Who is Fort?
Fort Frames, s.r.o was formed in 1992 by a group of young bike enthusiasts, all recent engineering grads. This was about the same time as the Soviet empire crumbled, prompting a surge of new business enterprises throughout Eastern Europe. Four-time Czech cross country National Champion Radovan Fort’s name was adopted for the brand.
While Eastern Europe languished in obscurity during the Soviet years, and manufacturing in those countries often left much to be desired, cycling and bike racing was always a passion. Strong riders emerging from Kazakhstan, Russia, Lithuania, East Germany, and the Czech Republic, were nurtured in a culture that idolized cycling heroes. This whole region underwent and is still undergoing an amazing technological and economic renaissance, in which companies such as Fort Frames are busily making a name for themselves. Currently, Fort Frames employs a team of highly-skilled frame builders who handcraft our frames as well as frames for other well-known European bike brands.
What is your warranty policy?
Fort warranties are based on the frame material, generally as dictated by the tubing manufacturers. The owners card attached to each new Fort frame lists the various warranty terms–from 2 to 10 years–according to model. This is standard European practice, although it may seem like a limited warranty period in comparison to some American products.
While a lot of companies these days are claiming “Lifetime Warranty,” buyers should be aware that there are usually a lot of catches to these policies, including requirements that the bike be returned to the original dealer, by the original owner, or numerous other small-print exemptions. Worse yet is the process of making a warranty claim: most people who have waded into these waters have found that they must wait an unbelieveable amount of time to get a replacement or repair, and in most cases must pay a bike shop for all shipping, handling, and expensive re-assembly. Some Italian companies are notorious for taking over 6 months to fix frame problems.
We believe that a shorter-term warranty is more than made up for by our streamlined and prompt action on warranty claims. Although we have only handled a few warranty claims in the 10 years we have imported Fort frames to the North America, we are proud of the fact that most of these customers were able to get replacement frames within one week of their claim. We’re small enough to make a decision and act on your claim instantly, you don’t have to wait several weeks for “the guy” (nobody at the big companies ever seems to know who to check with) to determine whether it’s a warrantiable defect. We are here to take care of our customers and to back our bikes, and we get it done.
How can you have such low prices?
Ironically, we’re always asking about our competitors, “How can they have such high prices?”. In fact, despite the fact that East European labor costs are lower than in Western Europe, the actual cost of producing a high-end hand-made racing frame is about the same everywhere (robot welding in Taiwan is another story). The old guard of Europe is fond of perpetuating the myth of the master framebuilder who slowly crafts each racing frame from start to finish, or teams of monkish artisans working under his close supervision. This is mostly bunk, but we’re all succeptible to paying extra for this comforting thought. The high cost of many European bikes has very little to do with production costs, it is almost entirely a matter of distribution and marketing.
Fort Bicycles receives our frames direct from the factory, without the extra markup of middle-men. We have held our prices to a minimum in order to get a foot in the door of the American market. Perhaps most importantly, we’re small and frugal and don’t splurge on infrastruture or schwag for the purpose of making an impression. We remind ourselves to serve the needs of cyclists, not ourselves; service is more important than branding.
Inevitably, when it comes to bikes, a lot of people believe that price = value (“if it costs more, it must be better”). We all make this assumption almost daily in the marketplace, sometimes it’s true. For some, their chief joy is telling others about how much they spent on a bike, or on a legendary brand name. If pride of ownership is what gets you on your bike and makes riding fun, more power to you! But the truth is that whatever our brand name may lack in media status is more than made up for in performance, and once you ride a Fort frames you’ll know about real pride of ownership.
Do you offer sponsorships?
Yes, however we currently have all of our sponsorship’s filled please check back for openings in the 2013-14 season.
Can you do custom geometry?
Sorry, we can’t. That is, we won’t. Custom geometry requires a great deal of extra time to diagram, configure and cut, so the frame-making process is over twice as long as when using standardized geometry. Hence, if we did custom geometry our prices would have to be doubled. For that amount, you can find some excellent custom frame makers in the USA who will help you out. We could even recommend some.
Should I buy this Fort bike on eBay?
That may not be exactly the question, but we keep track of eBay listings of our products and do frequently get enquiries about frame models that are currently being auctioned. So we can read between the lines. We don’t mind advising on this: we figure we owe it to our customers to help them sell their Fort frames, too. And we don’t want new owners of Fort frames to be dissatisfied. But eBay shoppers should beware of some realities of the cyber-marketplace.
To start with the most obvious (and outrageous), if you bid on a Fort frame or bike on eBay you may receive an email offering you the “same” product at a discounted price. This is ALWAYS a fraud. Nobody has a warehouse full of Forts ready to ship from Africa or Manila or anywhere else. Secondly, we often suspect that frames for sale on eBay may be stolen, due to the seller’s ignorance of the frame or bikes in general. You might get a great deal on a stolen bike, but are you going to trust a thief to follow through on the transaction?
A surprising lot of sellers list frames in sizes that never existed. A 2nd or 3rd owner might not know our measuring system, and these vary in the industry, but it seems really odd when they don’t even bother to look up sizing on our website, or read it on the warranty card. Or don’t know how bike frames are measured at all. Sometimes we can tell from a photo that the size of a frame is definitely not what the seller is claiming. So the buyer may not get what he’s expecting, and recourse is difficult in a “how-you-measure-it, how-I-measure-it” sort of dispute.
It’s also surprising how often we see frames selling at prices that are close to what we have on our Clearance List for a new frame. Or more than a good used frame that we have in our stock. If you’re really looking for a deal, give us a call first. We have referred several people to current eBay items, and have even arranged contact with other Fort owners whom we know have a used frame for sale.