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Thread: Custom Bikes

  1. #1
    Senior Member curdog's Avatar
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    Custom Bikes

    I'm in the process of obtaining a Indy Fab. What I'm wondering is how many forum members have gone the custom route and what their experiences were. I'm used to the method of riding bikes that you might be interested until you find the "right" one, than being set up with a fit. The bike would than be purchased. It's a bit of an odd feeling to put total trust in the frame builder after only a set of measurements and some other relevent data about your current ride, why you might like or dislike it and other thoughts which you feel might be relevent.
    I can only assume the process is very accurate. I don't think I've ever heard anyone complain about a custom bike that they purchased. I guess I'm just a little nervous having never gone through the process. My LBS is managing the purchase and he has had several bikes built by IF. He has said on several occasions that he believes that the bike will fit me better than anything off a mass production line. Anyway, my interest is in the process as opposed to the builder.
    If anyone has thoughts or comments I would appreciate you sharing them. This forum is seldom short on information. I have already contacted NOS88 and he was very helpful as usual.
    Cannondale Synapse, Electra Townie, Rivendell Sam Hillborne, Indy Fab Factory Lightweight, Co-Motion Cascadia

  2. #2
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    I am winding up my custom.

    If you don't have unusual body proportions, you don't need custom.

    Having said that, it gives you the freedom to get exactly what you want (assuming you want something
    a bit different from stock).

    What most will do is take a stock design and just tweak it a bit.

    There isn't much to worry about unless you got creative and asked for something
    genuinely different.

    Indy Fab makes nice bikes.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
    Stewart Brand

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    I have 2 custom bikes. I am not unusually proportioned, so I can't argue that I "needed" a custom frame, but I had enough slight quibbles with what I saw in stock bikes that it seemed to me as if going the custom route made sense.

    In the process you have described above, I think you have 3 things working in your favor:

    1. Indy Fab makes good bikes. However, the fit of the bike will only be as good as the person doing the measuring and interviewing of you, which means that you have to trust...

    2 ....your LBS. Sounds as if they are experienced, and you trust them.

    3. Finally, once you and your LBS have invested this much time and $$ in the process of putting this bike together you'll both have plenty of motivation to work out any kinks in the initial delivery. Tweak the set-up, stem, saddle, or whatever, and you'll get to what you want. On both of my custom bikes, I was delighted right off the bat, but I kept tweaking until I was 100% done. With bike number 1, I ended up changing out the gearing, did lots of experimenting with stem height, changed the tire size, and finally arrived at a happy place. With bike number 2, I swapped out the handlebars after a few months, and then I was perfect. In both cases, the frame was great right off the bat, there were just minor tweaks after many miles of riding that made the bikes "perfect."

  4. #4
    Senior Member bobbycorno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    If you don't have unusual body proportions, you don't need custom.
    More to the point, if you're completely average in every respect, you don't need custom. THere's more to it than just measurements: flexibility, strength, riding style, kind of riding you do, fenders/racks/lights/whateverelse? And to be completely, absolutely honest about it, nobody NEEDS a custom bike: nobody NEEDS a bike at all. Yeah, I know, "HERESY!!!" But hey, I enjoy tweaking folks.

    SP
    Bend, OR

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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    When my wife had her bike built, a Co-Motion, I was a little bit concerned by the standover height. My wife was used to a compact frame, and did not know how a more traditional frame would work out. The owner of the company did the fit and after I built the bike up we went back to their shop to discuss the fit. He thought the fit was OK and to go ahead and take it on a tour we had planned. He also said, "that if she did not like it they would build her another one". That kind of service is hard to beat! She loved it, and the fit is great. She is short (5'3") riding a 47 cm frame, and proper fit has always been a problem. In her case a custom frame, while not an absolute necessity, solved many previous fit issues.

  6. #6
    Senior Member gear's Avatar
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    I own two completely custom bikes and two bikes built up from stock frames. The custom frames not only fit perfectly but they provide the ride I specified that I wanted them to have when I ordered them. There are little "extras" built into the frame (S&S couplings, fender mounts, removable dropouts). All four bikes have the components that I specified (right down to the spoke nipples) which can also be of importance.

    The custom frames are both Seven frames and the fitting took two hours.

  7. #7
    Senior Member curdog's Avatar
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    What I ordered is the IF Steel Lightweight.
    Objectives:
    1. Lightweight
    2. Durability
    3. Slightly more relaxed seat tube to accomodate Brooks
    4, Comfort

    The bike will be my daily training bike and also used for centuries, etc. I wasn't able to find this set of qualities in a stock frame.I'm expecting to meet all needs in a custom frame.
    Cannondale Synapse, Electra Townie, Rivendell Sam Hillborne, Indy Fab Factory Lightweight, Co-Motion Cascadia

  8. #8
    Climbing Above It All BikeWNC's Avatar
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    What I found with my IF custom Ti CJ is that no bike is forever. In that I mean my fit and riding style has changed over the years. The bike is the same, I'm not. So while custom sounds great in theory, in practice it's just another frame that you will probably replace over time. That might not be true for you but that has been my experience. That's why the IF is up for sale. It's a piece of art but if it doesn't get used why keep it.

    I'm sure though you will love your new bike. IF makes great frames that have a magic carpet type of ride quality.
    FS: Shimano DA 7900 brake calipers, DA 7900 Crankset 50/34 175mm and BB

  9. #9
    your god hates me Bob Ross's Avatar
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    What's this "need" everyone's blathering on about? Of course most people don't "need" a custom bike...most people don't "need" a bike, period! [edit: bobbycorno beat me to it!]

    I ordered two custom bikes because I wanted a custom bike.

    Wait, let me rephrase that: I ordered two handbuilt bespoke one-off bicycles from well-respected independent small one-man framebuilding shops because I wanted what those particular framebuilders offered. The fact that the industry finds it convenient to refer to that sort of niche as "custom" is a semantic distinction that perhaps carries more baggage than is necessary.

    And to the OP: Yes, it's kinda weird putting that much trust into a total stranger. But based on the results (actually, I've only received one of the bikes, I'm still waiting for the second) it is well worth the risk. I cannot believe how wonderful my custom (sic) road bike feels when riding it, and I don't even know that I could have imagined what an improvement it was going to be over my not-too-shabby & already-nicely-fitting stock Cannondale until I rode it. And all it took was a bunch of measurements, a couple photographs, and a very extensive dialog/interview with the builder.

    The good builders know what they're doing. Let them do it.

  10. #10
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikeWNC View Post
    What I found with my IF custom Ti CJ is that no bike is forever. In that I mean my fit and riding style has changed over the years. The bike is the same, I'm not. So while custom sounds great in theory, in practice it's just another frame that you will probably replace over time. That might not be true for you but that has been my experience. That's why the IF is up for sale. It's a piece of art but if it doesn't get used why keep it.

    I'm sure though you will love your new bike. IF makes great frames that have a magic carpet type of ride quality.
    +$5000

    There is only one reason I would buy a custom frame - I have not found a stock frame built with a lugged Columbus XCr tube set yet.
    "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.

  11. #11
    Sore saddle cyclist Shifty's Avatar
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    I'll be real interested in how this bike compares to the ride and fit of your Synapse. The riding you plan to do with the IF matches the design objectives of the Cannondale. Do you have fit issues with the Synapse?
    Those voices in your head aren't real, but they have some great ideas

  12. #12
    Senior Member bobbycorno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
    I'll be real interested in how this bike compares to the ride and fit of your Synapse. The riding you plan to do with the IF matches the design objectives of the Cannondale. Do you have fit issues with the Synapse?
    "3. Slightly more relaxed seat tube to accomodate Brooks"

    Dunno 'bout the OP's fit issues, but for me a Brooks B17 pretty much requires a 71 degree seat angle. Not many production bikes with that kind of geometry.

    SP
    Bend, OR

  13. #13
    Senior Member curdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
    I'll be real interested in how this bike compares to the ride and fit of your Synapse. The riding you plan to do with the IF matches the design objectives of the Cannondale. Do you have fit issues with the Synapse?
    The Brooks setback is a goal. I am trying to duplicate many characteristics of carbon in a steel bike.I know that it is not a popular notion, I'm just getting a little paranoid about carbon fiber durability. Don't get me wrong, I love the Synapse. I've got no tangible reason to fear material failure. I've put well over 10,000 miles on it in the last two years.
    Cannondale Synapse, Electra Townie, Rivendell Sam Hillborne, Indy Fab Factory Lightweight, Co-Motion Cascadia

  14. #14
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    But what is it that these custom frame makers are doing to make their frames better than your already great stock frame bike? It rides the way you want. But what precisely are they doing? The tweaking of the bars and stem would have occurred anyways.

    Does the consumer really know what the changes are? Then of course, how would a consumer evaluate these modifications?

  15. #15
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
    But what is it that these custom frame makers are doing to make their frames better than your already great stock frame bike? It rides the way you want. But what precisely are they doing?
    Tubing selection, butting, geometry tweaks, etc. And that's before you get to the utility and aesthetic matters.

    Quote Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
    Does the consumer really know what the changes are?
    Yes. The consumer generally signs-off on the blueprint.

    The design is finalized through discussion with the consumer and sometimes a form they fill out. Some guys (like Bob Ross above) prefer to work directly with the builder and those conversations take place with the man who holds the torch. Others, like the OP, prefer to work through middleman/LBSs. The conversation takes place at that level.

    You should never sign-off on the blueprint until satisfied that it reflects the results of those conversations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
    Then of course, how would a consumer evaluate these modifications?
    Miles and miles of riding.
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  16. #16
    Ti #18 Senior.
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    I've had two custom bikes built for me - build quality for each was superb. One carbon and 1 Ti. Both were great riding bikes that fit well, but, both were stiffer than this old guy wanted.

    Don't have either one anymore - expense for this lesson was great.

    Now riding a used Serotta Ti that I bought for a great price - it's a wonderful bike that is just right for this guy - no longer in search of the perfect bike.

    YMMV.
    Last edited by abqhudson; 04-01-11 at 10:00 AM. Reason: cleanup

  17. #17
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    Tubing selection, butting, geometry tweaks, etc. And that's before you get to the utility and aesthetic matters.



    Yes. The consumer generally signs-off on the blueprint.

    The design is finalized through discussion with the consumer and sometimes a form they fill out. Some guys (like Bob Ross above) prefer to work directly with the builder and those conversations take place with the man who holds the torch. Others, like the OP, prefer to work through middleman/LBSs. The conversation takes place at that level.

    You should never sign-off on the blueprint until satisfied that it reflects the results of those conversations.



    Miles and miles of riding.
    +1 to all TSL has said.

    Just with tube selection alone you're looking at diameter, gage, special shaping, etc.

    I've got some really, really nice road bikes, all fitted correctly. But the custom built one suits me better, in that, it does what I asked the builders to make it do. After over 1500 miles with it (only got it late last fall), I can say going the custom route really did make a positive difference for me. I'll concede I could have "made do" with something else, but if I could swing getting what I really want, why "make do"?

    The key is picking really good builders, knowing just what you want, and being able to convey this to the builder(s). If I had the experience that abqhudson had, I'd be very unhappy.
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    I found that even WSD bikes didn't fit my frame, so I splurged and bought a Ti IF a few years ago - and I never look back! LBS spent a lot of time with me measuring, before a ride, after a long ride, after sitting the in office all day. During the building, IF realized that there was a potential issue, and LBS contacted me to resolve. LBS then worked with me to ensure that the tweaking was right after several rides. Unrelated to the bike, I had to have PT for my shoulder. PT was trained in "bike fit" and we tweaked the shoes with wedges - otherwise fit was perfect. I cannot wait to see how I feel after NC Tour de Cure century in June!

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    The only custom bike I ever had built was my (our) tandem back in '88. It was probably more than twice as hard for the builder than a typical half-bike since we wanted to be able to switch positions. Since I'm 5'6 and the beast is 6'2, that posed some difficulties. When the dust settled, it was (is) the perfect bike for us. On fully loaded tours I could close my eyes and easily imagine I am on my half-bike, except that the beast is usually stoker and he might object to a blind captain.

    We had the advantage of living a few blocks from the builder. In fact, the builder worked just down the block from the beast and they often rode part of their 46-mile commute together. There was no guess-work on the builder's part when it came to our riding styles, postures, toe-angles or strengths.

    Now if that same builder will just finish up the fork replacement (and head-tube boring) so we can get back on that steed, then all will be right with the world.

  20. #20
    your god hates me Bob Ross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NOS88 View Post
    The key is picking really good builders, knowing just what you want, and being able to convey this to the builder(s).
    I would offer some clarification, at least based on my experience with Carl Strong, and anecdotal reports of other cyclist's experiences with quite a few other builders:

    "The key is picking really good builders" ...period. If they're good, you don't need to "know just what you want" in any particularly elaborate, technical way; you don't need to know anything about size or geometry or Lateral Stiffness/Vertical Compliance/yadda-yadda-yadda... All you need to know and to convey to the builder is what kind of riding you like to do (fast? slow? long? short? smooth asphalt? dirt path? etc) and what if anything you would change about your current bike. In the interview/dialog with the builder, they'll ask the questions they need to ask to figure out what "you want".

  21. #21
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NOS88 View Post
    +1 to all TSL has said.

    Just with tube selection alone you're looking at diameter, gage, special shaping, etc.

    I've got some really, really nice road bikes, all fitted correctly. But the custom built one suits me better, in that, it does what I asked the builders to make it do. After over 1500 miles with it (only got it late last fall), I can say going the custom route really did make a positive difference for me. I'll concede I could have "made do" with something else, but if I could swing getting what I really want, why "make do"?

    The key is picking really good builders, knowing just what you want, and being able to convey this to the builder(s). If I had the experience that abqhudson had, I'd be very unhappy.
    How does a custom builder balance his decisions between what a customer "wants" and what's really workable?

  22. #22
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
    How does a custom builder balance his decisions between what a customer "wants" and what's really workable?
    A good builder sees customer education as part of the process. If the customer comes along with unworkable ideas in his head and refuses to be educated, a good builder politely declines the sale. Many builders also decline sales of bikes that are outside their area of expertise--for instance some specialize in track bikes, and decline to build MTBs and so on.

    For some real insight into custom framebuilders, their customers and how everything works, spend some quality time at Velocipede Salon. It's a forum like this one, only founded by framebuilders for framebuilders and their customers.

    In particular, I recommend the "Smoked Out" section. Each thread is about one builder only. They introduce themselves, tell about their background, and then it's all Q&A from there. If you can read only two, I recommend the threads from Strong Frames, where Bob Ross got his bike, and Kirk Frameworks.

    If you have a plastic cover to keep the drool off your keyboard, also look at Friday Night Lights, where builders post photos of this week's work, and the VSalon Cycling Gallery, where customers post pics of their bikes.

    EDIT: And don't forget to introduce yourself in "Welcome, Say hi".
    Last edited by tsl; 04-02-11 at 08:37 AM.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    assenmacher.jpgCo-Mo Airbrush..jpgKay & Rudy3..jpg

    We have designed/owned 4 custom tandems for ourselves.
    Stoker Kay is height impaired (4' 10 3/4") and no standard stoker compartment on a tandem really fits her.
    Yes, we started out with a production tandem way back in 1975 (brand-new Follis) which showed what we did not like (lousy fit, too heavy, too many problems).
    Our first custom 2-seater was built/delivered in 1977 by Matt Asssenmacher in Michigan.
    He built precisely what we designed. A Reynolds 531 racing tubing, very short wheelbased (60 and 1/4 inches) and light (34 lbs) machine . . . that's when standard tandems still hit the scales at +/- 50lbs. Put 64,000 miles on that agile tandem.
    Next was another 531 tandem, this time with mixed tandem/racing tubes built by Colin Laing with the wheelbase stretched to 63 1/2 inches. Beautiful hand made lugwork and chromed fork/stays. Put 56,000 on that fantastic tandem.
    Next came a custom Co-Motion, this time built with Tange Prestige tubing and fillet brazed by Dwan Shepherd. Again chromed fork/triangle and a different rear triangle design for its day. Custom paint with airbrushed desert scene on the boob tube. Put 57,000 miles on that twicer.
    Current tandem is custom built by Bob Davis from Peoria, AZ. It's a full carbon fiber Zona with some unique firsts: c/f stoker stem, c/f stoker handrests and a c/f rear rack along with custom cutout c/f lugs. Currently 33,000+ miles on that 26 1/2 lb machine.
    We have always spoken/discussed design with the builders face-to-face and presented drawings and component spec list.
    Was so impressed with out c/f Zona tandem that I also had Bob build a custom lugged racing single single.
    While a custom bike may cost a bit more, we feel that the quality and workmanship is well worth it.
    We are nit-pickers on designs and componentry and a good custom builder will also
    give his input on both design and components.
    Quality and proper fit are a must for us.
    Custom may not be for everyone, however it is in our case.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

    Photos: custom c/f lugs with window cutouts
    1977 Assenmacher
    Airbrushed desert scene on Co-Motion tandem boob tube
    Riding our Zona tandem in Utah
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