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Thread: Custom bike?

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    Senior Member jdon's Avatar
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    Custom bike?

    I am looking for a new road bike and am trying to decide if a custom bike is a better idea than a mass produced bike tweeked to fit. I have no real preference to CF or Ti and don't need to be seen on a particular brand for optics purposes. At 50, I am resonably accomplished as a rider and do a century every weekend but don't compete in races. My current "road" bike is a Tricross but I would like a pure road bike. I am also wondering about resale. Is a custom as saleable as a name brand CF?

    Lets hear some thoughts, higher end CF or custom build bike? Thanks in advance.
    JD

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    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    Unless you have some specific fit requirements or want a geometry that differs from the normal frame you can probably find what you want (subject to some small componentry changes) in the LBS.

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    I have had one custom frame built for me, and the same framebuilder is currently working on a second.

    Both frames are lugged steel, traditional frames. The first was designed to be lightweight, but comfortable for long rides. It is my 'fun' bike and it has done many charity rides and centuries and does exactly what it was designed to do - carries me in comfort and style at a decent pace.

    The second frame which is being painted now, is for a daily commuter bike. It will be heavier, is designed for fenders, rack and lighting.

    My reasons for going with custom steel over other bikes are several:

    I like to support local craftsmen. I drink my coffee from a mug whose maker I know, I know who built much of the furniture in my house, and I know who built my bicycle frames. It adds another dimension to life which does not exist when you drink coffee from a paper cup, have furniture that was mass produced overseas, and ride on a plastic bike that lacks a soul.

    In having a custom bike made, more thought and care was put into the design to make it right for me than I would ever get in a mass produced machine. A custom bike, from a real framebuilder is so much more than "I'll take one of those, in my size and green". The framebuilder can make the bike fit not just your size, but the way you ride, and can make the whole experience much better.

    You ask about resale. I would never consider selling my custom bikes, but the answer probably depends on what timeframe you are looking at. In 20 years I expect my steel, lugged frames to be just as rideable as today. I suspect that most of the CF bikes being made today will be in a landfill in 20 years. Perhaps it is because I do not buy things with an eye to selling them or getting rid of them that I am attracted to items made by local craftsman.
    Mark

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    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    As always, Mark has backed up his opinion with rational thought, just as he consistently did 20 years ago, when we had the pleasure of working together. My counterpoint would be that I am average enough in my physical proportions that I have been able to find vintage road bikes which fit me and satisfy my needs and desires (and aesthetic tastes) extremely well. I derive a great deal of satisfaction in riding the oldest bike in my club, and the value delivered by a high quality old classic is unbeatable anywhere.
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    Senior Member jdon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
    I have had one custom frame built for me, and the same framebuilder is currently working on a second.

    Both frames are lugged steel, traditional frames. The first was designed to be lightweight, but comfortable for long rides. It is my 'fun' bike and it has done many charity rides and centuries and does exactly what it was designed to do - carries me in comfort and style at a decent pace.

    The second frame which is being painted now, is for a daily commuter bike. It will be heavier, is designed for fenders, rack and lighting.

    My reasons for going with custom steel over other bikes are several:

    I like to support local craftsmen. I drink my coffee from a mug whose maker I know, I know who built much of the furniture in my house, and I know who built my bicycle frames. It adds another dimension to life which does not exist when you drink coffee from a paper cup, have furniture that was mass produced overseas, and ride on a plastic bike that lacks a soul.

    In having a custom bike made, more thought and care was put into the design to make it right for me than I would ever get in a mass produced machine. A custom bike, from a real framebuilder is so much more than "I'll take one of those, in my size and green". The framebuilder can make the bike fit not just your size, but the way you ride, and can make the whole experience much better.You ask about resale. I would never consider selling my custom bikes, but the answer probably depends on what timeframe you are looking at. In 20 years I expect my steel, lugged frames to be just as rideable as today. I suspect that most of the CF bikes being made today will be in a landfill in 20 years. Perhaps it is because I do not buy things with an eye to selling them or getting rid of them that I am attracted to items made by local craftsman.
    Mark
    That is what I anticipate in a custom and you have echoed my thoughts on the idea. I have looked at a few builders but have zeroed in on True North, which is local to me. Who built your bikes Mark?

    Thanks for the responses guys.

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    I have one custom bike that I enjoy for many of the reasons cited above. I'm average enough in build that had I really searched long and hard enough I likely could have found a production bike that fit as well....but I have to say that when I just want to settle "into" a bike and ride something that fits me perfectly there is nothing like the bike I had built for me. It really just fits, and is well suited for my needs.

    I have 3 other bikes, all purchased from Craigslist. One fits well; the others are close, but not perfect. I am shopping for a new commuter bike, and continue to have experiences with bike shops (even "good" ones) where they try to fit me to what they have in stock, vs. what I really need. (This just happened to me again last week, when I went to test ride a Jamis Aurora Elite and the "fit expert" in the store started out the conversation saying that he didn't believe me when I told him my height. We had to start the "fit" discussion with him measuring me to make sure I wasn't "lying" about my height. WTF?) Yes, they'll order anything I want -- but I really don't feel like they're working to figure out what I need as much as sell me what they have. Pretty frustrating, as there are some good stock bikes I'm sure I would be happy with....but the experience has me thinking about another custom frame.

    I keep thinking, why get a bike that I'm not *sure* will be the right thing for me, when I know I can go back to my local builder and get a bike I'm 100% sure will work?

  7. #7
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    I agree with Max - I buy my suits off the rack.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
    If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

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    Pat
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddmaxx View Post
    Unless you have some specific fit requirements or want a geometry that differs from the normal frame you can probably find what you want (subject to some small componentry changes) in the LBS.
    Matt Asshenmacher, a celebrated custom bicycle manufacturer, told me pretty much the same thing. If you can get a decent fit on a production bike... do it. He did not have any need to worry, he had something like a 24 month waiting list. I suspect that a good LBS can fit over 99% of the cyclists with production bikes.


    Pat

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    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    I went back and reread my post. I still think that the average cyclist can do very well with the wide range of bikes available at the LBS.

    You should know however that for all practical purposes, all of my bikes are custom because I build my own. I do not weld frames or have one made for me..........that part I buy off the rack. I do however pick and fit each and every other piece of the bike to fit my own personal preferences. That may by some definitions here constitute a "custom" bike.

    I do my own fitting. Getting that right has taken a number of years of learning and trying. I have sold and rebuilt and outright trashed a number of projects learning what it is that I like or do not like. Along the way I have become more obstinate about my "choices" and that which works for me.

    If you have been biking for a while and have a good or very good idea about what you want a bike to be then go for the custom if you wish. If you are not sure what you want, then there is every chance that after a few weeks or month you will wish that your custom was "just a little different". Under those circumstances, you probably have as good a chance at success with an off the rack bike as you do with a custom...........and it may well cost less for the education.

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    Senior Member jdon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddmaxx View Post
    I went back and reread my post. I still think that the average cyclist can do very well with the wide range of bikes available at the LBS.

    You should know however that for all practical purposes, all of my bikes are custom because I build my own. I do not weld frames or have one made for me..........that part I buy off the rack. I do however pick and fit each and every other piece of the bike to fit my own personal preferences. That may by some definitions here constitute a "custom" bike.

    I do my own fitting. Getting that right has taken a number of years of learning and trying. I have sold and rebuilt and outright trashed a number of projects learning what it is that I like or do not like. Along the way I have become more obstinate about my "choices" and that which works for me.

    If you have been biking for a while and have a good or very good idea about what you want a bike to be then go for the custom if you wish. If you are not sure what you want, then there is every chance that after a few weeks or month you will wish that your custom was "just a little different". Under those circumstances, you probably have as good a chance at success with an off the rack bike as you do with a custom...........and it may well cost less for the education.
    You have done a great job of expressing the flip side of my inner turmoil regarding the next purchase. On average, I keep bikes for three years, never being totally happy with some aspect of the fit.

    I admit I fit about midway on Darwins evolutionary drawing so tend to have lengthy arm reach and shorter legs. That has been looked after by sliding the seat back and longer stems which is where I question whether a custom frame may be a better fit.

    Thanks for the discussion gents!

  11. #11
    Old Road Racer Cleave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdon View Post
    You have done a great job of expressing the flip side of my inner turmoil regarding the next purchase. On average, I keep bikes for three years, never being totally happy with some aspect of the fit.

    I admit I fit about midway on Darwins evolutionary drawing so tend to have lengthy arm reach and shorter legs. That has been looked after by sliding the seat back and longer stems which is where I question whether a custom frame may be a better fit.

    Thanks for the discussion gents!
    Hello jdon,

    A lot of good advice above. Given your last post, though, it does sound like a custom geometry frame could serve you very well.

    Would you keep a bike longer than 3 years if it fit you very well? If not, a bike with truly custom geometry will definitely be harder to resell.

    However, pushing the saddle back to give you a longer cockpit is pretty much opposite of what you want with shorter legs. Unless your fermur is proportionately very long compared to your tibia, you probably need your saddle closer to the bottom bracket rather than further.

    The custom solution would probably have a fairly long top tube to give you the cockpit length that you need. (I say probably because you would be measured for a custom frame.)

    Given your description, there may be some stock geometry frames that are better for your biomechanics, but, again, you should consult a highly qualified bike fitter to find out exactly what you need.

    BTW, my custom composite Serotta is the best bike that I currently own and have ever owned.

    Hope this helps.
    Thanks.
    Cleave
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    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    I agree with Max - I buy my suits off the rack.
    There are such a variety of road frames around and in such a variety of materials- There will always be a stock frame that fits you and your personal tastes- without going to the expense of a Personalised
    Custom frame. They will cost and unless you have a particular requirement for a custom frame- will it be any better?

    On the bike type- Race- performance- comfort-? Materials- C.F.- Aluminium- Titanium- Bamboo?

    I have had two bikes built up from Frame and forks and took the advice from the LBS on choosing the frame- After test rides on built up bikes. They did not let me down. Then there were the components- Crank type and length- Bar stem on length and rise- and even bar width. Each of these bikes is a custom fit for me and they work.

    The choice is yours but The only reason I can see for a Custom frame would be a better fit- which would be difficult in my case- or a better handling frame for the use I put the bikes to.

    I may be lucky- but I have stock frames that built up into bikes I like to ride. And neither cost a fortune.
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    Senior Member jdon's Avatar
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    Thanks Cleave. Very helpful info. I have left a little drool on Serotta's at the bike shops. Beautiful ride.

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    If you ride a century every, or even most, weekends you are truly committed. This would certainly justify stepping up to a custom ride. At 50, you should be able to afford it; so do your research, find the right builder, and pull the trigger. You will not regret this. bk

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    Quote Originally Posted by jdon View Post
    I am looking for a new road bike and am trying to decide if a custom bike is a better idea than a mass produced bike tweeked to fit. I have no real preference to CF or Ti and don't need to be seen on a particular brand for optics purposes. At 50, I am resonably accomplished as a rider and do a century every weekend but don't compete in races. My current "road" bike is a Tricross but I would like a pure road bike. I am also wondering about resale. Is a custom as saleable as a name brand CF?

    Lets hear some thoughts, higher end CF or custom build bike? Thanks in advance.
    JD
    For the price of a high end CF you can get a beautifully built Ti bike, put together just the way you want. There are many wonderful custom builders out there. Check out Jim Kish's website http://www.kishbike.com/

    The welds on his bicycles are artwork! PLus - you don't have to wait 2 years and the prices are reasonable.
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    Senior Member jdon's Avatar
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    Thanks again for the input everyone. The deciding statement was in regards to "buying a suit of the rack". I have never been able to that and custom clothes have always fit the best. I want a bike that will fit like a glove and not like OJ's, which is how I have felt on many production bikes.

    Now I just have to research a little more on which builder and confirm materials. Thanks for the link to Kish Pamestique.

    Thanks for all the input folks. It is very valuble.

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    Semper Fidelis
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    personally I believe custom is always the way to go! i have been riding since 1976 and though I am average height i have a longer torso than legs. A custom gives you exactly what you are looking for,and the fit is really what it is all about which gives you the ride that you look for.

    I have had carbon, aluminum no titanium though that is on my short list. Both my rides are steel, a waterford and a serotta and for me i find a custom works better do to the geometry that fits your body and how the head angle, seat angle reflect on how you ride and how long you ride.

    Bikes off the shelf inmo are kind of generic, nothing special,a custom gives you exactly what you desire and it more or less is your personal design
    "Advantages Must Be Pressed, Disadvantages Must Be Overcome"

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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    If you have the $$ and a good builder, custom will work great!
    Had the carbon fiber tandem and single built by the same builder.
    Tandem now has 25,000+ miles on it and the single 6,000+.
    We're happy . . .$$ well spent!
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    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    I keep my bikes, but I don't think I'd ever get a custom-made one. It's not that important to me and as a commuter and utility biker, I have to ride through some areas and lock in some places that are dubious. Better to not buy a bike that I can't afford to lose.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkaapcke View Post
    At 50, you should be able to afford it
    Sorry if some of us aren't living up to your expectations.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
    I like to support local craftsmen. I drink my coffee from a mug whose maker I know, I know who built much of the furniture in my house, and I know who built my bicycle frames. It adds another dimension to life which does not exist when you drink coffee from a paper cup, have furniture that was mass produced overseas, and ride on a plastic bike that lacks a soul.
    I saw this the other day. The Ciocc builder puts it well.

    Anima d'acciaio!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jdon View Post
    I admit I fit about midway on Darwins evolutionary drawing so tend to have lengthy arm reach and shorter legs. That has been looked after by sliding the seat back and longer stems which is where I question whether a custom frame may be a better fit.

    Thanks for the discussion gents!
    Most of us are going to say this is the totally wrong approach. The saddle to BB relationship is the *only* reason for sliding the saddle. You should never more the saddle to adjust reach. Reach is adjust by getting a frame with a different TT length or changing stems.

    A well designed custom frame will get you the saddle in the middle of the rails so that you can make minor adjustments either way and a stem length that is of reasonable proportion for the frame size with the reach you desire. No weird parts or compromises.

    I have a custom Spectrum that is 10 years old and custom Waterford. You will lose your desire to flip your bike after three years.

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    +1 for custom made suits. bk

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    Get a custom. Make it your own.

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    Senior Member jdon's Avatar
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    Well, at 50, with two kids in university, an at home wife, overdue house reno's, a new car requirement and diminished portfolio of late, I can still afford the new bike, but I want to get it right. Yes, I consider myself fortunate. I will be going for a custom for sure but just need to decide which builder. Thanks for the info and input all. Much appreciated!

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