The following is a personal viewpoint and may, or may not be the viewpoint of everyone that works for Surly Bikes.
I love custom, handmade in the good ole’ USA bike frames. I love the experience you have when you are working with a custom frame builder that can put 20 years (or more) of experience into a one of a kind bike that is, and always will be, just for you. You get to have input on the design, the tubing choice, fork style, style of drop-outs, braze-ons, water bottle mounts and paint job. I say “input” because what you may think is a great idea in reality, may be pretty damn stupid. The custom frame builder is going to know what’s going to work, what’s not going to work, and how it’s going to affect the ride quality of your bike. After all, you’re going to want to ride the damn thing at some point, not just hang it on the wall and point it out to everyone that stops buy for a beer.
It takes time to make a bicycle from scratch, try it some time and let me know how that worked out for you. So, that being said, you’re going to need to be more than a little patient to see your dreams turned into reality. It takes a staggering amount of time and energy to turn a pile of steel tubes into something that you’re going to hang your parts on and ride away into the sunset on. It’s hot, it’s filthy, it’s back breaking and it’s dangerous. The custom frame builder is working with a large assortment of power tools that could do some significant damage to anyone that doesn't know what they’re doing. They are also creating something that is very exacting; there is very little room for error. If something is off by just a millimeter, often times they will need to start over. There is absolutely nothing easy about it. Custom bicycle frames are not inexpensive nor are they “too expensive”, if that makes any sense.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself “But Bob, you work for a bicycle company that has your bikes made in Taiwan. Where in the hell are you going with this?” Well, I’ll tell you. It’s true; we at Surly do have our bikes manufactured in Taiwan. We’ve worked with the same people for 14 years now and we think they do a pretty kick ass job. We spend a lot of time in Taiwan, so much time we have an apartment there that we all stay at when we’re there on business. The people we work with in Taiwan are not just business partners; they’re our friends as well. We ride with them and we drink with them. We know the people that are making our products and those products are made with their hands. They are part of Surly. By having our products made overseas we are able to keep our prices very fair. Surly is not a custom bike company, we don’t want to be and we don’t pretend to be. I guess where I’m going with this is that custom frame builders have my respect and admiration. I enjoy seeing what they are creating and hearing about the new ideas that they have. I believe that we all have a lot to learn from them, from the successes that they’ve had to the failures they’ve had to overcome. Custom frame builders are an essential part of the bike industry and we need them to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Their creativity and ingenuity is truly inspiring to me as is the creativity and ingenuity found within Surly Bikes.
I’ll get off my soapbox now and grab a beer,