Your next set of wheels might not have any.
January 23rd 2017
By Bob Forgrave
Two weeks ago, we placed an international order for a shipment of bikes with no wheels. Or handlebars. Or seats, cranks, or pedals.
Just two types of frames. At first glance, they may appear almost identical:
Both bike frames are made from double-butted aerospace-grade 7005 aluminum for minimum weight, like other high-end aluminum bikes. And unlike other high-end bikes, both are able to fold in half quickly with no tools to free you from bike racks and garage clutter.
But why just a frame?
We’ve talked a lot about the value of having a full-size bike that folds in half, but why would someone want just a frame? Here are four good reasons:
1. You understand how bikes work–or want to learn.
Two weeks after I got my first ten-speed Schwinn as a twelve year old, I fully disassembled the rear derailleur on the back porch just to see how many parts were in it (22, as I recall). This habit led to regular, intense maintenance, choosing an area of the bike to clean or lube each weekend, far ahead of schedule. And eventually, combining my frame with parts from other bikes that were more suited to my rugged usage. Today, all I have left of that bike is the frame again.
I knew my daughter was a committed cyclist when she came home with a bright yellow touring frame and wanted to turn it into her new favorite bike herself…
2. You have strong opinions about components
Last summer, at a “Fear No Hill” demo day for CHANGE Bikes, I had an interesting discussion with a rider who quickly shifted from considering one bike to considering another to really wanting a frame to which she could add her own favorite components.
With this mindset, even you’re riding a nice bike, you’re aware that it could be that much better if only it had different brakes, or pedals, or shifters, or anything else that you’ve just read about and need to have on your next bike.
No bike manufacturer out there will be able to read your mind on all your favorite components, so you might as well start with a blank slate…
3. You want quality at the lowest possible cost.
You can buy a hybrid bike at Wall-Mart for $150. It will be heavy, with the absolute cheapest components possible, but it will get you from Point A to Point B until it breaks. At the other end, it’s possible to find feather-light speed machines upward of $10,000.
But if you’re looking for long-term reliability and good riding at an affordable price, with quality components that cost hundreds of dollars, you can get quite a few bikes in the $1,100-$1,500 range. That’s still not an impulse buy.
A $750 quality frame purchase now, with components as you come across them, either for sale or reused favorites from your own collection, can develop into a fully-functional bike at an affordable rate.
4. You recognize a great deal, and it’s winter time.
It’s cold, and there’s snow and ice on the ground. Not exactly the best cycling weather. So you’re reading cycling magazines and blogs and thinking about the perfect bike for once the ice melts. You have the time; now is the perfect opportunity to take a few months and build the bike of your dreams–one that rides like the wind, climbs like a mountain goat, and folds in half when you’re done.
See you on the road…on an awesome, self-made new bike.