Chris Dekerf: Why Buy A Handbuilt Frame?
When I recently came across this article on NSMB - Does it Matter Where My Bike is Built? - I of course read it with great interest. The question of domestic manufacturing versus oversees made frames does of course affect me directly. The world of frame building is after all how I make my living and support my family, as I have done so for getting on close to 30 years now. It is a question that comes into my mind often as I’m making a frame. Sometimes as I’m carefully filing a weld, or meticulously cleaning titanium, or striving for that perfectly flat clear coat, I ask myself, “does anyone really care?”
The honest answer is most people aren’t aware of all the extra details that go into a hand crafted frame and truth be told, not everyone cares about these things anyway. But there are many reasons why purchasing a handmade frame is the best choice. Things like supporting local workers, being able to customize your frame, knowing the lineage of the materials used, and right down to details like being able to have it painted in your favourite colour scheme.
But what I believe is more important than all these things is that owning and riding something you know was made with care and attention to detail, by a skilled craftsman, makes riding it feel better. When you’re out on a trail or on the road and you look down at the bike below you, and not only does it look beautiful and fit you perfectly, but you are proud to own it, it makes the experience that much better. You are invested in its creation, both financially and emotionally. You probably had to wait while it was being built, and had to be patient. You went over many details with the builder and made lots of choices so it could be just as you like it. This draws you in and you become emotionally invested in the outcome. Communicating with the builder, learning details about how it was built, getting involved in the process, and loving the finished product makes riding that bike all that much more enjoyable.
If we simply boil down a bicycle to a list of specs and features, with no regard for where and who made it, I believe we are missing out on a huge part of what makes cycling so special. Riding is for most of us after all, something we do for pleasure, and as such it absolutely matters how we feel about the bike we are riding. Life is a series of choices. So when it comes to buying a bicycle, choose a handcrafted one.