Is the Grass Always Greener?
Over the last 8 to 10 years, several new mid sized custom bicycle companies have sprung up around the country. They build various types of high quality road bikes from steel, aluminum, carbon fiber or titanium. These companies get a lot of attention because they are new. The bicycles that they build are priced from $3,000 to $10,000.
Don’t live near by?
Not everyone has a local shop that they can work with one-on-one to design their new bicycle. For our online customers, we strive to provide that same feel that the customers who are able to come to the shop get. We email pictures of their bicycle in progress, and communicate on a regular basis about the progress. For those who live in the Northwest though, I find it odd when I see them purchase a bicycle from a far away company.
While custom, hand built bicycles are a new and exciting phenomena to the rest of the country, we here in the Northwest have known for a long time the benefits of a hand built, custom frame. You see, the history of hand built bikes here in the Northwest goes back a lot more than just 8 to 10 years. Several Northwest builders have been around here in Washington and Oregon for well over 25 years (some well over 30 years). The experience level of builders in Seattle alone is unmatched anywhere in the country.
While I think it’s a great thing that the bicycle industry magazines, and the rest of the country, are just discovering how great a hand built bike made in the USA can be, I think that there are some incredible benefits that we who live in the Northwest enjoy. Below is a story contrasting two typical experiences of two different bike buyers who reside in Seattle, Jack and Jill.
- Jill visited a website and downloaded a form to order a bike.
- Jack visited the facility in person and met with the designer.
- Jill carefully followed the provided instructions, measured herself, and filled in the numbers on the form.
- Jack worked with a professional fitter for over an hour, and even got to ride a fully adjustable stationary bike set up just like his new bike will be.
- Jill communicated her preferences and concerns in a series of emails and phone calls to someone in another state.
- Jack sat with his professional fitter, had a cup of coffee and went over all of the details of his new dream ride.
- Jill waited patiently for her new bike to be built.
- Jack took a tour of the frame shop to see bikes being made and even met the frame builder in person. He visited several times over the next few weeks, and even saw his new bike in progress.
- Jill selected colors from a chart and checked the appropriate boxes on the form.
- Jack met with the painter and designed his own custom paint job.
- Jill selected parts from a list of the newest equipment and checked the appropriate boxes on the form.
- Jack worked with experienced professionals to select parts groups, and then test rode bikes with those parts to decide what he wanted.
- Jill received her new bike in the mail, and assembled it from the box.
- Jack picked up his new bike at the shop that built it. He worked closely with the designer to fine tune the seat and handlebar adjustments and picked up some last minute accessories.
- Jill had some concerns about her new bike, so she fired off some emails.
- Jack had some concerns about his new bike, so he visited the shop again, and got it all straightened out while he waited.
- Jill, after a few months, needed some small adjustments on her new bike so she took it to her local bike shop. Everyone ooohed and aaahed, but they still charged her full price for the service. If Jill requests it, the online company she purchased from may re-imburse her, but not usually. We often re-imburse customers like Jill in this situation.
- Jack took his bike to the shop that built it for him, and was surprised to see that they all recognized the bike and him! The minor adjustments were made at no charge.
- Jack and Jill both got great bikes, but Jack got something more. He took advantage of the fact that he lives right here in the Northwest, and built a great relationship that can only come with personalized service.
While you’ll get a great bike either way, if you’re going to buy a hand built bike and you live here in the Northwest, why not enjoy the benefits that are right in front of you? The resources are all here, the history is here, the talent is certainly here, and the prices are even lower when you buy directly from the builder as opposed to going through a 3rd party.
So, is the grass always greener somewhere else? Only if you don’t live near Seattle.
See you on the road!
-Your friends at R+E Cycles
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