The Bike Builder

Jim Kish, Bike Builder: The RBR Interview

Jim Kish has been building frames and bikes for nearly a quarter century. About three years ago, he set up shop in North Carolina after moving around the country, honing his craft as one of the pre-eminent titanium builders in the industry. RBR’s Paul Smith caught up with Kish at his shop, Kish Fabrication, in Carrboro, N.C., where he hand-builds each custom bicycle to customer specs. In the following interview, Kish talks about how he got his start, why titanium is his material of choice, what customers look for in a custom build, and more.

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What Makes a $12,000 Bike Worth the Cost?

What on earth makes a $12,000 bike worth the cost? Can it really be $7,000 better than a $5,000 bike? Or is it more about some people having more money than sense? I know there are different carbon layup techniques and grades of material, but – really? Is any bike over $7,000 delivering something you can’t get in a less-expensive model?

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Why Many Bikes Have Sloping Top Tubes

So many bikes today are made with a sloping top tube. However, I am still trying to get a straight answer as to why, or what is the advantage of a sloping top tube. I like the traditional horizontal tube. In fact, I may have a custom frame built just to have it this way. My question is, Why the slope?

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Should You Buy a Custom Bike?

It used to be that only oddly proportioned weirdos, or millionaires − or millionaire weirdos − rode custom bicycles. Over the past 10 years or so, though, the cost of high-end production bicycles has gone up dramatically, while custom frames haven’t quite kept pace. The playing field is now pretty well levelled. Moreover, cost is often no longer the driving factor in cyclists’ decision whether or not to go the custom route. So, should you buy a custom for your next bike? Maybe.

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