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Is custom worth it?(20 posts)

Is custom worth it?7eap4a
Dec 22, 2003 6:45 AM
Lucky me - Mrs. Claus has given the OK to spend my bonus on a new bike next year! Budget is around 4k, but I'm cheap and wouldn't mind having some change in my pocket. I'm not sure what that does in the world of custom frames but before I start shopping, the question is are they worth the money? I'm an off-the-rack size, and never had any problem with stock sizes or fit. What criteria if any should I consider?
Get a high quality fitting first...biknben
Dec 22, 2003 7:02 AM
I'd recommend you get yourself a good fitting. Find someone who has a Serotta fit cycle and good experience. Although you say off the rack stuff has been fine, now is a good time to find out how well it has
i really
been fitting you.

Use the results of the fitting to find a frame that has the perfect geometry. If you can't find one,
i then
it is time to go custom.

The fitting is the first step. If you don't know exactly what you need/want then going cutom doesn't make sense.

biknben (based on fitting, a Colnago fits me perfectly...I just can't afford them)
Custom is about more than geometric fit.............Len J
Dec 22, 2003 7:22 AM
and if you are "off the rack" size wise, other custom features may make the difference in your decision.

As someone else said, find a great fitter & get fitted. Fitters do vary in their recommendations. I had fittings done by two different fitters & spent much time questioning them on the differences. It helped me understand better what I was buying. If you are spending $4,000 on a bike, don't skimp the extra $100 (or your time)on getting the fit right.

Custom can entail the following features beyond fit:

1.) Longer chainstays for comfort, shorter for crit, you decide.

2.) Stiffer/more compliant ride, you decide.

3.) Room for fenders/wider tires/ you decide

4.) Oyelets for fenders or racks or both/ you decide

5.) Pump peg

6.) Where do you want your bars? Up higher? How do you get there? Sloping TT, Higher TT, HT extension? You decide.

7.) How do you want the bike to look? Color/pattern/decals/etc. You decide.

8.) How much do you weigh? How does that affect comfort/stiffness of the bike? Hod do you want the bike to handle? You decide.

9.) How unique do you want the bike to be?

10.) Etc/etc.

Most people think about fit as being the reason for custom. While this is criteria number 1 (& 2 & 3 if you are weirdly proportioned, there are many other reasons to go custom.

First decide what you want the bike to do & be for you, once you really know what you want, then decide if you can get it off the shelf or wether or not the premium for custom is worth it to you.

Good luck

Len
besides fit...7eap4a
Dec 22, 2003 7:46 AM
I have had a custom fitting - easily worth $100. I guess I'm lucky or just naive as I've never really experienced an uncomfortable fit. I'm wondering if custom is one of those things you can't appreciate until you experience it. I'm most curious and confused about the ride quality issue, how do you know what you want - quicker stiffer ect. I've noticed subtle differences in bikes I've owned as they are just different, but nothing that I didn't adjust to. What baseline do you use? BTW I do about 4-5k/year (life limits me to that), hills, lots of hills...
re: Is custom worth it?koala
Dec 22, 2003 8:03 AM
I got a fitting by a great lbs whose fitter is well highly regarded. I found I needed a longish headtube due to my injuries from years ago and the discomfort that comes from a drop of more than 7 cm. There are few stock frames with long headtubes and short top tubes, so custom works well for me. My fitting was 100 and took about an hour and 10 minutes...you may end up more comfortable than ever and for 100 on a 4000 potential purchase it seems worth it.
not if you don't need it...C-40
Dec 22, 2003 8:20 AM
If you're confident in your riding position and carefully analyze the geoemtry of a stock frame to be sure of any necessary changes, there's little benefit to a custom.

A fitter CANNOT determine the position that will be most comfortable of most efficient for you. He can only "ballpark" the fit using standard guidelines. A custom frame built from this type of fitting would be no more like to fit perfectly than the one you have.

Your existing bike can provide all the information you need for a custom bike. For instance, if you need a lot of steering tube spacers or a high rise stem, then increasing the head tube length would be wise. If you have a very long or short stem, the top tube length could be altered to use an average size stem. If the saddle is all the way forward or back, then the seat tube angle may need alteration (with a corresponding change in the TT length).
re: Is custom worth it?pmf1
Dec 22, 2003 8:46 AM
Most people do not need a custom frame. Women differ from men in body proportions and woudl benefit from a custom frame more because bikes are generally made for a male body size. If you have strange proportions, you need one. If not, you don't. Sounds like you don't need one to me.

However, some people like the idea, so there's no harm in getting one. If you get, for example, a Seven then it will be custom because that's the way they are sold. And there are a number of small builders who make really cool steel bikes. Aside from custom, they're unique.

Now is the best time to get a bike. The best strategy if you want to save some money is to get last year's model of something. If you don't have to have the latest and greatest (which will only be that for a year or two), last year's model will be substantially cheaper. I did this a few years ago on a Litespeed Ultimate frame. Got the frame and a Look HSC2 fork for $1600. That was about half price.
Not just about fitDropped
Dec 22, 2003 9:01 AM
If you are in the market for a high-end U.S. made steel frame, you will probably find that there is very little but custom frames out there. So, while you may find after a pro fitting that any number of stock Treks will fit like a glove, don't feel bad going full custom if what you really want is high-end steel.
For $4k you should get the bike you want.dzrider
Dec 22, 2003 10:12 AM
Could be about any number of things - fit, style, weight, comfort, handling, versatility, snob appeal or anything that matters to you. If you want more of anything other than lightness (if you can have more lightness) custom may be the answer. I've ridden lots of nice bikes over the years, but a custom frame, built for another rider, that I test rode, stays in my mind as one of the 2 best I've ever been on.
Custom ain't foolproof.Alex-in-Evanston
Dec 22, 2003 10:52 AM
I've seen a lot of custom bikes that turned out poorly. A salesperson and a customer banging out geomtries to solve a problem the guy was having with his previous bike (his bars were too low and his back hurt) can turn out an ugly looking frame. Huge head tubes, 4.5 degree sloping top tubes, short little emasculating stems, etc.

I think getting a stock frame (which can probably suit almost everybody) will save most folks from any amateur ideas about bike design floating around in their heads.

Some examples of what I'm talking about can be found here:
http://www.bikefanclub.com/gallery/showgallery.php?cat=507&password=

Alex
short little emasculating stems.. LOLcolker1
Dec 22, 2003 11:00 AM
what is an emmasculating stem? (thank G mine is 120)
130mm baby! (nm)Alex-in-Evanston
Dec 22, 2003 11:33 AM
woofdivve
Dec 22, 2003 9:41 PM

hmm...no emasculating stems here. ok! nmcolker1
Dec 23, 2003 5:34 AM
nm
re: Is custom worth it?My Dog Wally
Dec 22, 2003 1:37 PM
Everyone who's weighed in on this topic is absolutely right: not everyone needs custom. But there's one thing you get with a custom bike that you don't get with an off-the-rack bike: you get a bike that is built exactly for your needs, size, preferred geometry, and riding style. I got a custom-built Independent Fabrication Ti Crown Jewel, and I'll be the first one to say that there's a possibility I could have gotten a similar-riding bike for a lot less money. But I love the fact that the bike was built just for me, that I don't see many Indy Fabs around here (Seattle), that the bike performs exactly the way I want it to, and that it's enormously comfortable. A costly purchase, but worth every penny. I haven't regretted it for a second. Just make sure you do your research and get a fitting from the best person in your town.
Is there not an advantage to road test a bike before purchase?nonutin
Dec 22, 2003 5:23 PM
With an off the rack model you get the chance to road test the exact bike geometry you are going to buy. You could even use that bike that wins your comfort and performance test(or other criteria) at your fitting.

I just bought my first real road bike, hence the name nonutin. I tested 15 bikes before purchase. One of each of the major materials and some combinations of materials. Being new to road biking, I went with the one that gave me the greatest handling confidence plus reasonable comfort. After my tests, I have a hard time believing that the raw numbers of geometry and the materials make a bike. It is a feel sort of decision. Isn't it better to have the feeling before you pay then afterwards?

An aside: I read the reviews for each bike I tested. It was a mix bag, some I agreed with, some I could see their point, and some were so opposite of my experience that they seem to be written by people from an alternative world.
Is there not an advantage to road test a bike before purchase?innergel
Dec 23, 2003 6:35 AM
Also keep in mind that if this is your first road bike purchase, your preferred ride characteristics will most likely change over time. What feels best and works best at purchase time could be radically different a year or two down the road with x-thousand miles under your wheels.
Keep this in mind too....irregardless
Dec 22, 2003 8:37 PM
if for whatever reason you don't like the way a custom frame rides or feels, it may be harder to resell than a standard frame. I purchased a custom frame and it didn't ride the way I envisioned. I could never get close to what I paid for it on the resale market. With most stock frames, at least you can try them out before you purchase so you know what you're getting. And, if you decide you don't like the way it rides after you buy, at least the pool of potential buyers may be larger. Personally, I'll never go custom again because I fit stock frames just fine.

Good luck.
the voice of reason. nmcolker1
Dec 23, 2003 5:36 AM
nm
re: Is custom worth it?lyleseven
Dec 23, 2003 7:31 AM
You can't just rely on adjusting the seat backwards or forward or the length of the stem to make a stock bike as good as a custom fit bike. Also, the tube selection for stiffness, compliance, etc is very important in custom. I would get a custom fit and then retain those measurements and see if a stock bike fits. You still won't get the tube selection that can be so important. Also, any good custom bike shop will have several bikes to ride to get a good idea what your custom will feel like. If they don't have bikes you can ride they are not the best choice to order a custom fit bike. Go to a shop that has lots of demos.