A bike just for you
If you’ve had off-the-shelf bikes before you may have found that they rarely hit the mark for the exact way you use them. Until recently, the bike industry has been almost solely driven by racing. As a result most bikes emulated racing bikes making them ill-suited to regular people and the way they want to use them. Once you start carrying stuff, as most people find themselves wanting to, these bikes that look like those in Le Tour or from the world of MTB racing become even less well suited. We have been building custom bikes for people since the early days of Commuter Cycles. These builds are often built around a frame which is unlike those offered by the big brands. They are often steel, which is commonly more comfortable and resilient when loaded up with gear for commuting and touring. They are often comfortable in their angles and versatile in their handlebar set ups to allow a ride suited to a regular person doing regular things. They are often for people with specific requirements and preferences. People who have had off-the-shelf bikes and are now experienced enough to know what works for them. They are often for people who’ve never had a bike fit quite right. Sometimes they are just for people who want something that looks a particular way.
Planning a custom build
Planning a custom build can easily take as long as actually building it. When you first approach us for a custom build, in person, on the phone or via email, the first thing we will do is mine you for information. We will ask about your requirements, your preferences, your planned usage, your budget, and any decisions on frames or components that you may have already made. Armed with this info we will put together a proposed list of specifications (or spec list) that details the build along with a quote for that spec.
Once the spec list is approved, we will ask for a 20% deposit and begin assembling components. For any given custom build we often have about half of the components in store already but the other half will need to be ordered in. Bikes are relatively simple machines but as always the devil is in the details. It is surprisingly easy to find yourself with incompatible (or worse, only seemingly-compatible), or ill-fitting components despite lots of research. Not only are we exceptionally good at avoiding these incompatibilities, we are also very good at judging the suitability of each component for the job at hand. Any components that need ordering are now ordered and we give you an ETA on anything that is likely to take more than a week.
At this point we might already have your fit sorted based on test rides, matching an existing bike or taking a few measurements such as inseam and arm length. Sometimes, customers have had a fit done by a physio or another bike fit expert. We are happy to use the recommended fit data to set up your new bike when available. If there is any doubt it is at this point we will get you on our fit bike to confirm the fit and lock in sizing on the frame and any associated components (such as stem length, crank length, seat post offset, etc.). Bike fit is tricky because there are competing factors at play. Usage, handling and sizing are all at play when locking in a fit. The fit on a fully-loaded touring bike that will be ridden at 15k/h for long days is completely different to that of an unloaded gravel bike that will be moving at 25k/h for a few hours at a time. Our expertise is in fitting people for pretty much any type of riding that isn’t racing. We all have significant personal experience with touring, commuting, gravel and dirt road explorations, long distance road riding and mountain biking.
The build itself
Once the parts all arrive the build itself is often done quite quickly. In some cases it is done in a single day. Frames are always prepped before building. This means headset and bottom bracket fittings are reamed, chased and faced where appropriate to ensure the headset and bottom bracket bearings run as straight and smooth as possible. Everything is fitted and adjusted before being test ridden and further refined. A small amount of steerer tube on the fork is left above the stem to allow for small adjustments in the fit after it has been ridden for a while. Tape will sometimes be left unwrapped until after you’ve taken it for a test ride if there is any doubt over perfect handlebar and lever angles.
Like any new bike, a custom built bike will benefit from a first service to make small adjustments after things have settled into place. We typically recommend this after a month or two, or sooner if you notice anything dropping out of adjustment. Even if it seems to be running perfectly, we still like to spend some time going over it to make sure everything is as it should be. This first service is free and we would not expect it to need another until you have put some decent km on it and it’s getting closer to a year old.