Inside Pratt Frameworks

Handmade steel is still real in Rhode Island


We first ran into Max Pratt of the eponymous Pratt Frameworks at the 2019 North American Handmade Bicycle Show and immediately came away impressed with his simple in design, but strong in presence, steel road bike. Recently we had the opportunity to take his 1x cyclocross bike out for an RBA lunch ride came away especially impressed with the ride quality that epitomized the famed ride of well-built steel that – in this day & age of black plastic madness –  too few are lucky enough to know about.

While Max was recently out in California for a bike race we had the chance to ask him some questions and find out more about the east coast frame builder.

Q: What got you started building frames?
A: After being a mechanic for number of years, I went to the Rhode Island school of Design. I actually studied furniture design their, and that gave me an appreciation for a well crafted object. One thing led to another and my love for bicycles and fine furniture collided.

Q: How would you describe your frame building vision?
A: I build custom racing bicycles, the vision is to continue to improve on my designs relentlessly and support as many riders as I can. I have had an amazing time working with the athletes on my team, and I hope to grow that program as well. Helping more people ride better bikes is the priority.

 

Q: What’s up with the oval top tube on the ‘cross bike?
A: The oval top tubes, shaped in house, are a taste of the future of Pratt frames. I am bringing a lot of the tube shaping in house, allowing more control over which parts of the frame are compliant and by how much. The oval top tube creates a vertically compliant front end without compromising on torsional strength of the frame overall.

Q: What should consumers know about steel when we’re all told that carbon is superior?
A:
Steel and carbon have advanced an incredible amount since the early carbon frames. Nowadays a steel frame only weighs a few hundred grams over a carbon frame if at all. When I was racing with the team in Switzerland for the Zuricrit fixed gear crit, we watched a steel frame with a carbon fork crash head on into a barrier after a sprint. The fork was in half, split along the carbon strands, and the frame had bent and sprung back, with no cracking, splitting, or deformation of any kind. This is the benefit many racers see in steel frames, they will outlast all the components on them and maybe even you.

Q: Any particular steel suit your fancy the most?
A: I use many types of steel in producing a frame, because I have never found one manufacturer that makes everything I want to use. The average frame I build will consist of some tubes from Columbus in Italy (typically SL or Spirit), some tubes from Tange inn Japan, and some tubes produced from 4340 chromoly steel which are shaped in house. I like to use tubes that allow a lightweight frame to have a very stiff drivetrain, while maintaining all day comfort in the saddle.

Q: Frame prices and wait times?
A: Currently our framesets start at $3200, with a lead time of about 3 months. To hold a place in the queue, feel free to contact me through Instagram, Email or my Website.

Q: How would you convince your neighbor to buy a handbuilt over a production bike? 
A: When a customer orders an off the shelf bike, they have many short, passing interactions with a few key members of the industry. Perhaps they go to a bike shop and talk to a salesperson. If they are extra proactive they may meet the shop owner or call the manufacturer of the bicycle and speak to a salesperson there. They will then pick up there bike and bring it home to ride. Either way, this is the extent of their interaction with their bicycle. It is largely impersonal, and easily replaced by purchasing any other item of similar value.
When a customer orders a custom bicycle, they embark on a journey of undetermined time, and intimate collaboration, with it’s builder. The end product is so much more than a handmade bicycle. It is a relationship built between the customer, the bicycle, and the framebuilder. All aspects of performance will be improved because despite the bike being, “less advanced,” than it’s carbon fiber counterparts, it will be optimized for the needs of its rider.

 

Q: What was up with the bike we saw at NAHBS last year?
A: The NAHBS bike was a collaboration with Phil Wood in which we used the first 12 speed XDR road hub they machined, and tested it on this bike. The finish is a tinted clear powder coat (similar to the one on the ‘cross bike), and the details are hand painted in OneShot enamel. We build this bike to be a top of the line, aggressive road bike, with all the class of it’s steel frame heritage.

Q: Who are the riders that make up your race team?
A: Dani Morshead, Sam Fox, and Jocelyn Tipton.

 

 

 

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