PHILOSOPHY & PROCESS
At Soulcraft we approach frame design from a slightly different aspect than other small builders. Instead of having the customer come up with an idea of what they want their dream bike to be, and then have us make it, we start with a model platform and work from there. Want a cross bike? Let’s start with the Groundskeeper and figure out how to make it work for you. This approach has its roots in our days making production bikes at Bruce Gordon Cycles, Salsa Cycles, and here at Soulcraft. By doing this, we can make sure each bike we build is 100% Soulcraft in look and feel. To put it another way, we take a Soulcraft model and build it to fit your body and riding style while not straying too far from the basic template. The goal is to have every Soulcraft customer say the same thing about their bike, no matter their size or the model they ride. We want the bike to “disappear” beneath you so you can concentrate on riding; a bike that fits and handles so well you don’t think about what you’re doing, you simply do it.
After we settle on a frame design and you sign off on the drawing, we get to work. First, we select the tubes which go through four different quality control checks. If something isn’t up to par, we throw the tube in the "NFG" box and grab another. It’s not unheard of that out of a box of 25 tubes we will only use a few and send the rest back.
Next we miter (cope) the tubes on one of our custom made fixtures. We love machines and fixtures, and we’ve invested a lot of money in them so that our miters come out perfect on every cut. This makes a huge difference when welding the frames because the smaller the gap, the less twisting the frame will do which results in better final alignment.
After the tubes are cut and ready to go, we tack weld them in our frame fixture and then check the alignment on our surface plate. Now it’s on to welding. A lot of people think welding is the end-all be-all aspect of building; nice welds = good frame. Not necessarily so, but our welds are damn nice to be sure.
After the frame is welded it gets all the cable stops brazed and then it’s “machined”, which is head tube reaming/facing, seat tube reaming, and bottom bracket chasing/facing. All this is done on a machine rather than by hand which gives us more accurate cuts and better surface finishes.
The final step is alignment. Fortunately this isn’t an intensive process because the frames are close to perfect already. Small adjustments can be made on the surface plate to make sure your bike will ride straight and handle as it was designed.
And finally, paint. We choose powder coating because it is highly durable and more environmentally friendly than “wet”, or solvent based paints. Our local powder coater uses a 3 stage prep process which includes media blasting, a phosphate conversion coating, and a sealing rinse. This all makes for a much better paint adherence. Then a base color is applied which is followed by a clear coat. We forgo fancy paint schemes because we think the understated, single color approach works well with out overall philosophy of “business before pleasure”.
When we get the frame back from paint, we clean all the machined surfaces and threads, apply decals, and spray rust inhibitor on all the bare metal surfaces. Every Soulcraft frame comes completely ready to assemble with no prep needed.