About Me

My photo
Mountain Home, Arkansas, United States
My name is Dimitri Harris and I have been building frames for over 6 years now. I learned the basics after spending two weeks with Koichi Yamaguchi. He is one of the most interesting people I have ever met and I am thankful to have worked with him. Since then I have just been building one frame after another and learning as much as possible along the way. I build steel fillet-brazed frames that go by the name of MEECH, its an old nickname that I have had since I was a kid. I build mostly cyclocross frames because I love their versatility however I also do road,single-speed, and mountain bikes as well. Custom frames start around $1400. All the frames are handmade by me here in Mountain Home, Arkansas. I am insured and guarantee all of my work so if you are in the market for a custom steel frame I would be glad to build it for you. I am also building frames from carbon fiber so if you would like to ride a prototype frame give me a shout. Thanks for stopping by. You can email me at meech151@hotmail.com or call (870)897-6703 or visit www.meechcustombicycles.com Thanks.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Is Made In the USA Always Better?

What's up?  Its been a while huh?  Holiday season, running around, visiting my mother, and no new frame building to speak of left me with nothing to post.  "Couldn't you atleast find some YouTube videos D to help fill in the gaps?"  No I didn't.  But hopefully things will start to get back on track here real soon.  I don't even feel like a framebuilder sometimes these days, much less a bike rider.  I try to get out 3-4 days a week for an hour or so but here lately its been more like 2 days a week.  My body hurts and I feel like the Tinman in the Wizard of Oz after the snow fell.  Not good.  "Is there anything going on?"  Not much except that I did receive my experimental  Ebay Chinese carbon clincher wheelset that only cost $450 with shipping.  "WHAT?  You actually bought some of that stuff?"  I did, and I'll tell you why.  The other day when I rode home on the rim I already needed some new wheels.
It turns out I was able to salvage the wheel and am even riding on the tire since I don't have any others at the moment.  I took a good look at the wheel, and my others laying around, and  ran my fingers around the edges to see how bad it was.  There were a couple of divots but nothing that a little file work wouldn't smooth out, and so I cleaned up the rims, trued the wheel, and I'm riding on it now.  But I still needed/wanted some new wheels.  Even though I didn't spend that much on Christmas I still didn't have $600-$1000 to drop on a set of wheels.  Actually I do have it but its in the corner waiting to be spent on a milling machine, something that I can use in the shop.  

"So why did you buy the cheap Chinese wheelset D?"

Well, I was checking out the Cafe Roubaix website, thats the guy who was getting pushed around to change his name by Specialized a while back.  Apparently they have some sort of trademark on the name Roubaix. Long story short, Specialized pulled back and allowed him to continue to use the name.  All is well that ends well right?  Anyway, that guy has some pretty nice wheelsets on his site.  Lightweight, carbon clinchers, aluminum, tubulars, a little bit of everything and at some real good prices.  In an attempt to help out his cause I was gonna purchase a wheelset from him.  After looking closer and doing a little research I kind of figured out what was going on and just decided to look at Ebay for the heck of it.  I want to stop right here and add that I believe the wheelsets for sale from Cafe Roubaix are made with higher quality components than these wheelsets from China, the hubs mainly, but I haven't seen or tried the wheelsets from the little Canadian bike shop so I'm kind of looking from afar and describing what I think I'm seeing.

 I've known forever that China sells complete carbon framesets for like $500.  They're raw carbon, no name on them, and some of them even look like some name brand stuff, perhaps a couple of years old though.  I've got a friend that bought one and said he can't tell the difference between it and his high-end frameset.  There are some people that import these frames, put their name on them, or paint them in whatever colors, and sell'em for $2000.  At one time I thought about doing it but then I decided that wasn't the direction I wanted to go.  I want to play a part in the actual building/fabrication  process and to also bond with my customers along the way. 

"What about "Hand crafted in America" and all that stuff?"  Hey, I'm still for that.  My frames are gonna be handmade right here in Mountain Home, USA  for as long as I'm here.  I'm putting every bit of heart and soul that I have into each and everything I make, as I'm sure many other builders are doing the same exact thing. So then I started wondering if everything made in America is better as we always say and think it is, and I think that some of it is but not all of it.  For starters, there are other frame builders that build their frames by hand just like me and others from all over the world. Look at Dario Pegoretti from Italy. Is the fact that ours are made here in America make them better than say his?  I doubt it.  We like to think everything in America is better because its where we live, we love it, and therefore its better, right?  What about the rest of the world?  I figure they're all just trying to make a living like the rest of us and that they have some excellent ideas and products as well, some things that we can't touch, carbon fiber for one.  Accept it.  We all live in the world, not just America.

So after looking at a hundred different wheelsets that are all made by maybe 3 different companies in China and perhaps Taiwan I settled on these.  The name on the web page was DIY Bike.  They gave lots of information about not only the wheels but also on shipping and how they do business.  They provided quite a few photos, some of them with actual measuring gauges and truing stands to show the accuracy of their product.  All that stuff looked pretty enticing but was it true for every set of wheels they sold.  Well, the price on the wheelset was something like $380 with roughly $75 for shipping, thats the price of one good wheel and so I had to check these things out. I started out wanting to buy them because i wanted some new wheels and I didn't have much to spend but the more I studied them I became obsessed with seeing how good they actually would be.  I pulled the trigger (clicked BUY).  Not long after I had paid the bill did I receive confirmation from them that they received the order and were working to ship them out within 3 days.  They will build the wheels in your choice of a matte or gloss finish rim and 3 different colors of hubs, spokes, and nipples.  White, red, and black in any combination are your choices.  I started to go with some white hubs and nipples in order to look cool but its so hard to make white stuff look clean.  I would've been rolling around with black and greasy brown wheels most days.  Red and black it was. So the estimated shipping date showed the wheels arriving between January 2 and something like the middle of the month.  "Ok, sit back and they'll eventually get here."  I've only ordered one other product like this from China and it was carbon fiber water bottle cages.  They showed up quick and were a nice quality,  I'm running them on my current ride now.

When I got back from Jonesboro on Friday I had a little slip in the mail saying I had a parcel waiting for me and low and behold it was the wheels, a week earlier than the earliest estimated arrival.  I was excited to get them but i was so tired I didn't even open them until later that night.  I immediately started checking them out and here is what I found:

The rims seemed flawless.  Couldn't find any imperfections.  I didn't look at every square millimeter, just a quick glance but they seemed fine.  38 millimeter deep carbon clincher rims.  You can see the red spoke nipples in this pic.  I love the fact that i can true them up so easy without all that inside the rim crap.  This made me happy.  If you're losing speed and positions because your spoke nipples are catching too much drag then its time for you to try a new sport, maybe soccer. 

Here is the clincher bead.  Looks as good if not better than my aluminum rimmed wheels.  I've yet to mount any tires as I'm waiting to get some new ones.  

The hubs were where most of my concern was lying.  I have no idea how good they will be but they seem smooth enough and as cleanly made as most of the other hubs on the market.  The way I look at it is like this, should the hubs disintegrate on me, I will just go buy some quality  hubs and rebuild the wheels, no worries. The wheels only cost me $450 but I'm actually pretty positive about the hubs at the moment, I think they'll be fine.  These Chinese companies seem to be wanting to sell this stuff pretty bad.  They seem to go out of their way to make you happy.  I received a couple of emails that said, if there is any problem with the product to please give them a chance to fix it, that they would do everything to make me happy.  The wheels seem perfect now and with all the communication back and forth with them I'm not worried at all.  There are even a couple of YouTube videos by people who have purchased similar wheels and they show you what they got and give a little review.  I haven't heard anything bad yet.

The rear hub sounds like most other hubs so far.  I read one review that said the hubs were very loud.  This guy compared the noise to Chris King hubs and apparently he liked loud sounding hubs.  These don't seem to make much noise when spinning them by hand however  until I coast on them I won't know.

I tried to take a photo to show the trueness of the wheels but its a bit hard to tell in the picture.  All I can say is that they are as true as any wheels I have, even the wheel I just finished truing up.  The roundness of the rim is perfect as is the dish, I can't wait to ride them.  Did I mention that they came with skewers (good looking too), carbon brake pads, and extra spokes and nipples should I need them.  I don't know how good they are yet but this company has done nothing wrong so far.

While I'm sure these wheels will be fine for the amount of money I have invested in them, remember that I still don't mind paying more money at my local bike shop.  I have a lot of friends who own or work at bike shops, and being able to speak face to face and interact with your local bike shop is worth a little extra money.  You can also learn alot from your local bike shop as normally they are more than willing to teach you things.  Thats what you don't get when you buy things like this so always keep that in mind.  The experiment actually took more hold on me than the price did, I just had to see for myself, and I'll give you the lowdown on them good or bad just as soon as I know.  I just like to keep an open mind regarding most things.  I don't shop at just one store, or bank at just one bank.  I like to check out different places and hear different people's point of view because you can learn a lot more that way.  America is a beautiful place and we make some excellent products but lets not act superior to anyone.  We're all in this world together.

Here are a couple of stats about where America ranks on different things.  I'm not sure how accurate these are as i just grabbed them off of a website.  Some of them may be a few years old and can vary but you understand the point.

#1 in military spending
#1 in "the super-rich"
#1 in locking people up
#1 in plastic surgeons and breast augmentation
#1 in wine consumption (doesn't sound right)
3rd in steel production
14th in government debt
17th in corruption 
21st in overall happiness
27th in life longevity
11th in hard work 
19th in honesty
24th in literacy (I need to read more)
24th for sex in alleyways (thats weird, who's #1?)
99th for peacefulness 

video
Here is a short video from the Arkansas Cyclocross Championships that I accidentally shot.  I thought I was taking a photo but had it on the video setting.  Don't get too excited, its not much.  However the overall day was a great time with some good racing.  The course was excellent and i have some more pictures that I need to upload.  

Happy New Year!




9 comments:

  1. Dimitri, I too have made a foray into the Chinese wheel dept. I ordered the rims only and built them up to King Hubs. Mine broke fairly quickly but I attribute that to the major impact that they received racing cross. In my opinion buying local is the most important. I have one of your frames and love it. When you can't find what you want locally then by all means may the world be your oyster. I am currently running velocity rims which are made in the US. I can say that I am very happy with them but they are not of any noticeably higher quality than the Chinese ones that I built up.
    -Branton

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Branton, did the carbon just break on your wheels? The price and the curiosity got the best of me, as did the light weight, and I wanted to find out for myself. I also was gonna buy rims only but then for another $100 you could get the complete wheels so I chose that. My favorite wheels are just a pair of standard rims and Campy hubs, or whatever brand someone prefers. I'm into straight-forward and repairable. I'll give these a test to see what they're worth. Thanks for sharing your findings.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm gonna go check out Velocity's web page.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think buying American and supporting our economy is more important than supporting China's economy. Its sad when people don't realize this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. D. I broke the wheels during the same night race that I bent my seat post. So I don't hink it was really anything to do with the wheels. Just a bad scenario.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I understand your thoughts Mike and I mostly agree with you however cycling is a worldwide sport and you'll be hardpressed to get a complete bicycle made in the U.S. I've actually started researching it a bit and trying to see if its possible to build a complete bike that everything is manufactured in America and its gonna be pretty hard if possible at all. Also, there are many businesses in the U.S. that make their money and employ U.S. citizens (as well as others) by selling imported products. And lastly, I believe that America is importing these products for a reason, and while I don't know enough about the world's economy to say anything more, I'm not sure America can stand by itself anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I also wanted to add that I think international trade is a beautiful thing. I would like to see the rest of the world thrive as much as I want America to.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nice post! All frames and kits include a manufacturer’s special construction permits are required. Kits come complete with a fully mocked-up frame.

    custom chopper

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for sharing this great article! That is very interesting I love reading and I am always searching for informative information like this.
    carbon track wheelset

    ReplyDelete