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  1. #1
    Senior Member toddles's Avatar
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    Thoughts on custom frames?

    Is purchasing a custom frame worth it? I mean, does anyone have any experience with moving to a custom frame and do you think the extra money was worth it? Was it a notice-able difference? Off the top, I'd think custom sizing would help on those long distance rides, cut down on the wear and tear on your body, and perhaps give you a performance gain.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    so do you find off the shelf frames unsatisfactory? why?

    do you have special fittings desired that are not on stock,
    batch made, frames?

    can you name them?

    need to know what you need , before a custom order..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 08-06-12 at 01:18 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member toddles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    so do you find off the shelf frames unsatisfactory? why?

    do you have special fittings desired that are not on stock,
    batch made, frames?

    can you name them?

    need to know what you need , before a custom order..
    Hi. No, I'm just beginning to explore this. I like to go on long rides and while I think my current frame fits pretty well, I don't think it is perfect and the thought of getting a custom frame to get exact sizing is curious to me. I've always thought/wondered that a custom frame that is sized exactly right would be much more comfortable over time and sometimes i think I could get maximum performance out of my legs.

    Goofy?

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    talk to builders.. R&E in Seattle are of high reputation.
    Calfee in SF for carbon.. Moots in Colorado for Ti.
    there is Ti Cycles in Seattle too..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 08-08-12 at 08:10 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member libero's Avatar
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    Hi. No, I'm just beginning to explore this. I like to go on long rides and while I think my current frame fits pretty well, I don't think it is perfect and the thought of getting a custom frame to get exact sizing is curious to me. I've always thought/wondered that a custom frame that is sized exactly right would be much more comfortable over time and sometimes i think I could get maximum performance out of my legs.

    Goofy?
    hi
    I have 3 aluminum road bikes:
    a 2000 Klein Quantum; a Cannondale CAAD9 (2009); and a Viner Primus Custom (2011). The custom is my favorite. This is probably because it fits me better (I'm 6'4" and a good 200lbs., not so many easy options on standard frames). Also, the guys at Viner use a little more sporty Italian geometry which makes it fun and easier to go fast (I notice some difference). Also, since I told the frame-makers about myself, they built the frame a little stronger for me (based on my size, and my plan to keep this bike for 6 - 10 years).

    After I had the custom frame, it was a bit of a challenge to find a mechanic to build it up to my spec. They could have done it at Viner, but I didn't want all new parts - I was keeping wheels, pedals and some of the old parts off my previous bike. This was a bit of a disadvantage to the custom frame.

    One other advantage, though, was that with the custom frame, and hand selecting the parts, I was able to basically get every single part that I wanted, the first time. You might not be able to get this when buying a bike the traditional way. Like with my Cannondale, I bought it stock first, maybe with a couple changes that the shop supports, then I go figure out what parts I really don't want (wheels, seat post, saddle, stem...) then I figure out over time how to replace each of those parts, and do the switches. Kind of a hassle compared to just getting all your favorite parts on the bike from the start.

    Everything considered, I'm happier with the custom. I'll probably go this route again unless I happen to find something that works better. I think some of the bike companies are offering some customizations by their web sites now - you might get more parts selection options that way, if not actual custom geometry.

    Another point: there are quite a variety of custom frames - in a variety of price ranges. Carbon tends to be most expensive, but mine is aluminum and less pricey than carbon or Titanium. For your long rides, you could think about steel and maybe save more.

  6. #6
    Senior Member toddles's Avatar
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    Thanks to all the above for input.

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    Custom frame - depends upon your needs and desire. Find myself riding a road bike more than my other bikes, however it seemed that my road bike just didn't feel great after about an hr of riding. A year ago started looking at new bikes (hoping to score a year end deal) - nothing really was optimal - I'm about 190 cm tall with a 100 kg mass, short legs/arms & very long torso. Well my partner got the great deal, I kept looking while our wallet recovered figuring that in late winter when all the new bike stock arrived I'd find my ride. It didn't happen, finally a shop convinced me to get a formal fitting - they would take my data and match it to a bike - well I didn't fit anything stock & would need a custom frame to get the fit I was looking for. Decided on a gunnar "made to measure" Roadie - which the shop built up with components I had selected - the outcome? GREAT !! The fit is perfect, the bike rides and handles well - probably the best bike investment I've made, not sure why I waited so long.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    If your current bike has the correct size frame for you and doesn't fit you perfectly, move the saddle up/down, fore/aft, and then get a stem that does make it fit perfectly.

    IMO, unless you have unusual body proportions or other special needs, there's no practical reason to go custom.

  9. #9
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    My wife just had a physical therapist fit her new Cannondale to her. That's all this physical therapist does and she's in Bellevue. Lasers and all............

  10. #10
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    I think I know what the OP is looking for, and I can relate. A couple years ago I was asking myself the same questions. I'm not uncommonly heavy (~200lbs) and of fairly typical proportions, but I just couldn't find the bike that seemed to fit right, ride right, and have the overall performance I wanted. My story ended up being a really bad experience with (so far) a happy ending.

    I was riding a production steel frame for years, a Gunnar, that I really liked the ride quality of but it didn't have quite the performance I desired and a couple of the fitting adjustments were at their limit. Originally I was going to order a custom steel frame, but then I decided that if I was going to spend that kind of money then I wanted the durability of titanium. So I visited the shop of a custom ti builder in Colorado (not Moots, but in the same town as Moots...that's a hint), described to the builder in excruciating detail how important good ride quality was to me, and a couple months later I had my new ti frame.

    It was horrible. The fit was spot on, which convinced me that going custom is the right thing to do for the discerning cyclist, but this particular frame had one of the most brutal rides of any bike I've ever been on. The build kit was off my old steel frame so I knew that wasn't the problem, it was the frame that was at fault. Despite many guarantees about my satisfaction prior to ordering the frame, the builder refused to do anything for me. Since the frame was worthless for longer rides, I had no reason to keep it so I got rid of it at a significant loss. I had a guarantee in writing, but taking the guy to court would have cost me more in the end.

    So that was my bad experience. (Note: I once started a thread on BF about all this but since it was critical of a frame builder the moderator deleted the thread against my wishes, therefore I won’t name the builder here. PM me if you want to know it.)

    Still needing a frame, I decided to go back to steel. I took the fit from the custom ti frame and had a Steel Crown Jewel built for me by Independent Fabrication. It’s is the most wonderful bike I’ve ever been on, and I’ve owned at least 20 different road frames over the years. I knew it would fit better than my Gunnar (it was the same fit as the failed ti frame after all) but I wasn’t expecting how much better the performance would be. I didn’t give up any ride quality and I got a better fitting and better performing bike out of the deal. I should have gone with IF in the first place.

    My next frame (there’s always a “next bike” in my world) will most likely be an IF Ti Crown Jewel, but it’ll be hard to beat this Steel Crown Jewel. And I’ll never get rid of this frame.

    So that’s how I’ve gone through both the good and the bad when it comes to custom frames.

    Bottom line: there’s much more to a custom frame than just making it fit. A good builder can make the bike ride how you like, handle the way you like, and perform the way you like, or at least strike a good balance between all these competing demands. If the guy knows what he’s doing, it can fit you better than you ever thought possible yet still have adjustability to spare to allow the frame to adjust to you as you age. A good custom frame can be the last frame you’ll ever “need” to buy, and in that respect a custom frame can save you money in the long run.

    This is just the short version of my experiences with custom frames. PM me if you have any questions.

  11. #11
    Semper Fidelis
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    (Note: I once started a thread on BF about all this but since it was critical of a frame builder the moderator deleted the thread against my wishes, therefore I won’t name the builder here..

    i remember your thread, and the builder.. there shouldn't have been an issue with the mod about a poorly built bike that didn't meet your desires and specifications on ride quality..

    if other road frames and builders can be pointed out as inferior to quality and trade name, why did the MOD have such an issue with that particlar thread/post..

    Strange I like my Serotta, however their paint jobs sux as well as their customer service should have been no difference with Eriksenand quality or ride issue
    "Advantages Must Be Pressed, Disadvantages Must Be Overcome"

  12. #12
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    Hey HAMMER MAN! I remember you!

    I don't want to hijack this thread or anything like that (the OP has some very good questions) but I agree with you, there shouldn't have been an issue with pointing out poor customer service on the part of a builder. While my original complaint with that builder involved a frame that wasn't what I ordered, the issue morphed into a problem with his refusal to fulfill the guarantees he made to me. While I too have since read other threads and posts on BF critical of builders, my experience has me wondering how many negative comments and reviews have been deleted. Right now if you search for that particular builder, not a discouraging word will be found (at least the last time I checked), and that just isn't right.

    As for the moderator's rational for deleting my particular thread, I can only pass along the moderator's own words which make as little sense to me now as they did then:

    John,
    That's the way we deal with threads like that, no matter what the subject. Your interests and the interests of BikeForums don't necessarily coincide in this matter. I suspect you can find your thread on the web now, there are a number of companies that specialize in scraping content off of forums. If you really want to keep this up, go to blogger and start a blog about it. You can put a link to your blog in your signature. Might want to think of some other things to talk about while you are at it. You sound like a good guy, and I know this has been a bad experience for you. But I have to say that you gave him his money's worth in bad advertising here.

    Framebuilding is a low margin business, and I don't think you appreciate how much damage something like your thread could do to someone's livelihood. Is that really what you want? I doubt there is anything else he can do at this point. There are now a batch of lurkers that are going to go buy a Trek instead. Maybe they should, who knows?

    Regards,
    [moderator's name redacted]

    (This is John again):
    Frankly, the builder ripped me off so I didn't care then nor do I care now how much damage I've done his reputation. Any builder with as little respect for the sport and for his customers should be out of business.

    But I can say that the problem was entirely with that ti frame, my IF is built up using the same kit and the same design...and oh! what a difference.

  13. #13
    Fred-ish rogerstg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deinonychi View Post
    As for the moderator's rational for deleting my particular thread, I can only pass along the moderator's own words which make as little sense to me now as they did then:

    John,
    That's the way we deal with threads like that, no matter what the subject. Your interests and the interests of BikeForums don't necessarily coincide in this matter. ...
    Forums are private commercial enterprises. There is lot's of good information, but when money and truth are at odds, money wins. It's important to remember that. Clearly, your interests involved the truth.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by toddles View Post
    Is purchasing a custom frame worth it? I mean, does anyone have any experience with moving to a custom frame and do you think the extra money was worth it? Was it a notice-able difference? Off the top, I'd think custom sizing would help on those long distance rides, cut down on the wear and tear on your body, and perhaps give you a performance gain.

    Thoughts?
    There is zero indication that this is true (except for rare unusually-proportioned people).

    There are many, many examples of riders using stock frames with no apparent "wear and tear" or "performance" issues and some of those using these stock frames can afford custom. I don't believe custom is the standard for professional racers (any longer) (except in rare cases).

    Most people can find a some stock frame that is going to be very close to any custom geometry that is "optimal". Keep in mind, too, that there isn't "one" particular geometry for any particular person. Heck, different builders have different opinions about what geometry is going to be "best" for a particular person.

    Most people go custom for the "prestige" and the unsupported notion that a custom bike will be magically "perfect".

    There are some people (of unusual dimensions) for whom custom might work better. There are a few people who are looking for particular features/characteristics that going custom just makes it easier to get.

    (Note that I like custom bikes and wish custom builders good business. But custom mostly is a luxury and, as such, isn't generally efficient/practical.)
    Last edited by njkayaker; 10-09-12 at 07:51 AM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by rogerstg View Post
    Forums are private commercial enterprises. There is lot's of good information, but when money and truth are at odds, money wins. It's important to remember that. Clearly, your interests involved the truth.


    There are other possible reasons behind the decision.

    Part of the problem with that thread is that it was unbalanced: there was no objective way of knowing the complete story (from both sides) and not a good expectation that the OP wasn't completely unbiased (possibly unintentionally so).

    Your assumption that the OP's position was the (whole) truth is an very good example of why that sort of thread is a problem.

  16. #16
    Socrates Johnson AngrySaki's Avatar
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    Question for people who went custom:

    How did you decide on your stem length? (Since you can effectively get the bike built to have any stem length you want while keeping the fit the same)
    I've always thought that if I was to get a custom frame, I would have no idea what to choose.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by AngrySaki View Post
    Question for people who went custom:

    How did you decide on your stem length? (Since you can effectively get the bike built to have any stem length you want while keeping the fit the same)
    I've always thought that if I was to get a custom frame, I would have no idea what to choose.
    You have to look at custom frames as a package (which includes stem length as a part).

    A major point of custom is the advice the builder gives you about such things.

    Stem length isn't an absolute anyway. Different bike geometries might require/work-with stems of different lengths.

    And stem length isn't just about fit: it effects the steering and stem-length might be different with different head-tube angles (as well as the load you are adding to the front of the bike).

    You don't really care about stem length. You are only interested in a stem that works for you on a particular bicycle.

    The fact that small differences in stem length matter for fit but don't have a significant effect on other things (like steering/handling) is one reason custom isn't really that useful for most people.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 10-09-12 at 08:46 AM.

  18. #18
    Fred-ish rogerstg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    There are other possible reasons behind the decision.
    I never wrote that there weren't.

    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Part of the problem with that thread is that it was unbalanced: there was no objective way of knowing the complete story (from both sides) and not a good expectation that the OP wasn't completely unbiased (possibly unintentionally so).

    Your assumption that the OP's position was the (whole) truth is an very good example of why that sort of thread is a problem.
    1. There are plenty of unbalanced stories, especially about certain internet retailers, that do not get deleted by mods. Your assertion in that regard is baseless.
    2. Besides, my post never made the assumption that the OP's position was the whole truth. As is your habit in these forums, you've fabricated a notion to fit your misguided position.

  19. #19
    Socrates Johnson AngrySaki's Avatar
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    The fact that small differences in stem length matter for fit but don't have a significant effect on other things (like steering/handling) is one reason custom isn't really that useful for most people.
    Thanks.
    That's partly why I asked. I've gone through various stem lengths on my different bicycles and didn't personally notice an appreciable difference in handling, so I was wondering what the other factors in stem length there might be to lead to a decision.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by rogerstg View Post
    I never wrote that there weren't.
    You mentioned one wacky reason. You implied that there weren't other reasons.

    Quote Originally Posted by rogerstg View Post
    1. There are plenty of unbalanced stories, especially about certain internet retailers, that do not get deleted by mods. Your assertion in that regard is baseless.
    A few of those "certain internet retailers advertise here! The existence of those other threads contradicts your wacky suspicion!

    Quote Originally Posted by rogerstg View Post
    2. Besides, my post never made the assumption that the OP's position was the whole truth.
    That thread was pretty extreme.

    Quote Originally Posted by rogerstg View Post
    Your assertion in that regard is baseless.
    That's ironic!

    Quote Originally Posted by rogerstg View Post
    As is your habit in these forums, you've fabricated a notion to fit your misguided position.
    That's ironic too!

    You need a better tinfoil hat!
    Last edited by njkayaker; 10-09-12 at 03:41 PM.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by toddles View Post
    ... Off the top, I'd think custom sizing would help on those long distance rides, cut down on the wear and tear on your body, and perhaps give you a performance gain. ...
    A recumbent bike can do all that without needing a custom frame.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by AngrySaki View Post
    Question for people who went custom:

    How did you decide on your stem length? (Since you can effectively get the bike built to have any stem length you want while keeping the fit the same)
    I've always thought that if I was to get a custom frame, I would have no idea what to choose.
    From you fitting and desired dimensions the frame builder will do a bike drawing with all the angles, lengths and details. For me the first proposed stand over height was a touch taller than i wanted, so they put a little slope in the top tube. The builder proposed a stem length and angle, at the final fitting the shop put on this suggested stem. Rode it on the trainer for a few min, swapped the stem for one with a slightly different angle. Then went for a real ride for half an hr or so, when I got back to the shop, asked to have the first stem installed. Have changed the stem twice since then, currently back to the original. The fit and bike set up i ended up is perfect for my needs - the LBS and frame builder did a great job translating those needs into frame and bike build. Glad i went the custom route.
    ride long & prosper

  23. #23
    Senior Member rebel1916's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug5150 View Post
    A recumbent bike can do all that without needing a custom frame.
    If you don't mind climbing like a slug. And worse, looking like a dork.

  24. #24
    I'm doing it wrong. RJM's Avatar
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    Toddles,

    I don't ride a custom frame but I find that my proportions are fine for a couple of off the shelf frames, but not all. I ride Rivendells now, because they are the best bikes for me and I find them to be comfortable. I can ride my riv all day (and have) and I don't get any discomfort from body positioning at all. The bikes and the way I have them set up are just like a custom made frame for me. I could never get comfy on the Trek Madone I had, nor could I get comfortable on the Jamis Aurora touring bike or the Lemond Zurich I really wanted to fit me. I tried everything but just can't get it. If I didn't find my Rivendell and it didn't fit me the way it does and give me the ride it does, I would have been searching for a custom frame.

    If you have weird proportions or just cannot find the right bike, a custom can probably help with that. With you living in Washington and near Oregon you are surrounded by a pretty good number of custom builders and you can actually get a proper fitting done by them in person if you decide to buy. You could try Mitch Pryor http://www.mapbicycles.com/, Co-Motion Cylces http://www.co-motion.com/index.php/s...general/custom, Boxer Bicycles http://boxerbicycles.com/ and I am sure there are a ton more. If you have tried to get comfy on your bike but just can't, a change to some other bike may allow you to ride farther and faster. It did for me.
    "Even people opposed to religion need calm minds and compassion to make their work more effective."

  25. #25
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    YES (!) a custom frame is well worth it for us.
    However we ride a tandem bike that has to fit 2 people.
    Pilot (person up front is 5'7"), stoker (person in back) is 4' 10 3/4 inches 'tall'.
    There are some tandems available that can be 'a make-do fit', however that's not what we need.
    Have owned 4 custom tandems built by the following builders: Assenmacher (Michigan) in the mid-70/80s; put 64,000 miles on that one. Colin Laing (England and USA) in the '80/90s; put 56,000 miles on it. Co-Motion (in the 90s-2003) (Eugene, OR) put 57,000 miles on that. Now a carbon fiber Zona built in Arizona by Bob Davis and currently have 34,000+miles on the odometer.
    All have been built to our specifications. All served us extremely well and all were well worth the $$$!
    Know what you want, present the idea and drawings to the builder. Listen to builder's suggestions.
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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