Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Since I'm getting requests to outline the differences between the made in USA frameset and the made in Taiwan frameset, I thought the subject deserved a full-blown post with 8x10 color glossies, circles and arrows, and a paragraph on the back of each one describing what each one is.*

The obvious difference is where each frame is made and how much it costs.  One is made in Taiwan by friends I have known for 20 years.  The other is made in San Francisco by a friend I have known for 6 years.  The Taiwan made frame's price is $595 and the USA frame sells for $1600.  But wait, there's more.

Tubing:  The Taiwan made frames use a heat-treated 4130 steel double butted tubeset where the US made frames is built with True Temper Verus tubeset that is US made as well.

Frame components:  The US made frame is built with US made Paragon Machine Works dropouts and BB shell with a fork crown from Pacenti.  The Pacenti fork crown is made in Taiwan, but that's simply because that's where the majority of cast parts, including lugs, come from.

Frame finish:  The US made frames are finished with a powder coat in International Orange with no clear coat.  The Taiwan made frames are painted with wet paint and then clear coated with clear powder coat.  This makes the Taiwan frames very shiny and polished looking.  Decals on the US frame are sourced from North Carolina's Screen Specialty Shop.

Geometry:  The US frames sport the same geometry as the Taiwan frame with one change.  The bottom bracket drop is 5mm lower (70mm) that the Taiwan made frame.  This is something I've been thinking about changing on the Taiwan frames since the traditional 65ish bb drop for cross frames is based on running 32-35 tires.  These frames are typically run with much larger 40-45 tires, so an increased drop will keep the bb height at a reasonable height for clearance and stability.

Unseen details:  The Taiwan frames are ED coated prior to painting to rust-proof them.  The US made frame has completely sealed tubes with no exterior vent holes and blind bottle/rack braze-ons that are not open to the interior of the tube.  This means no moisture can enter the tubes so there's no need for rust-proofing.  The one tube that is open is the seat tube (how else would the seat post fit).  The bottom of the seat tube is vented into the bb shell.  I spray a bit of Boeshield into the seat tube prior to building of shipping the frame.  I also always spread a nice layer of grease around the inside of the bb shell when building a bike to protect the steel from water that will inevitably get into the bb shell if you ride you bike in the rain, which you most definitely should.  

That's about all I can think of at this moment, so I'll let the following photos do most of the talking.  Nope, one more important difference which actually isn't a difference at all.  Since the frame tubing of both the US and Taiwan frame has virtually the same specification, the ride quality should be the same between the two.  At some point, I'll get some time to build one of the US frames for myself and will report back.

One more:  On the Taiwan made frames, there is a brazed-on cable stop for center-pull cantilever brakes.  I eliminated this cable stop on the US made frame because most owners are going to run the Paul Mini-Moto brake which doesn't need a stop.  Without the stop, the look is much cleaner with the Mini-Moto.  However, if someone wants to run canti brakes, the Paul Funky Monkey seat clamp/cable stop is my recommendation. 

One more:  Weight.  Could be important.  A 56cm Taiwan made cross frame with all bolts, seat clamp, dropout 4lb. 10oz.  The US made frame with steel hanger, all bolts, seat clamp is 4lb. 5oz.  That's mainly due to the lighter dropouts and the lack of a seat stay cable stop.  The Taiwan fork with 350mm steerer is 2lb. 7oz.  The US fork is also 2lb. 7oz., but that's with a 400mm steerer tube.  The last US made cross bike I built, I cut off 6" from the steerer and that cut out 6oz.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
US made up front, Taiwan made in back

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
US made rear stay shape.  S-Bend chainstays allow use of any crank arm.  Maximum 50/34 chainring combo.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
Taiwan made stay shape.  Big tires fit.  Not all crankarms (Dura Ace, Ultegra, 105) fit.  SRAM fits, though as does the Sugino OX-601.  

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
Horizontal dropouts on the Taiwan made frames.  Note the vent holes.  More on that later.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
USA made frame sports Paragon Machine Works 1 1/8" Wright dropouts.  Note the lack of vent holes.  The replaceable dropout is steel which gives you the best possible anchor for your derailleur and ensures crisp, precise shifting.  I also include an aluminum 7075 dropout for those wanting to save a few grams.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
Forward facing seat tube slot on the USA frame.  The seat post is a very precise (almost tightish) fit.  Not that the frame is not sliding off the seat post with no seat clamp.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
Rear facing seat tube slot.  The seat post fits nicely in the Taiwan made frames, but without that seat clamp, the frame would slip off the clamped post.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
Fork crown on the Taiwan frame with vent holes.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
Pacenti fork crown on the USA frame.  No vent holes.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
Brazed dropouts on the US frames.  There's a lot of work brazing and cleaning and filing these dropouts.  No vent holes.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
The Taiwan frames have the end of the fork leg rounded which lessens the time to braze the tips.  Vent holes.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
The crimps on the Taiwan frames work, but aren't pretty.

Difference between USA and Taiwan frames
Nice subtle crimps on the US made frames.  Both frame have clearance for 29" x 1.75" tires.

(What's playing: Aretha Franklin See Saw)

*Paraphrased from Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant Massacree."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Build outs are moving along...

The first US made frame left the shop for Missouri yesterday.  The first two complete are moving along and will be finished today.  That is if I can manage to build each one according to the specifications the new owners and I created.  A multi-tasker I am not.  The two builds are similar, but with obvious visual differences that should make it easy to build out according to the spec sheet and build box for each one.  However, there's that word 'should.'  Should be easy.  

To make the build easy, I wrote each owner's name on painters tape and fixed it to the top tube.  One bike for Jason, one bike for Mark.  Easy peasy.  First thing, both bikes are getting the same headset.  Easy.  Second task, one bike gets a black SRAM crank, the other a silver Sugino.  Easy enough, right?  Nope.  The first thing I do is install the bottom brackets in the wrong frame.  Error discovered before cranks are installed.  No problem.  Moving on.

Cranks are installed and I fit the wheels into each frame.  Next, bolt on the derailleurs.  Mark gets an X.9/Rival combo, Jason gets a Rival/Apex combo.  Double check.  I know that Jason's wheels are black H+Son TB14 and Mark's are Pacenti SL23, both with ClĂ©ment MSO tires and both with black White Industries T11 hubs.  I look at the wheels and derailleurs and see that they don't match up.  Damn.  Switch the derailleurs.  I'm loosing it.  

Okay got it.  Get the chains on and then get bars/stems and shifters installed.  Mark's has Woodchipper bars, Jason's going with the Cowbell.  Both are built with SRAM Rival shifters.  Okay, that's correct.  They are looking like bikes.  Time to take a picture of each one and e-mail to Mark and Jason.  I'm on a roll.

Reply back from Jason:  "I thought we had settled on the H+Son rims and what I see on that bike are different."  *facepalm*  Easy enough to switch out the wheels.  Then as I'm stringing the rear derailleur cable on Mark's bike I realize that I did have the derailleurs installed on the correct frames the first time, but it was the incorrect wheel that threw me off.  One more derailleur swap.  Now I need to double/triple/quadruple check the frame size to make sure I'm building up the correct frame size, because by now I'm surely losing it.  Whew!  Now everything is correct.  Correct wheels.  Proper derailleurs.  Seat post, bar, stem...  Everything is good to go.  Luckily, both bikes are being built with Paul's Mini-Moto brakes so I can't go wrong there.  By now it's 8:00 and I think I'm in a good spot to finish up the builds the next morning.  I mean why take any more chances.  

And the next bikes that get built, yeah, one at a time because I suck at multi-tasking.  

First two
First two with wrong wheels and derailleurs.  The two here look like different oranges.  Orange is a difficult color to photograph so the color looks correct.  The bike in the background is more like the actual orange, but both are the same orange.  Go figure.

The salmon colored KoolStop pads are actually very close to the actual orange.

(What's playing:  R.E.M. Voice of Harold)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Time to get busy...

Time to get busy.  It's not like I'm already not busy.  Just time to put it into overdrive.  The Falconer made cross frame arrived the same day as the decals.  One from San Francisco, one from North Carolina and they show up on the same day.  I couldn't be more pleased with either.  I'm super happy with the color of the frames.  The orange is just right for a cross bike.  The decals are the same design as on the Taiwanese frames, but made for applying over the powder coat.  Time to get busy prepping the frames for building and then getting most of them built with a few going out as framesets. 

It's also time to get busy and order more of the Taiwanese made monster cross frames.  The last 53cm cross frame left the shop today.  I'm also out of the 62cm and 50cm sizes as well.  It's no problem if you ride a 56, 59, or 65 though.  The challenge is what colors to order.  I'm considering a couple colors, but there are some folks who have asked about a different color.  I don't think I can offer four colors, but maybe I can get a couple of one-off colors done if folks pre-order in full.  Something to think about and the color would need to be something I've already done in the past:  root beer, orange, gray, or the light blue from the coming road frame run.

Time to get busy.  Really busy.

Wrap it up
Made in San Francisco - monster cross frames soon going to new homes.

US Made Cross Frame

US Made Cross Frame

US Made Cross Frame

US Made Cross Frame
Orange color difference between the international orange on the US made frames and the orange on the Taiwanese frames.  Not an exact true color representation in the photo, but gives you an idea.

(What's playing:  Glen Campbell Witchita Lineman)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Coming together...

It might seem like coordinating the production of 12 frames is a challenge.  And it is in some respect.  You have to purchase all the raw materials - that means all the tubing, cable stops, braze-ons, drop outs, fork crowns...  All-in-all, there are eight different vendors involved in each of the completed US made framesets.  Thankfully, Cameron Falconer was a huge help in picking out a lot of the small parts that go into the frames and working directly with the powder-coater.

However, years ago, I was involved in the coordination of upwards of 70 or 80 bikes that needed to be sourced for catalog photo shoots, sales meetings, trade shows, etc.  There is a lot of stress in the production of those events.  I used to get stressed out to the Nth degree.  And then I learned something.  No matter what was done to push the vendors for product, it all came together and deadlines were met.  Towards the end of my time there, I took more of a laissez faire approach to the coordination of bikes for the various events.  Everything happened within the deadline times and I had way less stress.  

So, it doesn't surprise me that the production coordination of the US made cross frames all came together from the various sides on the same exact day without any pushing from my part.  Sure, there were calls to find out how things were going, but no yelling and screaming "where are my frames!" "where are my decals!"  

Today, Cameron will be delivering powder-coated frames made in San Francisco and UPS will deliver decals from Screen Specialties back east.  I've got a big pile of wheels and parts that are waiting to be assembled onto frames.  There are also two builds that need to be done with the Taiwanese sourced frames.  But first, there is a certain Potts/Cunningham frame that has been 4 years in the making that needs to get assembled for a photo shoot that had been scheduled for tomorrow.  That's stretching it a bit thin and close. 

And before I could hit the "publish" button yesterday to post this, all hell broke loose and it was non-stop from the moment I stepped into the shop at 8:40 until I left at 5.  So, here's the post one day late, but with photos I wouldn't have had yesterday morning.

Ready for powder!
Frames ready for powder.

Wheels for cross bikes
Wheels ready for builds on both the Falconer made cross frames and a couple of the Taiwanese made frames.

The 4 year DIA project.  More on this one later.  The Falconer made cross frames did arrive yesterday and that's them, the dark orange things in the plastic wrap back in the back.  I'll get a chance to unwrap today. 

Decals for the cross frames.  Seventy five sets so expect more frames in the future.

(What's playing:  Live feed of the Tour de France from the slopes of Alpe d'Huez)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Black or with creme...

Do you like your coffee black?  Perhaps you like your coffee with a bit of milk or creme?  Now all you black coffee drinkers (that's me) can match your Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires to your coffee taste.  All black BG Rock 'n Road tires in stock at Black Mountain Cycles along with the tan skin walls.  

Rock 'n Road
Black & Tan

And with regards to coffee, my best advice is to learn to like it black.  That way, you can drink coffee anywhere in the world when creme is not available.  

(What's playing:  Led Zeppelin Live At Albert Hall 1970)