Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Frangible Framesets

This is one of the stories in my first book, Tales from the Bike Shop, so it was written in the '80s. It's a bit dated: Who remembers WATS phone lines and short- or long-reach brakes? But in many ways it is truer today than ever.... Hope you like it!

“Hello, Frangible Framesets. This is Falconer Frangible. How may we help you?”

“Oh, hi. I’m calling from Fallen Ego, Tennessee. I think I may be ready for a custom frameset. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?”

“Not at all. We feel, at Frangible, that the more our customers know about us and our products - fast frames for fastidious frame buyers - the more readily they will call on us when the buying bug eventually bites.”

“Well, I’m not a bicycle racer but I like to ride around our area with my friends. It’s hilly west of here and mostly flat to the east. We generally ride weekends and a couple of evenings a week after work. Do I need a chain-hanger braze-on? I should tell you I use deep-drop handlebars. I carry one waterbottle and two pumps. And you should know I’m into short-reach brakesets, totally, as was my father before me.”

“I see. Do you have our full-color Frangible Frameset folder? Perhaps if you study it carefully it will help you answer some of your questions.”

“Why, no I don’t. I just saw your ad in Bicycle Fancier magazine. I thought I’d give you a call. We have a WATS line here at work. I’m on a break so there’s no hurry. If you could clear up a problem or two while I have you on the phone....”

“Sure. Just let me turn off this torch. Our customers are more than just frame sizes to us here at Frangible, the Firmly Flexible Frameset for Frankly Fussy Aficionados. Fire away.”

“Gee thanks. Tell me, how do you feel about composites? I mean, I know you have a vested interest in steel but don’t you think steel is, well, yesterday’s technology? If I stand up when I climb, will a Frangible frame flex? Will the gears shift by themselves? Will the chain come off?

“How many frames have you made? How many have broken? Do folks riding Frangible Frames fall frequently? Are Frangibles fast? Have they been evaluated in Bicycle Science Magazine? Do I really need a custom frame or should I just buy my buddy’s baby-blue Bowlachili? It has a bent fork.”

“First, let me assure you that we at Frangible are absolutely, positively, unequivocally certain that steel is the foremost material for frameset fabrication.”

“But isn’t it heavy?”

“More or less. But Frangible Framesets have a feel, a fineness, a flowing oneness with the road. They caress the tarmac with an almost sensual sureness, a supple rigidity. Excuse me, are you over 18? Oh, good. We think that the ineffable Frangible feeling principally depends on the flexible firmness of steel.”

“Sounds terrific. But are your frames straight? I’ve heard some builders hardly check to see if their tips are parallel....”

“Straight? Straight? Why our framesets are so forcefully straight we’ve had to curtail sales in certain neighborhoods in San Francisco and Atlanta for fear of rejection. Our alignments are done on a flat table - so flat that other builders send their tables here to measure just how crooked they are. Fishhooks on our premises will straighten themselves out, untouched, in seconds. Roads in our area never bend.”

“How do I go about getting sized?”

“Excellent question. Generally we work from full-length skeletal X-rays. We have an in-house sports physician on our team here at Frangible. He examines each prospective owner’s bone structure and factors in such aspects as musculature and riding habits, typical gear selection, intended frame use, geographic area and barometric pressure.

“We do all that in an exhaustive effort to extrapolate the perfect, ideal and totally correct frame configuration for you and you alone. Naturally, that process can take some time but finicky Frangible riders appreciate our dedication.

“We usually correspond by registered mail in cases of far-off applicants like yourself. I would allow about $25 for postage during the fitting procedure and $50, more or less, for the frontal and lateral X-rays. It’ll be worth it. We believe a properly sized bicycle has a classic symmetry, a recognizable rightness that none but a Frangible owner can count on.”

“Fascinating. Do you do your own paint work?”

“Frangible finishes are justifiably famous. First the frameset is filed, a process that can take our team of four first-class filers 16 to 18 hours. Then it is dipped for several days in an anti-corrosive to preserve it for the quality minded cyclist post-millennium.

“Only then is it finished in the most painstakingly patient process using ultra-expensive materials. This consumes so much time that work on an individual frame may be handed down from father to son. After the optional and beautiful Frangible transfers are applied, we tenderly spray 12 coats of clear sealer under surgically sterile conditions, virtually guaranteeing several decades of satisfaction with the finish.

“We are proud of our craftsmanship here at Frangible. You yourself can experience that same pride in the form of your own personal one-of-a-kind frameset, signed by myself after a meticulous pre-shipment inspection. Signed for all your admiring friends to see - Falconer Frangible.”

“Gosh Mr. Frangible....”

“Call me Falconer, please.”

“Oh, sure, uh, Falconer. You know, I’ve called a framebuilder every day on my break for almost three weeks now. You are by far the most confidence-inspiring. You’ve got me really interested. If I decided to begin the Frangible Frameset selection process, how long would it take before I had my frame in my hands?”

“You’re in Tennessee, you said? Let me see. I could have one there for you UPS in eight or nine days, less if we ship Blue Label. Even sooner if you can get into metallic green. Can you ride a 61? Want a headset? VISA or MasterCard?”

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