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Custom Frames(32 posts)

Custom FramesCincy1
Oct 29, 2001 4:15 AM
My wife is 5'2'' and an extremely difficult fit with a standard frame. I'd like to get her a custom fit Ti or Aluminum frame for Christmas but don't know much about the process. Who are the guru's of custom frames? Which companies are the easiest to work with? Any other advice? Price is not a constraint.
re: Custom Framestarwheel
Oct 29, 2001 5:44 AM
If going the custom route, I would recommend going to a shop that deals with custom frames where they can do a professional frame fitting. If you're sold on ti, then Serotta and Seven are two brands that make custom ti frames. Serottas are a good place to start, and they seem to have lots of dealers around the US. Check their website for locations. You also might want to consider steel as the prices are much more reasonable and some of the light-steel (853, Foco) customs are almost as light as many stock ti frames. Serotta and Seven both make steel frames, as well, and other good custom steel brands include Waterford, Steelman, Landshark, Strong, Anvil. For a slight weight penalty, a steel frame should provide an unbeatable ride and -- in my opinion -- look much better than plain old gray ti (although you can paint a ti frame). Landsharks have incredible paint jobs, which seems to be their main selling point. Personally, I think Steelman has some of the nicest custom frames I've seen for the price. Waterfords have a nice classic appearance.
re: Custom FramesJohn-d
Oct 29, 2001 8:06 AM
Some of the people who contibute to this forum think that prices ex europe can be attractive. Try this site as an option. One of the UK leading frame builders.
Try SerottaBirddog
Oct 29, 2001 6:28 AM
But you will be lucky to get one by Christmas.
Time factorsdzrider
Oct 29, 2001 7:34 AM
One person shops are very unlikely to complete a frame in 8 weeks. Serrotta, Bilenky, Marinoni, Seven have more than one worker and may be quicker. Good luck.
2nd Serottagrzy
Oct 29, 2001 9:25 AM
You stand a decent chance to take delivery in time if you get started now. Especially if you let them know your objective. Seven could probably also pull it off. Since your wife has to be involved in the process from the beginning and good work takes time, it would be more import to get the job done right than to hit a magic date. You may not even be able to ride for a while depending on where you live. In any event both Serotta and Seven place customer satisfaction at the top of their list. Ultimately the fit and the quality of the build is paramount. Go to and lokk at their shop listing for certified fits specialists. The fit and feel of a quality custom ride will take her breath away - I would be hard pressed to think of a better gift for a cyclist.
3rd Serottabike_junkie
Oct 29, 2001 11:43 AM
My Legend Ti Custom was done in 3 weeks in the off-season, maybe a bit longer now but we are going into winter. Give Ben a call, you won't be disappointed. These guys make a sweet-riding Ti frame. Good luck!
A linkmickey-mac
Oct 29, 2001 6:40 AM
Many on this list build in Al. A few build in Ti. Good luck.
Do you know if this list comprehensive?Kristin
Oct 29, 2001 6:51 AM
I've been looking a comprehensive list of custom builders in the states? I have this link which includes some builders in Europe, but isn't comprehensive.
It's notmickey-mac
Oct 29, 2001 8:10 AM
I can think of custom builders who are not on this list: e.g., Eisentraut and Della Santa. I'm sure many others aren't on the list, probably some are missing because they don't have web sites.
re: Custom FramesAce
Oct 29, 2001 7:16 AM
Spectrum - Tom Kellogg - Steel or Ti
Richard Sachs - Steel
Independent Fabricators - Steel or Ti

If price is really not a contraint, my personal choice is Spectrum for Ti and Sachs for steel. These two are the masters. Fit will be perfect.
Just curious...ACE-
Oct 30, 2001 12:23 AM
Ace,How long have you used this handle?
Thanks, ACE
Just curious...Ace
Oct 30, 2001 6:59 AM
Not long. Didn't realize I was stepping on toes. Happy to change if you prefer. Let me know here.
Oct 29, 2001 9:22 AM
have you tried some of the women specific designs for her?
C'dale, Trek, Terry and some other may have them as well.
re: Custom Framesbrider
Oct 29, 2001 9:26 AM
I went with Ti Cycles in Seattle for 2 frames -- a custom Ti Softride for the road that I've raced for a few years, and a steel Softride track. They worked with me on geometry, and materials. With the track, I gave them the rider compartment I was trying to duplicate, and told them I wanted to make it brake compatible for fixed riding on the road, but gave them free reign to do whatever else they saw fit. Came out great. They're very open to tubing geometries, can do very airfoil shaped tubes, and the service is great. Worth checking out.
Softride track?yodleboy
Oct 29, 2001 12:41 PM
Never even thought about that. What's the benefit on the track?
re: Custom FramesBirddog
Oct 29, 2001 8:12 PM
Hey Brider, do I understand this correctly? you have a fixed gear Softride? I've been thinking lately that this would be the ultimate rig to smooth out your pedal stroke, and damn if you don't have one. Ever ride it on rollers? that would really be a trip.
3D Racing -- Durango, ColoradoLanterneRouge
Oct 29, 2001 11:29 AM
Chris Herting is the guy who started Yeti with John Parker many years ago, and he now has his own shop, working exclusively with aluminum. He's one of the most experienced aluminum builders in the country. He builds a lot of the team bikes for the trade teams, as well as prototypes for the factories. I've got a road frame and mountain frame and they're both awesome. Will custom build to your specs, and his paint jobs (powdercoat) are awesome.
My Seven Axiom ti took...PsyDoc
Oct 29, 2001 12:13 PM
...4 days to complete. I may have caught them at just the right time, though. Seven is very attentive.
Not far off the average.Leisure
Oct 31, 2001 5:13 AM
My LBS moves plenty of Sevens. He may get some priority for all I know, but it looks like their customers receive their frames typically two or three weeks after placing the order. Lop off however much time it takes to ship and you figure a week or two for the actual assembly. Batteries not included, of course.
I've also seen three sub-size road frames sold at this LBS this season alone (AND NO I'M NOT THERE "ALL THE TIME"!), the recipients of which have been happy, so they're not inexperienced with it.
The ProcessTJeanloz
Oct 29, 2001 2:10 PM
There are some real gurus of custom frame builders, and some mass producers of custom bikes. You have a difficult decision here, because only a mass custom builder (like Seven, Serotta, et. al.) will be able to have the whole process executed in 8 weeks. But because your wife is "an extremely difficult fit" I would probably recommend working with a smaller, more attentive custom builder.

A custom bike primer:

As Richard Sachs says: "Building a frame is simple, but it's not easy".

A custom built frame, or any frame for that matter, has two elements in its production; the design, and the execution. Some builders, like Tom Kellogg and Lennard Zinn, design the bikes and farm out the actual construction (Litespeed builds Tom's ti bikes, Ken Beech and Mark Nobilette build Lennard's bikes). The companies that I will call the mass-custom builders really have farmed out the design, and do the actual construction. People (especially Serotta owners) are going to be angry with that statement- but it's true. The builder at Serotta (or Seven) doesn't actually know his customer- he has a spec sheet of variables, that have been punched into a formula (that the builder didn't develop) and the formula tells him exactly what angles and lengths to execute. It's the most cost effective way to build 'custom' bikes. Seven has one of the best formulas in terms of accounting for much more than just dimensions- but that's their whole selling feature. Small time builders often do both the design and the execution- but their design is not necessarily better than the formulaic design of a Serotta- and it's often worse. The very best builders do both to perfect results.

We'll assume that you want to surprise your wife? This will be almost impossible and absolutely sub-optimal in end result. The builder NEEDS to work closely with the end-user to get a bike just right. It would probably be best to wrap up a picture or a gift certificate, and have her do the nitty-gritty of shopping.

In terms of who the best-of-the-best builders are, my opinionated nature produces this list, I also prefer to work with the most local builder possible:

Richard Sachs on the East Coast (
Albert Eisentraut on the left Coast (

Tom Kellog on the East Coast (
No clear winner in the West

None. Not a lot of custom builders like to build in aluminum. I think it's because they aren't able to manipulate the material as well as they would like to- they're essentially stuck with the relatively limited tubesets that are on the market. Oversized, shaped, tubes make aluminum bikes great, but they're size specific, and not really compatible with custom bikes.
I never thought about............Len J
Oct 29, 2001 2:31 PM
the process in this way. Thanks. Thinking of it in terms of design & construction is incredibly helpful. It also explains why Serrotta & Seven invest so much time & money into thier dealer network.

Great Model.


I never thought about............grzy
Oct 29, 2001 3:48 PM
Dunno about Serotta "farming out their designs" they're pretty able to provide anything you want - they worked up Legend Ti for a female friend based on her beloved steel road bike. It fit her better than what typical Legend formula sizing might have dictated. It really didn't seem like they're locked into a blind formula or have forgotten how to innovate. More like if this is what size the frame needs to be, then they work out all the angles. Geometry is geometry. Then there's the tuning of the ride aspect. Not many custom bikes can offer the level of maniplulation that Serotta goes through for it's tube sets - while others are offering straight gauge and rolled tubing Serotta's are tapered, curved and butted to the extreme. There is something to be said for specialization and having the guy that is good at designing just do designing and leave the welding to the welder. You can take a chance with the small shops and maybe have to "eat their mistake" or go with one of the more established players who have reputation of getting it right the first time and when they (or their dealer) makes a mistake they build a new frame. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. My wife went with a custom ti Holland (San Diego) but it took 3 or 4 months.

You can knock the bigger custom shops if you want, but there's a reason why they're successful and people lined up and willing to shell out the money and are rabid about their ride. Never met a disappointed Seven or Serotta owner - FWIW.
I never thought about............TJeanloz
Oct 29, 2001 5:44 PM
I agree that Serotta, Seven and other big custom makers all make great bikes. But their designs are formulaic in nature- by necessity. The whole concept of a "Legend" or "Classic" is all about a pre-designed formula, and adaptations to this formula. If the customer says "I want it just like my old steel ride", they have a standard method to address that need.

I think the bikes are great, but there isn't the same personal relationship between designer and customer- and I think that's important. In terms of specialists, I entirely agree- many of the best custom bikes are made by people like Tom Kellogg, who really only design them. The design is the thing; producing the bike is "simple, but not easy".

I have also never met a disapointed Seven owner- but I do know one person who was disapointed with Serotta, albeit it was his mistake, not theirs.
Oct 30, 2001 9:14 AM
Even Mr. Kellog doesn't forget everything he knows and starts with a blank sheet of paper and a hangover! At some point you have to connect a bunch of tubes together. Getting exactly what you want is important, assuming you know what it is that you want and that it's the right thing to do. If you want a designer to fawn over you that's different. At the end of the day one could easily argue that Ben Serotta has designed far more bikes himself, by hand in his 30 years. Really we're splitting hairs - personally I'm not sure I'd take the risk and have some super small shop build my frame - the important thing is that we have great choices!
West Coast Ti? Bill Holland.DMoore
Oct 29, 2001 6:26 PM
Bill Holland in San Diego isn't widely known, but his work is outstanding. He built beautiful lugged steel bikes for many years (mine is late-80's vintage) but has built primarily in Ti for the last several years. He works closely with an aerospace Ti tubing supplier, and the quality of his design and welds is impeccable. An added bonus is the fact that he shares shop space with Joe Bell, one of the very best bike painters in the US. Their combined product is truly a joy to behold. He's the Richard Sachs of titanium. As you'd expect, the price and wait for his product is commensurate.
Oct 29, 2001 6:39 PM
I thought of him after I posted. He is absolutely top shelf in custom titanium bikes.
Bill Holland? Sounds nice...please post pic if available.Leisure
Oct 30, 2001 5:05 AM
Oct 30, 2001 9:19 AM
Wifey's Holland hangs next to my Serotta - it's all a question of if you want brushed or polished. Holland workmanship is outstanding, but his tubes tend to not be tapered - FWIW. Her bike came in under 17 lbs. and that's with Ultegra and a threaded steel steerer Kestrel fork. I could make it "silly-light" if she'd let me spend the money.
Question on Custom Frame PricingKristin
Oct 30, 2001 7:07 AM
Basically...whats the price range? I have looked on a number of sites and most don't list prices. I'm curious what the low and high end prices are for custom.
Oct 30, 2001 7:51 AM
The price range starts at about $800 for a no-frills steel or aluminum frame only. Many good quality frames are in the $1200-$1500 range. Expect custom ti frames to be in the $2,000-$5,000 range. The better the reputation of the builder, the more it will cost.
Shameless local plug (and a question)Lazy
Oct 30, 2001 9:59 AM
Check this guy out:

I don't have any personal experience with his work, but the pictures look nice. Here's the plan:

Contact this guy and set up an appointment during the Christmas holiday. Take wife on a nice ski vacation to Vail for Christmas. Surprise her with her fitting appointment etc....

Don't know if this is economically feasable for you or not but it sure would get you in the good graces for quite a while.

Does anyone have any experience with Vail Cycle Works? If so, please share! I might be interested in executing this plan on myself :-)