Chris Dekerf

Chris Dekerf: Why Buy A Handbuilt Frame?

Words Chris Dekerf
Date Oct 20, 2017

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?”


Some recent work by Chris Dekerf.

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.

Cam's Dekerf

I don't have to be sold on the value of handmade in Canada. This is my Dekerf. - Cam McRae

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.

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+4 Geof Harries Pete Roggeman Cam McRae Endur-Bro
Peter  - Oct. 20, 2017, 5:03 a.m.

My thoughts exactly Chris!  Great article, thanks for sharing!


+5 Pete Roggeman Cooper Quinn Cam McRae Mammal dekerf
Mike Anderson  - Oct. 20, 2017, 7:06 a.m.

Chris, I was the one who originally sent in the question. As noted in my letter I have been dreaming of owning one of your frame since the late 90's. When I sent in the letter to Dave I had no idea the response it would generate! I just wanted you to know that I will be ordering one of your Chromag frames. Unfortunately I can't make the financials for one of your custom ones work but I'm thinking the Surface is the next best thing. Keep up the good work!


Mammal  - Oct. 20, 2017, 11:50 a.m.

I agree with all the sentiments in this article. 

The first mountain bike that captivated me was my buddy's orange and pearl Bontrager ('95ish). Built up for XC, as most things were, but man that thing was beautiful. Even without any previous appreciation for fine bicycles I could literally feel the soul of that thing when I borrowed it for a couple days and cruised around the neighborhood.

Fast forward 20 years of mountain biking later (and tonnes of different frames). My first "modern" all-mountain hard tail was a 2013 Aperture, and while it was still a blast to ride, it didn't have the same attention to detail or captivating charm. Didn't have the "soul", real or perceived. 

Very much looking forward to my next build. Currently under construction by a friend of mine, he used a good amount of my input to make sure I'm getting the bike that will make me happiest. It will be unique and tailor made for me, and I know the maker will be absolutely torturing himself over all the tiny details (because that's just his nature). It's gonna have ALL the soul. Can't wait to swing a leg over that puppy.


Endur-Bro  - Oct. 21, 2017, 4:22 p.m.

I have a first gen Surface.  If I was to replace the frame I'd likely want to do a custom job either with Dekerf/Chromag or Naked Bikes.  Same thing if and when I get a new road bike.  My carbon road bike is okay, but there are certain things I'd like my next bike to be able to incorporate: discs, 25-28+cc tyres with ease, fenders, paneer rack mounts


mudrunner  - Oct. 24, 2017, 11:01 p.m.

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