Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Makin' the world go round

Inflation, and not the stuff holding your tires up. That's what makes things keep moving these days, and I'm surrounded by it. Or maybe more precisely, being engulfed by it.
Anyone who works in the industrial sector will tell you steel prices are skyrocketing, but that's nothing compared to stainless and silver prices.

Sure the volume of raw materials a guy like me uses is small, but this stuff hits me right on the bottom line. March 1, S & S machine (the fine folks I get the couplers from) announced their first price increase since they started making couplers. Honestly it was long overdue and because of that it's a big hike. I have no real option but to raise my coupler installation pricing accordingly. So starting today coupler retrofits are $475. Any work or quotes I have in my que right now will remain at the old price of $400.

Silver is insane these days too. 5 oz of silver ran me about $50 two years ago, it's now up to about $150! Tubing prices have gone up about 150% in the last couple years as well, not to mention the cost of electricity, of which I use plenty per frame. So frame prices need to also go up accordingly. About 75% of my frame orders all fall into the same price range (whether road , touring, mtb or anything in between), which has become my base price. That is a fully lugged frame with Pacenti, Sachs, or Long Shen single point lugs with some shaping and carving, matching steel fork, Premium heat treated tubing. This level of frame and fork has been $1800 for several years, and now it will be going up to $2000 for the frame and fork.

There's really no reasonable way around it. The work I'm doing today is really my best and it just get's better with each passing year, yet I seem to make less money with each passing year thanks to my raw material costs. I still feel I'm very competitive on pricing in the custom frame world and downright reasonable when compared to some of the grossly overpriced non-custom offerings out there. Some of the mid-sized and larger manufacturers have actually made my job easier by flooding the market with ridiculously overpriced bikes that don't offer much for the cost. They just seem to make my work and my prices that much more attractive to people.

Enough money talk, more shop talk. Finished up an S & S retrofit and a frame repair this weekend. I'm a good chunk of the way into a really great project: a fully lugged, S & S, Davinci drive tandem. I'm building the lugs, including the third BB shell lug needed for the Davinci drive.

Fully lugged tandems are a pile of work, but his Davinci drive has really added to this one. There are a few pretty critical dimensions for placing the third BB shell in relation to the other 2 shells. For that reason I need to actually have the third shell pass through part of the boom tube, so I'm making a lug out of the shell to accomplish this.

I'm trying to keep all the lugs matching with a simlar style point and overall shape, which will also match up nicely with the S & S couplers. There'll be a lot going on near the rear BB, as I have the BB shell, second BB shell, lateral tube lug and 2 S & S couples all coming together in about 10" of space! It's almost too bad that the stoker cranks will cover up most of the detail work down here.
I'm pretty close on having the lugs built. That's the longest part of these frames. Once I have those building up the frame goes pretty quick. I'll try to post some more pictures as I progress on this one. I'm sure the soon-to-be owner enjoys seeing them. I've definitely found most of my customers like seeing pictures of their build as it progresses.

I managed to get out for one ride last week, a nice 2 hour jaunt on the fixie. It felt great to be out, wish I could have gotten in more. I'm hoping for a couple of good rides this week, but time will tell... I gotta start getting back to it though, Fruita is coming up again in April and I'm planning on going out for a whole week this year. It would be nice to have some inkling of fitness so I can find my way home once Otree and Thorny ride me into the ground out there.

I did get in a short ride this week too, rode over to Dave Anderson's shop to pick up a tube he was kind enough to front me. Had an odd thing happen on the way back, I broke a spoke on my front wheel. Not that broken spokes are unheard of, but pretty darn rare on the front wheel. These particular wheels are far from new though, probably have 20,000 miles on 'em. I suspect there was a nick or something on the spoke though, since I've never had an issue with the rear and that sees far more stress (especially with the fixie) than the front.
It did make me a little nervous though as I know better than anyone what can happen when you lose a bunch of front spokes!




Yokota Fritz said...

A folding tandem, wow! That makes great sense, though.

Unknown said...

Using a blog to document the construction of a custom bicycle adds a whole new dimension to the process of acquiring a bike. It allows the future owner to gaze in fascination as superb craftsmanship transforms steel tubes of different lengths, widths and alloys into a new frame. When there are more than 1,000 miles between the builder and the frame’s future cyclist, it is like looking over the fabricator's shoulder - and not nearly as annoying!
It also makes public the process of manufacture that has disappeared completely with mass production and outsourcing overseas. Bob,It may well be worth your while collecting a group of these projects together at some later stage for some form of publication as I know a wider public is fascinated with this complex, precise and artful process.

Unknown said...

I completely agree with Adam's comments.

Bob will be building a bike for me later this summer. As I was conducting research about builders, I found Bob's blog to be an incredibly rich source of information. In fact, the care and attention to detail that go into Bob's work, which is so clearly demonstrated in his blog, is one of the most significant reason that I ended up throwing my money his way.

I can't wait to see pictures of my bike appear on Bob's blog. Though my bike is many months away, I eagerly await the posting of new photos - even though they are not of my bike they make me excited for what is to come.