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Old 09-07-09, 10:35 AM   #1
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Which custom framemaker?

Hi,
I am looking at custom frames. I have a Gunnar Sport, and it's a great bike.
But it doesn't quite fit. My first thought was to get a custom Sport. The people at Waterford are nice, but it hasn't been much like what I've read about getting a custom.

I live in Maine, so I could drive down to Indy Fab or Igleheart. I don't seem possible until you see me move. I had bought a couple bikes from my bike shop already before I
went on a group ride with the shop manager. His reaction after the ride made it clear that he didn't think I rode much.

Anyway, as much of a fan of Waterford as I am, I wonder if a local guy could get a better handle on my situation.

But it's a big decision, and it's a decision I will only get to make once.

And I have little to base a choice on.
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Old 09-07-09, 10:51 AM   #2
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There's nothing Waterford can do that others can't.

I'd go as local as possible. . . .and I mean meeting in person and local pick up. There's no substitute for person to person contact.

This is where you need to know exactly what you want also . . . otherwise the framebuilder will do as they want. Make a list of what you like, and don't like about your previous bikes.

Think of each and every detail you could ever want on the frame.
How wide of tires?
Fenders?
What kind of crank? . . how long the arms?
Quill or threadless stem?
How high do you want your bars? . . .always give yourself extra room here.
Braze-ons?

That's a start
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Old 09-07-09, 10:57 AM   #3
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I'd go as local as possible. . . .and I mean meeting in person and local pick up. There's no substitute for person to person contact.
Similar thought.

When you're looking to go custom, you're entering a market with dozens and dozens of exceptional bikes. You almost can't go wrong.

Some of the intangibles start to matter, too. One important one (to many people) is how you feel when you talk to the company -- in person or on the phone.

Some frame builders spend endless time on the phone with you -- yakking about bikes, getting myriad particulars about you, your shape, your riding, the weather, sports, etc. Lots of people get a really good feeling about this experience.

It's also worth deciding if you care about novelty/boutique. Some high end bikes are pretty rare ... and some people like that. They don't see similar frames coming and going.

But first and foremost -- and this can be next to impossible -- can you actually ride one of [insert company name here]'s bikes??. With full custom, that can be a challenge/leap of faith.

Yours is a good problem to have
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Old 09-07-09, 11:14 AM   #4
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The nicest bike I have have is a Ron Cooper... the frame is steel perfection. If I had the money and he was able to do it I would have him build me another.

Reality is that although he is still building, he is in his seventies and who knows how much longer he will be making frames ?

A similar situation here is for Arvon Stacey, a local builder who makes some spectacular and unique frames but who is also past the age most people retire.
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Old 09-07-09, 11:25 AM   #5
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Always go local if you can but if you like a frame from a builder far away more then get it.
It sounds like you know what you want and there is something about your person that might throw some people off. Are you a big person or very old? You don't really come out and say you just give some hints in your post.

Are you looking for a frame builder recommendation?
You mentioned Gunnar sport; they offer "$1150 for the made to measure version"
It sounds like you just want to custom size a few areas of a good frame, so why not stick with what you know and like. Gunnar uses Excellent quality tubes in their frames and a great paint finish for a almost unheard of price for custom spec.
If you love your Gunnar get that, if you just want something new, the sky is the limit.
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Old 09-07-09, 11:36 AM   #6
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I am both old and fat.

I agree with both of your suggestions (buy local but if you like the Gunnar..). That is the problem. I suspect any of the choices would wind up being excellent bikes for me. But I can't make up my mind which way to jump.

After you add a steel fork, and a Waterford paint job, the price is about the same as Igleheart, and a little less than Waterford or Indy Fab.

I was thinking about keeping the Gunnar as a commuter/lite tourer, and using the new bike as a weekend ride. But if I really liked the new bike I'd prob want to do most of my riding on it. The original idea was a century bike, a bike just for long rides.

Last edited by late; 09-07-09 at 11:42 AM.
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Old 09-07-09, 01:58 PM   #7
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I am both old and fat.
Why spend the money on a custom ride when presumably you'll experience a good deal of weight loss once you begin to ride frequently?

I'd wait until I shed the weight before getting a custom bike. Isn't that the point of having custom? Having something built specifically for your body measurements.

If you experience a big change in body shape then that custom bike may not feel so custom anymore. I suppose the vitals like leg and arm length probably don't change but their position certainly will following some changes in body composition.

I'd stick with the mass market stuff before I had something custom made if I intended to get into shape.

Good luck with your choice.

John
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Old 09-07-09, 02:57 PM   #8
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Hm.

Do the real measurements that determine the parameters of a custom fit /really/ change with weight loss, though??

I'm not so sure....
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Old 09-07-09, 03:25 PM   #9
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I don't know either but as I alluded to your body composition and positioning will change. I know first hand. I've lost around 100 lbs. over the course of the last few years. What fit me then for a bike probably wouldn't be comfortable now.

Like I said I'm sure the vitals stay the same but the positioning and especially the comfort has got to change. Maybe for the better, who knows.

John
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Old 09-07-09, 04:35 PM   #10
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Hm.

Do the real measurements that determine the parameters of a custom fit /really/ change with weight loss, though??

I'm not so sure....
Most of us won't get any taller or shorter

I tell them my weight, and where I want to be. No biggie.
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Old 09-07-09, 06:09 PM   #11
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I've purchased a custom frame from Seven Cycles. I've got more miles on it than any of my other bikes and I love it to death.
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Old 09-07-09, 07:19 PM   #12
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Hm.

Do the real measurements that determine the parameters of a custom fit /really/ change with weight loss, though??

I'm not so sure....
Not the actual fit or frame dimensions, but possibly the choice of tubeset, tubing gauges, the use of shaped tubes, etc., that could affect the way the bike rides. A good steel bike should have a degree of a flex/liveliness to it -- I don't know if you read Bicycle Quarterly, but I think they discuss the issue frequently when reviewing the frames and bikes built by various builders (I think their term is "Planing"). I don't know if you have a great deal of weight that you want to drop, but conceivably a frame built to suit you at a heavy weight may feel different if you were significantly lighter.

All that being said, I was kind of in the same boat. I decided to go with Bilenky ("Artistry in Steel") out of Philadelphia. Fantastic builder -- always one of the biggest presences at NAHBS. I'm down about 70 lbs from the weight I was when I had the bike built, and I still love it. It will always be my baby. Stephen Bilenky really goes through all the variables when custom designing a bike. There is an info/profile form that you would submit that spans several pages and goes into great detail about your dimensions and preferences.

We have a builder here in Minnesota - Bob Brown (Bob Brown Cycles). He built a gorgeous bike for a guy that went over 500 lbs. I know that Rivendell published a write-up of the bike and the guy's story in an issue of the Rivendell Reader -- maybe you could find it -- I think the guy's name was Scott. Anyway, the guy got down under 200lbs riding Bob's bike, but I think he continued to find the bike enjoyable to ride even with that much of a difference. I can't imagine you would ever have a custom that you would fall out of love with, even if your dimensions change a great deal.

I love my Bilenky, and couldn't give a higher recommendation as far as the quality/fit/fun of the bike, and my experience in working with him to get it built. That being said, there are many good builders -- if you don't know the ones in your area, maybe check out NAHBS - North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show for a listing.

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Old 09-08-09, 08:27 AM   #13
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Great story, thanks. I've heard nothing but praise for Bilenky.
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