An awkward situation with a frame builder

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  • Hi guys,

    I am a regular and long term member here, but what I am about to ask you is somewhat awkward and those who know me would know immediately which frame builder I am referring to, so I have decided to use an anonymous account to ask your opinions. If it comes to the worst, I will have no choice but to reveal both my and the frame builder's identities to get back what is rightly mind.

    Before reading on, this is about the frame builder not delivering at all after almost 2 years of waiting.

    So it began in Aug 2017, I decided to commission a quite famous and very well respected frame builder for a titanium frame and fork.

    We had many discussions on the design, technical details, parts and other details during the first couple of months, all was good. Their initial estimate was 6 months for completion. I fully expected some delay as with a lot of custom / bespoke orders.

    Fast forward to around Easter 2018, so just over the 6 months mark, I asked this frame builder what was the progress, to which they replied not long now, but it will be a while yet or something along these lines... the next couple of months were a bit of a blur... with some occasional emails exchange to discuss parts and graphic designs etc... I asked him if it was time for me to start finishing the graphics so they would have it ready for whenever the frame was ready... I then sent me some pattern designs in Sept with some more chats about some parts, all was still relatively positive despite the fact I was getting, understandably, impatient. I didn't quite finish my design because they were doing finishing in house, so I kept tweaking my designs until I think around about Nov 2019 when I finally decided to call it a day and sent them the final designs.

    I had had no reply for a while as to if the graphic designs would work or not for weeks... fast forward again to I think end of Dec / beginning of Jan 2019, I asked them if I could have the frame ready for my birthday in Jan to which they said it should be doable...

    We finally managed to speak on the phone at the end of Jan 2019, we had a long chat about the graphic designs as they were also doing the finishing in house as mentioned before ... most parts of the design they could do with a few minor suggestion of changes... so I went and changed what they couldn't do and got back to them within a few weeks....

    There was nothing more I needed to do from my end.... before Easter this years, I asked them when would my frame be ready and I would like to ride it during the Easter holiday, they told me it could be possible, but more likely not... or something like a few weeks yet or something...

    Finally... the most recent conversation I had with them was last week - there has basically been no progress on my frame for almost 2 years, my frame is nowhere near finish, they told me they have the tubes but not yet cut, they have made the machined parts like headtueb and BB shell, but I cannot prove either way nor do I need to know what bits of my frame was done first...

    In the past year in particular, they have given me a whole range of reasons / excuses from workshops issues to no machine to child care to relationship issues etc etc... now they cannot reasonably promise me when my frame will actually be ready, if ever.

    The current estimated total cost is just over £4000, but they have never actually given me a total despite my stating in our recent conversation that now really ought to be the time we agree on a final total, I don't think it's reasonable for me to still not know what am I expected to pay in total. I fully accept at the beginning, we kept tweaking small parts and that would have affected the total cost, but what I want for my frame hasn't changed since I have signed off on the design, so I think what I have asked is reasonable.

    So far I have paid them I think £2500 as they needed 50% for materials and I don't remember why I paid them more than 50%, there was a reason for it...

    It will be 2 years end of Aug this year and I am not confident at all they will have the frame ready by then at all because it's summer holiday means kids and holidays...

    My question to you guys is, what would you do?

    If you know which frame builder I am talking about as it might be obvious to some of you, please do not publicly reveal their name because we are not as they publicly and openly trashing their name stage... yet...

  • Sound like a total pisstake on their part. Telling you it's almost finished then a year and a half later you don't have it?

    Burn the witch. That's what I'd do. Total apoplexy.

  • This is not me

  • From a practical perspective, did you pay by credit or debit card? You may have some recourse from the card provider?

  • Demand a refund and go elsewhere. No brainer. If they make noises and turn on the waterworks threaten small claims court / legal action. Delays are inevitable and people do have personal lives but two years is too much and they’ve been abusing your trust and good will already. Their personal issues and / or poor time management shouldn’t be your problem.

  • Yeah it sounds like you to ask for a refund or go to the small claims court. Alternatively you could agree to a schedule with dates for milestones like tubes mitred, tubes welded etc with photo updates and if there's more delays from that then it's the small claims court.

  • First make sure you’re talking to the best person their end, then agree they’ll progress and send photos by certain dates (as @sumo says), all correspondence should be by email with that single point-of-contact (so you have everything dated and in writing).

  • now they cannot reasonably promise me when my frame will actually be ready, if ever.

    You are not going to get what you want - suggest insisting on a full refund.

  • Artisan frame builders strike again! What’s going on lately?

  • I'd get a full refund and walk away.

  • publicly and openly trashing their name

    How is this anything other than stating facts about poor service? Why shield them?

  • Exhume some of their dead relatives. Hold sacred remains to ransom. Get refund. Publicly shame here so others are spared same experience. Buy off the peg Ti bike from Fatbirds. Get Colourburn to do graphics. Have amazing bike for half the cost of custom. Cycle. Enjoy.

  • may sour the relationship even further and risk being forced to take them to court rather than being able to solve it amicably?

  • You got the tubing details and geometry?

  • Take them on Judge Rinder

  • Highly skilled but low paid industry is dysfunctional shock...

    When you actually look at the amount of work + skill + raw material costs vs profit vs very high customer expectations; it's not that surprising. I'd guess if people were willing to pay twice as much for a frame then framebuilders could afford to employ more admin people, get extra childcare, etc, etc. But the way things are, I get the impression it's very hard for framebuilders not to take on more work than any one person could cope with so it's not that surprising stuff often goes wrong.

  • "Typical build time is 35-45 days..."


  • While this project has some serious issues, especially with regards to payment and actual completion, there are larger issues for all of us to consider in this case, which is "the client". We don't know what your brief was, but you exchanged a slow-drip of emails of design tweaks and gear changes for over a year. To me this sounds like a client who doesn't know what they want. I too would be hesitant to start welding if I were them. From late spring 2018 to mid autumn the both of you essentially went quiet on the project, until you decided that it was time state an end date. Now setting aside that you suggest the framebuilder may never do it - which if true this framebuilder is a charlatan and you should demand a full refund immediately- it has still taken taken nearly 2 years to not get a bike. If this builder is not a charlatan and has legitimate project-related reasons for the delay, then the non-bike is both yours and the frame-builders responsibility, for reasons I'll detail below.

    Framebuildres are not project managers. If we want a deliciously well-managed build with inputs into colourway and subtle design options delivered on schedule and to your door, I would suggest a person get themselves to an Audi dealership. However these are sole-traders (generally weirdos) working on commission for clients who start out not knowing what they want, what it might eventually look like or when they want it by. The difficult hometruth here for anyone commissioning a bespoke bike is that it's going to be your job to make it straightforward for them to make your bike. If a project is dragging on and on and on it's probably because you let it. Set some dates for completion, which if not met then the project is cancelled or adjusted otherwise amended / refunded. If someone changes their mind mid-project it's going to fuck the timeline up guaranteed.

    We think we live in this age of consumer experience with back massages at a cafe that's open until 8pm and Amazon next-day delivery handed to us at our door by a puffed-out van driver. A bespoke bike is probably made by some former crustpunk stranger via a massive injection of someone else's capital in a souped-up garage. This framebuilder will not be qualified in PRINCE2. I wonder at people's expectations when commissioning bikes.

    Think of this as food for thought generally instead of a direct dig at the OP.

  • I’d have cancelled and asked for a refund a year ago. One of the main reasons for a custom frame is the personal service... which you don’t seem to be getting?

  • My impression is that there's a lot of really conscientious, professional builders out there from Enigma to Rusby.

    Most of what you said sounds like people operating a frame building business aren't subject to the same standards of any other kind of custom service. I think that's wrong and misguided-if anything market conditions should be making them perform better, or at least deal with letting deadlines slip or difficult customers professionally.

    Nobody owes anyone else a living.

  • If a project is dragging on and on and on it's probably because you let it

    Or maybe it's because the builder lied several times about the state of the frame despite OP setting clear deadlines after the final design was agreed upon

  • 2 years and it hasn't be sorted? Amicable left the building months ago.

  • That’s all fair, to be honest the client could have done with cracking the whip earlier and being tighter with requirements. Still, I do hope they either get their frame or their money back.

  • I should have clarified some of my pronouns a bit so the you meant "one" instead of sounding directed at OP, and maybe reduced what could be perceived as victim-blaming. For example that could read "it may be because you let it". And as I said, if the framebuilder (according to the OP) is full of lies this is simply not the OP's fault and has been infinitely dicked around and deserves all their money back ASAP. I agree @hippy although even more so - amicable should have left the building 8 months ago.

    and Uber Gruber for all of your anti-capitalistic business rants and 'brands and adverts are disgusting' etc that comment seems to show a lot of faith and adoration in
    The Customer is Always Right, deserves the best, the golden beacon of the market economy. Customers and clients have been known to be unreasonable, and these days with internet parts and direct access to the East market people will do their utmost to get the very most for the least amount. Not a lot to cheer about those market conditions - some amazing things are produced which aren't profitable. This might be the only time in my opinion when bikes and art intersect, ie when things aren't made for money.

  • Yeah fair do's, but the essence of your post is the sweeping generalisation that "most builders are weirdos" and it's somehow the customers job to make sure they actually deliver what's promised?

    If you can't earn a living from what you do, do something else. Don't over-promise to get business then do something half cocked and expect charity. And I say this as someone who's put their money where there mouth is and worked freelance in creative fields, so it's got nothing to do with cheering capitalist market conditions-its more to do with not being a cunt and ripping people off to fund your hobby.

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An awkward situation with a frame builder

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