16 February, 2009

Help Wanted and Custom Frames



Despite the economic slowdown, VO is growing. The winter slowdown we were anticipating has not materialized. And our tiny staff is increasingly overworked. So we need help.

The position available is entry level. It involves grunt work in the warehouse, packing orders, helping customers in the showroom, and even testing new products. Pay is about what you'd expect in a bike shop. If you live in the area and are interested, please e-mail.

Unfortunately not everyone is doing well in the current economic climate. Johnny Coast, who builds many of the Velo Orange frames for us, will be unable to continue supplying custom frames to VO and to our customers. The credit crunch has hit Coast Cycles rather hard. Of course we're refunding deposits on ordered frames and those in the shop will be finished.

Johnny tells me that he is reorganizing and will try to keep Coast Cycles open as a smaller, leaner, and more expensive shop. I've heard of other builders who are in deep trouble as well; it's not a good time for many artisans. Velo Orange Pass Hunter and City frames from Ahren Rogers are not affected. They continue to be available and are shipping close to schedule.

We won't look for another builder right away. Custom frames are something I do want to offer, but the return on them and the amount of time required makes it hard to justify.

32 comments:

placid casual said...

a dream job but the 3500 mile commute might be a stretch - damp too!

sad news about johnny too - his are dream bikes...

Gunnar Berg said...

Jon Kendziera, with whom Ahen shared space, packed it in too.

Anonymous said...

anyway I don't think custom frames are what's missing. In the seventies, almost every French frame you could buy had eyelets and reasonable geometry, and it's that versatility (with improved quality) that we need in production frames, I think.
best,
michael white

Anonymous said...

Times are tough . . . it is just too bad that Johnny C. isn't some worthless MBA on Wall Street - because then he could still pocket a huge bonus and also get Federal bail-out money to safeguard his job.

Apologies to the "tassled-loafer" set - I know it must be tough to have to let some of the hired help go at your vacation houses in Aspen and the Hamptons. Boo Hoo . . .

robatsu said...

Seems like you have to keep offering some frames if part of your identity is to become a constructeur. Does seem like a huge hassle and takes your eye off the components ball.

Frankly, given the huge volume of cheap, high quality, vintage steel frames of every size/configuration out there, I've never understood the economic rationale for buying new, and this seems like the sort of thing that gets shaken out during economic crises.

Ian Dickson said...

"Frankly, given the huge volume of cheap, high quality, vintage steel frames of every size/configuration out there..."

Please tell me where you live so I can move there. Of course there's ebay, but for frames I'd rather not.

Chris, I hope you'll go ahead with your plans for affordable production frames.

Anonymous said...

I feel horrible that Johnny is closing shop, but I don't get it -- he still has unfilled orders? So, clearly there is demand for his work.

Is it that banks won't advance him working capital, so he can't finish things?

Anonymous said...

Chris didn't say JC was closing shop, only that he was restructuring, and implied that he needed to show his creditors a bigger profit margin. His frames, even under his own name, have always been among the cheaper customs out there.

Jon Kedziera's frames, on the other hand, were very expensive with frilly lugs and contrasting color paint schemes that aesthetically didn't do anything for me.

ds

Anonymous said...

Truly sorry to hear about Coast Cycles - I hope he is able to work it out.

That said, there are lots of custom options these days. What I would really like to see are affordable, well spec'd, simple yet elegant lugged framesets. Think a Surly Cross Check with minimal, nicely executed lugs, lighter weight tubeset and non OS diameter tubing. Maxway could do this and based on what is available coming from Maxway, the aforementioned wouldn't be that expensive...

Anonymous said...

I mean to add PRODUCTION to the following above:
"What I would really like to see are affordable, well spec'd, simple yet elegant lugged framesets."

Chris Kulczycki said...

Getting capital is the crux of the whole problem, but, no, Johnny is not closing shop, at least not if he can help it. His plan is to concentrate on more expensive frames built under his own name. There is not enough profit in VO frames or other less costly frames to keep him afloat.

The final production frame prototypes are due in late March and delivery of the first 300 frames is about 90 days after that. This is assuming that there are no delays, which is not very likely.

Joel said...

Too bad about Johnny Coast. I hope he is able to get his finances in order and keep building. His detail work is amazing.

Jonnycycles could do some over the top work, but he was willing to do excellent restoration work and sold excellent forks and stems.

Both builders will be missed.

Chris:

Does this spell the end of the custom camper? Or is that going to be an Ahren Rogers as well?

Anonymous said...

With two unemployed adult children,
I could use that VO job myself if I
lived near Annapolis. Sorry to hear
about the problems of the custom
builders; must be a tough industry.
Chris, that Rebour drawing you had
previously shown on this post caught
my interest--looked like a Flying
Scot bike, and I would not have
expected a Rebour drawing of one.
Preston

Winga said...

It's a complete bummer. As someone on the waiting list it was depressing to get that email last week, thankfully I hadn't sold my current Rando type frame/bike or bought parts for the VO frame. Best of luck to Johnny though, and thanks to Chris for refunding the money, it sounds like he is taking a hit on the refund. After looking around for a while it is impossible to get a nice custom lugged Rando frame at that price. I'll look at and think about getting a Passhunter, maybe Chris will offer some of the same things on the Passhunter such as mounts for a front rando rack and studs set up for the Paul Racers, just a thought.

Anonymous said...

All is clear -- Johnny can clearly market and sell under his own name and not have to split the profit margin. Given how thin profit margins are, this makes perfect sense.

It's unfortunate that a good source of affordable frames is gone, but it doesn't seem to mean at all that the credit crunch has claimed another victim. Far from it!

All the best to Johnny.

Anonymous said...

chris is there an older post describing the specs and cost of the coming production frames

Chris Kulczycki said...

The production Rando frames have the same specs as our custom (J Coast built) rando frames, same careful selection of tubing gauges, same braze-ons, same geometry. Not exactly the same lugs, but close. And brass brazed rather than silver.

The city bike will be the subject of a post when the final prototype arrives, but it is very close in geometry and specs to the city bike Ahren builds for us. To keep cost down it is TIG welded, not fillet brazed.

Ian Dickson said...

Chris, do you know yet what sizes you'll offer? It would be great if you sold frames that would fit smaller women.

Anonymous said...

What is the taillight in the photo? And where can I get it?

Winga said...

Chris, what would cost of production Rando frames be?

Chris Kulczycki said...

The sizes for the rando frame might range from 51cm to 63cm, maybe 61cm. The thing is that the factory would rather build fewer sizes while we want more; there will be some negotiations.

My aim is to have the Rando price be under $800. I may succeed, depending on the world economy and other such trivial matters. The city bike frame should be between $400 and $450.

That Taillight is a vintage bit.

Ian Dickson said...

Thanks for the info. 51cm is really too large for a lot of people, but apparently not enough people to make smaller sizes economical.

One of the many nice things about Surly is that their frames are available in sizes that will fit even a sub-five-footer. But the Surly is not a beautiful bike...

Anonymous said...

"My aim is to have the Rando price be under $800."

I sure hope this happens as long as frames are made up to size 63cm. And I hope you also get the
Camper bike into production. You'd think more bikes like these would be available.

It would be great if you could get your frame production going like Mercian. They have a good set up with quality work and shortish wait times for custom frames.

--LS

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about Jonnycycles closing, and Coast 'restructuring.' However, it is probably inevitable that some of the bright lights in this new handbuilt rennaisance would not continue on. Often it has more to do with other, non-bike quality-related issues that close these operations down: rent goes up and it is too expensive to move, another kid, or the spouse wants to go back to school, or some one rips you off and you can't recover, &c. good luck to all the ones who remain.
m burdge

z-man said...

To Anon 13:52
What a whining holier-than-thou, commentary.
Give up on the "workers of the world unite" schtick.
If you don't like the tassled loafers set, then shut up! They're not my crowd either, but it's the hand-wringing, class envy a-holes that of this country that are ruining it, not the tassled loafer guys.
For the record, I'm a simple carpenter and enjoy my life but your take on life is disengenuous at best. It's like saying, "No, I wouldn't want to be a Beatle, who needs fame, fortune, and that wonderful lifestyle".
Get real dude. Anyone who says they don't want wealth, or at least the security of not having to worry about finances, or the ability to not ever have to work again is just a liar. It's like those people who say, "If I won the lottery, I'd still go to work".
Get real, man and keep that stupid us vs. them B.S. to your self.

Goon said...

I would just like to point out that a small (women's?) bike with 26" wheels should present an excellent marketing opportunity.

Riv makes production bikes up to 68cm, I can't think of a single production bike with a top tube around 48cm.

Joel said...

Z-Man: We are going way off topic, and I agree think class war fare gets us nowhere; nevertheless, the banking/finance crowd, whatever sort of shoes they wear had a lot more to do with the mess we are in than the hard working artisans like Johnny Coast and the nostalgic classist theorists.

David said...

Re: VO custom frames...

This seems like a natural place to cut back. My expereince with custom frames (it's limited, but does exist) is that most involve a designer/builder and a client/customer. This has been aluded to in some of the other comments, but adding in a middle-man takes margin from the builder or ups the price to the consumer (which decreases demand), and has little functional benefit. VO is hardly a typical middle-man, but it's not a frameshop either.

Anonymous said...

With no VO custom, just buy a Capricorn! They are awesome bikes made truly by hand, and the rates are very reasonable. He's a former Waterford guy now in Mpls.

Anonymous said...

Another vote for a 63cm production rando!

Anonymous said...

There are lots of builders who's painted bikes look good. What VO and brought to the table was perfect geometry and handing. Johnny brought immaculate construction and detailing under the paint. The number of builders who can do both is very small.

orange county strippers said...

cool looking frames. bring back memories