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  1. #1
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    Return of the Craftsman

    I have been thinking about North American craftsmanship a lot lately, and I think we are experiencing a renaissance in bicycle frame building. The NAHBS has been growing larger each year and interest is trickling even though LBSs, although in a hush tone not to disturb the big name sales. Seem to be slowly becoming not just a niche market anymore.

    I listen to podcasts while I work at my day job and pretty well every future analysis I hear points to local crafts, services, food production, and even economies in the years and decades to come - something that might be thought of as a reverse globalization movement.

    I'm fortunate to have purchased one of last hand built Cannondale bikes before it was sold and all manufacturing was moved to Asia. When I ride it I think of the guy that welded.

    The passion and sense of duty to produce a beautiful, functioning, piece of art and history seems to run through this forum.

    Build on fellow craftsmen. Lets bring small cottage industry back to North America and keep it out of corporate hands.
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  2. #2
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    I agree with your sentiment, but keep in mind that 90+% of the folks at NAHBS don't actually make any money.

    Do they make awesome stuff? Yes.

    Will they be around in 5 years? In most cases, no.

    Are they going to take any significant share of the mass-produced bike market? Absolutely not.

    I see the big growth in framebuilding as a hobbyist/DIY phenomenon mostly - which is awesome, of course, and is one of the big goals of this board (encouraging folks to start cutting up metal/laying down ply and make stuff!). But it's not a commercially viable thing in most cases.

    My personal opinion is that at some point fully customizable carbon stuff will be available for same-day fulfillment and while there will still be plenty of demand for artisan products for aesthetic reasons, as well as geometry and fit expertise/consulations, the current model of framebuilding will eventually die.

    This is coming from someone who said, in the early 90s, that FTP servers were good enough for anyone who wanted to use the internet, and that this HTML and WWW stuff would never take off, so maybe you shouldn't listen to me, though. Don't ask me what I said about 29ers in around Y2K, either... :P

    -Walt
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

  3. #3
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    Walt, good points, but i still see a difference in the numbers of small frame builders staking a claim in the gigantic bicycle industry. Although the mass bulk of buyers will naturally go the cheapest mass produced product, and I have a LBS owner friend who is fighting that right now (he sells only Surly, Salsa, and Nine0Seven, and is competing with cheaper Norco and KHS now) there seems to be a larger sector of riders riding local builder bikes. We see the bikes on the trials here regularly. Twenty years ago I was the only one in my region making my own frames.

    I'm getting off track here, but I recently finished a book by Paul Gilding called The Great Disruption and he makes a great case for major changes coming, globally. He also did a TED talk for anyone interested. By the way, I was using an FTP server in the early 90s and was waiting for the next step. I also heard that some guy had found a way for a 3D printer to make a pizza using real food products..

    Of course, I probably wouldn't have heard of Bilenky Bikes if it wasn't for the internet.

    When I try to talk to my LBS riding buddy about 36ers he puts his fingers in his ears and goes la-la-la

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