02 July, 2008

Semi-Custom Rando Frame Waiting List


We've temporarily stopped accepting orders for VO semi-custom rando frames. The wait has simply gotten to be too long. We'll be happy to put you on the list to be notified when we start accepting orders again-- that will happen when the wait drops to 12 months or so.

Gentleman, Madame, and Pass Hunter frames are still available.

24 comments:

Gunnar Berg said...

Just some random thoughts: In spite of all the the Surly fans that may disagree, most quality custom frames are too cheap. I wouldn't say this if only the V.O. frames had loooong queues, but all experienced builders do. There is an apparent renaissance in steel frames going on. One or two year waits are not uncommon. There are two ways to deal with supply and demand. One is to increase prices to soften demand. Recently, after my check cleared, I expressed this thought to a known frame builder. He didn't think he could raise his prices because he felt he had to remain competitive with other builders. Maybe they are all too cheap...or too slow - the other end of the equation.

Anonymous said...

In "Klunkerz", a movie about the early days of mountain biking, numerous people mentioned their astonishment at how fast Tom Ritchey could turn out frames. Seems that is a very rare commodity -- fast and good. I am not suggesting Johnny or any other builder is slow, just saying that Ritchey was fast, and people noticed. Of course, if I had to choose, I'd take good over fast.
Dan

Gunnar Berg said...

I think we've all seen craftsmen - carpenters, etc, even cooks - that are organized and just don't seem to waste motion. I'm not even certain it can be learned.

AH said...

As someone with an interest in framebuilding, and indeed on my way to a framebuilding class, I have been told by every experienced builder I've talk to "Don't even think about doing this for a living. There's no money in it."

So, yes: perhaps the prices should go up.

Joel said...

gb, I agree. Seems customs are way to cheap given the incredibly long waiting times.

Anonymous said...

there's no money in anything that's really fun to do. Ask any reasonably artsy/craftsy person.

Not all the lines are long. There are a fair no. of terrific builders with very short or nonexistent queues. Many of them are perhaps not quite as adept with communication (ie: how many of them have interesting and lively blogs like this one?), and others are just fast.

But for VO to achieve these sorts of things so quickly should feel pretty good.

best,
mw

nv said...

"Don't even think about doing this for a living. There's no money in it."

I disagree with this statement - I'd wager that many frame builders earn more than I do (I'm not building frames, nor do I work in the cycling industry) - so "NO" money is clearly subjective. I also think many people have a very skewed idea of what "Earning money" or "earning a living" can mean. I have chosen to not have children or a mortgage and I've been careful to not go into debt. This, along with a very modest lifestyle, has allowed me to get by on very little. And I'm really happy and lead what feels to me to be a pretty rich life- honest!
So go make frames, you'll be richer than I am!

K Matthias said...

Chris, I assume you are looking into sourcing another builder to share the load? I would expect it's only going to get busier from here! :)

Karl

Gunnar Berg said...

nv,
I admired your approach to living -to life. I just feel that artisans deserve a fair living. They need to buy equipment, business insurance, and HEALTH INSURANCE, and still have enough left over to live. They are getting squeezed at a time that people are lining up to buy their products. Something is just a little askew.

Alan said...

Gunnar's points are spot on. These frames are too cheap if so many frame builders have such long waiting lists. I am constantly amazed at what seems like every high end frame builder having waiting lists over a year long. The demand is certainly out there.

Gunnar's point - "I think we've all seen craftsmen - carpenters, etc, even cooks - that are organized and just don't seem to waste motion. I'm not even certain it can be learned" is also very true. I am not one of these sorts of people and in awe when I see them work. My wife tends to be of this sort and together we balance each other out; my sloth versus her constant motion.

I wonder if studying under a frame builder such as Ritchey could transform someone into a fast builder.

Anonymous said...

At some point, service becomes part of the picture. Asking someone to wait two or three years for a bicycle frame is just not fitting in with the notion of custom work, which has to include the availability of the work.

Would you wait that long for a custom suit?

Oversubscribed builders can raise their prices at the expense of volume and hope they can come out ahead sales-wise, or they can hire more help and expand as many successful small businesses do, or not, and watch would-be clients give their business to another promising builder who can meet their needs on service and quality.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Dear Johnny,

Should we raise the price? It sounds like our customers want to pay more.

Best,
Chris

Seriously, I have heard of many cases of luxury good manufacturers who's steep price increases resulted in dramatically higher sales volume. Customers assumed they were getting a much better, or perhaps more exclusive, product because the price was higher.

As I've said before, we at VO calculate prices on what I believe is a fair profit, not by what the market will bear.

As for custom frames, we make very very little, if anything, on them. We do them because I feel there is a need for basic, but superb, frames of a type that have been too long neglected. Of course, what we learn by building them is invaluable in the design and sourcing of the components and accessories we sell. But most importantly, all that we learned will go into production frames and, eventually, complete bikes. And my aim is that those frames and bikes will set a new standard.

SJB said...

So building the custom frames is sort of like sponsoring a Formula 1 team. You get your name on some nice frames and learn things that trickle down to your production frames.

Emily said...

As for custom frames, we make very very little, if anything, on them.

Part of charging a fair price is allowing for a reasonable profit. You and your family and other VO staff and families need enough money to live on. If you're not making enough, the business will close down, and that's not good for the customers at all.

(since a custom frame just isn't in my budget any time soon, I'd rather framebuilders were charging a reasonable price. that way there will be a decent supply of framebuilders around for the far future day when I *can* afford one.)

Anonymous said...

Aaaah! RAISE prices? Please. You express this thought "after your check cleared." Nice. If you feel so strongly about paying higher prices why did you wait for the check to clear? How about this-write another check to make up for the difference in price from what you paid to what you think it SHOULD be. Put your money where your mouth is.

I don't think prices should go up at all. Just the opposite, I'd like to see more options available at lower prices. If prices go up, only the rich will be able to buy these bikes. Of course, that may be what you want, an elitist status symbol to show off to your friends.

Joel said...

Don't know about others, but my friends would not know the difference between my custom bike and a Soma.

On receipt of my bike, I sent my builder a tip because I thought his work was above and beyond what I could have expected, and happened to know his financial situation was not as fortunate as my own.

He does not seem to mind, however, as he donated his tip to a local bike related charity. Worked out well all around. I have a great bike, builder got deserved extra recognition, some kids who otherwise would not have a bike received one after getting safety lessons.

Gunnar Berg said...

Anony 21:17.
Gosh, the check clearing comment was meant to be facetious. I'm sorry the one got by you. And I do put my money where my mouth is. I am not certain why you seem angry at people who can afford the bicycles. I would just like to see artisans rewarded for their effort. When you say you want lower prices, you are saying, in essence, you don't really want people to make a fair living; that you are willing to squeeze them, so YOU can have a nicer bike. Better that the bicycle remains beyond your reach.

Anonymous said...

This thread is a little like overhearing the clientele at the local watering hole argue over what beer should cost at happy hour.

best,
mw

Anonymous said...

I didn't say lower the prices, I said make more options available. So, the current prices would remain but if more frame builders entered the market there would be a greater and perhaps more varied (price-wise) supply to keep up with demand and keep the prices fair.

I have nothing against someone earning a fair living, I'm just saying it would be nice if more people could have access to the bikes, I'm not trying to "squeeze" anybody. And your comment "Better that the bicycle remains beyond your reach" is low, what a snobby remark.

Gunnar Berg said...

You're right, my remark was out of order. I apologize.

e-RICHIE said...

Chris Kulczycki a dit...

As for custom frames, we make very very little, if anything, on them. We do them because I feel there is a need for basic, but superb, frames of a type that have been too long neglected.


---

chris i lurk here because i like your brand and style, but this post (above) is all wrong. if you are not charging enough to make more than "very little money...", you're lowering the bar for everyone and everything. you have a business to grow and a family to feed. johnny is a new builder. without proper renumeration, neither of you will be very motivated before too long atmo. charge real money for your handmade, custom frames.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Richie and Emily, We've adopted a strategy of gradually raising prices on frames and other products over several years, a strategy I've used successfully in this business and in others. It's wise for a new company to initially work at gaining market recognition and a good reputation rather than try to make a quick profit. VO is in it for the long term so I'm willing to deffer some profits. But if Johnny needs more, we'll raise prices faster.

Also, semi-custom frames are a very small part of VO's business, less than 5%. So I don't worry much about the profit on them. VO, as a whole, is both profitable and sufficiently capitalized. Though we are doing well enough now, I'm looking down the road. If we manage to develop and bring to market the rest of the components and the production frames and complete bikes that we envision, VO's future may be very bright indeed.

e-RICHIE said...

Chris Kulczycki a dit...
Richie and Emily, We've adopted a strategy of gradually raising prices on frames and other products over several years, a strategy I've used successfully in this business and in others. It's wise for a new company to initially work at gaining market recognition and a good reputation rather than try to make a quick profit. VO is in it for the long term so I'm willing to deffer some profits. But if Johnny needs more, we'll raise prices faster.


---

using custom and/or semi-custom parts as a loss leader (or the like) is a mistake atmo. use some industrial made bicycles or a batch of frames made on contract from toyo or maxway. at least these can be efficiently produced by vendors who specialize in this. let the framebuilders who you employ work on the finest stuff they can ake and you can sell. the same cat who makes the A model shouldn't be bogged down with filling one-at-a-time orders for a B line.

no matter, i'm still a fan. good luck there!

Jane said...

Does anyone know of a good specialty metals company that can produce custom made metal parts at a reasonable price?