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Is there any point getting a bike custom built these days?(16 posts)

Is there any point getting a bike custom built these days?Gear Cruncher
Sep 26, 2003 4:26 AM
After a few years away from serious riding, I am intending to treat myself to a new bike for general road use and racing. I have always been tempted with the notion of getting a bike custom built to suit my exact measurements, riding style and preferred handling characteristics. However over the past few years frame materials and construction have moved on tremendously especially in the fields of carbon fibre and aluminium, whereas (as far as I can see) steel tubing has been left behind.

Would I be doing myself any favours by going to the trouble and expense of getting a bike custom built in steel? Or will a bespoke steel frame always out-perform an off the peg carbon/alu bike of comparable price?
re: Is there any point getting a bike custom built these days?Wade03
Sep 26, 2003 4:38 AM
I just built up a custom Ciocc for a couple of reasons. Most, importantly the components on some of production/standard bikes were a mixture of component levels ie. Ultegra/105 mixes with different hubs, seat post etc. Secondly, (and to me the most importantly) the wheels were always a grade or two below what I wanted. I am on my third road bike in 10 years and have alway had problems with the wheels and truing. I was always having the same conversation with my bike shop and online sellers....can I buy the bike but switch out the wheels to another grade. Usually the answer was no or the upgrade fee was to high.
apples and oranges...C-40
Sep 26, 2003 4:55 AM
I think you're confusing a custom built-up bike with a custom built frame. The poster is considering a custom built frame, which of course, would have a custom selected componentry.

I agree with your statement about prebuilt bikes though. I haven't bought an off the shelf bike in over 10 years. With prebuilts I found myself changing out half the components in the first year. It's cheaper to get what you want the first time.
apples and oranges...Wade03
Sep 26, 2003 5:09 AM
If the issue is having just a frame custom built for your own preferences thats a whole different bird. I can't imagine how the cost and trouble could be justified. Once the initial frame size is matched (stock that is), you can dial that bike in to precision via seat post, stem, crank, handlebars lengths etc. Go stock and put the money in wheels. The alternatives with stock geometry, materials and sizing should supply any needs you have.
Sep 26, 2003 5:30 AM
For alot of riders, the stock sizes do fit quite right. Only very minor position adjustments can me made via stem, and ESPECIALLY seatpost before your position or knee bio mechanics are hosed.

If you fit a stock bike its the way to go. If you don't you can spends alot more then the vustome charge trying to get the fit even close to right.

Given the issues with size run availablity (poor on each end), plus some makers going to small, medium or large sizes- custom is a wise option for those who dont fit perfectly on a 54, 56 or 58.

Unless you are part of the 5% that has a strange body..MR_GRUMPY
Sep 26, 2003 5:28 AM
you can get by with a stock frame. Once you determine your correct top tube length, just pick a stock frame that you won't have to use too many spacers to get the bars into the correct position. Once you get that down, you're free to pick and choose what ever components you want.
Unless you are part of the 5% that has a strange body..ohmk1
Sep 26, 2003 8:29 AM
5% of people may have "strange" bodies, but there's also a certain percentage of people that have physical ailments that only a custom job may help.
They are part of the 5%MR_GRUMPY
Sep 26, 2003 8:38 AM
When I say custom, I mean non standard dimensions or angles.
That would be me, thank you! nmMShaw
Sep 26, 2003 9:20 AM
There is always a point to building a custom biketerry b
Sep 26, 2003 5:41 AM
Even if you don't need one for physical reason, building a custom bike is a fun process. Talking to the builder, picking the materials, doing the measurements, picking the paint scheme, watching it come together - all much better than walking down to the LBS and picking out yet another rack bike, no matter how exotic the name is. Then, there's the fact that you have the only one in existance.

Costs are often misleading too. I bought a Pinarello a couple of years ago thinking it would be less expensive and less hassle than going custom. Well, at the time it was an $1850 frame/fork combo. Couple of years later, I decided to try custom for the fun of it and had an Ultrafoco frame built to my specs by Carl Strong - frame/fork cost - $1350. Custom is not more expensive than many fine steel frames by the regular builder community.

Personally, I would not trade my custom building experience for any bicycle. I may not ever do one again, but the one I did was so much fun, I'm really glad I did it.
Why not?Dropped
Sep 26, 2003 6:10 AM
Can you even get a high-end American built steel frame that is NOT custom? You probably can, but the majority are custom.

If I think of the 10 steel frames that would be on my short list, I bet you 8 of them are either offered only as a full custom or as a custom at no extra charge.

Given that you are paying for it anyway, if for no reason other than getting them to put a sensible head tube on the bike, I think custom makes sense.
re: Is there any point getting a bike custom built these days?Ironbutt
Sep 26, 2003 6:21 AM
The people who build carbon fiber and aluminum frames will lead you to believe that steel tubing has been left behind. It hasn't. The new air hardening steels (and some others, too) in the hands of a skilled frame builder will fit you precisely, not closely enough, but precisely, and will rival all but the very lightest frames constructed of other materials in weight. A good framebuilder will tailor the frame not only for your perfect fit, but for the ride and handling characteristics that you desire. And nothing, but nothing will rival the exquisite ride characteristics of a fine steel frame. I have aluminum and titanium frames, too,and they are wonderful for their intended purposes. For fun, performance riding, though, the steel bike is the one that I pick. I'm one of those 5% people who doesn't fit stock anything, whether it's a bicycle or a business suit. My first custom frame was like my first custom tailored suit, an absolute revelation. Once you experience it, it's hard to go back to "off the rack," bikes or suits.
re: Is there any point getting a bike custom built these days?My Dog Wally
Sep 26, 2003 7:08 AM
I've had my custom-made Independent Fabrication Ti Crown Jewel for 5 months, and I'm as excited to ride it today as I was the day I brought it home. Maybe more than anything else, that's the real benefit of going custom: you get a bike that was built for you and no one else. It fits perfectly. It handles exactly the way you want it to. It provides the optimum level of comfort. Whether or not you think this is worth the extra dough that it costs is a decision you'll have to make. But there are benefits from going custom that simply don't exist with off-the-rack bikes.
Maybe, but you better know your stuff...Fez
Sep 26, 2003 7:22 AM
I agree with C-40 on the stock bike thing. You may save a few bucks initially, but if you change a few components (saddle, post, stem, wheel, tire) it can quickly erase your savings. Sometimes buying a higher level model can be a better value if you won't need to upgrade anything.

Places like Excel or GVH that sell build kits that let you choose your gears, crank length and stem length. They may also let you choose different bars and saddles and tires. You get exactly what you want.

As far as getting a custom geometry frame, that's your call. I do believe you should be an experienced rider and know your basic bike geo stuff, like seat angle, head angle, fork rake, etc. Because how would you know what you want if you have no idea in the first place?

And riding position evolves over time, especially if you are a newish rider. How dumb would that be if you bought a custom frame when you were a relatively inexperienced rider and found as you evolved and became stronger you had different needs next season?

There is a lot you can play with on stock geometries. Just about the only thing you can't change is standover and frame/fork combos that have minimal toe clearance (unless you want to alter the handling by changing fork rake). Saddle position can be altered by many centimeters just by choosing the right post and saddle. Stems have different lengths and rises. Bars have different widths. If you still can't get it right, then explore custom geometry.
Find a Serotta dealer and get a fittingpedalAZ
Sep 26, 2003 8:01 AM
by a trained fitting consultant on a Serotta size cycle. It will open your eyes to a lot of fit, fitness, component and geometry issues. You might find that your body is well suited to someone's stock geometry, and you may find that it is not. Finding out is worth the $100 or so fee.
Tailored vs. Off-the-rackDale Brigham
Sep 26, 2003 8:40 AM
I used to think that custom frames were only for folks that had a) weirdly proportioned bodies, b) know-it-all attitudes about optimal head and seat tube angles, and/or c) more dollars than sense. Now that I am old and wise (and more importantly, have actually bought a semi-custom frame from a custom builder), I think much differently.

All of you who have said that most folks can fit most production bikes are absolutely correct. And those who say that it's crazy to think that I would know more about frame geometry and dimensions than some outfit that has made bikes for decades is also correct. But fitting the unfittable and indulging the whims of wannabe Ernesto Colnagos is not really the point.

What I found is that the skilled frame builder has a wealth of knowledge that he/she uses to guide the bike's design after finding out about you, the cyclist. That's a big part of their job -- finding out from you what you have liked and disliked about your previous bikes, and using that info to design and produce your new bike. A good builder won't make you a bike that does not make sense to him/her (i.e., an ungainly mess of a frame) and you.

Besides, it's fun (and sometime maddening) to be able to choose even little things like cable routing, paint color, and braze-ons for yor frame. As others have said, it's your bike, not Lance's or anybody else's bike. I know that seems goofy, but wait till you get a bike made for you -- it'll put a big goofy grin on your face.