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  1. #1
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    Custom Made Touring Bike

    Anyone ever gone this route? And if so, who did you go through?
    Feel free to visit my blog www.chefonabicycle.com

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    Well, if tandems count, I had a touring tandem built by R+E in Seattle this year. They really know their stuff, are great with fit issues and have the kind of approach regarding durability vs. "hot new thing" that mirrors my own. High quality work, quick turn-around and very fair pricing. I enjoyed every one of the fifty-odd emails that I exchanged with Dan Towle, the owner, in the course of getting my bike designed and built.

    I found out about them when my quarter-century old custom tandem broke and I didn't want to wait forever for the original builder to get around to repairing it. Someone in the tandem sub-forum suggested I check them out. R+E did a very clever repair and barely charged me anything relative to what I was prepared to pay.

  3. #3
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    Marinoni. You can get a custom steel frame for under 900$.

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I did a hands on , in the shop, at Human Powered machines in Eugene in 91..

    It was a build with a number of decisions on the fly...

    earlier in the Mid 70s I built a conventional lugged frame,
    a builder there had made a pedal powered miter cutter for the tubesets ,
    that was too cool to not use.. lots of Informal tool use, like the frame taps and reamers
    brazing was DIY .. still have the thing..

    on your end of the country, .. see the long builders list here :
    http://www.bikeschool.com/resources/bike-industry-links

  5. #5
    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    i had a mercian built while i was living in germany. ordered direct from
    mercian, not through a retailer or builder.

    it was okay, but some little things. like the bottle bosses inside the triangle not being placed correctly for large bottles (on a 64 cm frame). the third set
    underneath the down tube was too low, small chain ring would rub on the
    bottle cage. wound up with an expensive set of spare bolt holders.

    there were enough of the little things, that i'm convinced it was built by
    folks who've never ridden a bicycle other than to the corner store for booze
    and ciggies.

    shipping sucked. they simply threw the frame in thin cardboard box with no
    bubble wrap, no wrapping, no padding. nothing.
    arrived with a big dent in the top tube.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    +1 on R+E Cycles with their Rodriguez bikes. I am 100% satisfied with the buying experience and final product. I got the Rodriguez UTB with a few personal extra frame features. I built mine for long-distance riding (randonneuring), touring and gravel grinding around 26" wheels w/ lots of clearance. You can read more about it here.

  7. #7
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    There is a huge variation in what counts as a custom bike, I guess it does not really even require a custom frame. As far as frames go, this is the new golden age, with more people working at a higher level than ever before. What is not there is the lifetime in the biz apprenticeship thing. There are a lot of short timers, and people with limited experience. But there are also a lot of people making touring bikes, which were a core bike type when the US custom frame market started up. A custom bike should maximize quality, fit, and technology.

    The buyer should find a competent person, and hand the project over to them. One way to spot a dilettante builder may be if he is overly open to your ideas. But that said, you will get a far better bike if you know your fit, and bike size, and you have a lot of practical on the road touring experience. With the internet, a lot people will order without being present for a fitting, so you need to know your size cold, if you are doing that. Not knowing the kind of bike you need due to lack of experience, is not as serious, you should get a good bike anyway, but one that is just as subject to revision as your experience grows as if you bought off the rack. This will not be the fault of the builder since touring is a pretty wide category, encompassing many bikes, and relationships to gear.

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    love to go that route but can be expensive.i was strongle thinking of going with a uk builder Paul Villers really nice 900 for frame

  9. #9
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    Thinking about going with this company: http://www.bilenky.com/Midlands_Main_Page.html

    Thoughts? They are in philly.
    Feel free to visit my blog www.chefonabicycle.com

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    But what frame details are you finding missing?
    OK
    it is a way to not have a Taiwan made frame.

    The one I made in 76 has a longer than normal TT, so No TCO with Mudguards..
    and I fit the Cantilever bosses on the front of the chainstays,
    to not interfere with rear luggage,
    plus I Got to make a nice wrap over cap for the seat stay tubes
    at the seat lug.

    the plan include a custom made Porteur/Pizza rack and low-riders
    as shown on that page?


    Beefy Clyde + touring load tube set selection?
    Last edited by fietsbob; 11-16-12 at 03:19 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    Thinking about going with this company: http://www.bilenky.com/Midlands_Main_Page.html

    Thoughts? They are in philly.
    Bilenky has been around for a long time and are well-regarded

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    But what frame details are you finding missing?
    OK
    it is a way to not have a Taiwan made frame.

    The one I made in 76 has a longer than normal TT, so No TCO with Mudguards..
    and I fit the Cantilever bosses on the front of the chainstays,
    to not interfere with rear luggage,
    plus I Got to make a nice wrap over cap for the seat stay tubes
    at the seat lug.

    the plan include a custom made Porteur/Pizza rack and low-riders
    as shown on that page?


    Beefy Clyde + touring load tube set selection?
    Here is what I am thinking. You bring up some good points. It is important to eat the pizza and ride at the same time. lol

    The company is in Philly. They will do all the fitting and building. I can go in there and talk with them before its built. Versus buying off the shelf, getting pro fit, and searching for the right parts that fit and the tweaks.
    Feel free to visit my blog www.chefonabicycle.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    Here is what I am thinking. You bring up some good points. It is important to eat the pizza and ride at the same time. lol

    The company is in Philly. They will do all the fitting and building. I can go in there and talk with them before its built. Versus buying off the shelf, getting pro fit, and searching for the right parts that fit and the tweaks.
    It might not be a bad idea to have the folks who are going to build your frame do a fit for you on what you are currently riding. It's nice if everyone knows how it's supposed to fit before it gets designed and fabricated.

  14. #14
    Macro Geek
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    If you decide to go the custom route, find a builder near to where you live. Your relationship with the builder matters, and that connection is best cultivated in person, supplemented by phone calls, emails, etc. A competent builder goes on more than the dimensions of your body. Designing a purpose-built bicycle is as much art as science.

    My builder was two hours away by car, and I am glad he wasn't any further. He was close enough that I was able to go back and forth six times: to have an initial consultation and see his work; to get measured; to finalize components and paint colour; to pick it up; to fine tune the fit; and to have it serviced after a few months of riding. Throughout, we exchanged innumerable phone calls and email messages.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by acantor View Post
    If you decide to go the custom route, find a builder near to where you live. Your relationship with the builder matters, and that connection is best cultivated in person, supplemented by phone calls, emails, etc. A competent builder goes on more than the dimensions of your body. Designing a purpose-built bicycle is as much art as science.

    My builder was two hours away by car, and I am glad he wasn't any further. He was close enough that I was able to go back and forth six times: to have an initial consultation and see his work; to get measured; to finalize components and paint colour; to pick it up; to fine tune the fit; and to have it serviced after a few months of riding. Throughout, we exchanged innumerable phone calls and email messages.
    Can you talk more about your experience with this? Things to look out for, add ons that are nice, etc. Thank you
    Feel free to visit my blog www.chefonabicycle.com

  16. #16
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    my honest opinion is your looking at very expensive frames/bikes (4k or so for a full bike). why not go with a bike from a European touring company that's been building bikes for a long time.

    if you're looking at 3-4k for a bike, I'd look at:

    Thron Cycles Ltd (Somerset, England): http://www.thorncycles.co.uk/
    Tout Terrain (Gundelfingen, Germany): http://www.en.tout-terrain.de/bicycles/
    Koga Miyata (Heerenveen, Netherlands): http://www.koga.com/koga_uk/#4

    These guys have decades (or more) of experience building dedicated touring bikes. And while they may not be "custom" they have excellent reputations built on delivering very solid products.

    Why do you want "custom" anyway?
    Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S)
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  17. #17
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    I would seriously check out the KOGA WorldTraveller 29 if you're in that price range.


    I don't know how good your German is ... but this is a good review ... EuroBike award winner ... total package less than €2000.



    26"-version with a review written in English

    http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/catego...ature-10-37423
    Last edited by acidfast7; 11-17-12 at 04:20 AM.
    Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S)
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    I, for one, looked into Thorn. The issue about buying a custom bike from Europe is the hefty shipping and the import duties/taxes that you also have to add to the price tag. North America has become a hotbed for amazing bicycle constructeurs. Unless you are "in love" with a particular European bike, it is nearly impossible to justify the expense.

    BTW, Thorn bikes are semi custom. Their frames are made in Taiwan (only specific sizes available) and they build the bike to customer's specs if so desired.

  19. #19
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
    I, for one, looked into Thorn. The issue about buying a custom bike from Europe is the hefty shipping and the import duties/taxes that you also have to add to the price tag. North America has become a hotbed for amazing bicycle constructeurs. Unless you are "in love" with a particular European bike, it is nearly impossible to justify the expense.

    BTW, Thorn bikes are semi custom. Their frames are made in Taiwan (only specific sizes available) and they build the bike to customer's specs if so desired.
    With the VAT rebate and cheap flights from the eastern coast of the US to London, it seems like you'd break even and get a holiday on the new bike out of it. Think of it as similar to BMW/Audi/Volvo's European Destination package when buying a car.

    FWIW, I never said that Thorn/KM/TT were custom. In fact, I actually think the custom bike thing is overhyped for the extra money you guys seem to be paying. I'll pay the extra for the pedigree but not some wanna-be OCC guys making frames.

    Also, "becoming a hotbed" suggests neither experience nor global riding perspective.

    But that's just my .02€.
    Last edited by acidfast7; 11-17-12 at 08:41 AM.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    Thinking about going with this company: http://www.bilenky.com/Midlands_Main_Page.html

    Thoughts? They are in philly.
    Bilenky is a very well-known and well-regarded custom frame builder. That said, having welded my own custom (mountain bike) frame, I probably wouldn't buy a custom frame. I have a pretty standard build and off-the-shelf frames work just fine for me. No real need to pay 2-3X more for a custom frame; I'd rather buy a standard frame and put money into better components...

  21. #21
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Koga's Signature program is a factory build menu, that you pick the components
    from the list offered , and it is shipped to a designated Dealer, [none in the US]

    also a low cost flight, AMS , Shiphol South of Amsterdam,
    is an easy airport to deal with for public transport access
    national rail is in the lower level of the building,
    and I got to ride away on bike paths,
    many of the airport workers use to get to work upon.
    bought a carton from KLM on the spot,
    to ride to the ticket counter and leave.

    Koga has some dealers not too far from there .. check out Koga.com site.

    My 04 WTR is bettered by the frame changes since then,
    you have to use the Signature scheme to build one, similar , now, 26" wheels..

    They do put your name on it, I hear. as shown in the link above..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 11-17-12 at 10:06 AM.

  22. #22
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    Several years ago I decided to get a mountain bike really made for unsupported off-road touring (think Great Divide Mountain Bike Route or the Colorado Trail). Hartail, 26: wheels, somewhat old-skool relaxed geometry, S&S coupled, fittings for racks and panniers and a Rohloff hub. Disk brakes, capable of running racks and fenders at the same time. There are a few good options for this now like the Surly Troll, but at the time such a bike didn't exist, so I went custom. I went with Seven, and ended up with a wonderful bike, although the process ended up being more complicated than anybody expected. I would definitely recommend Seven as a custom builder.
    Last edited by corvuscorvax; 11-17-12 at 11:13 AM.
    My speculation was that it applies to some degree in cycling, and I used the previous proof as my reasoning, but I can't prove how exactly it applies to it and to what degree. That, I have admitted, is speculation based on reasoning, but not at this point provable.

  23. #23
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    I agree with acidfast about looking at some of the European options. Tout Terrain, Thorn, Koga, all make great bikes. Personally I have a Thorn. It isn't custom, but you do get to spec it, choosing the wheels, gearing, etc. etc. And they leave the steerer tube cut tall so that you have room for manoeuvre when experimenting with your riding position. They aren't cheap, but they are, typically, cheaper than getting a frame custom-built.

    And I'd question the advantages of going custom. Unless one has very unusual proportions or specific physical needs, off-the-peg frames will fit given the right choice of stem length etc.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    And I'd question the advantages of going custom. Unless one has very unusual proportions or specific physical needs, off-the-peg frames will fit given the right choice of stem length etc.
    I'm guessing that's because you've never ridden a custom. The difference between a custom bike and an off-the-peg bike is like the difference between a bespoke suit and an "off-the-peg" suit. Something that is built exactly to your proportions has a special feel. You might not think it's worth the extra cost, and you would have an argument for that, but there is a difference.
    My speculation was that it applies to some degree in cycling, and I used the previous proof as my reasoning, but I can't prove how exactly it applies to it and to what degree. That, I have admitted, is speculation based on reasoning, but not at this point provable.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    Anyone ever gone this route? And if so, who did you go through?
    I had a custom made "sport " road bike made by Bernie Mikkelsen in the late 70', it was stolen after three months of riding. Nice riding bike, fun part was seeing other bikes he was working on. Rode on the back of his tandems from Noe Valley Cyclery to Mill Valley to visit Joe Breeze and see his new frames. I didn't get top end parts, mostly good parts at a good price. The goal was to get a particular ride not spend as much money as possible.
    Bought a Lippy touring bike a year later, not custom to me but a high end one of a kind build with custom racks. I was a light rider with a light load and it had an objectionable shimmy riding with one hand at speeds above 20mph and above 30mph I often had to clamp the top tube with my knees as a dangerous shimmy could develop. Guessing that standard gauge and diameter road tubing was too springy in some geometries.
    Didn't have that problem with shorter road bikes. Nearly all touring bikes nowadays have beefier tubes, especially the top tube.
    Had a slew of mass and limited production touring and road bikes through the 80's the last custom frame was 26" wheeled "sport tour" road bike by Ed Litton that was set up for 1.5-1.75 tires.

    What I came to realize after fairly extensive cycling experience was that I didn't know enough about frame building to predict handling from dimensions and tubing. Leave it to the frame builder to design the frame. The only challenge you have is accurately defining your intended use.

    The primary reason for a custom bike is because you want one and can afford it. There are many production bikes out there that will work just fine. There's no reason to get high end components.

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