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Custom Bikes - Part I
What are custom bikes? Why would anyone get one? What can be customized? What is the process like? What is my experience helping riders with going custom? I break it all down in this two part post!
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I have always been drawn to custom bikes and for me, the concept has always been ultimate bike goals. In recent years, perhaps fueled in part by the bike shortage during the height of the pandemic, I have noticed that custom bikes have been on the rise, so I wanted to share some information and thoughts here.
I decided to split this post into two parts as a bit of an experiment. Almost all previous posts here are quite long and detailed, and while I do not want to reduce the level of detail in each post, I do realize that splitting things into smaller size pieces of content could be a good idea.
In part one, I cover what custom bikes are, why you might want to get a custom bike and what getting a custom bike actually means. In Part two, I will cover the more practical, process side of things: What are the steps, the fitting and consultation process, what to look for when picking a brand / builder, my experience with various brands and more!
What are custom bikes?
Lets start by stating that generally speaking, there are a lot more bike options now days compared with 15+ years ago and even 10 or 5 years ago. Within each category of bikes (road, gravel, etc), there is large variety when it comes to geometry and sizing, affecting the ride characteristics and overall riding experience.
Custom bikes are not to be confused with a custom bike build, where you purchase a (pre made) frame from a brand of your choice, and then pick the components that fit your individual needs to complete the build. While a custom bike build is almost always more expensive than getting a bike ‘off the shelf’, building a bike from the frame up allows you to ride a bike that is unique to you without going through the process of getting a bespoke frame, which is even more expensive and can be a lot more time consuming.
When discussing the concept of custom bikes, I am referring to bikes that are purposely made for the individual buying it. The things that can be customized obviously include the sizing and geometry (affecting handling and riding experience). You can get custom bikes that are made of carbon, titanium, steel and a combination of materials. Some customizations include various frame mounts (if needed or desired) as well as the inclusion of proprietary parts like stem, bar (and one piece stem-bar), cranks and seatpost.
Often overlooked is the fact that you can also customize the carbon layup to suit the ride quality and stiffness you are after based on your riding style, goals and size. The tubing shape can be adjusted and you can customize the welding too (ie. titanium bikes). 3D printing also adds more possibilities, which is pretty cool.
Why go for a custom bike?
So, why would you even consider getting a custom bike? Custom bikes are not necessary within grasp for everyone, for reasons ranging from the cost to the often lengthy and involved process. They are not everyone’s jam for a variety of reasons.
So why bother with a custom bike?!
Well, to be honest, in some cases riders get a custom bike simply because they can and because they love the idea of a custom bike… As simple as that.
I think bikes in general are personal and that your bike should be as unique as you are and reflect your needs and personality. Even if a custom bike or a custom bike build are out of your reach, small touches like unique water bottle cages and/or bar tape can make a big difference in making your bike truly unique to you.
Personally, I have always been drawn to custom bikes, and every time someone asks me what my dream bike is, the answer is always a custom brand (the brand itself has changed over the years). I am currently in the process of building a custom bike myself and helping someone get their dream, custom bike is special and is one of my favorite parts of my work.
You can’t find what you need
There is an argument that a lot of bike brands advertise their bikes based on the pro’s riding them… But lets face it - most of the people buying those bikes are not pro riders and their needs are different, even if they are racers, so there is certainly a bit of a disconnect in many cases.
Generally speaking, bike manufacturers make bikes that can accommodate for as many people as possible. It simply makes business sense. If a bike by a particular manufacturer fits your needs (riding style, riding needs, geometry, components, price point, etc), that is great. But what if you can’t find what you are looking for from various brands because you have needs that fall outside the norm, or do not fit what is currently available without too many compromises?
Some riders might have very long legs with a very short torso or vice versa, others might be super short or super tall, there could be unique injuries that need accommodating, etc.
Well, if that is the case for you - Custom to the rescue!
Looks do matter
Custom bikes can give you something truly unique. Something one of a kind, something that you won’t see very often. This is not something that is a priority for all riders, but it is a major consideration for some when they look for a new bike purchase.
Some might not want to admit that looks and aesthetics matter, but if you love the way your bike looks, if looking at it makes you want to get your kit on asap and head out the door for a ride, then it matters, and it is absolutely okay.
Stock bikes often come in set colors and the options are usually a bit limited. Custom bikes allow the rider to have more flexibility with what the bike looks like. Want to match your car? Go right ahead (I had someone tell me their custom bike color will match the custom color of their Bentley). Want a particular color combo? That can be done too. Often times, there are less logos and you can add just about any design / drawings you want.
Some people simply like the process of building a custom bike. I also think that a lot of us buy bikes because we love the brand story, what they stand for, the riders / teams they work with, etc. A lot of riders I work with on custom builds really enjoy the process of learning about how their bike is made, where it is made, the communication with the builder, etc - Its a unique process that connects you with the brand and your bike more deeply.
The cost is often not the reason for getting a custom bike, but the reason that prevents people from even considering one!
Custom bikes are often more expensive… That said, the custom bike offerings have evolved over the years and come in various price points. There are also semi custom options from some brands and I find that the cost of various high end custom bikes is very similar in price point to their equivalent mass produced high end bikes…
Part two will be posted on Friday. I will cover the more practical, process side of things, as well as my experience with various brands:
What are the steps? What is the typical timeline?
What is my role in the fitting and consultation process? What do I pay attention to when fitting someone for a custom frame?
What to look for when picking a brand / builder?
In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about custom bikes, feel free to comment below and I’ll make sure to provide answers on Friday’s part two post!
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