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Interested in custom framebuilder

Old 02-13-22, 09:17 PM
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bt_bp
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Interested in custom framebuilder

Hello. Not sure if this is the correct thread to post this is, sorry.

Im looking for a framebuilder within the continental USA. Looking to have an all road bike built around a 26/650b platform. I am 50 so Id like a builder who is familiar with creating something for the vertically challenged. Steel frame (maybe a bit nicer than 4130). I can spend up to $3k though $1.5-$2k range is preferable.

Can anyone make some recommendations please?
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Old 02-13-22, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by bt_bp View Post
Hello. Not sure if this is the correct thread to post this is, sorry.

Im looking for a framebuilder within the continental USA. Looking to have an all road bike built around a 26/650b platform. I am 50 so Id like a builder who is familiar with creating something for the vertically challenged. Steel frame (maybe a bit nicer than 4130). I can spend up to $3k though $1.5-$2k range is preferable.

Can anyone make some recommendations please?
Waterford (my personal choice). Check this thread... I've been a BAAAADD Boy

Search web for handmade bicycles. See whom may be close to you or what local bike shops may represent and/or suggest.
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Old 02-13-22, 09:29 PM
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It's nice, though not absolutely necessary, to be able to visit the framebuilder for a custom bike. He/she can talk to you about your current bike, what you would like to change, what you would like to keep, perhaps take some body measurements, etc. I say this, not as a framebuilder which I am not, but as someone who has ordered a few custom bikes.

There are quite a few talented and experienced framebuilders in many parts of the country. Give us an idea of your location and we might better direct you.
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Old 02-13-22, 10:05 PM
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I will check out that link thanks.

Im currently located in Los Angeles, CA but Im able to go anywhere in the country really. I drive cross country three times a year so depending on where the builder is, I could probably drop by on my way over. I drive to Boston, MA on my trips. I realize this probably doesnt help; I usually drive straight across the middle of the country (CA, NV, CO, KS, MO, IL, IN, OH, PA, NY, MA). Any of those states along the way or their neighbors.
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Old 02-13-22, 10:31 PM
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Being on the short end of the bell curve (I'm only 5'6" myself) the common fitting guides can loose their validity. I would ask the builder if they have done many smaller frames/wheels projects.

I have to reinforce this aspect as I've seen too many fits done by "those who are said to be good" that didn't go so well.

As Waterford has been the contract maker for Terry bikes for a while I would think they have a pretty good understanding about this stuff. And credit to you for not buying into the biggest tire diameter is the best one thinking. Andy
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Old 02-14-22, 05:55 AM
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Check out Fitz Cycles. John makes some nice bikes in a classic style, if that's what you're into. I've made a few fixture parts for him and he's a super nice guy. home
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Old 02-14-22, 06:13 AM
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Franklin Frames in OH has built more bikes than many other guys as in jobber style my frame your name etc. Well versed in design and execution. In Central OH.
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Old 02-14-22, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Being on the short end of the bell curve (I'm only 5'6" myself) the common fitting guides can loose their validity. I would ask the builder if they have done many smaller frames/wheels projects.

I have to reinforce this aspect as I've seen too many fits done by "those who are said to be good" that didn't go so well.

As Waterford has been the contract maker for Terry bikes for a while I would think they have a pretty good understanding about this stuff. And credit to you for not buying into the biggest tire diameter is the best one thinking. Andy
Looks like Id have to get fully custom geometry as their regular sizes only go down to 48cm. But thats the point! They do make some pretty bikes.
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Old 02-14-22, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by banana jam View Post
Franklin Frames in OH has built more bikes than many other guys as in jobber style my frame your name etc. Well versed in design and execution. In Central OH.
I will check them out, thank you!
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Old 02-14-22, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by dsaul View Post
Check out Fitz Cycles. John makes some nice bikes in a classic style, if that's what you're into. I've made a few fixture parts for him and he's a super nice guy.
Although most modern all road frames seem to have oversized tubing, I am partial to the thin lugged steel frames for sure! Thanks for your recommendation.
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Old 02-14-22, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by bt_bp View Post
Although most modern all road frames seem to have oversized tubing, I am partial to the thin lugged steel frames for sure! Thanks for your recommendation.

As the bike industry tries to get their previous customers to "need" a new bike all kinds of efforts in materials and marketing will be done. IMO this all started back in the early 1980s with Cannondale's OS Al frames. As a smaller rider I find the trend of stiffer frames to be unneeded and sometimes actually painful to ride. My next two or three frames on my project list will have 1" steel steerers... Andy
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Old 02-14-22, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by bt_bp View Post
I’m looking for a framebuilder within the continental USA. Looking to have an all road bike built around a 26”/650b platform. I am 5’0” so I’d like a builder who is familiar with creating something for the vertically challenged. Steel frame (maybe a bit nicer than 4130). I can spend up to $3k though $1.5-$2k range is preferable.
Hello and welcome!
I'm with Andy in terms of size - 5'6" but short legs and long torso exacerbating any normal size bikes. A 56cm 'square' frame (56/56 st/tt) leaves me on my tippy toes when stopped but with a 140-150mm stem.
Twenty years ago I got a custom road frame and looked at all sorts of things. I chose to go with Bernie Mikkelsen in the bay area. Bernie wasn't significantly more special than any of the other builders I looked at (steel / tig or steel/brazed) though quite capable. However, Bernie had built an adjustable bike that was rideable. I was/is in Oregon at the time and took at day flight to SFO and drove over to him. He setup the bike and to match the ride I had at the time and I took it around a large parking lot to confirm it was similar. Then he started changing things. Primarily we lowered the top tube and extended the top tube so I could both stand over and get stretched out. We also messed with angles and bb height and such. But, just getting a lower tt and a longer tt felt SO MUCH better that nothing else really seemed to matter to me (within reason) So before you discuss much with a custom builder, get a real fitting with somebody who will listen to your issues/preferences just to set some overall geometry. (if you care I ended up needing a 48cm size seat tube with a 60cm top tube in a 'classic' non-sloping design)

Two decisions I made on that frame - 1 1/8" steerer tube and 650c wheels. Unlike Andy's comment, I'm really happy to have the 1 1/8" steerer as finding current parts is much easier than dealing with 1". I'm less excited about the 650c wheels. I thought that having smaller wheels would make standover easier as well as packing for travel. (it is an S&S coupled frame) Turns out the smaller wheels didn't help packing much and maybe hurt it. (spokes seemed to be more dense in the case making less ease for fitting the puzzle together) And, twenty years later, 650c wheels have not aged well. My tire and rim choice is extremely limited. While I am certainly an advocate of utilizing wheels that help the geometry, be prepared for the longer-term downside of potentially getting pushed out of tires/rims in the future. 650b MTB tires will be plentiful for a long time. Slick 650b tires might be less available?

I think this forum is a really good example of *most* frame builders:
1) they are generally interested in helping you and are friendly
2) they are generally capable
3) they always have opinions

If you want the bling of a well known 'brand' and a good solid reputation, there are a number around that will help you. Many have long waits right now. (1+ year?)
If you want something more quickly / inexpensively, you might be able to find a frame builder who is just starting and willing to take on your specific challenges.
I would visit and meet with either type. In the premium space you will just enjoy the process. In the 'new' choice you will either gain or lose confidence.

good luck!
simon


(Picture of the weirdly shaped Mikkelsen after a nasty PNW ride)

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Old 02-14-22, 12:56 PM
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Most of the frames I have built were for women. Both lugged and fillet. Check around go local if you can.
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Old 02-14-22, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by bt_bp View Post
Although most modern all road frames seem to have oversized tubing, I am partial to the thin lugged steel frames for sure! Thanks for your recommendation.
As you know, if you want something that fits you the best, you need to go to a custom builder. We vary a lot in not only our style but also our skills, ability and knowledge. For starters, you want to pick a good one that has experience in fitting small women. A guy and a girl that are both the same size are not likely to have the same position.

My recommendation is to go to a builder that is also a fitter. Or go to a fitter that specializes in a women's recreational fit so a builder can design the frame around your handlebar/saddle position. Using your body measurements plugged into BikeCad won't give you the best results. It is preferable to get fit on some kind of sizing cycle where the saddle and handlebar positions are not restricted (in other words getting sized on an existing bike probably can not be adjusted enough to find your best position). Some builders are also painters so they can be a one stop shop option.

A custom frame opens up the possibility of artistic expression too. How important is this to you? That could be in the paint or lugs (if using lugs). Or using decorative sleeves that look something like lugs on one or both tubes on a joint. This method is called a "bilaminate" construction. A number of women (including small women) have taken my framebuilding class and did some rather speciatuclar work with both paint (they designed and prepped and I painted) and joint work (they did both the design and the cutting and filing).

Here are some examples. One girl was 5 2 and rode with a fairly fast group so 650c tires worked best for her. She could never position right on bikes with 700c wheels. She is a botanist and used a trillium flower for inspiration to create the design of her lugs and paint scheme. The other frame/bike built in my class was for a really short girl (a couple of inches smaller than 5) that used fat MTB road tires (ERD559). In order to have straddle clearance she needed to use a bilaminate type of construction (fillet brazing on sleeves). The 3rd picture is of a big frame that used a half bilaminate construction so you can get the idea of what is possible it you like something more than just plain. The shorelines are clean but a smidge of silver no-thickness residue clings to the frame tubes until it is sandblasted before painting.




This frame was built for 650c wheels

This frame was built with lightweight tubing using Fillet Pro silver. The straddle height needed to be only 24".


This is an example of a student using a half-bilaminate construction method.
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Old 02-15-22, 06:12 AM
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sdodd the Mikkelson looks unusual (and very cool) but its a great example of what can be achieved with a custom build. I appreciate you differentiating two types of builders that I can expect.



Doug Fattic Im not a big fan of 650c wheels only because of the limited tire choices (as has been mentioned by others here). Excellent advice on looking for a fitter who is a builder. I was also unaware there are women specific fitters. The bikes in the pics you provided are stunning! I would love to take a frame building class at some point. Thanks for taking the time to provide such detailed insight.
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Old 02-15-22, 06:15 AM
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If I have a bike where I like the handling and it feels comfortable to ride but, I wanted to change the wheel size and seat tube length, is this something a custom builder could do? Essentially change the geo from a 700c build to a 650b or 26 while still maintaining similar handling? Or is it easier to just start from scratch?
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Old 02-15-22, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by bt_bp View Post
Doug Fattic Im not a big fan of 650c wheels only because of the limited tire choices (as has been mentioned by others here). Excellent advice on looking for a fitter who is a builder. I was also unaware there are women specific fitters. The bikes in the pics you provided are stunning! I would love to take a frame building class at some point. Thanks for taking the time to provide such detailed insight.
You haven't specified the kind of riding you will (or want to) be doing on your new custom road bicycle. I'm going to assume it will be for fun and fitness that when riding on flat ground with no wind you will be traveling around 15 mph (+ - a couple either way) for 10 more more miles. If you are riding in a faster group, requirements change. If you are going slower for city commuting, things change again.

First I'll explain a bit about how many women require a different bicycle position than a man. It is fairly common that they like to sit a bit more upright to take the pressure off of the sensitive areas of their crotch. The resulting higher handlebars effects the frame design some. Sitting more upright usually means the saddle will be further back resulting in a shallower seat angle. Some men prefer a racing style of bicycle to go as fast as possible even though they don't race. Their handlebars will be lower and more forward resulting in a steeper seat angle. Most bikes designed for women use a steep seat angle to get around the toe clearance problem when using 700c wheels.

Standard size wheels (700C or 650B - both tires are about the same outside diameter).are a huge disadvantage for smaller people. The result is massive toe overlap with the front wheel. Some is tolerable for some people. A lot is not good for anyone. Smaller wheels is a much better solution. Perhaps the best tires for small frames are MTB size road tires. An example is the tan/cream frame I posted earlier. 650C wheels are often skinny for triathletes. They do come in a 28mm width. For faster riders this tire is okay. The ugly truth is that shorter people require compromises from what is commonly available. My daughter uses 650c X 28 tires on her go-fast custom bike. It just takes a little effort to find them and keep tubes and tires in stock instead of waiting for a flat to get more.
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Old 02-15-22, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
You haven't specified the kind of riding you will (or want to) be doing on your new custom road bicycle. I'm going to assume it will be for fun and fitness that when riding on flat ground with no wind you will be traveling around 15 mph (+ - a couple either way) for 10 more more miles. If you are riding in a faster group, requirements change. If you are going slower for city commuting, things change again.

First I'll explain a bit about how many women require a different bicycle position than a man. It is fairly common that they like to sit a bit more upright to take the pressure off of the sensitive areas of their crotch. The resulting higher handlebars effects the frame design some. Sitting more upright usually means the saddle will be further back resulting in a shallower seat angle. Some men prefer a racing style of bicycle to go as fast as possible even though they don't race. Their handlebars will be lower and more forward resulting in a steeper seat angle. Most bikes designed for women use a steep seat angle to get around the toe clearance problem when using 700c wheels.

Standard size wheels (700C or 650B - both tires are about the same outside diameter).are a huge disadvantage for smaller people. The result is massive toe overlap with the front wheel. Some is tolerable for some people. A lot is not good for anyone. Smaller wheels is a much better solution. Perhaps the best tires for small frames are MTB size road tires. An example is the tan/cream frame I posted earlier. 650C wheels are often skinny for triathletes. They do come in a 28mm width. For faster riders this tire is okay. The ugly truth is that shorter people require compromises from what is commonly available. My daughter uses 650c X 28 tires on her go-fast custom bike. It just takes a little effort to find them and keep tubes and tires in stock instead of waiting for a flat to get more.
Im looking to use the bike mainly for commuting 10-20miles a day in mild to moderately hilly urban environments. I usually do a 100mile ride once a week on weekends or go out on some single track and light gravel (hence why Id like an all road bike).

One of my bikes currently set up with 650c x 28 panaracer paselas that Im quite happy with. Saddle to bar drop is about 75mm which is about my limit. Id say the bike fits quite well with maybe 1/2 of toe overlap. I average about 13mph on my rides, with few to no group rides. I guess Ive gotten so used to riding poorly fitting unisex bikes which is why Im curious in a custom one.
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Old 02-15-22, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by bt_bp View Post
If I have a bike where I like the handling and it feels comfortable to ride but, I wanted to change the wheel size and seat tube length, is this something a custom builder could do? Essentially change the geo from a 700c build to a 650b or 26 while still maintaining similar handling? Or is it easier to just start from scratch?
Anything is possible. But, I wouldn't change a seat tube, nor do I think I would ride a bike with a changed seat tube. In some sense, and in many frame building processes, the seat tube is the heart of the bike. The seat tube to BB is the first weld I make, and everything builds from that.
Practically speaking, you aren't going to change the geometry of a lugged frame or even a TIG welded frame. *maybe* a brazed frame but I don't like the idea of that many thermal cycles.
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Old 02-15-22, 03:22 PM
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I think your budget is going to be on the light side unless you are working with someone without a name, I would talk to people and see what your gut says

there are a number of builders who work without meeting people in person, they typically have a detailed fitting measurements. Dave Kirk is an example and he is highly regarded (I am on his list) Kirk Frameworks | Custom Bicycles

In the San Jose /San francisco area, off top of my head are

Mikkelsen Frames funky web site

bronson Silva https://www.silvacycles.com/ small, have seen pretty creative builds and customizations come out of this shop think upper end of budget

Saso https://sasobike.com/ small old school, seems affordable

sure there are more
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Old 02-16-22, 11:38 AM
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There is also AR Cycles in Sacramento.

AR Cycles - Home
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Old 02-16-22, 11:59 AM
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Very few builders will change the size and wheel size of an existing frame. Someone came on here a ways back and wanted to get her dad's bike modified that way and it didn't work out well. Forget who that builder was.
A reasonable price for such a modification would be whatever the builder charges for a new frame plus $500
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Old 02-16-22, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by sdodd View Post
Anything is possible. But, I wouldn't change a seat tube, nor do I think I would ride a bike with a changed seat tube. In some sense, and in many frame building processes, the seat tube is the heart of the bike. The seat tube to BB is the first weld I make, and everything builds from that.
Practically speaking, you aren't going to change the geometry of a lugged frame or even a TIG welded frame. *maybe* a brazed frame but I don't like the idea of that many thermal cycles.
Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
Very few builders will change the size and wheel size of an existing frame. Someone came on here a ways back and wanted to get her dad's bike modified that way and it didn't work out well. Forget who that builder was.
A reasonable price for such a modification would be whatever the builder charges for a new frame plus $500
Sorry, to clarify: can I use the geometry numbers of an existing bike I like to be the basis of a new custom frame? So shrink or change dimensions to account for a smaller wheel set. Definitely not looking to alter the current frame.
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Old 02-16-22, 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
There is also AR Cycles in Sacramento.
I will check them out. Thanks.
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Old 02-16-22, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
You haven't specified the kind of riding you will (or want to) be doing on your new custom road bicycle. I'm going to assume it will be for fun and fitness that when riding on flat ground with no wind you will be traveling around 15 mph (+ - a couple either way) for 10 more more miles. If you are riding in a faster group, requirements change. If you are going slower for city commuting, things change again.

First I'll explain a bit about how many women require a different bicycle position than a man. It is fairly common that they like to sit a bit more upright to take the pressure off of the sensitive areas of their crotch. The resulting higher handlebars effects the frame design some. Sitting more upright usually means the saddle will be further back resulting in a shallower seat angle. Some men prefer a racing style of bicycle to go as fast as possible even though they don't race. Their handlebars will be lower and more forward resulting in a steeper seat angle. Most bikes designed for women use a steep seat angle to get around the toe clearance problem when using 700c wheels.

Standard size wheels (700C or 650B - both tires are about the same outside diameter).are a huge disadvantage for smaller people. The result is massive toe overlap with the front wheel. Some is tolerable for some people. A lot is not good for anyone. Smaller wheels is a much better solution. Perhaps the best tires for small frames are MTB size road tires. An example is the tan/cream frame I posted earlier. 650C wheels are often skinny for triathletes. They do come in a 28mm width. For faster riders this tire is okay. The ugly truth is that shorter people require compromises from what is commonly available. My daughter uses 650c X 28 tires on her go-fast custom bike. It just takes a little effort to find them and keep tubes and tires in stock instead of waiting for a flat to get more.
20mile/day commuting at 13mph average with 100mile on road or 30mile gravel/single track on the weekends. 3 or fewer people at any time. Id like an all road bike so I can use it for both commuting and weekend riding. Come to think of it, a 26 gravel/all road bike might be perfect.

Ive had good success running 650c x 25/28mm Panaracer Paselas on my old Trek WSD road bike. Theres a 3 saddle to bar drop on that one which is as far as Id like to go. Id raise the bars 10-20mm if I could, I dont want to put a goofy 20mm rise stem on the bike though. I just wish there were more wide tire options in 650c.
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