I have been seriously investing a new road bike for a few months now. By serious I mean visiting a lot of bike shops, reading every forum I can find and posting questions to some very friendly communities. I have read up on as many manufacturers and their supply chains as possible. I can tell you where most of the bikes are sourced (hint: almost everything in your local bike shop is made in China or if you buy a more expensive bike Taiwan.) Trek makes their high end stuff in the US. Time makes their bikes in France by hand. They weave their own carbon. Pretty cool. Look has their own factory in Tunisia. Colnago does their high end stuff in Italy, but their low end comes from Asia.
I have ridden as many bikes as possible and I have a stack of bike porn in my drawer that probably killed an entire forest. Shame on me.
Someone has to do it.
In my research I have settled three brands:
Calfee because the ride is sweet. They are unique. Calfee only produces about 1000 frames a year so you know that in your local club ride it is not likely that anyone will have one. They are experts in carbon fiber. If your carbon fiber bike breaks Craig Calfee is one of the few guys that can fix it. This should tell you that he knows what he is doing. Did I mention the ride is sweet? I rode a Luna which is their low end frame and the ride was superior to many of the 5k bikes I have ridden. A Dragonfly will set you back $5-6000 depending on how you configure it. The paint job will run $200-300. If you have any questions Craig answers emails. He is a great guy.
I have never ridden a Strong, but that is because you can’t. Karl Strong custom welds you a bike. The process takes about 14 weeks, but you end up with a bike that fits you perfectly. You might ask why I don’t include Serotta or Seven. I like the independent builders better. I would bet that Strong can build you every bit as good a bike as Serotta or Seven and he won’t nickel and dime you. You get the best frame he can build period. Serotta seems to add 500-1000 bucks for every little change. Why is the Ottrott more than a Nove? It has something to do with a couple of welds and some materials. I am sure that yes the option costs more etc etc. However, it makes Serotta feel like GM. You want that extra xyz? You bet we can do that for another $500. Karl just builds you a bike. Besides I like supporting the small guys and he is in Bozeman, Montana so he is kind of local, sort of. Also, if you ever need to fix your bike Karl will do it for about $200 per tube. Not bad considering that you are a buying a top end frame. The other cool thing about Karl is that he guarantees you will like the bike. If you don’t he’ll fix it. He told me that in all the years of building he has only had to do this 5 or 6 times. That shows you how good he really is. For a top end build you can expect to pay about $5500. If you have any questions just call. Karl was totally find spending 45 minutes on the phone with me explaining his methods and the process. If you buy a bike from him you will have 6-7 interviews with Karl. He drafts up a blueprint for you to look over. Once you approve the bike he gets the parts together. After he starts your bike that is the only bike he works on until it is done. See if you get that kind of connection from Serotta or Seven. In all my research I have yet to find anyone that doesn’t absolutely love their Strong.
Time builds amazing bikes. They show up in the Tour de France. These guys weave their own carbon fiber. They then form the fiber into tubes and inject resin using a unique process called resin transfer moulding. That is pretty cool. I rode a Time VXR Proteam. It is a great bike. Very smooth over the bumps, but still responsive. It is not cheap. A top end bike will end up costing you around $6500 – 7000 depending on if you want Shimano or Campy and the wheels.
If anyone has any input I would love to hear it. I plan I buying one of these in the next few months.