16 February, 2007

Frame Quality, part 2

I was going to write about tube selection in the second part of my little series on frame quality, but I wanted to put it in a larger context. I get a lot of e-mails asking how our frames compare to frames from other manufacturers and builders. These alway require long answers and I have to be careful not to sound like I'm putting down someone else's frame. So I thought I'd post and elaborate on one of my typical responses. Now when someone asks how a VO frame compares to _____'s frames, I can point them to this post.

There are several major differences between our bikes and _____'s bikes. First and most importantly, our bikes are semi-custom. I used to race and train with my buddy Geoff. Geoff was 6'4 and about 160 pounds; I was 6'3 and about 185 pounds. Most bike shops would have sold us both the same frame. But Geoff was a climber and a spinner who liked a very light and flexible frame. Comfort was also very important to him. I was a masher and a sprinter and I liked a stiffer frame. I was perfectly comfortable on any frame, but didn't like steep angles (of course this was a couple of decades ago). Obviously we wanted very different bikes and neither of were happy on a production frame. Even though we technically fit on a stock frame, a custom design would have made both of us much happier. That's the way it is with most cyclists, there is usually something that can be improved over a stock frame.

So our frames are made exactly to your measurements. The tubes are also selected for your weight, riding style, and preferences. Johnny can order tubes from a variety of manufacturers and mix and match to get exactly the ride required. One of the reasons we don't put tubing stickers on our frames is because the tubes may not have come from one manufacturer. Yet we stick to our basic geometry, lug type, and four color choices. This, and a willingness to take a smaller profit since we're new, allows us to offer frames that are about the same price as _____'s production frames.

The second diffrence between our frames and ______s' is that our frames also use a low trail front geometry derived from French randonneur bikes built by legendary constructeurs such as Rene Herse and Alex Singer. They are designed for very long distance spirited riding on poor roads. This geometry is optimized for wider tires, 28mm to 32mm. This geometry is different than "sport touring geometry" derived from racing bikes and, in our opinion, is superior.

Finally, Johnny Coast builds our Rando frames. Johnny is not into fancy lugs and paint, rather he concentrates on technically superb, but simple frames. His style reminds me of certain Japanese builders such as Nagasawa, ALPS, and Toei. It is defined by simple clean lines, exacting craftsmanship, and attention to detail. His silver brazing and lug finishing are as good as any I've seen. And he takes great pride in building frames that are perfectly aligned. There is simply no comparison between his frames and ANY production frame when it comes to quality.

So that's how I see our frames differing from most any production frame.


Anonymous said...

All this tantalizing frame-related info is great... when do we get to see some more of Johnny's handiwork?


Anonymous said...

I'm interested in learning more on how the trail geometry makes it superior. I gather that the longer wheel base impacts handling and comfort but are other factors involved? Please explain and thank you so much for the insight and frequent comments!


neil m berg said...

I defer to Sheldon Brown in all things bicycle. He has forgotten more than the whole group of bloggers know. He's a good resource. From his bicycle glossary:

"Trail is the distance from the contact point of the front wheel with the riding surface to the intersection of the steering axis (head tube) with the surface. The trail is a function of the head angle, the fork rake, and the tire diameter. Trail has a major effect on the handling of a bicycle. More trail increases the bicycle's tendency to steer straight ahead. A bicycle with a largish trail dimension will be very stable, and easy to ride "no hands". A bicycle with a smaller trail dimension will be more manuverable and responsive."

neil said...

Jack again,
When Sheldon says "More trail" he is referring to "low trail". Confused enough?

Anonymous said...

Neil, true, but I can never seem to find obscure things very easily. And although I learn while finding, often I can not make sense of article once I find it, because most descriptions are subjective verbage with few pictures: so it doesn't answer my questions.

Granted I am thankful for a centered resource that touches upon a plethera of bike related material information. And some articles, like the base comparison sprocket measures are invaluable. Its always a good place to start.

But for frame geometry, I value an expert like Chris since there are many obscure factors I hope to learn: rather than confusing terms due to the verbal translations not adequately pictorial defined. Pictorially defined is not just throwing a couple of pictures per page of text: it is defining difficult learning concepts that are almost impossible to describe in written language adequately.

And I would place handling geometry as a difficult mutidimensional relationship that should be described as pictorially, and simplistically mathmatically if possible.

From the definition, it looks like semi-relevant details used to describe auto-alignment caster angles. Not an easy concept to describe in words.

neil m said...

Pictures and math:


Anonymous said...

Ahhhh, bridging mental maps over the gulf of understanding: human factors engineering.

neil m berg said...

Nagasawa track bike on ebay right now. Also a couple of 3Renshos; one beater and one wall hanger.