I remember a talk I attended several years ago, given by a very wealthy man, and he related some interesting mindsets he'd run up against over the years. One he liked to call "the moral amount."
It refers to a certain amount of income above which it is considered sinful, amoral, downright evil to make. You know, that famous Bible verse that says "money is the root of all evil" (which is a misquote, by the way). And the funny thing he found was that it correlated very closely with the income level of the person making the judgement.
People who make around $50K a year think it's okay to make, oh, about $55K, but anything more than that, and you're just chasing the dollar.
People who make around $75K a year tend to think that anything over $80K is flirting with the devil.
And people who make around $150K a year believe that anything more than about $160K is positively corrupt.
Quite an entertaining observation. Which went on to a completely different point (being that the TIME one spends making all that money is more of an indication of the "love of money" rather than the amount by itself, but I digress). My point is that people will pass a moral judgement on others based solely on their own station in life.
Why am I going on with this?
An interview posting on BikeRumor on Julie Ann Pedalino on March 11th, and the ensuing comments, brought all this on. The crux of the issue seems to that Ms. Pedalino was showing two of her bike frames at NAHBS (North American Handmade Bike Show), in the "new builder" area, and that those frames represented her 3rd and 4th frames produced. Among the assumptions made by many posting comments is that she is offering her frames for sale to the public after only making four. And that she should not have been allowed to show at NAHBS with so little background in frame building. [I'll leave all the sexist drivel out of my discussion here.]
As a new builder myself, I do struggle with the idea of how many is "enough" to begin offering my wares for sale to the general public. At what point is my background deep enough to not be looked down upon by potential riders?
There are several long-time framebuilders who grew up (building-wise) in an era when bike frame manufacturing jobs were in the USA, and you could get several hundred frames under your belt with a manufacturer before venturing off under your own shingle. Some went to other countries (England being a primary example in the 70's) and got jobs with master builders and production shops making frames all day, learning the trade. Most of these long-time builders will quote out a number of frames one should have under their belt, often will into the triple digits, before they should be trusted under a paying customer. A long time, very in-demand builder with a wait time of YEARS (and rhymes with tax) will often throw out 200 as the benchmark.
There's that moral number. Different for each person, and very closely tied with how they came into their own framebuilding business.
But the industry has changed. Those jobs aren't available any more. And none of the USA masters are willing to take on an apprentice.
Yes, UBI (the United Bicycle Institute) has a certification program that'll put a nice plaque on the wall, and for some people that might mean a whole lot. Doesn't mean bupkiss to me. I've worked with enough educated derelicts, thank you.
For some one like Julie Ann Pedalino, what matters is that the design and construction is sound. SOME ONE has to be the first paying customer, and to that person, as long as the bike does what they want it to do, and it holds up to all the abuse they wish to dish out, the number shouldn't matter. But are there enough of those people to get to that "moral number"?
It's a dilemma, one I face now, with two trade shows coming this year that I plan to attend as a builder/exhibitor. I'm not going to lie to some one by inflating my numbers, but how do you convince some one that your designs and construction are sound? I've got several hundred miles on the first build I did for myself, and it shows no signs of giving up the ghost.I've got two more nearing completion (again, for myself), plus a few more on the street under some other people.
My total isn't impressive, but I've also never buried a frame out of embarrassment, nor had one fail yet.
And yes, I've got my liability insurance in place, protecting both myself AND my customers.