
He always answers his phone, or if by e-mail, responds promptly.
His prices are reasonable (I'm thinking about Eriksen here).
Not everyone has a Strong in these parts.
The welds are nice to look at: they have the appearance of having been laid down by a deft welder, a human craftsman, though they do not have the robotic uniformity of a Moots, say. I personally like the fact that no joint on my frame looks identical, but others may disagree. Here are some examples (note that all the welds you see on just about any ti frame are what are called the second or cosmetic "pass," a bead of filler put down over the first, or fusion, pass, so they can't tell you anything about the strength of the joint):

<img src="https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3177/2828510700_530f4fb052_o.jpg">

<img src="https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3094/2827673277_0805ac9478_o.jpg">

What I didn't like:
I had to face the bb shell, which Carl said was unnecessary (because it is a machined part), but there was too much drag in my Red bb before I did so. There must have been some post-welding distortion which was just enough to make the faces out of phase. No big deal if you have a sharp cutting head.
Whoever packaged it forgot to include the barrel adjusters with my road frame, so Carl had them shipped to me overnight.
There was some residual media and even a setscrew (used to keep media from getting into the frame through the breather holes) left in the frame, but it all came out during the build-up.

That's it.

I've had the frame for five months and ridden it on all sorts of roads. Two weeks ago I had it over 50mph coming down a pass on the Blue Ridge Parkway and it was rock-solid. I spec-ed some smaller diameter main tubes rather than larger because I don't weigh much and because I didn't want a very stiff ride. I was concerned then about torsional stiffness and speed wobble, but the bars were motionless, and only a little bit of countersteer was all that was needed for those sweeping mountain corners.

Buy a Strong. At least talk to Carl a while, then make up your mind.
 

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Dr. Flats a lot
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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Thanks for the comments. My local builder is IF and I have a steel cross frame from them, that really is fantastic. For my cross frame I went to up to boston and had the fitting there. sat down at a computer and designed it with them, then met the welders, painters, checked the color options, picked out the tubes. It was quite an experience and the result was amazing. I can almost always pull a tighter line than whoever I'm racing against. But $1200-1600 extra bucks is a bitter pill to swallow for a ti frame when I know guys like Erickson and Strong make such great bikes. Being that the SSR (or Columbus XCR) are so limited in tube shapes and diameters and basically the same price I've decided against it.
I guess my bias with DEAN is from earlier when they were just starting. Working as a mechanic in Boulder there were a lot of them out there and I saw some shabby work. Maybe it's different now.
Moots always plucks at my heartstrings as it is always, for me, the consummate colorado builder and reminds me of ripping singletrack up in Steamboat. It was the holy grail of bikes, living as a dirty ski bum in those parts I always longed for one.
Lynskey definately has the technology advantage and for all out performance may be the way to go. But the level 4 is crazy expensive.
Maybe I'm a sucker but I think builders experience with having a team, getting riders on the podium and having input from pro's really makes a difference.
 

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zoikz said:
Thanks for the comments. My local builder is IF and I have a steel cross frame from them, that really is fantastic. For my cross frame I went to up to boston and had the fitting there. sat down at a computer and designed it with them, then met the welders, painters, checked the color options, picked out the tubes. It was quite an experience and the result was amazing. I can almost always pull a tighter line than whoever I'm racing against. But $1200-1600 extra bucks is a bitter pill to swallow for a ti frame when I know guys like Erickson and Strong make such great bikes. Being that the SSR (or Columbus XCR) are so limited in tube shapes and diameters and basically the same price I've decided against it.
I guess my bias with DEAN is from earlier when they were just starting. Working as a mechanic in Boulder there were a lot of them out there and I saw some shabby work. Maybe it's different now.
Moots always plucks at my heartstrings as it is always, for me, the consummate colorado builder and reminds me of ripping singletrack up in Steamboat. It was the holy grail of bikes, living as a dirty ski bum in those parts I always longed for one.
Lynskey definately has the technology advantage and for all out performance may be the way to go. But the level 4 is crazy expensive.
Maybe I'm a sucker but I think builders experience with having a team, getting riders on the podium and having input from pro's really makes a difference.
I just received my Lynskey Houseblend custom R330 - got it on sale for $2519 - you might call them - Jack in sales - and see what they can do. They were extremely organized and a pleasure to deal with. The frame looks perfect. Six weeks for delivery. Mine is being built with an edge 1.0 fork and dura ace.
 

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duh...
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choocher said:
so the look is a higher priority that performance?? zoiks... btw, dean is the sux when it comes to service/communication. plenty of horror stories on these boards if you want/need more

@FatTireFred
As a recent customer whose every phone call or e-mail was responded to right away every time, I really feel the need to reiterate that the rumor of poor "service/communication" wasn't true in my case.

They said 2 months, and I had a new frame 2 months later on the dot. Unless you have actually dealt with Dean yourself, It really seems irresponsible to trash on their reputation based on 2nd hand accounts. Then again, my experience is only one example. I realize that. Yet it's still based on personal experience.


"rumor"? HOGWASH... and that's based on MY personal experience. I was quoted 8 weeks, got my frame in 9 MONTHS. ordered Jan, received frame in Sept... so much for riding it that year. in between, nothing but lies and excuses- tubes are being cut, another 2 weeks, jigs are full, another 2 weeks, frame is in the jig, another 2 weeks, at QC, another 2 weeks, etc, etc, etc- in response to numerous queries, and it wasn't even a custom frame. if John would have just fessed up and been straight and given an honest answer/delivery estimate from the git-go or even later in the process, it wouldn't have been as big a deal, but when you gotta threaten to cancel the order to get things moving then you have a problem. the "bashing" is well-deserved in my case, and there are many others in the same boat, just search rbr or mtbr
 
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