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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is one of my favorite topics for discussion so I thought I would post the question and listen to the opinions.

Which do you like better, a boutique brand or bike offerings from a major manufacturer?

For this discussion we will define a boutique brand as a small manufacturer who only produces a limited number of models and bikes per year. ( I realize we could define this on down ad nauseum) But a couple of examples would be Yeti, Sycip, Kestrel, Devinci, etc.

And of course the large manufacturers are those like Specialized, Giant, Trek.

So which is best in your opinion? The bikes from the big guys who have the resources to pay big bucks for the best design and engineering minds, manufacturing technology and quality control departments, or the small guys who build the stuff one at a time and sometimes see the bike from tubes to assembly in a single persons hands?

Let the point-counterpoint begin. :cool:
 

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I personally like the individual attention that you receive from the boutique brands. That is not to say that there is nothing good about the large manufacturers, but the attention to detail from the smaller builders is very interesting to me. You will pay a premium for this detail but in my eyes it is worth it.
 

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Botique is changing in terms of hand built. I bought a Versus frame out of Fremont Ca. over major manufacture. I looked at the smaller frame distributor over the major because of the close connection with the customer. There are going to be complications with either one some where down the road but i like knowing that i can call the company up & talk to someone that is concerned. You contact Giant you get a dealer rep who is reading the warranty book back to you. Of course if you are a time waster any company will get frustrated listening to you & wish you bought something else.
 

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Costum makes the difference

BikeCoachDave said:
Let the point-counterpoint begin. :cool:
... sometimes I suspect that all you get from a botique bike maker (which is really a fancy name for an outsourced production maker) is the extra price due to lack of economy of scale :eek: ...

... big vs small production is not always in favour of the small ones: I found the details (weldings, cable stops, bolts, paint) in my Kona better than on my Turner

... in general I find very difficult to justify much more than $1300-1500 (Yeti, Santa Cruz, Titus) for a production frame (Turner, Ellsworth, Intense, all sup $2000) that does not even offer extra frame sizes to choose from ...

Ventana, Titus, Sycip, Nicolai do real costum full suspension and that is a different story. If you go through the process you do get extra care and a special bike that will fit you like a glove
 

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BikeCoachDave said:
This is one of my favorite topics for discussion so I thought I would post the question and listen to the opinions.

Which do you like better, a boutique brand or bike offerings from a major manufacturer?

For this discussion we will define a boutique brand as a small manufacturer who only produces a limited number of models and bikes per year. ( I realize we could define this on down ad nauseum) But a couple of examples would be Yeti, Sycip, Kestrel, Devinci, etc.

And of course the large manufacturers are those like Specialized, Giant, Trek.

So which is best in your opinion? The bikes from the big guys who have the resources to pay big bucks for the best design and engineering minds, manufacturing technology and quality control departments, or the small guys who build the stuff one at a time and sometimes see the bike from tubes to assembly in a single persons hands?

Let the point-counterpoint begin. :cool:
The best bike for the money will be a production bike.
The best bike money can buy will be a boutique bike.
 

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Both

I own both types and have had great experiences with both but I think I've been lucky. Other than the MacMahon that I took a chance on and was burned by them going out of business all the problems I've had have been taken care of. I've owned 4 Cannondales; 2 hardtails, a singlespeed and a Jeckyl and the only issue I had was a DT hub that split from flange to flange and it was replaced in 3 days, Cannondales replaces frames unless it has hammer or other dents on it so that warranty makes them a better company to deal with than allmost any other. My broken Foes Fly was replaced in 2 days, my several owner Foes Weasle 5 years out of warranty broke and they didn't have the replacement parts but they still offered me a Fly at 1/2 price so Foes is a great small company. I've had 2 Santa Cruze, 3 Fishers, an Ellsworth (only for 2 months) 2 Turners (still have both), an Intense (broke a chainstay on a 4 yr out of production 2 yr out of warranty Uzzi DH and they still had parts at a reasonable price, and a Kelly hardtail ( he'll do cheap mods except for his powdercoat price of $200), and all of these companies have been good to deal with for everyone I've known. I have heard of issues with Ellsworth that haven't effected the 5 people I know with Id's, truths and Jokers. Research the companies you want to deal with, if someone was burned by a company they will probably talk about it here.
 

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So are you a troll? Seems like you might be since you want to get an arguement started and then step aside.

I'd say whichever bike fits you and your budget the best since it's not the bike(once it fits and is sound), but the rider that actually count.
 

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My 2 cents....

I agree along most of the same lines that have already been discussed. The attention to detail that you will find in a frame from a smaller manufacturer (Moots, Yeti, even Ellsworth and Intense) is much greater than a product from a much larger manufactuer. Some of the best ideas are brought up by minds at smaller companies. Dave Weagle who developed the DW-Link suspension featured on the Iron Horse Sunday and other bikes originally started out small until he sold his brilliant ideas to I.H. Alot of the smaller comapnies are also only comprised of riders, so they know pretty much exactly what to change. Trek def. caught onto this when they hired Andrew Shandro to help with their new lines of bikes.

On the other hand, the larger companies are catching up quality-wise, and really listening to riders input. VPP Technology shared by both Santa Cruz and Intense really set the bar for alot of technologies to follow.
In my opinion, Specialized builds and specs some of the best riding bikes on the market. They have stuck with thier FSR designs, and coupled with the suspension technologies now on the market, its makes for an awsome combination. Giant has also hit gold with the maestro design providing (from what I have read and Heard) zero brake influence, zero power loss, and a linear rising rate. Not to mention the above mentioned companies make frames that are beyond durable.

Cheers,
Erik
 

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Devinci is getting close to being a mass producer of bikes in Canada and I would not classify them as a boutique brand. With that said, many Devinci frames rival almost any boutique brand that I have seen in terms of build quality, and cost around half the price.

I have owned a Santa Cruz and Ellsworth and was impressed with both. From what I have seen and read, Ventana is a notch above all other production and custom frames.

If money was not an issue, I would go the custom route everytime because there always seems to be a compromise or something that has to be replaced when buying a mass produced bike. In my experience anyways.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
fred3 said:
So are you a troll? Seems like you might be since you want to get an arguement started and then step aside.

I'd say whichever bike fits you and your budget the best since it's not the bike(once it fits and is sound), but the rider that actually count.
Hmm, which post sounds more like a troll? mine, or yours?

Actually I own a bicycle shop and have been privy to this debate for over a decade. Its questions like these that help buyers make better buying decisions. I have a very definite opinion on the subject but as a seller I no longer offer it on the web as I am instantly shot down as biased. I do however enjoy the debate and how it changes from year to year along with offerings from different companies. Just good market study material for those of us in the business.
 

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Its NOT about the only the money..

Having ridden production and small builder bikes the ones i buy are the ones that fit and handle the best based on materials and geometry.
 

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I'll bite/reply into this semi-troll-esque post seeing as how it's the holiday and I'm gaining weight eating leftover dark meat.


Years ago I would ONLY ride American handmade frames (at least what I was marketed to as being such) during the time Taiwan stuff was vastly inferior.... again, at least in my warped sense of thinking. Doug Bradbury was the man! And so was Ben Serotta.

Then I purchased a Giant. Then I broke a Giant. Then Giant gave me a new frame no questions asked after I called them and spoke to a live person after being directed that way by a local Giant dealer since there seems to be one on every corner next to a McDonald's or Starbucks. Hmmmm, major cookie cutter bike company not so bad afterall.

Having said that I appreciate what Ibis and Independent Fabrication and Calfee do. Are any of the aforementioned 100% American? I dunno. Probably not entirely at some point in their venture (Ibis is Chinese now, and Calfee may outsource blah blah). My favorite ride is my beloved Intense Tracer with its "made in the USA" sticker quietly sitting mere inches from Chinese and Taiwan-made handlebar, stem, pedals.....

Okay, time to eat more Italian sausage stuffing. Hey, that could be your next post: boutique stuffing versus ready-made. Begin.
 

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Okay, time to eat more Italian sausage stuffing. Hey, that could be your next post: boutique stuffing versus ready-made. Begin.[/QUOTE]

I've got to vote for boutique stuffing, much better than boxed. Oh and I like boutique bikes too, the main reason being I like to buy a frame and then build it up with the parts I choose. I know the some of the bigger companies sell frames but they cost as much as a boutique frame and I'd rather buy from a smaller builder when I'm spending that kind of money.
 

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i love my boutique bikes (2 balfas)

i have ridden and loved many "production" bikes, but i will be the only one in this thread to admit (even though others secretly agree) that it is at least a small percentage snobbishness and desire for something "different" that gravitates me to the boutiques. is one better than the other? i doubt it.
 

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ive got 4 bikes...

3 are production frames (jamis dragon, voodoo bizango, norco team issue) and one is custom (curtlo). ive also ridden many of both. my bizango and norco ride about as good as a hardtail possibly can imho. the curtlo has much better welds (invisible, actually) and it rides great too, but it has nothing on the other 2 performance wise. well, actually its a little more compliant vertically but thats it. the dragon is a little behind the other 3 in the tight stuff but equal to them everywhere else.
the moral of the story is a good design w/ good geometry and execution is going to ride well regardless. if your read the UK mags you'll see boutique bikes getting their asses kicked by production bikes regularly. its not a surprise anymore. the opposite also happens but when you weigh in price/performance the boutique bikes usually lose here too. curtlo,niner and waltworks are 3 that can compete price/performance wise with the big companies. not many others can.
 

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Some boutique bikes are not what they used to be. For example, Titus has moved production of all thier aluminum frames to Taiwan, and Santa Cruz has done the same with some of thier line as well. I can understand trying to control cost, but some of the attraction to buying such a bike like that is the fact that it was hand made in the good old USA by some guy named Larry.

On the other hand, I just bought a new Gary Fisher. The frame was made in the USA, and has a lifetime warranty. I didn't but it for that reason, but I'm happy about it. But, does that make it any better than a Titus Moto-Lite made in Taiwan? I don't know, but It's the perfect bike for me.

I anyone buying a bike should do the research and but a bike that's best suited to them. Sometimes that's going to be a boutique bike, and others, a production bike. I imagine that cost is a factor, but now you have to consider weather it's worth paying "boutique prices" for a bike that may be made in Taiwan.
 

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bikeboyjeff said:
For example, Titus has moved production of all thier aluminum frames to Taiwan, and Santa Cruz has done the same with some of thier line as well.
My understanding is that the welder (the actual manufacturer) closed their US plant and moved production to Taiwan.

If the case, is it fair to say that Titus and Santa Cruz moved production?

I'm not trolling for an argument, but I think there is a subtle distinction. Are there any remaining US-based manufacturers that could and would do the work?

Seems like a business would have to in-house production if they wanted to stay on shore. That's a risky, expensive proposition.
 

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my opinion

My opinion is the following:
I think that if you want to buy an exspensive race xc hardtail that buying a bike from a small producer would benefit you alot. You can get the measurments to fit your body and its type, just you not everybody else. Also the joy of working with somebody and wathcing your bike being built from the ground up is great.
However, when it comes to full suspension I disagree with the notion that small bike builders (and I do not mean ellsworth) are better or even worth it. Big companies like trek, specialized, giant pour millions of dollars into product research so that suspension in there view is the best it can be. In many instances (like with speacialized) this is true. Smalll independent makers from my exsperience barrow ideas already out there, and dont have the adequate research materials to make a grea fs bike. Well that is my view.

Great discussion by the way.

GOAT
 
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