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SmartShanghai [Covet]: Factory Five Frames

Posted on March 02 2012

We’re Covetted! Thanks for the write up Nick (see original article here)

Covet” is a celebration of the mass accumulation of commodities. Basically, it’s just seeing purchase-worthy stuff around Shanghai and sometimes purchasing it.

Item: Factory Five’s Hand-built Frames

Price: 1700rmb and up for the frames; complete bikes start around 4300rmb

Factory Five made a name for themselves in the fixed-gear cycling scene by rebuilding old Chinese Phoenix frames as single-gear road bikes. If you’re into such things, you’ve noticed those beauties rolling around town. Anyhoo, they’ve just brought out their first line of frames.

There are three lines: two aluminum and one steel, all handmade in Guangzhou, and cut to your size. The entry-level is aluminum, which is something in itself because aluminum is lighter than steel so it’s usually reserved for more expensive frames. That’s 1700rmb for the frame, so you’re looking at around 4300rmb for the complete bike, depending on your options.

They offer a standard set of components, but if you want to upgrade you can get better rims, better saddles, different handlebars, anything you like, and the prices go up depending on your extras. But they don’t do everything in crazy colors. These are bikes, people, not Swatches.

Next is this steel frame. The tubing is made by Italian firm Columbus, which has been making bikes for 93 years. Tubes are only one inch in diameter and it’s very thin, so these are light, too. This is a lugged frame, which means the tubes have been joined together with these elegant-looking brackets. Check the copper-colored joins in this pic.

Using lugged joins is a really classic way to build a frame. This is the sort of thing to get bike nerds all wet in the saddle area. Light, fast, strong. Yours for 2900rmb. 5500-6000rmb for the complete bike. These steel frames can also be hand torched to give them a burnished finish. Oooh… burnished.

Then there’s this top-end frame. It’s a smooth-weld aluminum and it’s modeled after a 1990 track bike. We’re getting into some high-end territory here. If this one is dinging your bell, you probably already know more about the specs than us. 3000 for the frame, so probs about 7k for the full bike. Which is still a snip compared to what any hand-built bike of this quality would cost elsewhere.

So, what happened to the Phoenix rebuilds? Apparently lots of other bike companies in town caught on to what they were doing and started making old Chinese frames into fixies, too. But they were using low-quality components and generally muddying the waters, so Factory Five thought it was time to evolve.

Even if you’re not a bike nerd, these are really amazing rides – light, high quality, fast and very hardwearing. They are taking orders now. If you’re interested, go down to the store and they’ll measure you up. The bike should be ready in two to three weeks. Spring’s coming. Two wheels good.

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