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  1. #1
    hardcore on the bunnyhill
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    David vs. Goliath

    My question is this, why is it that the "best" frames and bikes (in many peoples opinions) are built by smaller companies? Why is it that Turner, Foes, and Titus are often credited with being outstanding bikes when Giant, Specialized, and Trek (whose budgets are magnitudes greater than these other companies) have bikes that are often really good, but not considered the best. I realize I'm ranting a bit but it would seem logical to me that with the massive amount of resources that the big boys have, they should have the best engineers and research people that money can buy. Is it simply that those companies are more worried about their bottom line than the bikes themselves? Is it that they are often businessmen and not bike riders? Or is it simply their hesitation to take risks with new ideas? I don't know, I was just wondering what others thought of this phenomenon. And yes a lot of this is opinion and not fact and I'm sure there isn't one right or wrong answer.....okay now i'm ranting AND rambling.
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  2. #2
    Afric Pepperbird
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    While many people here may hold this opinion, there are many, many, many bike shop mechanics who believe the mass marketed Giants, Specialized, Fishers, etc. offer a far greater value than the boutique brands.

  3. #3
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    Alas your question can really be answered in a single word: Customization. Boutique brands are the masters at hand building one-off equipment that can be literally designed around your body as opposed to the dozens of factors (including target demographics, competitive pricing, manufacturer facilities, etc.) that the larger brands are forced to deal with.

    However, don't be mistaken, smaller company doesn't always equal better.
    Ever been to Mountain Bike Tales Digital Magazine? Now if only the print rags would catch on!

  4. #4
    I'm Riding It
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    Here's my 2 cents:
    unless you're getting a bike custom built exactly how you want it (frame and all) every single bike on the market is good. Personally, if you're in the market for an XC FS bike, i think there are differences in how each bike handles, but in the end, they all perform.

    Can you really pick which bike rides best out of these?
    RM Element
    Giant Anthem
    Cannondale Rush
    Trek Fuel
    Specialized Epic

    all great designs, each have their own strenghts and weaknessess
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  5. #5
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    They aren't.

  6. #6
    PM Me for Wood Fenders
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    Same as a custom suit, or one bought at JC Penny's. Measurement and fit.
    The wood is being bent! Let me know what you need!

  7. #7
    I'm Riding It
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandblast
    They aren't.

    I didn't mean exactly the same..I mean't they are all decent rides, each has different strenghts and weaknessess, and depending on the rider, different bikes suit different people.

    1 person's trash is another persons treasure
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  8. #8
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    Sort of like Sam Adams versus Coors. I sure prefer the taste of Sam Adams but many more people drink Coors and Bud. The big guys mass-produce thousands and thousands of frames (mostly overseas for cost concerns) with accounting departments keeping a close eye of the bottom line and on increasing profit margins. The smaller guys have much more control over design, production, and quality. They rely on the ride and on loyal customers instead of marketing to the masses. One can also pick up the phone and discuss custom geometry with the owner of Ventana, for example.

    Incredible how so many people like Coors and Bud- the ads do work, ya know!

  9. #9
    Your bike is incorrigible
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flyer
    Sort of like Sam Adams versus Coors. I sure prefer the taste of Sam Adams but many more people drink Coors and Bud.
    Ummm, where does Bohemia fit in to this?

    Quote Originally Posted by Flyer
    The big guys mass-produce thousands and thousands of frames (mostly overseas for cost concerns) with accounting departments keeping a close eye of the bottom line and on increasing profit margins. The smaller guys have much more control over design, production, and quality.
    I would much rather buy a frame made in Taiwan than one made in the US. The fact is that Taiwan frame manufacturers are much more high tech and produce higher quality frames.

    That said, I would much rather buy a hand welded frame from a small US company that produces only a few frames a day. They cost a little more, but you are paying for someone who has spent years learning how to weld correctly.


    Quote Originally Posted by Flyer
    They rely on the ride and on loyal customers instead of marketing to the masses. One can also pick up the phone and discuss custom geometry with the owner of Ventana, for example.

    Incredible how so many people like Coors and Bud- the ads do work, ya know!
    Again, who else here even knows about Bohemia? Stupid Coors and Bud, both made right here in Colorado. I wouldn't drink either if you paid me.

    Let me rave on about Endless Bikes... I know you've heard of them...

  10. #10
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    It's a matter of opinion. I think it is just a fad, like the micro brews in the mid 90's. I just wish Sam Adams cost the same as a Bud light or Coors, so I resort to Milwakee Best on my budget.

  11. #11
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    The mass marketed brands generally do not build bikes. They MARKET them! You won't find them paying thier engineers to design entry level bikes. Because of my budget I haven't really looked into top end bikes or much into midlevel for that matter but I do know you generally have to spend a ton of money to get anything not made in China. The difference between say Trek and Fetish cycles (just examples) is Trek doesn't really build many bike, they only sell them or market them. For example, the entry level bikes very oftem will share identicle frames from various "manufacturers". My Iron Horse Maverick 1.2shares a frame with the Trek 3900 and 3700 as well as a Diamondback and a Raleigh and who knows what else. they are made from the same company in China. I personally would prefer (if cost wasn't an issue) to get a bike NOT made by the People's "Communist" Republic of China. So which ones are the best? Depends on how you define it. Personally I don't care if it's made out of balsa wood, if its ridable and made in America, or at least a nation of free people, it's better than the chinese thing currently occupying space in my garage. Don't get me wrong, I like my bike for what it is and I don't think America could build a bike or similiar quality for what I payed, but I would pay more if I could and they had.

  12. #12
    Bike to the Bone...
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    Personally, I think that for the moment, small companies offer more specialized bikes with more attention to detail than large companies. Desiging a bike might not be that expensive that would take million of bucks to design, and smaller companies might tend to watch the details more than large ones.

    Think of Ferrari vs Toyota. Toyota is larger in size than Ferrari, I think, but which one has more sex apeal? And which is more specialized and such? Ferrari. But when you go to buy a car, Toyota will more likely provide a car that will tend your needs better than a Ferrari (and having both kidneys and taking your kids to school are some basic needs).

    Part of it, is also the alure of having something more unique, so yep, boutique bikes will have that special allure.

    But better is just a term that can mean a lot of things for different people. Customer service might be very important when buying a bike. Right now, well, that falls a lot on the bike shop where you bought your bike, but also on the maker. I think that Turner takes your bike for a very decent prize if you totaly wrek it, while I doubt the large companies would honor, and I mean wrecked by a crash, not returned because it was defective.

    Also, the large factories by offering the same frame but with a lot of different builds, they can provide similar rides at different budgets without having the buyer to break his/her head choosing the best balancing component list. Making some parts themselves they will make the bikes cheaper for things rather than having special everything.

    What I think is, that if the sports start to grow and turns more interesting money-wise, it will then turn the market into who can spend more in R&D, marketing and distribution. That means that probably smaller companies won't be able to keep up on the expenses, and either they would consolidate into a larger company, or just keep as a very niche market.

    But that's just hypothetical if the market grows, but I think that if it just stays as it is, or growing at the same pace, you will always have the Fords, Volkswagen, Toyotas offering great value cars on one side, and higher end cars like BMW, Audis, Mercedes, Porches, Ferraris and such on another.

  13. #13
    I'm Riding It
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    Cannondale Frames (except the carbon fiber) are all handmade in USA. ANd they are reasonably priced compared to the other options.
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    Alberta born-n-raised mountain bike racer.

  14. #14
    Your bike is incorrigible
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    Quote Originally Posted by rzozaya1969

    Part of it, is also the alure of having something more unique, so yep, boutique bikes will have that special allure.

    What I think is, that if the sports start to grow and turns more interesting money-wise, it will then turn the market into who can spend more in R&D, marketing and distribution. That means that probably smaller companies won't be able to keep up on the expenses, and either they would consolidate into a larger company, or just keep as a very niche market.
    I think you're on to something here, but I'd like to approach from a different angle. Yes, the big companies can throw wads of cash at R&D. That doesn't always mean they'll produce a bike that everyone wants. In fact, I think there is sort of a subculture that has always existed, a subculture that thrives on innovation. By "innovation" I mean building bikes that suit a large enough percentage of people to keep a small company out of the red. For instance, there will always be some demand for commuters, for SS for touring bikes. Take a look at the small companies that have offered these bikes for years. Heck, some of them only offer such bikes. What the majority of us like to call fads persist long enough that the big companies begin offering their own versions, and this just goes to prove that the market is diverse enough to support those non-traditional lines.

    What you are calling "boutique" is not always just "expensive", although there are a few of those as well. Maybe I'm getting away from the OP's point, but I do believe there is a distinction between a big company like Specialized and small one like, for instance, Surly. I don't think that Specialized is willing to diversify to the extent that they cover every concievable niche. They're quite happy with the sales of traditional bikes. It's that 5% who want something a little different that maintain the smaller guys. For the majority of us who want to keep things simple, the big brands offer good quality at good prices. Then there are those who think that a small company offers something a little bit more suited to their style of riding. And of those few, there are some with a superiority complex who want to tell the world their ride is better because it was made by a little company. Maybe they know something and maybe they don't. I say, "Who cares as long as you're happy and out there riding?"

  15. #15
    Afric Pepperbird
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    It would be interesting if there were a website/resource that shows the amount spent on R & D by each major bike manufacturer. The 2007 Giant catalog says they pioneered the first Chro-moly, Titanium (maybe it's aluminum..I don't have the catalog handy), and Carbon Fiber frames. They certainly have the funds and minds to back this statement up, but I'd like to see some proof.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlurredVision
    For example, the entry level bikes very oftem will share identicle frames from various "manufacturers". My Iron Horse Maverick 1.2shares a frame with the Trek 3900 and 3700 ...
    Wow. A look at the photos on the respective websites seems to confirm what you say -- that the frames are the same. Ditto for the respective WSD models.

    I've known that many bike companies share a very small pool of frame manufacturers. I've been told that Giant, for example, builds frames for Specialized. But I at least thought that the different companies like Trek and Giant and Specialized did their own frame design. I guess at the low-end all they do is design the paint job.

    I'm feeling a bit disillusioned right now.

  17. #17
    I'm Riding It
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    Best post in this thread
    Explains it quite nicely
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  18. #18
    Bike to the Bone...
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick
    Wow. A look at the photos on the respective websites seems to confirm what you say -- that the frames are the same. Ditto for the respective WSD models.

    I've known that many bike companies share a very small pool of frame manufacturers. I've been told that Giant, for example, builds frames for Specialized. But I at least thought that the different companies like Trek and Giant and Specialized did their own frame design. I guess at the low-end all they do is design the paint job.

    I'm feeling a bit disillusioned right now.
    It's intresting about sharing frames with different companies on entry level bikes.

  19. #19
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    Oilerfan30: I wasn't disagreeing with you, I was answering the OPs question, Why are boutique bikes "better". I dont feel they are, for the most part. Sorry I was unclear...

  20. #20
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    90 Shilling is pretty good too. Sam Adams Honey Porter isn't bad either. Hey, I used to drink Bud, Miller, and Michelob till I tried a few good microbrews

  21. #21
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    So far I have been dissappointed with every Mt. Bike I have bought from one of the big companys.
    I thought if I purchase the top of the line bike, it would handle like top of the line.
    I had a Specialized Hard Tail M4, although it had XTR front derailer, it wouldn't shift correctly. I swapped out the Bontrager to a XT crank. the (mavic) rims cracked the Trek hubs were mediocer, the seat was painful. I about $1000 for the upgrades. I still did'nt like it.

    then I bought a Giant NRS 1 full carbon, Cross Max wheels sets, XTR derailures, wtb seat. the rear shock felt like it was hydro locking from the beginning and thr forks only had 1 1/2 inch of travel. I crashed regularly. I replace the forks with marzocchi 115mm's and had the fox float rebuilt. haven't crashed yet.

    My next bike will be either a Gary Fisher, (built by Trek) , a Tomak or a Foes.

  22. #22
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    A few years back I considered going to a shop and buying a bike already built. I just couldn't get excited about it. I like the process of selecting components; ordering them; having them come in a bunch of boxes and building the bike. It is a personal irrational thing.

    For Ventana (my current bike) their decisions are about geometry. Compromise is in weight vs strength, vs stiffness. Is there a better alloy for a given purpose? Probably not. At a premium price, the best is being used. The builder is a master welder. Will the welds fail? Probably not. The engineers make the decisions, not marketing.

    On a specialized, Giant etc, the compromises are whether to use cheap hubs and an XTR rear deraileur. A cheap fork or cheap wheels. Marketing is focused on what will sell. Will a specialized with RED paint, a FOX shock with smooth showroom squish and an XTR rear deraileur sell better than a Trek with a BLUE paint job, Marzocchi that is sticky until broken in, re-badged american classic hubs and an XT rear deraileur.

    Lastly, if you ride in a niche way, the Boutique builder is more likely to have something that is a good match.

    BETTER? Better for what?
    Oh sh!+ just force upgraded to cat1. Now what?
    Best thing about an ultra marathon? I just get to ride my bike for X hours!

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