15 May, 2008

What Are Lugs Worth? UPDATED


I received final pricing for the city bike from the factory today. It would raise the final price of the city bike by $160 to $200 to have it built with lugs, rather than TIG welded. The TIG welded frame and fork would cost about $400. Both versions includes fender mounts, semi horizontal dropouts, chainguard mounts, and all the other braze-ons you would expect from a VO frame. The tubing is double butted and the quality of either is as good as is available in Taiwan, which is not far from a modern production Japanese frame. Both the brazing and welding is very clean and there are no signs of overheating. So the question is, are lugs worth the extra expense?

As I see it, a city bike should not be too expensive or you'll be afraid to leave it out on the street. And a TIG welded frame rides almost as well as a lugged frame. Some say they are indistinguishable.

On the other hand, I think a lugged frame feels just a touch nicer. And it is certainly a lot nicer to look at. There is no question that most folks reading this would prefer a lugged frame, but is it worth the extra cost in this application.

The floor is open.

UPDATE: I wanted to add a few words to answer some questions and offer some explanation.

This is a low trail design with capacity for significant front loading. We are working on less expensive portuer style racks for it. But it is a real city bike for commuting and shopping, not a porteur optimized for a 50 pound front load. A portuer like that will not handle as well when unloaded.

As with all VO frames the emphasis is on perfect handling. I'm confident that there is no production city bike frame that will handle as well. My goal is offer the ride like of a top-of-the-line French constructeur city bike in a frame selling for between $400 and $580. Surlys, Somas, and other current frames are not like this. The Kogswell is a nice bike, but I think it's more like the upcoming multi-purpose frame. The VO has a longer top tube and is designed specifically for city bike handlebars, not drop bars.

This is a 650b frame; that is the best tire size for this sort of bike and I won't compromise on that. A bike like this is not for someone who will be happy on a converted mountain bike. It's for someone who lusts after a $6000 vintage Singer city bike on E-bay, but knows the Singer is far too valuable to lock to a parking meter.

88 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lugs. Definitely lugs.

dr2chase said...

$200 is serious money, and though I do like the look of lugs, function matters more. $200 is some great lights, or two sets of good tires, or some nice racks-N-baskets.

Supreme Commander said...

Lugs for a 50% premium seems to be an unnecessary luxury for this price level. I'm very interested in the production city frame, but would rather put that $200 into things that make a real difference.

dorina said...

Tough question. 400.00 and six hundred. I would almost say do both. I think a more affordable tig welded frame of this type is needed and would sell more. It would satisfy more people. I am not a 650b sized person, but for a second utility bike, it would make more sense for other people. hmmm...

Michael S said...

I say TIG with powdercoat so it can be a real tough city bike you aren't afraid to lock up or take to the grocery store.

Winga said...

Any reason why only one should be made? My guess is the tig one will turn off the "retro-snobs" and the lugged will turn off those with a more limited income.

Yohann said...

Well, lugs allow easier repairs (when you have to change the tubes)so it makes your 600$ bike a better investment than the TIG one. Moreover, it seems to me that there is no Lugs frame on the market at this price. Surly's frame are TIG and there is only Soma and Steelwood who offer lugs frames but both are more expansive.

C said...

No. Function should dictate form, not the other way around.

As for the notion that the lugged bike allows for easier repairs I'd say this is more of a hypothetical benefit. I've spent many years working in shops and we rarely saw frames come through in need of having a tube replaced. If they were that badly banged up they were usually beyond repair. If your frame did need a tube repair by the time you add in the cost of repainting you're very likely looking at a repair that cost more than the frame is worth. Replacing tubes makes sense of expensive custom bikes but is pretty foolish on a cheap Asian made production frame.

I also find the notion that you can tell the difference between a lugged and TIG bike to be laughable. Only way you could honestly make the comparison is to build two EXACTLY identical frames with the ONLY difference between them being the lugs.

Problem with most bike tests is that the bikes often use different tires, components, etc. and each of these slightly alters the ride quality. At an extreme end you could take a harsh Cannondale give it 38mm tires at 60psi and end up with a nicer ride than a steel lugged bike with 23mm tires at 120psi. Does that mean the steel lugged frame has a harsher ride? No.

BG said...

Over almost four decades now I've been hearing that old line about one of the big attributes of steel frames being the ability to repair/replace tubes. I've seen perhaps two dozen or so steel bikes I have run across over the years as a club rider and/or as a wrencher (in my younger days), and I never knew of anyone who actually had tubes replaced on their wrecked steel frame. Before some of you say, "I know of some", well, I agree it happens, but I think it's very untypical. The cases I have seen of steel frame surgery, involved enthusiasts who sent their frame(s) back to a builder for add-ons. That said, why not? We certainly live in a throw away society. I would agree that for an epic bicycle tour, a good steel frame has the pluses of being repairable in a pinch unlike other frame materials. All said, the USA really has a "toss it and get a new one" mentality. I suppose as it's said, "One man's trash is another man's treasure" is true, especially if the trash is made of copper.(~:

lamplightsg said...

I'm kind of torn here. On one hand, $400 is a nice price for a quality, versatile frameset. But there are other fairly similar framesets out there for a little less, though this one will likely look much better (to me).

On the other hand, I think lugs look great and would love to see an affordable lugged frame. And $600 is not bad for such a thing. But then again, $600 is still pretty expensive for a lot of people (including me).

Obviously both would be great, but if that's not possible then I honestly don't know which I think would be a better idea. :/

Hal said...

To some degree it's more of (A) what the final bike looks like and (B) what it costs. Unless someone can convince me that you really feel the difference between lugged, brazed and TIG-welded frames (and I have owned all three), I am not sure the extra cost of the lugs is worth the extra zing of the looks.

What is the final cost likely to be? If the lugs drive it over a grand, that may be a deal breaker for some. If it's a $1350 vs. $1550 difference, it maybe isn't an issue for most folks, since folks tend to look at major boundaries (500/1000/1500/etc.) as cut-offs.

Anyway, just my 2 francs.

Anonymous said...

the reason people seldom replace tubes is because the repairs are generally cost effective. If you can find someone to replace a tube for, what, a hundred fifty, and then send it off to the powdercoater for a two hundred dollar basic job, you're pretty much at the starting price and the frame is only ok, not great. Yes, I will do it and have done it for the really nice bikes, but probably not for a city bike. Also, what I've heard about tig bikes being harder to repair is that it's a myth. I'm not a framebuilder, though. What I'm saying is that the tig frame with nice brazed fork is probably what's needed for a true utility bike.

best,
mw

tatayray said...

the lugs arent worth it. a city bike is for function and the extra price is too much of a premium it seems...

Yohann said...

The TIG bikes are truly harder to repair, it's not a myth, it's the difference between brazing and welding, you can check on wikipedia, it will give you an idea.
But bg make the point : "the USA really has a "toss it and get a new one" mentality"... well, not only the USA, let me say that, I'm French and I live in Canada... We westerner pay 1200 USD a laptop which won't last more than 3 or 4 years and 15 000 or more for a car, but 600 USD is too much for a bike we probably use every day and we can have for ever. Moreover it's true that it's hard to find someone who is able to braze and the paint could be pitiful. Craftsmen have almost disappeared in our countries and you're truly lucky if you have a framebuilder in your town... Still, I'd prefer to buy a lug frame. But if you're afraid of stealers, you'd better to ride an old bike. Mine is 25 years old and of course it's a lug frame. I have a friend who owns the same, he moved to Chile recently and have it totally repaired and repainted after an accident for almost nothing... anyway, I'm not sure it's an argument here :-D
Finally, the thing is that now stellwool build their single speed with lugs and it seems that this fad make lugs more popular that they were... It's up to you Chris, you know your customers more than us.

Erik said...

Lugs. No doubt in my mind.

I think that a TIG welded (the purist in me must mention that the proper term is GTAW, not TIG) frame is instantly thrown into the pot with the other asian bargain frames such as Surly, Kogswell and Soma, all of which are quality bikes at great prices. The VO has only a couple of braze-ons and geometry subtleties to differentiate it from the pack.

A lugged frame, even if it's a furnace brazed mass production deal, has aesthetic appeal that sets it apart from the others. A look that is evocative of handmade artisan frames, not of asian sweatshop cookie-cutter frames. Spend the extra two hundy. It'll be a $600 frame that looks like $1000, not a $400 frame that looks like $475.

I agree with previous posts about the repairability issue. This will , for all practical purposes, never be an issue. Likewise on the ride quality differences between lugged frames and TIG frames. I will eat my hat if anyone can differentiate between the two, if set up identically.

I also don't think that theft is a concern. The a$$munch who is eyeing your bike is noticing the shiny components and clean paint and thinking he could trade it for twenty bucks worth of meth. No friggin way he's gonna pick out the lugs! My advice to people who want to keep their bikes is simple. Lock it up, and don't let it get too clean. Duct tape is great, and black primer is better!

Peace, Erik

dorina said...

I'm sorry. If I were to have a dedicated citybike, I would go for the Kogswell Porteur. Because of the fork function. And the matching fenders. And the powder coat, that's good. I don't see that Surly or Soma has something comparative. Surly's LHT is a big heavyweight 'tourer' and Soma's is a sport touring frame. I never heard of Steelwood and came up with nada when I googled. If you went TIG, you'd have a price advantage over the ($550?) Kogswell. If you went lugged, you'd have the lugged advantage. But between the two, I'd still go for the Kogswell because of the very real hauling function.

Maybe you could do something unique by offering it with an optional wheelset with hub generator/7-speed hub?

Oh! and definitely keep the threaded steerer! : )

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one for me. I do
like lugs, and I do like fillet
brazed, but I think TIG welded joints
just look inferior. However, there
is a place for such a frame and I
could have used one today going into
town on the commuter train with 4
really beaten-up bikes leaning against my newly renovated touring
bike. My bike escaped injury, and
next time I will take my one bike
that does have a powder coat.
Preston
Oh, yeah! One of those beaten-up
bikes was a '70s Bottechia, all
Campagnolo, with head badge. Made
we want to get it and renovate it.

reverend dick said...

TIG. It's a city bike, maaaaan.
A working bike. A townie. A beater.

Gunnar Berg said...

I don't care either way. The only thing I would warn is, you have to be careful. Do you want the V.O. brand to be associated with higher end, fine detailed detailed bicycles or do you want it to be good, functional bikes. Just be careful that the lower end doesn't lower the top end. There wasn't an entry level Herse, and if there was, the market for Rene Herses wouldn't be what it is.

James said...

Do a TIG city frame and a taiwanese lugged frame ("all rounder" if you want to call it that) that could be used to build a city or light duty touring bike. Wasn't that the plan anyhow? $600 isn't that expensive. The Kogswell costs $700 now and the Bleriot is $750 and the bikes that seem to outsell both of them, from Azor and Jorg&Olif aren't exactly cheap and aren't very good.

If you're going to do a lugged frame it should be a design that will appeal to recreational cyclists as well, at least until you sell enough to offer more specific taiwanese lugged frames.

There are unfortunately far more people who want a lugged recreational bike than there are people who would put a basket on a lugged bike and use it everyday. For every well set up Kogswell Porteur city bicycle there are probably 10 lugged Somas with boutique racing parts and no fenders. An affordable lugged touring frame would sell and we'd have, for the first time ever in the US a mass produced lugged touring frame with civilized geometry for under $1000. It could also double as the first lugged chromoly city bicycle in the country since that 1985 Bianchi "english tourer" no one bought.
Ideally in the future you could sell complete city bikes with both types of frame. Maybe even a gear hub specific lugged fully equipped model that could be an alternative to the bobo lifestyle accessory dutch bike. If in the meantime someone has to use a chain tensioner on a lugged gear hub equipped VO all rounder frame to make a city bicycle well I think we can live with that.


That said I'd still buy a Kogswell because of the all fork braze ons. seven possible places to mount a front rack. That's very important if you want to build yourself a larger front rack that is bus rack compatible. It's ugly but the fork is brilliant, aside from the steerer tube.

You know what would be brilliant? The perfect city bicycle? A VO city bicycle with a fork like the P/R's but with internally threaded fork crown holes (braze ins?) that put the rack stays lower and farther away from the downtube. Or perhaps braze ons on the sides of the fork crown? That way the mushroom bolts won't eat the downtube's powder every time the front end swings around.

I hope your tig welded bikes will have frames that are as traditional as possible in appearance. Please no hybrid-like upslope.

nv said...

TIG'd on two conditions:
1)The welds are really clean - no fish scales or blobs (not even baby blobs). The TIG welds on my Surly are fantastic - almost looks fillet brazed from 3 feet away.
2)Brazed fork - and make it a super wide, flat crown while you are at it.

This is an inexpensive, city bike project. Why not keep it as inexpensive as possible? Anyway, in my city, bikes need to look dressed down and even then they get vandalized and/or stolen.
nv
PS- Dark green? Really? It seems like every company from Dahon to Trek to Soma to Surly to Raleigh to Rivendell etc etc offer or recently offered dark green. Please, something else!

Anonymous said...

Make mine lugged please, $600 sounds like a pretty good deal compared to rivendell prices. Lugged frames are easier to repair and are generally a little bit stouter than tig-welded frames. And yes they look better. Keep up the great work Chris. CFG WHEELS

Brian said...

A thought on tig vs. lugs-

I can get a tig-welded city bike frame for free on trash day- any old 80's-90's era mtb that's being tossed in the trash or sold at a garage sale has all the braze ons you're talking about. add about $100-$150 to give it a fresh powdercoat, and there you are. cheap, bulletproof tig welded city bike. That's how I got my current tig welded city bike frame.

For $400, I can get a tig-welded surly in several varieties.

Lugs, though, I can't find. There's a lugged stumpjumper on ebay right now, but I'll most likely be outbid, and frankly, they don't come up very often, and almost never in my size.

I love the look of lugs despite the fact that they really don't do anything special besides look pretty. If I'm gonna spend $400 on a city bike frame, I can save another month or so and spend $600 on a really nice, beautiful frame.

If it's tig, I've already got options for less and options at your pricepoint that I can order from my own LBS.

This is all based on the frame having 26" or 700c wheels- if it's another 650b thing, I'm sooo very not interested- I've got no desire to get yet another set of wheels and tires. 26" mtb wheels are cheap and plentiful, and I've got a basement full of 700c.

Rick said...

Well, to hammer home the point: at $400 you'll have a TIG'd frame that is right in the middle of the price range of all the other TIG'd frames, probably from the same factory, with only minor differences.

At $600 you'll have the least expensive quality lugged frame around, and a well-thought out one too.

From an engineering standpoint (if done well, and Taiwanese brazers are good) luggged joints are stronger than welded ones. So, the frame will take more of a beating for the same frame weight--perfect for a city bike.

I have two city bikes built on old lugged frames--one a 1966 Bottecchia Professional--and both are quite attractive; both are leaned on every sort of parking meter, pole, and fence. Haven't had a lug-based problem yet.

Say, I wouldn't mind a new lugged frame with braze-ons (if I could run it fixed).

Ian Dickson said...

I am of two minds. If the frame is lugged and takes a threaded headset, it will be substantially different from other bikes in this price range. $200 is a lot, but it's not enough to affect how one will feel about the bike if it is stolen or vandalized. It'd be heart breaking either way. Also, I don't think that lugs attract thieves.

On the other hand, the sub-$500 price point might make people more likely to spring for one of these. It's in the Surly price range, but Surly doesn't offer anything like this. Also, a TIG-welded frame doesn't beg you to put fancy parts on it. You can just give it a cheap, practical build without feeling any guilt or sense of lost opportunity. There's something to be said for that.

bill said...

For me, the big deal here is a low trail bike with a threaded headset. I've never been able to get over the look of threadless stems, especially with a stack of spacers. Lugs are classy, but I agree with dr2chase; $200 will buy you some nice city bike accessories.

bill in sd

Bill B. said...

You can buy a lugged frameset on the bay' for under a couple hundred any day of the week. I don't quite understand why folks here are making it out to be such a rare bird. And there are new sub $600 lugged framesets as well - I can find a lugged new Bleriot, Soma, etc... for less than $600 with a 2 minute Google search. Also, Origin 8 has a 3 speed internally geared hub lugged city bike for under $500 complete. It's in their 2008 catalog - ask any LBS with a J&B account to see it. My LBS quoted me $400 for the complete bike. It even has a 1" threaded headset and quill stem - quite a nice looking bike!
On the VO city bike, I would take lugs over TIG at the same price point but since that cannot happen, I say keep it as affordable for the masses as possible. I can easily see this years $600 lugged frameset being $750 in 18 months. Suddenly a whole lot less appealing.
Lastly, I'd prefer if it weren't 650B.
Bill B.

JB said...

I vote Tig.

Many of you have said that a $400 welded bike would be too similar to what is already available. But I don't think that's true of this bike.

It's got a 1 inch threaded steerer. It's designed, handling wise, to be a city bike. Right there, it obviously wouldn't just be a Surly crosscheck with another name.

Go Tig to keep it as inexpensive as possible. I'm sure it will be plenty strong.

Chris Kulczycki said...

I added an update to the post to clarify some of the issues raised in the comments. Thanks for all your input.

Michael S said...

I think there are a lot of valid points being made, and I think the most important one is the brand-identity one made by Gunnar. Think about what person is going to go out of their way to buy a specially designed city bike, rather than just convert a MTB or something. That type of person is already knowledgeable enough to choose this bike over a Cross Check or something similar. Are they willing to spend an extra couple hundred dollars to have it look just right? Probably. I think people that buy this bike are going to find its appearance just as important as how it rides.

And with that in mind, and with all due respect to Matthew at Kogswell, I'm sure they're great bikes, but I don't think they look right at all. Sloping top tube, huge head tube extension, just not aesthetically pleasing.

The VO brand to me stands for practical design that looks right. I think Chris should also get a run of VO fenders and VO full chainguards powdercoated the same color as the frame for a complete package.

a dit oui said...

No lugs. If I want lugs I will paint faux lugs. I can use the money saved to buy parts from VO.

BG said...

"There's a lugged stumpjumper on ebay right now, but I'll most likely be outbid, and frankly, they don't come up very often, and almost never in my size."

I use to own one of the original ones with a TA crank. It was stolen even though it was locked in front of the library in Coral Gables, Florida. I had Bruce Gordon racks and Bob Beckman panniers on it at the time too. Ouch. A watershed event for me. Many here know the knot in the stomach feeling of coming out to find your bike gone. I have not ever bothered to lock my bikes outside since, they always go inside somewhere, or cycling friends watch them while I duck inside for a scone or to use the head. I have lived in NYC, and believe me on this - in NYC there is no lock made that can't be overcome. No more knots in the stomach for me.

Note - I won't argue with the lugged frame is stronger than the TIG welded frame people, but keep in mind that the newer air-hardened tubesets (True Temper O/X, etc.) are incredibly strong if built properly.

Cottered Crank said...

I am very encouraged by the lack of fundamentalism in these comments. There is nothing magical about lugs. It was the only cheap way to build a steel bike frame for decades, so there are a lot of them out there. There is nothing ugly about a good weld. Some are even beautiful in their own right. The fact that it is far less resource intensive is reflected in the price of the finished frame.

If you want a lugged frame, hang out on eBay for a while. I have a late 70s Trek that I planned to sell on there, but with the bad paint on mine, I would be lucky to get $150 out of it. For a silver brazed 531 frame with long Campy rear dropouts. So I built a Sturmey Archer three speed rear wheel for it, and made a very cool "Superbe" kind of bike. Now I don't have to buy a Quickbeam.

No VO frame is going to be confused with a cheapie, even by people who don't know bikes very well. Long ago, Grant hinted that there might be some tigged Rivendells one day, and I think that would be a good idea. A $400 city bike frame with optimal handling for the job is such a good deal that I might have to buy one, even though the 650b thing does nothing at all for me, and I need to be selling bikes, not buying. Sure hope my wife doesn't read this!

nordic_68 said...

I vote for low price. My wife wants a city bike and she really hopes I can convert her lugged Basso racing frame. But the bridges and crown will only take a 700/25 tire and no wide 650b tire will fit. She doesn't want to spend money on something new, but the lowest cost VO City bike is more persuasive. After all, if she can't reuse her 700c wheels on the VO bike then we'll need that extra money (saved from lugs) for a cheap 650b wheelset (either singlespeed or 3sp hub).

Not that we're ready to buy your frame. Just saying it's possible, but unnecessary price escalation is a barrier.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is pretty odd how older guys get all worked up about lugs. One reason I never bought a Rivendell was precisely what has been raised: would you lock a bike like that, with cream headtube and curly lugs, to a lightpole outside Foodlion? You might. I know I wouldn't, because I have nice lugged bikes and have never done it.

All of the commenters who state that Tig bikes are A: cheaper looking or somehow lacking aesthetically, or B: functionally weaker . . . these folks are simply voicing a traditional mindset which is emotional rather than logical. These folks need to get out more.

There are many fine craftsmen making fabulous tig bikes. I have one: a Steelman. There is no stronger, better riding steel bike. If you have a very, very nice 2500.00 lugged bike, the chances that it is as good as my Steelman are not good at all. Capiche? Others who specialize in this style include Carl Strong, Waterford, Pegoretti, etc. In other words, a great number of the very highest, high-end steel bikes being made by the very best craftsmen in the world today. Are tig. I'm stating this emphatically for emphasis.

I love a lugged frame as much as anyone. That is why I have several of them, and am also on Goodrich's waiting list. But I find the continued sentiment which seeks to construct a hierarchy of framebuilding with lugs at the top, welds at the bottom--that is pure silliness. If you like a builder who specializes in one method, cool.

best,
michael white

kathryn said...

to me vo is about doing things differently and with style. if others are making good tig welded frames then vo should do it with lugs. powdercoating is a good thing to consider environmentally, and i understand they can look as good as wet paint if done properly. so maybe consider that.

Anonymous said...

TIG, but put on non-functional "lugs" for decorative purposes.

BG said...

Here's some humor for the good people here:

http://tinyurl.com/3xd3mz

Caveat: while fiercely un-PC, I acknowledge some get uncomfortable with stereotypes. That said, if we can't laugh at ourselves..

..you know the rest. (~:

C said...

All the lugged supporters keep talking about how lugs look better. I agree completely but it's also missing the point. Adding lugs accomplishes two things:
1) They look nicer.
2) They cost more.
This is a city bike. It's a tool not a jewel so lugs really don't add any practical value. All I care about is how practical it is for running errands. Worrying about how it looks is just plain silly. Adding a couple hundred dollars to the price just for looks is pointless in my book. Might as well add a fancy panel paint job and pin stripes while you're at it.

The notion that there are plenty of other TIG bikes on the market simply shows people are not paying attention to the details. I don't know of any TIG frames that are similar to what Chris is proposing. Kogswell is the only thing that comes close.

Anonymous said...

Lugs. Otherwise, what's the point? All of the reasons to not use lugs could be applied to the other VO frames as well - and then you commence losing your identity.

Cottered Crank said...

If the VO identity depends on lugs, then Chris should sell VO now before the whole thing falls down in a heap! VO, Riv, and many other lug devotees would get along just fine if lugs suddenly vanished from the Earth. Great bikes don't have to be yellow, don't have to have dual pivot brakes, and don't even have to be made of steel.

Michael White expressed one major concern very well. I have an Atlantis and I love it, but it spends a lot more time in the basement than it should because I won't lock it up anywhere and wander off. I have never even ridden it to work, and it would make a wonderful commuter. I feel silly about that, and as much as I like the bike, if I had it to do over again, I'm not sure I wouldn't get a Surly LHT instead. It's obviously a tig welded Atlantis clone, which makes it a great bike. We are talking about a city bike here, not some love totem.

K Matthias said...

For me personally:

no lugs == no interest

:(

For mass market I'd say go no lugs because people won't care. But I think if you want a more discerning buyer than I would say lugs are worth the extra money. I think you are aiming for a niche market and thus I think detailing is key to getting it right. Even at a bit of expense.

Good luck either way. I like that this product will be available, lugs or no.

mpetry912 said...

I vote for TIG welding on this one.

Mark Petry
"2 Alex Singers"
Bainbridge Island, WA

K Matthias said...

For those who keep saying "it doesn't matter what it looks like it's a city bike!": aesthetics are EVERYTHING when building a brand. Like it or not, that's how things work in our society. And, judging by the bike scene in Portland, here, I'd say more people care about what they look like on their bike than how it rides. Now what if there was a bike that was not too expensive, was awesomely fit for it's purpose, and looked great? Now that would be a hot ticket. I think lugs are a requirement if that's what you want.

Cheers

Ian Dickson said...

I would like to second the suggestion about matching painted fenders. If fenders, rack, and frame all matched, I think that would be very nice.

Chris Kulczycki said...

The thing with painted fenders and racks is that they get scratched and look awful. With aluminum and stainless you can simply polish out scratches.

Ian Dickson said...

I like to see some wear and tear on a working bike, but that's just me.

kathryn said...

if it's going to be a lugged bike i want to know so i can place my deposit. of course vo will have an appropriate rack made with the capability of using low riders for those groceries...

The Downtowner said...

Gunnar's comment re: brand identity is really on point. It's not so much how the city bike sells, but how the city bike sells the VO brand.

Presumably, the city bike will have great potential exposure. Its the bike people will ride around town, lock up at the cafe, etc..

There is nothing wrong with being a little understated. In fact, in the context of city bikes, it can be a great thing. People who don't know bikes will feel comfortable around an unassuming bike; people who know bikes will be drawn in to look more closely. At that level, its not so much how the frame is assembled, as how well, how sensibly the whole bike is put together. That is, I think, what the "integrated" design is all about.

In New Orleans earlier this month I spotted a very pretty TIG welded city bike, painted pearl-fleck baby blue, with no maker's decals at all, just a pair of purple-blue hot rod flames on the top tube. All the parts were well chosen late 70s early 80s suntour and dia-comp, almost certainly picked for their underbranded look and high reliability.

Was this a custom bike in city bike stealth mode, or, more likely, just a repainted production frame thoughtfully built up, I don't know. My point is, I couldn't help but thinking "I want one like that."

Mike Flanigan's ANT bikes are very nice, TIG welds and all. He has started to do his own powdercoating lately, to nice effect. TIG takes powdercoat better, and you can get a matte finish, which to me is fantastic for a city runabout.

But in the end, lugs are nice, and $600 bucks isn't much for a new frame built for the job.

C said...

"aesthetics are EVERYTHING when building a brand."

No, and I work with a few dozen branding professionals who would laugh at that statement! Branding is about a whole lot more than just aesthetics and design. In fact at the agency I work for many of our branding assignments actually have no visual design component to them at all. Great design can help build a brand but it is absolutely NOT the only part of a great brand. If you doubt this look at REI. REI will never win any design awards yet they have an enormously powerful brand that most companies would kill for. Same holds true for Craigslist. Also any competent design director will tell you that great design and great aesthetics are not the same thing. I see portfolios everyday that are very nice aesthetically yet dismal failures from a design standpoint.

As for the statement that more discerning buyers would want lugs, well that's pure snobbish BS. I'm a discerning buyer who has owned bikes including those made by Alex Singer, Rivendell, Waterford, Colnago and many others and I still opt for welded for a city bike. For me there's nothing wrong with a tool looking like a tool. Lugs on a city bike to me is the visual equivalent of shiny chrome wheels on an off-road vehicle. I would also contend that a truly discerning buyer - one who actually knows a thing or two about quality rather than focusing solely on surface aesthetics - would take a TIG welded Waterford or IF over some piece of crap 80's lugged bike any day of the week. I worked on a lot of lugged steel bikes during that era and many of them, especially the Italian ones, were not nearly as well built as many modern TIG bikes!

Anonymous said...

Lugs started out as a shortcut. They were a way to save labor and not compromise strength.

Over time we've romanticized them. Baby Boomers especially.

Along the way they actually became valuable. In the hands of an expert, today's ultra thing steel tubes can ONLY be joined properly if one uses precision cast lugs and silver solder to minimize heat-time.

But in production frames, like those that come out of Taiwan, lugs have to be seen as an affectation.

There's a reason, ladies and gentlemen, why TIG is used to make bicycle frames. Efficiency.

And there's a reason why people want lugs. Because they want to be cool. And that's nothing to laugh at. We all want... no, we all NEED to be cool.

So I think it really boils down to a question of what you can afford.
Which is sort of a question of values. Do you have the extra $200 and if so, what else can you do with it besides adding to your cool?

Giving it to someone less fortunate is always an option.

patrick said...

As a Kogswell owner, i can say that the two things I wish my P/R had were lugs and a threaded steerer tube. Neither of those options are available for frames in the 400-600 dollar price range (I don't think).

But, obviously, neither of those things were important enough to me to go find another bike.

I think the lugs might be worth it because they would set it apart from its competition. You (and other commenters here) may be able to discern between Surly, Kogswell and the VO production bike, but a lot of people will not be as aware of those finer points. The traditional styling of lugs and threaded steerer will set it apart, even to people who don't know what trail is (and there are a lot of those people).

it's a tough one though. Those lugs are really expensive. If it makes you feel any better, I will have bike envy no matter what option you go with.

patrick

yohann said...

A lot of people here seem to be afraid of thieves and there are right, bikes thieves and bikes mechanics are two of the three specific plagues of the bicycle world. The third are cabs...
But well, a new bike will catch attention for sure, especially a new dark green VO city bike which will looks cool fore sure according to the prototype I saw on this blog. Here lugs or TIG welded don't matter. If the thieve could think if can have 20 bucks more from your VO than its neighbour on the pole, well... If your city is plagued by bicycle thieves as mine is, retrofit an old touring bike as the beautiful Miyata built up by David... in the early 80's, this kind of touring bikes were made with a long top tube, so you car put a city bike handlebars with the help of Nitto periscopa stem for instance... It won't be a VO city bike, but they were well made and actually they are very very good all around multipurpose bikes.
But most of the time a good strong and heavy chain is enough to repulse the thieves

ty said...

TIG and powdercoat is my vote. It's the correct way for a production city bike.

ty said...

Addendum regarding looks: As someone else noted, nice clean TIG welds look close to fillet brazes. I have a steel TIG'ed Hampsten that looks close to fillet brazed. I think it's every bit as pretty as my lugged bikes (Riv, Cinelli, Trek, Miyata). Just different. Lugs aren't the be all and end all. For most folks, on an investment like a bike that will lasts many years, $150-$200 shouldn't hold much sway in the purchase decision, but it probably does nonetheless.

ty said...

And finally an aside: a long time ago (20 years?) I did have a damaged tube replaced on a lugged Marinoni. It was worth it, even with the cost of repainting, etc. But I still vote TIG in this application.

Anonymous said...

"Along the way they actually became valuable. In the hands of an expert, today's ultra thing steel tubes can ONLY be joined properly if one uses precision cast lugs and silver solder to minimize heat-time."

sorry, but this is no longer true. I believe this was true up to, say, Reynolds 753. But subsequent technologies, air-hardened, heat-treated alloys like 853, the various Columbus mega-steels, the extraordinary Deda EOM 16.5 steel in my Steelman . . . these were actually developed for welding, not brazing. The joint is superstrong; the steel actually becomes stronger when welded. This is not to say that you can't braze it, just as with the 531 or 753, and get good results. But the reason so many high end builders weld nowadays is because that's what the tubing is designed for--plus, there's the customizable quality (you're not limited to frame angles set by the lugs). You can take 853 and make a terrific frame with lugs, like my match Paramount, or weld it, and either way you get a lifetime frame . . .

A tig'd frame from someone who really knows what he's doing is a frame from someone who really knows what he's doing, and it shows in a million ways. What Soma or whoever is doing is irrelevant.

The VO bike is a truly enlightened concept, and we really should all be grateful to Chris for his wonderful, utopian design skills.

michael white

Gunnar Berg said...

Michael White, please email me at neilmberg(at)yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Chris,
you are a brave fella for putting this sort of thing out there to be debated. It is times like this that I think of six farmers standing around, working out the best way to do a thing. At least eight answers. It must be a good way to jusge the mood and desires for your very specific customer base.
mb

Anonymous said...

I can only speak for myself, but I would vote for the TIG. I have as much affection for lugs as the next guy, but all those lugged bikes I like were made that way because it was the practical way for them to be made at the time - they were not made with lugs despite a 50% upcharge, nor for the sake of nostalgia. An otherwise traditional build with TIG welds will look very nice, and will also look contemporary or timeless rather than nostalgic.

If you can offer the frameset for ~$400, and have a porteur-style rack to mate with it, then you really have something unique.

James Black

dorina said...

Well, I think this is where Velo Tangerine comes in; the tig models :)

After reading Chris's update, I would definitely go for City Bike over P/R. I think TIG would be more than fine assuming it goes with the 1" threaded steerer.

A few years ago I wanted a 'serious' bike and got suckered into a Jamis Aurora that was too small for me. I thought the threadless steerers looked cool at first. Then I tried to raise my handlebars. What an obnoxious nightmare. I ended up with a new pair of Surly Forks and a clunky feeling bike.

BUT, I liked the clean tigged aesthetic except for the 1-1/8" headtube. It was out of proportion. But the Bianchis, which still use 1" steerer look nicer.

It sounds like you have two markets for this concept. Perhaps a prototype of each would help folks discern. Or should I say, helped lugged people accept CityBike as a tigged bike. Or perhaps there would be a secondary lugged market.

Personally, the 650b wheel is too small for me. The new 700c P/R is cool that way.

A satin powder coat sounds interesting.

Black is a good color.

A bike I like is the TOEI Type M, multi-purpose. I like the shifters mounted on the top tube. It seems like it might be a nice compromise between the convenience of bar end shifters and downtube shifters that don't get knocked about.

Ciao!

Matt D said...

I agree. A lugged frame denotes quality as well as beauty. A TIG welded frame is very common these days.

But, hey, why not do both as someone has already suggested?

Anonymous said...

“As I see it, a city bike should not be too expensive or you'll be afraid to leave it out on the street.”

I agree with Chris’s words above and would vote for TIG. The aesthetics of proper proportion, careful braze-on locations, and a dialed in design will impart plenty of attraction to this old school lugite.

What about the fork Chris? Would the lugged frame have a nice crown a la an XO-1? The TIG frame a unicrown? If you go lugged, please don’t pair it with a unicrown fork. In fact I’d love to see you bring in crowned forks of various design for a variety of applications.

Gunnar Berg said...

The answer to "why not do both?' is probably inventory, either in a warehouse or in the pipeline. Somebody (Chris) is going to have a lot of capital tied up in bicycle frames. Unless they are all made to order, too much inventory can eat you alive.

TEDDY said...

PLEASE NO 650B. I WOULDNT RIDE THIS WHEELSIZE EVEN IF IT WAS FREE.

Michael S said...

9:14 anonyme,
I think the purpose of this city bike is for it to be a city bike, not a porteur, a randonneur, a race bike, or a mountain bike. The idea is that you can go out and buy a city bike frame where the fenders fit perfectly and the chainguard mounts properly and it handles the way it should be.
All-rounders are all well and good, but resolved production bikes are incredibly rare, and I think that's the gap Chris is trying to fill.

Anonymous said...

Ok, while I love lugged frames, it is all I own, I'll argue with the folks that claim lugged frames are stronger than tig welded frames. Exhibit A is the U.S. Navy Subsafe program. After the USS Thresher was lost in in 1963, the Navy removed silver brazed (i.e, lugged) sea water systems from submarines to welded systems, as this was demonstrated to be stronger, more reliable. Can't argue with that. That being said, I love lugs, not having to rely upon them a quarter mile underwater and a thousand miles from land.

Hocam said...

Really what it comes down to is how many people are going to buy something else because the bike is tigged or lugged.

$600 might put it out of the price range of some, so maybe you'll lose them with lugs.

However, considering the amount of tigged frames available, I think you'll gain more from the people looking for lugs.

Anonymous said...

The issue with lugs for me in a city bike is not that a thief might be attracted to the lugs. Most bike thieves are probably looking for recognizable brands and late model components, anyway. My issue is that I don't want to have the extra investment of lugs locked to the parking meter. I don't need the exposure. My heart will sink if my P/R is ever stolen but it would sink even lower if it was a lugged Rivendell. Not to say that the Rivendell would even be a better bike for my purposes, even if better looking. But the bottom line for me is the risk and the feeling of having it stolen, both heartwise and pocketbook-wise.

Alan said...

I agree with Gunnar, don't cheapen the brand. From a business standpoint, a lower price point is putting VO in direct competition with larger, mass market producers and I don't see this market segment as where you can compete successfully. I don't see this as a lug versus non-lug issue so much as an end product price point issue. The lower you go in price the greater the competition you will face.

For under a $800 you can get a Breezer Villager. For everything the Breezer is not from a style standpoint, it is a well put together package suitable for nearly everyone's city biking needs. There's no point in taking on this sort of product.

Anonymous said...

For what it is worth, check out Rawland at www.rawlandcycles.com

Anonymous said...

you could always have a a tig'd frame sold under a new brandname. personally i think that lugs are great but i would be very interested in a solid, well thought out and affordable frameset as well. just make sure the fork looks nice and have a decent headbadge and decals.

C said...

"I agree with Gunnar, don't cheapen the brand. From a business standpoint, a lower price point is putting VO in direct competition with larger, mass market producers and I don't see this market segment as where you can compete successfully."

There are two flaws with this statement:
1) Lower prices do not in and of themselves cheapen a brand. Several brands have downscaled their pricing and not seen a deterioration of brand equity.
2) How would the VO frame face competition from mass market producers? Show me one frame that is in mass production and offers the details Chris is proposing. All other mass market city bikes do not use 650b wheels nor do they feature geometry optimized for front loading. Only one that comes close is the Kogswell.

K Matthias said...

RE: C

""aesthetics are EVERYTHING when building a brand."

No, and I work with a few dozen branding professionals who would laugh at that statement! Branding is about a whole lot more than just aesthetics and design. In fact at the agency I work for many of our branding assignments actually have no visual design component to them at all. Great design can help build a brand but it is absolutely NOT the only part of a great brand. If you doubt this look at REI. REI will never win any design awards yet they have an enormously powerful brand that most companies would kill for. Same holds true for Craigslist"

C... my friend... In fact you've just proved my point. The aesthetics of craigslist and REI are at this point PURPOSELY minimalist and directly serve the brand. In Craigslist case it's fair to say they define it. REI is a co-op and part of their branding is to prevent you from thinking they are just like all the other big box sports retailers. Craigslist calls their practice "unbranding" and it is aimed at seeming low budget and non-commercial. You are absolutely mistaken if you think those were not conscious branding choices or that their brand exists in spite of aesthetics.

Regardless of what you (in your rather rude post I must say) think or practice at your firm, aesthetics are everything when it comes to a brand. Good or bad, fancy or plain, it absolutely defines your brand. Sure there are other factors, if it looks great and it sucks, no one will use it. It has to have both. But if you want it to look plain, or just like all the other TIG bikes on the market, then it will need to be that way because Chris decides that his target market will appreciate that aesthetic. Because like it or not we are visual creatures. If it doesn't look the way people want they won't get past that to its function.

yankee_dollar said...

two head lugs and TIG the rest. split the price difference ;-)
by the way, does anyone have some pictures of fillet-brazed city bikes or constructeur-type frames? I'm itching to melt and file some more brass!

snappergrass said...

I vote for TIG - $400 for a frame like this is no brainer, I'd snap one up in a second. Lugs are nice, but like other people said, for a city bike that's going to be locked up somewhere I'd like something that looks functional and rides great.

C said...

"The aesthetics of craigslist and REI are at this point PURPOSELY minimalist"

REI minimalist? Are you joking? The homepage has close to 100 links on it. It's not "PURPOSELY minimalist" as you claim. I know this for a fact because I used to work at REI HQ in Kent and knew many of the designers and PMs. Most of them complained about the site being too cluttered and busy. Like Amazon, it's a classic example of design by committee - every team has to have a say and get their representation on the home page and the result is a pretty cluttered (though functional) page. Beyond their site, REI's hangtags, signage, end caps, and other visual identity elements are not exactly in the minimalist genre by any stretch of the imagination.

Saying aesthetics are EVERYTHING to a brand ignores so many other aspects that go into branding. Are they a component of branding? Absolutely! Can great design play a major part in defining a brand? Definitely. However, if aesthetics were all that counted branding would be solely the realm of designers. However, it's not and there's a reason for that!

Anonymous said...

I feel kind of dumb asking this question, but I'm not a bike historian and having never been to France I'm not particularly familiar with French porteurs, but does this frame geometry result in the "open heart" or "sit up and beg" riding style of the classic Dutch and English bikes? If so, sign me up for whichever way you want to build it. If I have to vote, I'll say tig, because I wouldn't mind saving a couple hundred bucks.

Anonymous said...

Lugged, TIG, Krazy-glued, whatever.

Just give me the option of racks built specifically for the bike. Meaning no thin, flat piece of metal as the main attachment points between the frame and rack. No clamp-on racks, obviously. weakest link in the chain...

The screws should pass through a point in the rack, and screw directly into the frame. No slop, no flex, and if properly built, perfectly even and mighty strong.

I'm lucky enough to own an olde (c. 1971) Mariposa rando bike with a matching rear pannier/platform rack. The rack itself is elegant and perfect for its intended purpose, which is light touring. Not so useful for carting around heavy groceries; Too much weight in the back, and the tail wags the dog. Also, the platform in back is too narrow and slippery to carry much at all.

My ideal city bike would have a wide platform rack and lowriders up front. A smaller pannier/platform rack in the back. Basically, enough carrying capacity for a flat of beer, groceries, bike tools, a lock, and some odds and ends. Maybe overkill - sounds more like a full touring bike rather than a city bike, but I'd rather be able to carry more than less.

Nice affordable pannier bags would be great as well. Waxed cotton or cordura bags sans leather that actually fit the racks to which they're mounted... what else do you need?

So, as to the price, the difference between lugged and TIG will be far less if we see the bike as a bike, and not as a bare frame.

I think if option packages were offered, almost everyone would go for them, especially if the components were VO-designed and built specifically for the city bike. Fenders, lights, racks, bags or baskets, chainguard... gimme gimme. Probably a wheelset as well, w. a Schmidt dyno and a mountain hub in back. Hell, why not build me a whole bike, Chris?

Lastly, I'm a little disturbed by Porteur bars, but I've not much experience with them, apart from riding some old cruisers around. Verry tilty and dicey in corners or climbing. Having my hands that far back of the head tube seems wrong. I'd probably do well to hop aboard a Singer city bike and ride it for a few weeks. Anybody got an extra?

Adam said...

All you people arguing about whether TIG or lugged, or big name brands, or new components, or whatever are more attractive to a theif don't understand city bike theft at all.

All of that is completely irrelevant to whether your bike is stolen or not -- the only thing that matters is whether it's locked better than the bike next to it. The person trying to steal your bike doesn't know anything about it beyond the fact that a) it's a bike, and b) within 20 minutes they can convert it into a hit of crack or meth.

I've seen custom Toei, Ebisu and Rivendell bikes all locked up on the street in San Francisco, to say nothing of the legions of Nagasawas, Samsons, Bridgestones, 3Renshos, etc...

Lugs v. TIG is an economic & aesthetic decision, period.

Anonymous said...

Adam,

Your first paragraph misses the logic. Many of us will hesitate to lock up an expensive bike, that's all. I believe Chris will get more personal satisfaction from selling a city bike that will be used, and used often, for its intended purpose. A fancy high zoot city bike is a bit like a gold plated hammer.

JoelMatthews said...

I am surprised to read so many here would not want to use a somewhat mass produced lugged bike as their city bike or commuter.

This link should bring you to my Rivendell Homer Hilsen in its current form:

http://www.cyclofiend.com/cc/2007/cc238r2-joelmatthews0807.html

(I sold the front rack and swapped the triple TA chain link for a nice custom TA single with chain guard from Mariposa)

I ride this nearly every day in all weather in Chicago. It is a beautiful bike. That is why I bought it. It is also a wonderfully practical bike that is just a joy to ride. Most of my life is spent at work behind a desk, attending to my daily obligations, and sleeping. There is no good reason not to have the most pleasure possible when I ride.

Sure, if this were a Rivendell custom made by Goodrich (or in the case of VO, a Johnny Coast Rando) I would not want to use it the way I am. But it is a Waterford built Hilsen. VO will source the City Bike from a factory. It will be a nice, but not one of a kind bike. I say have it lugged and don't give a fig about using it for its stated purpose.

Anonymous said...

Gosh Chris, what a great blog! Thanks for letting the general bike public comment on your upcoming projects.

As far as your city bike frame, I'd vote for a TIG frame and a lugged fork, with a good looking head badge.

Press in a Tange headset maybe? A factory installed headset makes a DIY build a lot easier.

Could you get this done for $500 retail? I'm guessing I could do the whole build for $1000 using parts stocked on your website. What would you change to chase and face the BB before shipping? Let's make this a fun, easy basement build for a person that doesn't own $5000 worth of tools.

I'd also like to see you make a good on-line bike build worksheet, so customers print it out and plan a frame up build....hopefully with a VO frame and/or parts.

Anonymous said...

JoelM, Do you lock your Riv outside a grocery store unattended for 20min on a regular basis? Or enjoy a relaxed meal in a café in the city while the bike is out of sight? I believe this is the vision Chris has in mind for this project. If you want a higher end approach, he offers the filet brazed semi-custom.

“I say have it lugged and don't give a fig about using it for its stated purpose.” - I think Chris does; In this project, a lower cost will add to the product’s utility.

Erik E

Anonymous said...

One of the things that impresses me most about Dutch bikes: the vast majority of them don't come in, ever, not for the whole fifty years or so of their existence in gray North weather. I'd like to think that if I had a bike that I wouldn't mind leaving out in inclement weather, then that might help change the way I do things around town. I mean, I do commute and so some errands on bike, but I don't live on one the way every Dutch citizen does . . .

I don't know, I tend to feel that somewhere we've taken a wrong turn in bikeland and we admire the wrong things sometimes.

In other words: a tough powder coat? full brazeons? versatile geometry? . . . that might really make an impact on a few lives.

best,
michael white

JoelM said...

ErikE asks:

"JoelM, Do you lock your Riv outside a grocery store unattended for 20min on a regular basis? Or enjoy a relaxed meal in a café in the city while the bike is out of sight? I believe this is the vision Chris has in mind for this project."

Yes indeed, I do. Day in and day out. I do not own a car. The Hilsen is my primary mode of transportation. I live in Chicago, thus it is my City bike. The classic Parisien bikes which I believe Chris has in mind with the city bikes were lugged. My City bike is lugged. Let the VO City Bike be lugged, I say.

" If you want a higher end approach, he offers the filet brazed semi-custom."

That I know, thus my reference to Johnny Coast.

Anonymous said...

JM, that’s cool. Many of us are more squeamish about locking up our expensive bikes. Many buy a used beater so a potential loss is less that $100. Some, like yourself, are willing to risk locking up their 3,4,5k investments. There’s no right and wrong in this debate, nor is there anything wrong with TIG welded VO's. Nearly all bikes were lugged for over 100 years, but now there are many options.

EE

Karl said...

Let's be realistic here. A $400 TIG frame with - at minimum - $500 of parts (unless you have them lying around or cannibalize from another bike) will be $900. The lugged version will be $1060-$1100. Is that 20% differential really going to make you more or less likely to leave it locked-up.