For those of you who don’t know, there are still a few companies building bikes in the USA. These companies are mostly very small with a huge emphasis on craftsmanship. I am lucky enough to own a frame made by such a company. My frame was hand built by the folks at Dean bikes in Boulder, Colorado. Naturally, when I realized we were going to be in Boulder I called them up and asked if I could come see the factory. Rich was excited and replied with an enthusiastic yes. These guys are proud of what they do. Dean produces less than 200 frames per year. They have at most four employees at any given time. At the moment, they have Rich and John and one part time person.
The entire operation is in a pretty small space. They do not use any fancy automated machinery. All the Ti frame parts that are machined come from Paragon machine works which uses a lot of high tech stuff like cnc water jets and lasers. Dean does all the tubing cutting, notching, bending, and milling manually. They have a couple large old lathes, a few band saws and a Bridgeport mill. This is vastly different from Cannondale (whose factory I toured a few years ago) which uses things like cnc lasers and two pass welds, turning out around 200 frames a day when running full tilt. That is before they moved all production to Taiwan.
Of course it was great to drool over the latest frame designs. I have not been this impressed with a new bike since the North American Handmade Bicycle show in Richmond in 2010. The bike in the picture above is one of the latest from Dean. There are lots more photos of it on their website. It’s like a soft tail since there are no pivots on the chain stays, but it does have pivots on the seat stays. This isolates the shock from side loads and allows for more travel. It also makes for very nice lines. This bike also featured the latest from Paragon with a 1.5″ tapered steer tube, and belt compatible sliding rear drop outs. Yes, the bike in the photo is using a belt drive with a rohloff internally geared hub. Sweet. Maybe someday I will be able to afford to have one of these custom built for me….