Framebuilder Survey Analysis: Livelihood Part I

The final set of descriptive analyses will focus on builder livelihood – how builders are making a living, and what kind of a living – although this will take a few posts as I’d like to slice the data a number of different ways (e.g. later looking at full-time vs. part-time builders, looking at the practices of high-revenue builders vs. others and so forth).

I’ll open this analysis with a short post that will bridge the previous posts on builder output and types of fabrication and connect this with more of the business and life position of builders.

Last time we looked at the types of bicycles being fabricated (by their usage – like gravel, road, etc.), but what about the different production/fabrication models being used to produce that output?

In a typical recent year, how much of your work time has been dedicated to the following activities?

To my mind, this confirms that the typical small builder is mainly doing custom/bespoke/made-to-order work. Although a sizable portion of builders are using standard/named models (~30%), these are still being built on demand/after an order. True prebuilt batch/production work is pretty rare (which, please remember, is also a reflection of having excluded larger producers from the analysis!). A sizable portion of builders are doing some repair and retrofit work as well.

Have you considered a stock size/model or batch-built production model?

  • “Already doing this”: 17%
  • “Currently considering for the future”: 33%
  • “Have tried this and no longer doing it”: 15%
  • “Not interested/Have considered it but chosen not to pursue it”: 36%

What is your current wait time, roughly from order to delivery? 

  • Mean: 6 months
  • Median: 4 months
  • Mode: 2 months

The wait time statistic is particularly interesting given the level of debate/variety of opinions in the field about both a) the importance/meaning of a waitlist and, b) the veracity of many wait-list claims. Simply put – especially in maybe the peak years of the NAHBS framebuilding wave (05-14?) – having a long waitlist was often taken to reflect on a builder’s status, desirability and success…while, at the same time, many within the field would question whether others were telling the full truth about their waitlist. From what I see here – and keep in mind that this includes all builders (both self-reported “full time” and otherwise) – waitlists are currently quite short. Indeed, in absolute terms, 80 of the 105 builders who answered this question reported a wait time of 6 months or under (which is 75% of the respondents). Given that most builders are building truly bespoke, or at least on-demand, bikes, this seems like a very low wait time overall.

So, what about the business position and more direct life and livelihood position of builders?

I’ll get that rolling with a few items, leaving the sources and volumes of income within the household to a later post.

Do you own/mortgage or rent your housing?

  • Own: 80%
  • Rent: 20%

Do you own/mortgage or rent your shop space?

  • Own: 57%
  • Rent: 43%

Where is your shop space located?

  • Same premises as residence: 61%
  • Separate premises: 39%

Of those who own their shop, 93% of them are located on their same premises, meaning only 7% own a separate shop space.

Of those renting their shop space, 84% of them are located away from their residence, with 16% renting shop space located at their residence.

How do you currently access health insurance?

  • Purchase individually: 60%
  • Purchase through partner: 29%
  • No insurance: 11%

Do you formally save for retirement from your framebuilding income?

  • No: 76%

Do you consider yourself to be a “full time” builder?

  • Yes: 56%

Do you consider yourself to be a “professional” builder?

  • Yes: 93%

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