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Frame design philosophy

I make frames for those who can appreciate the spring and liveliness of the modern lightweight steel frame tubing and understand that its beauty is just as much about the material as the paint and stickers.

One of the best lessons of framebuilding is to check out every broken and unusual frame you can. Doing that, and repairing them is THE best way to know how to make a lighter-weight frame that's also as durable as possible. You CAN have a lighter, springier frame that won't fail early if you avoid bad design details. There are however quite a few things the new kids are doing that you won't see the old-school guys touch. The essence of framebuilding is to develop this sort of understanding.

The true magic of steel is that I can fine tune the feel of the bike by choosing a particular tube from the literally dozens of options available to me in butted steel. I almost never use a 'standard tubeset', as you can read about for many of the frames in the Gallery section. There are perhaps 20 or more top-tubes I could practically choose from for frames ranging from small lightweight road frames to rugged mountainbike, each with a unique combination of diameter and wall thicknesses.

A frame made of another material cannot come close to steel in terms of the constructors ability to tailor the ride feel for a modest price.

The materials I use allow me to design a frame with a bit of frame flex in the right places which is a good thing. A track-frame is the only design that should be really stiff. In every other design a bit of flex is a good thing .... we're not all pro level athletes! You can get a frame with a more forgiving ride than many production frames (made for a heavy rider), you'll be able to ride for longer and the frame will wear you out less.

Steel is also excellent in the way it behaves when you unexpectedly hit a kerb, your bike accidentally falls over, you run off the road or are just riding your bike fast after 12 years use. Even when subjected to a solid catastrophic impact, or if having developed a fatigue failure, a good steel frame will still hang together enough for you to come to a controlled halt, or even complete your ride. Yes, steel frames can fail, but a well designed lightweight steel frame even after years of hard use won't fail catatrophically.

Check out the range of Zona and Life tubing below and imagine the possible range of choice for a particular frame tube. For example when choosing a round top-tube for a road frame from the Zona tubes: a 28.6mm diameter top-tube with .7/.5/.7mm walls would be good for a lightweight road rider. For slightly more rigidity, there's the .8/.5/.8 mm wall tube, or step-up in diameter to the 31.7mm tube with .7/.5/.7 wall thickness. The 31.7 downtube comes with .8/.5/.8 walls and has a shorter 0.5mm wall-section in the middle, so used as a top-tube it's a bit more rugged again! In that range of tubes, the weight might increase by 40 grams or so. Then there are Life top-tubes which are slightly lighter-weight.

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