What else should I be looking at for a custom 29er build without spending two grand or something like that? Walt seems to know what he is doing at a fair price and I have never heard anything bad about his frames...or forks for that matter.
You cannot go wrong with Walt. 1200 dollars for the basic, then add-ons.
Independent Fabrication is 1695 for the steel deluxe, then add-ons. I love my IF and the turn-around time is usually quite a bit faster than the one person shows- kind of like paying extra for 3 day shipping so you get your new lights in time to use them next week (I just did this).
LOVE my Walt! Ordering process was smooth and dealing with him is easy as pie. He's a stand up guy who stands behind his work with no questions asked.
I actually got lucky and got a frame that he built for someone else that fit my specs. The other person changed their mind so I lucked into it. I've ridden that bike on (3) continents...as a hard tail, rigid, geared, SS, and now as a rigid SS with drops bars. I've raced it in Pisgah, England, all over GA -- on smooth buttery trail and rocky technical terrain.
Fall 2008 it snapped as a crossed a street at a corsswalk, no less. Head tube sheered straight off the rest of the bike. Walt did not question, he took the frame, apologized, was glad I wasn't hurt badly, and rebuilt it for me. Since the original frame was built specifically for someone else, he apologized that it just wasn't strong enough for me. Heck, I'm just glad it'd done all it had to THAT point!
I don't have experience with other custom guys, so I can't say they wouldn't do the same thing but even if I have the money for a Moots, IF, Retrotec, etc my next custom is coming from Walt.
I've been very happy with my experience with Walt. He's got personality (in a good way) but I could also see it not working for everyone.
For me, location was really helpful; he knows the trails I ride and we got to talk in person before he built my monster. That was critical for my project, but may be less of an issue if you're going with something relatively traditional.
He wins points on accessibility and responsiveness. If you like the styling of his work, it's absolutely worth your time to call and/or email.
Not having worked with other builders, I can't say best value. I was pleased enough that I jumped on a used WW frame when looking to replace my SS, if that tells you anything.
I only have praises of his work. He's an excellent person, easy to work with and seemingly, put his heart and mind into every frame he creates.
That said, I'd like to point out Scot Quiring. His steel frames are $1,300, so if $100 makes a difference he's out of the picture. If you can spend the extra, I suggest you contact him.He made hell of an impression on me; if my next frame is Ti I'll strongly consider buying from him.
We have a total of 5, yes FIVE, Waltworks bikes in the house. Every frame has been better than the last. Walt will not steer you wrong. He will let you know EXACTLY where you are on the waitlist, he'll let you know if he's heading out of town and your frame will take 12 hours longer to complete than originally planned, he'll let you know if your frame idea is crazy, revolutionary, or stupid and will or will not build it based on that opinion. What you will get from Walt is a frame that fits, rides great, and won't break. Well, if it does happen to break he'll stand behind his work.
My frames: 2004 29er built around an 80mm fork / 2006 SS 29er clone of the first except with a 100mm fork. / 2009 Freeride 29er hardtail, built around a 135mm fork
My wife's frames: 2005 29er for a 5'4" rider and a 2008 Cyclocross/road bike
I just picked up my second TrueFabrication. They are a small group of builders out of Austin TX and they do super amazing work. On the first bike I asked for internal routing and they knocked it out of the park. For my second frame I asked for full suspension and they delivered again. I know they talk correspond regularly with Walt and many of the other builders, but they also do a lot of inhouse design and development.
Cody, the face man, is a geometry nut. If you know what you want he will work with you, if you only have a rough idea he will really work with you to dial in the perfect geometry.
There are a lot of good builders out there for a fair price. You have to find one that fits what you're looking for. A good builder can help guide you with that. I've been lucky as I've had my fair share of custom bikes. I've had a WW and he was great to work with. Good guy. I had some issues with it (fit wise) and he was willing to fix them. Instead I sold it and went with True Fabrications. We (my wife and I) now own 3...well, 2 and one is being built. My wife is 5'3 and wanted a 29er but didn't want a crazy drop on the top tube. She wanted it to look "normal". Cody got it to fit perfect. No compromises on reach/height/standover/toe overlap. Not only that, it looks great too! I think they're price is right in line with Walt.
So there you have it. Do your research and I think you'll come away happy.
If you're careful about doing your homework, you can find the next 'it' builder before they're discovered. Most guys start out charging too little and raise their prices over time, correcting their earlier mistake.
There is no one 'best value', but depending on the level of detail you want, some builders give you more for your money.
Got me a Rock Lobster a few years ago and it's still the measuring stick by which I judge. He was a great guy to deal with and when UPS decided to test the integrity of their van with the headtube of my frame, he was totally cool. Had me send it back, corrected the situation, tossed in some schwag and had it back to me in about a week or so. Eventhough it's a 26" SS with V-Brakes, it's still the most fun of all the ones over the past few years!
Unfortunately, Steve has been discovered, so I cannot afford him anymore. He did build me 2 great bikes while I could underpay him. Too bad I am too much of a bike whore to keep any one bike too long and sold them.
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