Friday, July 31, 2009

Defenders of the Faith

Generally, I'm not one to do blog posts as responses to a post on a different website that was a response to one of my own earlier posts. It seems silly—like having what should be a private argument while yelling over a speakerphone on a crowded street: "LOOK, I KNOW YOU'RE THE ONE WHO GAVE ME THE GODDAMN HERPES! DO I LOOK LIKE THE KIND OF PERSON WHO GETS LAID ALL THE TIME?" OK, maybe it's just me.

Anyway, I was surfing the interwebs Wednesday night when I came across this In the Gnar post bemoaning my apparent hatchet job on the new T1 Garrett frame. I actually had to go back and read my initial post again to see whether I killed it that badly. Nope, didn't think so. However, I thought I'd expand on my feelings. For what it's worth.

First, a few seemingly disjointed facts:
1) Complete bikes are starting to get awesome. (More on that next week.)

2) Most American-made "street" frames are now made from SuperTherm (or some other heat-treated and butted) tubing, weigh less than five pounds, and cost around $400.

3) The economy is fucked.

4) The average rider doesn't need a 22-pound bike.

Where am I going with all this? Good question! Let's start at the beginning.

Roughly 10 years ago, when the average BMX bike weighed 35 pounds, Waterford started making frames for Standard from heat-treated True Temper tubing. Standard called these frames "R-Models," and sold them for considerably more than their "normal" chromoly counterparts. Same frames, different weights. Waterford, having done high-end road and mountain bikes for a long time, had access to tubing that other companies may not have even been aware of. Standard took advantage.

If you remember (or even if you don't), S&M responded by releasing the "PBR Model," a conventional 4130 frame with extra mockery. Now When news dropped that S&M were gonna do a new Dirt Bike, I was excited. A new, affordable S&M frame? Nope. They went back to uncapped stays, but kept the high-zoot tubing and the $360 pricetag.

Look, I understand that SuperTherm allows you to build a lighter frame that's still strong. From the S&M website:

SuperTherm is highly temper-resistant, resulting in an 11% increase in fatigue life and a 20% increase in impact strength over heat-treated 4130.

Fantastic. It's also however-many-percent more expensive. One would think (or at least I would) that there'd still be a market for a heavier 4130 frame (that still made use of innovations like smaller dropouts and larger vent holes) that was available at a lower price point than all of the SuperTherm and 4Q Baked frames out there. It's hard to believe that EVERY rider out there is so weight-obsessed that a five-and-a-half-pound frame (or even six—mercy!) wouldn't be viable.

Which comes back to T1 thusly: Seems to me that damn near every American frame manufacturer—S&M, Standard, FBM, T1, Fit, Metal—is targeting the same demographic, namely, the one that needs to know whether a frame weight is with or without paint. You've got a bunch of companies who at least used to have somewhat unique identities offering very similar products at very similar prices to the same batch of consumers. An who will the average kid go with? The one who sponsors Eddie Cleveland and Dakota Roche, the one who sponsors Cameron Wood and Randy Brown, or the one who sponsors Garrett Byrnes? I can't help but feel that T1 is setting themselves up to fail.

I suppose the greater question is this: Where's the modern equivalent of the Standard Cashius or the Dirtbike Classic? Given the current state of the economy (and the basic advances in framebuilding), wouldn't it be a no-brainer?

••••••

If you'd rather just read a killer interview with Joe Rich, go here. Good stuff, Brian.

44 comments:

Russ said...

I guess my main point is that whilst it's obvious that a Ferrari Enzo is the car performance ideal, a lot of people still buy Honda Civics. Not everyone needs the best and the lightest.

albieish said...

Talking about BMX bikes being expensive is like comparing Hondas and Acuras. If you want to bring super cars into this, go out and find me some full carbon fiber road frames with disc wheels and Italian components.

We are pretty low on the ladder of expensive bikes, and while there are people that like to "tune" their little Civic to something a little bit faster and a little bit lighter, we are still limited by the factors of everyday use and crappy potholed roads.

Russ said...

This is true. You could even keep it to just Civics, for that matter—there's a need for everything from base models to hybrids to SIs. BMX seems to focus primarily on the SI market.

Anonymous said...

You're being superfluous only talking about the new hot shit. Of course if you are only looking at the new and innovative parts, that is all you will find and they will all come with a price tag to prove it.
Have you looked at Dan's Comp lately? 61 of the ~90 or so frames they have listed under "street/trails." If someone want's an affordable frame, they have more then a handful of choices. Granted it won't be the latest and greatest... but most of those improvements aren't necessary anyway...

Russ said...

Not if I want a new American-made frame there isn't. There's gotta be a lot of people out there who don't want or need a 4.5 pound $400 frame to session curb cuts and manual pads but still want to support companies like S&M and FBM and T1.

Russ said...

Remember the Fat Chance Buck Shaver?

http://www.mombat.org/1997_Fat_Chance_Buckshaver.htm

EvilOlivE said...

but the people that want/need a 6lbs frame are probably still riding their old 6 pound frame that they've had for years and wouldn't even want a new frame because they like the bragging rights associated with having the same frame for years. new riders that need a 6 pound frame wont know they need a 6 pound frame until they break a few 5 pounders. then they'll just get a used one from a friend or on ebay for cheap. i really doubt there is a significant market for new heavier frames.

when i read stuff like this all i hear is "i want a cool new frame with all the bells and whistles, but my mentality is still stuck in the 90's. i don't want anyone to think I'm a pussy for replacing my old frame that has nothing wrong with it, or be associated with the kids that i think are pussies for riding sub 5 pound frames."

questions: have you even tried any of the new frames? if you have, did you break it? and, if s&m came out with a 6 pound frame tomorrow, would you really buy it?

sounds like you're looking for a bmx loophole.

Russ said...

That's not what I mean to say at all, and if that's how you interpreted that post, I'm even worse of a writer than I think I am.

Anonymous said...

If you want to support one of those companies but don't feel like spending that much on a frame, buy a T-Shirt. Sine when are you all about image? Beggers can't be choosers.

Russ said...

It's not about weight.

EvilOlivE said...

in all fairness Russ, that was me trying to read between the lines. i understand your point (i think.) you want a cheaper, American made, heavier(read: longer lasting) alternative to whats out already.

i think you can find that on ebay. might be a little used but $100-$150 for a frame that should last a few years at least is a better deal (for its purpose) than a new one anyway. it a win/win situation.

Anonymous said...

If you want american made, you have to pay american prices. Regardless of the economy. I honestly doubt that the tubing is THAT much more expensive... But you can't offer the same product and raise prices, and to keep up with the rest of the world, prices need to raise here and there.
I'm surprised you aren't bitching about how frames no longer come with the option of any fork (pitchfork of course) for $50.

Russ said...

Is "this year's frame is lighter than last year's" a viable long-term business model? It's not about specific frame weights as it is about weight being the be-all and end-all. Yes, a 25-pound bike is better than a 35-pound bike. Clearly. But is a 22-pound bike better than a 25-pound bike? And is lightest synonomous with best?

Michael said...

I agree with you Russ. These sub 5 $400 frames are a little ridiculous. I mean, a few of them in the mainstream market would suffice. But one or two from every company? And some of the Colony frames are getting above $400. And the fact that Fit has basically just made the same frame for Eddie/Chase and Dak/Hawk is even more ridiculous. And for the few people out there that still ride with brakes, the new Fit/S&M removable brake mount system is shit an brakes don't work on them. But anyway frames are a little ridiculous these days. Weight doesn't always matter, but strength does. That's why I'm stoked on my Deathtrap

Anonymous said...

I always thought it would be cool to have a PBR frame with mid bb and internal headset. Everything else as is. Just sayin.

EvilOlivE said...

weight being the end-all be-all is just your interpretation of the current situation. i think most people look for frames that have features that are most suited for them first, and the dropped weight is just a bonus. if a kid just looks at weight and nothing else then obviously the weight is the most important feature to him. is he in the wrong for that?

don't you remember how excited you were when you got a new frame or bike as a kid? should kids these days not be allowed to feel the same way? why would anyone care if some 15yo switches 5 new frames a year just because he can? or that there's a couple hundred frames on the market that you don't like? as long as you like the one you're riding, how does that effect you personally? all these frames are there because they sell. whats wrong with that?

Beau said...

I'm sure Solid would be glad to make you a large batch of 6lb bikes with Hi Ten front triangles, plus you could resell them for whatever price you like, time to jump in on that cash cow and start your own company Russ. As to whether 1oz lighter each year is a viable business model, ask a road guy with an 09 Cervelo p3 and a set of $4000 zipps he will use for two races, seems to work well enough for those guys.

Russ said...

Sigh. Forget it. Obviously I totally failed at getting my point across.

Russell W said...

No you didn't. You clearly want an option for a more affordable current frame. The way to achieve this is to make a frame from the LESS expensive, yet quality materials. A BY PRODUCT OF THAT WOULD BE A SLIGHT INCREASE IN WEIGHT. It's obvious to me that you're not asking a heavier bike, but a cheaper bike. I don't know what's wrong with everyone.

brian said...

the point Russ is trying to make is where are the simple, no frills frames that don't cost an arm and a leg? FBM did this with the Outsider, Standard had the Cashius, etc. no one makes them anymore, maybe because they didn't sell as well as a frame that was 75-100$ more than had slightly better features? i don't know for sure but SBC and FBM could answer that.

I don't have tons of cash to splurge on frames so I ride a 5.whatever lb hoffman i got off sidewall's sale. the geometry rules and is light enough.

oh Russ, maybe you missed the point of the ITG post. like Nick said, "It wasn’t you it was the comments that seemed way over the top." bmx is way too critical these days, kids need to get off the internet.

Anonymous said...

There ARE plenty of cheaper bikes. Maybe they aren't american made, but that never stopped anyone from buying a Sunday.

Anonymous said...

I can safely say as a 15 year old that I would rather ride an SFA than a Fit Eddie DeHawk.

Unless of course I found a Eddie DeHawk frame for waaaay cheaper or Solid wouldn't do a one off non-tapered-capped-stays-with-grind-guards like I imagine they would.

EvilOlivE said...

i got your point but i think the fact that what you're looking for doesn't exist is all the proof you need that the market just isn't there.

"viable long-term business model?"
its not a government bond, its a fly by the seat of your pants real time business strategy. they make what sells, and when that stops selling they'll make something different.

not that i don't agree that a modern day equivalent to the cashius and old dirtbike would be cool, it just wouldn't sell well. if i were an american frame manufacture that sold $400 frames like hotcakes i wouldn't want to take time away from that cash crop to make something else that i wouldn't profit as much from either.

Smitty said...

Funny you mention the Buck Shaver. Fat Chance didn't make it out of the 90's, did it? From it's ashes rose Independent Fabrications, and their average frame sells for about $3000, from what gather by looking at their website. Hmmmm...maybe the remaining USA builders should just raise their prices through the roof.

Anonymous said...

The whole "made in America" thing is pretty much irrelevent at this stage surely? Who cares where their frame (or TV or cellphone or couch) is made these days? If you want a cheap solid frame then you can buy up last years Sunday when they get reduced around this time of year. You may need 20 mins to rattle-can it a less horible color but thats not a big deal is it? The Cashius was a good deal because not much else at that price was any use back then, but stuff has sure moved on since then.
Made in USA was a selling point because the USA made frames were the only ones that held up, but it seems the other way round now.

True Temper tube is also kind of past it now to. Come on, seamed tube? Go to the True Temper website and they dont even make any effort to sell it themselves. Just Golf shafts and crabon road forks. dig down and find the BMX tube and they dont even quote any of the properties apart from yield so checking out the "11% increase in fatigue life and a 20% increase in impact strength" claim is impossible. and if there WAS an "11% increase in fatigue life and a 20% increase in impact strength" you can bet your ass that they would just make it 30% lighter.

Dont S&M buy in their seamless handlebar tubes from Taiwan now anyway and just do welding here?

verification word faulters

Anonymous said...

fbm outsider!!!

CHRISJETT! said...

Hey Russ, first time caller, long time listener.

First off. I too have been riding the same frame for years, but not for bragging rights at all. The past few frames I have had, although higher-end, have twisted under the weight of my fat ass whilst enjoying regular trail riding.

Enter the ebay'd trailboss. I had one a number of years ago, and always regretted getting rid of it. When I found a lightly used one on ebay(and local!) I had to snatch it up. Best hundo I've ever laid down on a bmx, and easily the last frame I see myself on for the rest of my time on a bmx.(I'm getting a little creaky)

The point I believe Russ is trying to make is this: eventually there will come a time when all of this "progression" will bottom out, and someone is gonna get hurt-all for the sake of keeping up with the joneses with the new hot shit light frame that's light for no other sake than being light.

I believe in this old saying, I think it goes something like, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Light builds are sketchy, to me at least, mid-flight. Think your bike is too heavy to clear the gap? I suggest you all stop being fucking pussies, and ride your goddamn bikes like they were meant to be ridden. Fucking fast.

Point two: Digging builds muscle, but so does riding a mid-30lb bike. Grow a pair and stop buying into the newest trends. Besides, a heavier build just may come in handy next time you find yourself in a scuffle and need some heavy hands.

...Oh, wait, you pricks do all your fighting on the keyboards, my bad.

Anonymous said...

*engage rumor mill*
there may or may not be a cad drawing on a computer at a bmx distribution house that might be emailed to another location in the united states for production in the very near future that could possibly give dudes that love to ride like a manly man a frame worthy that kind of gnarness. alledgedly. possibly. said frame may also only come in flat black as a nod to its simplicity and a certain pioneer of automobile manufacturing. agaain, these are just allegations.

Anonymous said...

I'd guess that the gap in the good-frames market between Sunday buyers and people who run Eastern/Redline/SE's lower-priced not-stupid-light 4130 frames is tiny. Maybe one good mid-priced frame could fit in there now and catch on enough to make some money.

That Mutiny with the giant downtube was just right, I thought. No one else wanted one.

Smitty said...

Chrisjett...Nice first post! "I suggest you all stop being fucking pussies, and ride your goddamn bikes like they were meant to be ridden" brought a smile to my face - cause I need such a reminder too.

Anon 10:31...do you think that anybody got excited enough about the possibility of a new Flat Black, non-butted, low cost USA-made gimmick-free frame to "engage the rumor mill"? Of course not...and therein lies the problem. Hard to justify the application of company time and resources to a frame that excites no one.

Toastyovens said...

"SuperTherm is highly temper-resistant, resulting in an 11% increase in fatigue life and a 20% increase in impact strength over heat-treated 4130."

Disingenuous BULLSHIT. So how are they going to maintain that 'fatigue life' and 'impact strength' after the tubes were welded. Pixie dust? And if anyone is stupid enough to believe 'fatigue life' and 'impact strength' is ALL that matters for a BMX frame, then your leg is getting pulled about a mile in length.

BULLSHIT. BULLSHIT. BULLSHIT.

Unfortunately Russ and everyone else woho isn't metallurgically educated enough to buy this nonsense hook, line and sinker. And no, I'd rather do something else productive with my time than explaining irrefutable facts at the expense of people's ignorance. Go to a library and read books.

Verification : distates

Joe J said...

I wonder why the issue is "more affordable" here, when the real issue is the fact that the BMX industry is a merely microcosm of U.S. consumerism that is running the U.S. into the ground, thanks the the few who profit off overeas production at the cost of the working middle class. For what? Free trade? B.S. Bring back tariffs, and the whole game would change completely. U.S. products would have prestige again. People talk about U.S. products no longer being as good as or better than overseas (which is highly debate-able; you ever see some production bikes from there? Some welds look like seagull shit, or actually missing) If you had your own production business here, you'd probably no longer give a shit either if you work harder and longer following U.S. legal rules, only to be short-changed by substandard wage labor/ shit environmental regulations overseas, thanks to "Free Trade." People should be owrking on bringing integrity back to the products sold in this country, and stop shipping all the technology and innovations overseas. Just my two cents...

Beau said...

Yeah read a book on metallurgy before purchasing a frame and bring back tariffs, fucking geniuses reading this blog i see.

Joe J said...

To the loudmouth above, any idiot can make fun of others' viewpoints; show some valid points why you disagree before making sarcastic comments, one that just shows you are talking to a mirror...

dayday said...

I stopped reading, i do think most missed the point of the post. Its really not about the weight, its about the price, in todays economy where is the second choice? Does EVERY single frame made by a company always have to be the Lightest, and Greatet, what about those that just want a solid 5-6lb frame for 200 bucks and support those that need support. It doesnt exist - Aske SM, FBM etc, kids are the ones buying, taht is the kids want, and will continue to buy.

Our market, Russ, supposedly doesnt exist. I think it does, somebody needs to convice the frame makes it does. BTW, im rocking a PBR still, and not becuase of some Old School Ego, its because between a mortgage, car payments, vacations, internet, cable, kids soccer, bdays, xmas, and just life, i cant justify $400 on a new frame im going to ride on the weekends for a few hours....if that.

Nick Ferreira said...

the link went to the comments, not your post. c'mon man? really? I KNOW i'm not that good of a writer but I at least thought the link went back to what I was talking about. It's really not that big of a deal, I just think that frame will be fine for the majority of riders and most people complaining are holding onto some weird past for no reason.

Beau said...

What people are actually missing is 400 dollars for a frame in the bike world is outrageously cheap considering what you get, there are a ton of lightly used year old frames if you absolutely just don't have the money. I ride 20-30 hours a week so I'd probably pay a lot more if I had to. As to reading a book about metallurgy before buying a frame, that is the equivalent of getting a bachelors in economics before buying a car, it's a waste of time, nobody actually buys a frame because the top tube is 13% longer lasting anyways. As to bringing back tariffs, yes it would be good for american frame builders, and bad for the other 99.99% of the population, unless you are buying american made computers, tvs, phones, etc. Can you show me an example of a country successfully using a tariff now? Keep these ridiculous ideas in high school poli-sci where they belong.

Anonymous said...

There's plenty of cheap, strong, (and relatively lighter) options out there; just check the clearance racks. This spring, I replaced my worn but still very functional Fit Series One ($30 shipped!) with a Mutiny Sinister that was on sale from Empire for $150. Granted, it's not an American made frame, but I'd rather support Mutiny than some of the other kooky outfits out there.

I've been eatin' cheap by buying bikes a year or two out of date since 1987. Maybe I'll get a SFA in 2011.

Joe J said...

It's only as ridiculous as you want to believe it is. A tariff policy is not some kooky idea from grade school economics that was left in the 60's; there has been a push in the past few years to reinstate them as seen below:

http://www.allroadsleadtochina.com/2007/02/16/are-you-prepared-for-tarriffs/

And most South American countries like Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, etc use tariffs (on goods from other continents)- while they might seem like poverty-stricken countries (most of that is due to past political corruption), check back in about ten years and see how their economies are doing then. A good bet is they will be doing a lot better than most, even the U.S., thanks to self-sufficiency. Just the economic changes in Brazil in say the past ten years are massive. (not saying tariffs were the sole reason) Part of it is because they have a level of self-sufficient industry that the U.S. is losing.
You make it sound like the U.S. doesn't have the ability produce computers, TV's etc. Um, yeah right. There's nothing the U.S. can't make that would maybe cost a few dollars more, where your money is going back to the middle class working people who live in the U.S. anyway. Instead of leaving most of the working class to work at Walmart, it seems to make sense to bring the industry back to the U.S. and actually have real jobs...

Realistic Consumer said...

Russ, this was posted on the Solid website about a month ago:

"Also have the new version of the AA dubbed the “All American”. Same geometry without all the extra gizmos. Strait guage Plymouth Promoly tubing, .049″ downtube and chainstays, .035 top tube and seatstays. Plymouth has always been the premiere tubing brand and they know it, naming their tubing Promoly and raising their prices by 50%. Bird gussets top and bottom. 3/4″ stays with huge tire clearance. 5/8″ tube spreaders in the rear. Should be about 4.75# and retail for about $300."

There you go. American-made, durable and most importantly, affordable... relatively speaking of course. You can even get a pair of Solid forks for an extra $60.00 from their online store.

If I didn't already have one of the last Maas built Barcodes waiting in the wings, I would definitely pick up an "All-American" from Aaron and the guys at Solid, who coincidentally have built my last two frames, the almighty Killing Machine.

Anonymous said...

Lost in this discussion is the fact that outsourcing production to Asia - for whatever benefit or disadvantage - has limited the ability of domestic production to compete on an even playing field. Joe Rich has said as much, that if he were to start T1 today, he would invariably source his production through a Taiwanese factory. In order for those companies who value domestic frame production to draw attention to a feature other than price, they have to extol values that are more unique to their model; smaller runs = better QC, exclusivity to exotic materials that are harder to import, et al. Funny enough, every Solid and T1 frame that I've ever taken out of a box has been at least 1/4 inch mis-aligned in the rear end - even worse in some cases. The straightest frames that I've seen on any consistent basis come rom FBM or Taiwan. The bottom line is, as a shop, you are selling value. Its up to the consumers to interpret that value.

Anonymous said...

Eagerly awaiting your post on complete bikes. I just bought a WTP Avenue 24" and I absolutely love it. I haven't ridden any sort of BMX in about 20 years, and this is the first time I've ever been on a cruiser. More on the whole deal after your post.

WTF? My verification word is "poless". Almost sounds like a stripper on a tight budget.

dooley said...

very few people who are interested in something want the base model. sure most people who buy cars buy civics, but the ones who love cars would buy the sporty models if they could afford them.

i bought my sunday precisely because it was the best frame available, the fact that it was 10x better than i needed was irrelevant

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the Subrosa novus not it's not American made but it is a cheap quality frame with a bit more weight OMG.