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  1. #1
    Senior Member doomkin's Avatar
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    Custom Frame Considerations

    I'm looking at having a custom frame made up for me but I feel somewhat unprepared regarding what kind of considerations I need to take when deciding what I want from the bike.

    Obviously fit, material and end purpose are the major concerns but what else do I need to ask before I get started?

    The manufacturer is Kayak Bicycles by Young Cycles a small frame building workshop here in South Korea. They're mostly known for their Keirin frames but also do road and mountain bikes. The owner of my LBS imports Columbus tubing for them and as such they offer him a discount on anything they make, a discount he's offered to me.

    Their builders are Japanese trained and use Nagasawa and Kalavinka lugs. They've only recently begun to offer fillet-brazed frames.

    I think what I want built is either some kind of all weather 'race-y' road bike (fairly aggressive but with clearance for fenders and slightly wider tires) or an 'urban-assault' 29'er with wide slicks, generator hub and lights, a rack, and wide flared drop bars.

    Kayak's Website

  2. #2
    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    Well, first you need to decide what kind of bike you want.

    Actually, in practical terms those 2 bikes you described are not that far apart, key differences being eyelets / braze-ons and perhaps clearances.

    Why not sit down and have a conversation with them around the lines of "how much clearance can you put in there before it stops feeling like a race bike and starts feeling like a tour / commute bike"

    Also I'd think the conversation would get into tube selection, weight etc. Most of the time you'll go with a lighter tube set for a racing bike than for an all-rounder that's going to carry weight and get abused and locked to posts.

    I always recommend visiting your builder/designer in person, bring your current bike (or a couple) and go for a ride. The builder can see you on the bike, get a feel for your style, measure your position, maybe talk about any fit changes you want / need to make, see what you like and dislike about your current ride(s).

  3. #3
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    If you think of the opposite ends of the spectrum there are people who know their fit, the kind of riding they do and the features they want on a bike. They need a custom builder in order to realize their vision. One delicate area for them is feeling out whether the maker is comfortable with their vision. Makers are going to have their own style, and may not be comfortable making something that detracts from their brand, no mater how good. Bike Friday is a good idea, but if the guys who designed it hadn't been builders, they probably couldn't have gotten a Richard Sachs to build it for them.

    At the other extreme you have the person who knows nothing. They need to go to a custom builder because they aren't even confident buying an off the rack bike with their knowledge level. They could also have special needs. They need to find a builder who has a good customer service orientation.

    Then you get crosses, like the person who knows nothing but has a lot of opinions and ideas.

    The more focus you have the better. The most distracting set of wants are the ones that can't be resolved. Of course there are bikes that blend racing characteristics with more tire clearance, but your focus will be better to the degree that it includes as few opposite characteristics as possible. People have a way of saying stuff that sounds simple but consists of a long list of irreconcilable characteristics. The builder might get close to some of this stuff, but overall it is more likely the project will drift because the client has to break it down into simpler pieces, and make some real decisions.
    Last edited by NoReg; 09-29-08 at 11:51 AM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member doomkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    If you think of the opposite ends of the spectrum there are people who know their fit, the kind of riding they do and the features they want on a bike. They need a custom builder in order to realize their vision. One delicate area for them is feeling out whether the maker is comfortable with their vision. Makers are going to have their own style, and may not be comfortable making something that detracts from their brand, no mater how good. Bike Friday is a good idea, but if the guys who designed it hadn't been builders, they probably couldn't have gotten a Richard Sachs to build it for them.

    At the other extreme you have the person who knows nothing. They need to go to a custom builder because they aren't even confident buying an off the rack bike with their knowledge level. They could also have special needs. They need to find a builder who has a good customer service orientation.

    Then you get crosses, like the person who knows nothing but has a lot of opinions and ideas.

    The more focus you have the better. The most distracting set of wants are the ones that can't be resolved. Of course there are bikes that blend racing characteristics with more tire clearance, but your focus will be better to the degree that it includes as few opposite characteristics as possible. People have a way of saying stuff that sounds simple but consists of a long list of irreconcilable characteristics. The builder might get close to some of this stuff, but overall it is more likely the project will drift because the client has to break it down into simpler pieces, and make some real decisions.
    i appreciate the way you word that. complexity is really my biggest worry with this project.

    currently i reside in seoul, south korea and the frame builder i'm looking at is a small korean track frame company. besides their bread and butter keirin frames that make for competition they make small batches of road bikes and mountain bikes and from what i've seen, they may only really have one 'model' of each.

    part of my desire is to have a bicycle not only created specifically for me but also as a kind of showpiece, something i can take home and say, "hey, this was made by the people of my homeland and i'm really proud of the work."

    i ask what these considerations are when looking at a custom bike partially because i want to be educated but partially because i'm worried the system works differently here. people don't ask the same questions, not all options are given, and more often than not things are assumed without fact checking. to some extent what i'd like to see is a builder's own checklist of things that he would ask a customer so that i can have those answers prepared in advance and be able to suggest them if the questions are never proposed.

    besides, i know for a fact that there are plenty of bikes the korean market has simply never seen. bmx almost doesn't exist, there are probably less than a dozen 29ers in the whole country (almost entirely owned by foreign workers) and my lbs owner nearly choked himself trying to pronounce randonneur. i guess i'm just worried that the custom bike i want may be outside the capabilities of their workshop... and like you guys said theres not much i can do about that until i sit down with them and talk - with a decent translator (heh).
    Last edited by doomkin; 09-29-08 at 03:54 PM.

  5. #5
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    On thing you might consder is a list if benefits to the custom process that are free of formats. New formats appear and are often driven by fads. There are a lot of bikes in NA, and a lot of them are not in heavy use. The only way to sell a ton of new bikes is to split off a must have new format. The format often does something better, in a very narrow tanche, or more precisely targets the identity issues that purchasing new bikes re-enforce. Bu there are adavantages to customs that operate at a different level from format changes, and it may be worth contemplating.

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