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.