get a bigger hammer

Dirt Disciple
Large fast handling bike with a mixture of Campagnolo Record OR and Icarus OR groupset. Mavic 217/117 rims Hope sus front hubs and orginally predominately kitted out with European components but now a mix. Been through various colour changes due to the innevitable scrapes of off road adventure. Has also some RC35 forks for when beating through more demanding terrain.

Any one got an idea as to the value?


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Cool frame and parts - what's the story with Alves? Not a brand I'm aware of...
This bikes CC seat tube is around 20.5" and CT 22". Originally designed for hill climbs and cross country but has since been on a tour or two. Seat angle 72deg and head angle 70.5 with a very short 40.5" wheel base. She handles tight but a little nervous when not spun out. Not a problem when familiar with such a disposition.

Alves (Charlie Ralph) is the framebuilder up near Elgin in Scotland (ELGIN SPRINGS, LONGMORN, NR. ELGIN, MORAY, IV30 3RJ
01343 860 382). Bikes tend to be built for local conditions in the highlands and Spey valley so by their very nature are built to hit rocks and take a real hammering. They are wholly reliable beasts and can be built from any Reynolds tubing 953 included. He's built for many a international rider and has a big local fan base for his frames, wheels and mugs of tea. Just waiting on the replacement of this animal with a more relaxed riding expedition frame. More thumbshifting loveliness with HS33 brakes and other proven kit. I'll post some pictures on completion.

In the mean time I can recommend Charlie for spares as he still can source some great new retro gear like 987 cantis and 217CD ceramic rims. HMMMM CD finish. Such a shame it cost too much and the process was a disaster for the enviroment.

Can I just say that this website is a relevation. A celebration of the purity of what was mountain biking. Marketing has made it all so complicated now............................................
Whilst searching for more information on Alves, I found this (written in 1992) which I thought was worth sharing:

Not so much what i got for christmas as what i got at xmas.

At long last my new frame has arrived. The original delivery date was
mid-october. The Saturday before xmas i went straight from the
train station to the builder to see if it was ready, but the stays were
still separate from the main triangle. He said he'd call me at my parent's
house when it was ready.

The frame builder is Charles Ralph of Alves Framesets. Alves is a small
town on the Aberdeen - Inverness road. Charlie moved to Longmorn a few
years ago. As i grew up in Lhanbryde, which is a few miles away, it seemed
like a good idea to support my local framebuilder.
As a custom frame is expensive, i spent a few years making enquiries
about his work. I heard nothing bad, and much good, and saw one of his
This summer i went to visit him. To get to his house and workshop
you go up a country road, up a narrow lane, down a farm
road and finally down a cart track. It's an idylic setting. His workshop
looks like any other shed from the outside, but inside it is light and well
equiped. His parts cupboard is amazing. More campag than most shops.
I was impresed, and placed an order. I noticed his lawnmower was
looking a bit rough, and asked if he would take my father's old one
on part exchange on the frame. He agreed. (The only thing wrong with the
mower was a broken return spring on the starter, which i fixed. My father
used this small problem as an excuse to buy a self=propelled mower, so
we had a spare)

I talked to Charlie about the kind of riding I do (city commuting and
some off-road) and he recomended 72 head and 73 seat angles, short chain
-stays and shortish top tube. The 20" size was determined by my trouser size,
(no measurements were taken) and he talked me into lugless construction:
"do you want a sloping top tube ?"
"then it's lugless"
Charlie likes using oversize seatstays with an otherwise normal MTB tubeset,
and these make the back end stiff and not flex when you use the brake.
He showed me various lugs (just to look at), then offered me a choice of
fork crowns; a pressed steel one and a Cenelli cast tandem crown, which
was 10 pounds more. I went for the Cenelli. He told me later that he
never intends to use the cheap one, just keeps it arround to persuade
customers that the cenelli is better.
Many braze ons were specified, might as well have them. The rear dropouts
are a kind i had never seen before, which sacrifice range of adjustment
for more metal and hence strength. It has low-rider mounts. To get
arround the problem of fitting low-riders and mudguards at the same time,
an extra eyelet is fitted at the back of the fork. The rear brake a lovely
bit of spagetti round the back of the extended seat tube.

Material is reynolds 531. 531 is so good it can be used as tool steel.
Charlie cuts teeth into spare bits, heat treats it, then puts the bit into
a lathe with a clamp on the bed to hold the frame tube. this makes
accurate mitres quickly.

Back to the story. By dec 27th i was getting very phone-happy with
anticipation. I didn't want to hassle the guy, but it was 10 weeks
overdue and paid for, so at 7pm i called him. He said he was nearly
finished, and if i came up with my wheels and rack he'd be able to get the
mounts in exactly the right places. My father wouldn't let me use his
car as i was too excited to drive, so my sister's fiance, Gary, drove
up. (my bike is in pieces, remember). Now Gary is not a bike person
but he stayed untill it was finished, fascinated by the work that was
going on. Charlie fitted the brake and rack mounts, and chatted.
He slagged off Cannondale and other frames which are not as good as
they are cracked up to be, and told me of a plan to make titanium bkes
in redundant arms factories in what was the soviet union.
At two minutes to midnight the last brze on was done and i took the frame
home. My family were sitting up wondering where we had got to. They were
not very impressed, not even by the fact that the frame was still a
little warm to the touch.

By 2.30 am i had finished applying 2 coats of white smoothite (like hammerite
but smooth) and went to bed. {a tin of smoothite costs 5 quid, a pro
spray job 50, who needs a nice looking bike ?}

I got up in the morning and looked at the frame. The paint was full of runs
and sags but all the metal was covered which was the main objective. I started
the assembly. I'd spent the previous week cleaning the various bits.
Grease the headset, put the brakes on, bottom bracket spindle, cranks.
Cranks don't go round as the spindle is too narrow and the hit the stays.
The old muddy fox courior had narrow stays. Back up to Charlie, who hunted
arround and found a suitable spildle. (if you ever fit Stronglight cranks
to a MTB, watch for this as the taper is different-still 2 degree but
wider) To his credit he didn't try to sell me a new crankset, instead saying
how cheap and easy it is to get rings for the stronglight.

Back home fit the rest of the bits. Ride it for the first time with one brake.
It handles nicely. Fit up the front brake and rack and ride up to show
the finished item to Charlie. He jumped at the chance to ride it.

The bike itself is unlike anything in production. The wheelbase is only
40 inches. The steep (for a MTB) head angle and large fork offset give
good handling, especially at low speed. It accelerates very well, is very
solid and responsive. OK, so the frame weighs 7 pounds on the bathroom scales,
but it won't break. The fillet brazing was done in one pass so there
are no tell-tale pinholes that mean the brass has boiled (as in some Zinn
frames). It's not much faster than my old frame frame but it is easier
to carry up stairs and it feels so nice. i love it. this is me calmed down.
for the first two days i was drooling over it.

To sum up: buying a custom frame is a bit of a mystical journey. You have
to be fairly in tune with the kind of bikes the builder likes to make.
Deliverly dates are for guidance only (if you want instant gratification
go to a shop). Don't be as cocky as i was that all your bits will fit.
Don't skimp. Be sure it's what you want.
That is really nice, never heard of this make before but you can see the love that has gone into that frame.