PRICE: $3,600 FRAMESET / WEIGHT: 17.5 LB (WITH PEDALS, CAGES, AND COMPUTER MOUNT)
WHEN SHIMANO CONTACTED us about testing the newest generation Dura-Ace groupset, we initially considered getting a frameset from a large manufacturer for our test riding. However, like everyone else trying to find a bike in 2021, we quickly ran into the realities of low stock and long lead times on frames. Then we called Max Pratt, founder of custom frame builder Pratt Frameworks. Max picked up the phone and was immediately drowned out by nearby cheering and a booming announcer’s voice.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“Oh, we’re at Elite Track Nationals with the team for the week,” Max answered.
“Cool. I’m actually calling because we need a frame to test the new Dura-Ace. Would you be interested in that?”
“Well, I’m happy to make the frame. Do you mind waiting a few days until I’m back in the shop?”
“That’s no problem,” I said. “But, we’re on a bit of a deadline. Shimano needs the frame in hand in two weeks. Do you think that’s doable?”
Max paused for a second. “I think I can make that work.”
A few emails back and forth about my preferred measurements, and Max was sending me progress photos within days of being back in his Providence, Rhode Island, workshop.
Unfortunately, customers shouldn’t expect that kind of insane turnaround time from any frame builder, but it shows the level of attention and care Max gives to customers. Currently, Pratt Frameworks quotes roughly a four- to five-month lead time for a fully custom frame. Pricing starts at $3,600 for a Road, CX, or Gravel frame in a single color with a painted carbon fork from ENVE. Pratt also offers an all-new Oyster Rock gravel frameset, with preconfigured geometry, in a one- to two-month lead time and a $2,850 price tag.
Max started building frames at age 19 when he was a student at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Now 24, he’s making frames under the Pratt Frameworks label, which he runs with his partner & co-owner, Kaitlyn Cirielli. He has also returned to RISD as a teacher in the Industrial Design depart
ment. While his frames use a blend of traditional Columbus tubesets, his bikes take a modern approach to steel frames—for instance, using 3D SLM stainless steel printing to make his new disc brake dropouts, with plans of using this technology to further improve and integrate his frames and their components.
The Pratt Racing team, also run by Max and Kaitlyn, is not just a platform for the brand to test and improve new frame designs. The team also serves as a tool for social change. Working with a group of athletes who race women’s track, gravel, and cyclocross disciplines, Pratt envisions the team as ambassadors and role models for equity and inclusion in sport.
As for the bike itself, while the frame is thoroughly modern, it’s also pleasantly simple. With a threaded bottom bracket, a round 27.2 post, and universalfit parts, it is a sharp contrast to the plethora of overly complicated frames with proprietary standards that currently dominate the market. The bike rides with the classic buzz of modern steel. Under hard pedaling, it’s lively and responsive without being twitchy. It’s the kind of road bike I could happily keep riding for a decade or two, particularly since it has clearance for 35cmwide tires (measured).—D.C.