I stumbled across these bikes a while back and just started looking into them and its peaked my interest a little bit.
There isn’t much info or reviews out there on them so figured I would see if anyone has any experience or come across Spec Bicycles before.
Some info I’ve been able to gather by contacting them:
T800 toray Unidirectional carbon in the layup schedule
They work directly with a factory in China, like every manufacturer besides a few (Allied is the only US carbon builder I know of currently), and they paint and build the bikes in a few different locations in Illinois. This is how they are able to offer complete customization, since every bike is hand built to order from a raw frameset. The options available on the website are by no means the limits of what they offer by means of customization and personal fit
The bike is completely assembled and tuned, with basic disassembly done to aid in shipping, bars, seat, front wheel, etc
What other types of questions would be worth asking?
They look great to me. The only thing I’d want to know that I can’t find is complete build weight, or at least frame weight. I’m sure it’s competitive: how different can the frames be to other modern carbon frames?
Crit: 15.2lbs (Crit R - DA), 16.2lbs (Crit C-Uletgra), 17lbs (Crit S-105) in Medium frame size
Stealth: 15.5 lbs (Stealth R - DA) 16.8 lbs (Stealth C - Ultegra) 18lbs (Stealth S - 105) in Medium frame size
These are general weights and it depends on what options you choose. This is for mechanical not Di2
That’s inaccurate. Most top brands have their frames made in Taiwan, not China, and their designs are proprietary. They also have personnel permanently residing in Taiwan, babysitting the factories. These types of factories are frequently called “OEMs”, Original Equipment Manufacturers.
Microbrands lack all of the technical resources and financial clout that enable big companies to consistently deliver quality(ish) products from overseas. Instead, microbrands often order out of a catalog and slap their logo on the product. This is true in many industries in addition to cycling.
In many cases, the manufacturer can make changes to a catalog product. This type of factory is called an “ODM”, Original Design Manufacturer. The key difference between an OEM and an ODM is the amount of technical input coming from the customer. With an ODM, the customer can request some high level modifications, but the nitty gritty is all done by the ODM. The customer is more or less blind to key details like the shape of each piece of carbon cloth, the exact number of layers in each critical area, and other details like temperature, air pressure, and vacuum pressure applied in the mold.
Seat tube length is irrelevant. Look at reach, stack, wheelbase etc. I’m sure it’s similar to XL frames from other manufacturers. My bikes are 52, 56 and 58. All have the same effective top tube length.
Edit: XL is 577mm effective top tube, so yeah it’s a bit small. Probably 6’2” max height.
While from my understanding this is generally true, it seems that many ‘big’ manufacturers greatly exaggerate their carbon design expertise. Expertise with the details of the carbon layups, etc. often resides with the manufacturing side, not the design side. ‘Designed in the USA’ can mean nothing more than the shapes were specified in the USA, and most of the expertise regarding making that shape a reality are in Taiwan/China. Are the people who design the carbon fabric shapes, weaves, layup order, heating cycles, resin choices, etc. all full-time employees of the major bike brand? I don’t think this is common, which means those people can do the same thing for non-major bike brands.
It seems that Nove bikes was selling standard open mold frames, but claiming to be a boutique high-end brand, so marketing is just that - marketing. (I could never find details of what was going on here - if there is a good writeup that someone knows about I’d be interested to read i.)
Big name brand frames are likely to be better/safer than off-brand ones, and especially no-name ones direct from China. That said, just looking at recent fork recalls of major brands shows that even they have design and/or quality issues. Also, if big names took manufacturing tolerances seriously, creaking press-fit bottom brackets wouldn’t be a thing, so name brand doesn’t mean good quality. Trek oversized BB bearings anyone?? That’s not some USA design/engineering to be proud of. Watching the Luescher Teknik videos on youtube shows that buying a big name does not ensure quality.
What I think you are getting from buying from a name brand:
company that has a customer service department to handle warranties/recalls. (If you buy direct from Ali Express you won’t get recalls.)
brand that has a brand name to protect - producing bikes that kill people would be very bad for them. They have an incentive to protect their brand reputaion.
likely better manufacturing quality control than off brands. Not all factories are equal, and factories that do name-brand bikes likely don’t also do ‘open mold’ frames.
often supporting a local bikeshop (along with associated mark up.)
That said, there are certainly safe carbon frames being made by non name-brand manufacturers. Open mold does not mean unsafe - just that the shape of the frame is not unique, and anyone can buy a mold and make one. The trick is picking the right ‘anyone’ to buy it from , which is not easy to do.
From my perspective, if going with a ‘Chinese’ frame, I would gravitate towards a brand that actually makes the bikes - something like Yoleo or Winspace, as these seem to be actual manufacturers (I could be wrong on this though). At least with these there is a larger brand reputation that they are trying to build and protect. From my perspective, ‘Spec’ and other brands are inserting themselves as a middle man, and I have no idea if they actually add any value like the big name brands actually do. Can they pick a ‘good’ source in China better than I can? I hope so, as that is what I’m paying them to do. Since the startup-up costs for a ‘fake’ brand are fairly low, it may not be worth investing real diligence into protecting the brand - the same people can just start one with a new name if the old one blows up.
On a slightly different topic - wheels, here’s a video regarding how easy it is to start a ‘fake’ wheel company. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bb7eCgLbLI
Wheels are much easier to to this than frames. I would bet that more than a few ‘big’ brands are little more than this - maybe asking for slightly different fiber or resin, or spoke/hub choice being the extent of their engineering input.
I love Leutcher videos, and I was surprised to see how bad some big names were. Luckily the Emonda SL he cut open (which is what i have) was one of the best he had ever done, so I’m extra happy with that.
Generally speaking, not sure how this is different/better than any other “off brand” bike. Sure the customization is nice, but their CRIT frame equipped with Ultegra (or DA), only allows an 11-30 or larger, no 11-28 or 11-25, who needs an 11-30 for crit? A bit nonsensical. Theres hundreds of these Chinese bikes out there, not saying they are worse, but feels like people are just recycling the same frames fromt he same factories and calling them SPEC, or Stradalli, or Fezzari, or whatever else.
The main reason for babysitting is to control lead times.
Taiwanese manufacturers aren’t particularly scrupulous (they’ll gladly sell to your competitors), but they are otherwise generally ethical.
If a Taiwanese OEM/ODM sends you defective frames, most of the time they’ll make it right, but that could add 90+ days. Often times these defects can easily be corrected right at the source in a matter of minutes/hours, e.g. a paint color discrepancy, or a defect in the decals that go under the clearcoat.
As for more complicated defects like voids in the carbon layers, a lot of manufacturers don’t even have the equipment to perform NDT like X-ray and ultrasonic inspection. That’s up to the buyer to figure out how/who’s going to do that.
If they can’t justify full time employment of a composites expert, then most likely they’re hiring engineering consultants who have a background in more critical industries like aerospace.
While I have little doubt that the manufacturers have their own in-house experts, a major company like Specialized, with major exposure (read: deep pockets), would be downright reckless not to perform engineering due diligence before putting new designs into production. Their product liability insurers would insist on it anyway.
It’s not a coincidence that large engineering consultation firms often have a portion of their staff who specialize as expert witnesses in trials.
I think this is an example of a smaller brand doing things well:
They already do extra testing/QC, which identified this problem.
They have trace-ability so they can identify and locate the affected parts
They have insurance to cover the worst case
They are taking corrective action by increasing testing on future products
They are doing much more than slapping their brand on something they are having manufactured in Asia, which I expect is the business model for some small brands. How to tell the difference between a small brand doing it right and one cutting corners?? I guess that’s the $1000 question…
I’m sorry, but that simply isn’t true…bike companies have people in Asia for all manners of job responsibilities. From engineering to QA / QC to production monitoring. Sometimes it can be handled by a trading company as their agent, other times they are 100% company employees.