What is Custom?
The first question you may have about custom bikes is simply what is a custom bike? The answer to this would vary depend on with whom you are speaking. In essence, a custom bike is one that is built with full control, from the frame up, with only one rider in mind. Every decision when building a custom bike is made to meet the needs of one person. These decisions revolve around aspects such as the frame material, geometry, ride characteristics and qualities, functional and aesthetic features, paint options and accessory choices.
Custom vs. Semi-Custom
Commonly confused as a custom bike, a semi-custom bike, such as a Trek Project One, is a stock bike that is sometimes sold with options available to change aesthetic or accessory options. These options may include upgraded paint schemes or alternative componentry options. Unlike a full custom bike, a semi-custom bike is a stock frame that is built for the masses. In other words, sizing and ride quality are not specific to any particular size, weight or type of rider.
With a plethora of stock bikes available with seemingly unlimited options, some may wonder, why custom? The answers to this are as varied as the riders who choose to go through the custom bike process. For some, the decision may be based on a specific need or function that the bike may serve, from comfortable weekend riding to racing or randonneuring. Building a custom frame means countless decisions will be made that will directly affect the type of ride quality the rider is seeking – from stiff and snappy to stable and cushy. Many choose to have a custom frame designed around a unique fit. Others may make the decision to go custom simply based on aesthetic options such as frame features, paint schemes or componentry and accessory choices. For some the reasoning is a simple as having a bike that is 100% their own.
Custom bikes have become more available as production bikes have increased in price. There is an increasing awareness that have a custom bike is a viable option for riders of all types. Regardless of if a rider is brand new to cycling or a veteran rider or racer, a custom bike allows for full control to meet the needs of one rider. The end result is unlike anything available from a mass production company, even at the highest price points.
BikeWorks Fit Studio: It’s All About You
Unlike a retail bike shop, BikeWorks Fit Studio is a single function place where we can provide riders with uninterrupted, one on one consultation on custom bikes and fitting. Within BikeWorks Fit Studio, our Retül fit station is a large area that allows for 3D motion capture as well as a rotating platform with a wireless CycleOps trainer that allows the fitter a 360-degree view of the rider. A custom bike gallery provides customers with the ability to view the work and options available from various frame builders. The workshop area is equipped with a frame alignment table, all the tools we need and a custom wheel building station. The BikeWorks Fit Studio was designed as a place to make customers as comfortable as possible during the special process of building a custom bike.
The beginning of a custom built frame is a custom fit. A proper fit ensures that a rider is positioned on an appropriate bike that is meeting the needs of the rider’s position and purpose while maintaining comfort.
Retül, a state-of-the-art 3-D motion capture system designed specifically for collecting the most accurate and realistic data, allows us to make recommendations to adjust your bicycle for ultimate comfort and to maximize power. If a rider is already riding a precisely fit bike, we can use the Retül Zin tool to capture the exact measurements of an existing fit. We may then use the information gathered via Retül with BikeCAD, a program designed for custom frame builders and fit specialists.
With a confirmed fit, a balanced custom frame will be designed for the rider, with proper stem length, appropriate seatpost exposure and a saddle centered on the rails – something very difficult to achieve with a stock bike. The combination of data provided by Retül and BikeCAD allow us and the frame builder to compare data and build a perfect bike without any further need of the rider being present.
The custom process is built around a relationship between a rider and our shop. Throughout the process, we will get to know each rider better as a person and as a cyclist. At length, ongoing discussions will allow us to work together to determine a rider’s needs.
The process of building a custom bike begins just as when a customer is buying a bike off the sales floor. That is, we begin by gathering background information to better understand each customer, his needs and desires. We may begin by inquiring:
• What type of bike are you currently riding?
• What is your riding history?
• How would you describe your riding style?
• How often do you ride?
• Do you ride alone or with others?
• What are your expectation for your new bike?
• How do you visualize the aesthetics of the bike?
Not every rider can easily answer these types of questions. Know that custom bikes are a process and that often times, riders who are intrigued but overwhelmed by the thought of a custom bicycle mature over time into cyclists that are ready for the custom experience. Regardless of product knowledge or riding expertise, the custom process is an enjoyable learning experience.
Once we get to know a custom bike buyer, we can work through options, offering our help every step of the way to determine the bike design, componentry options and complementary wheels and accessories. We may then begin to collect data for size and data from bikes that are currently being ridden.
We will transfer this information and that gathered during the Retul fit process to supply the frame builder with pertinent data needed for a custom bike build. Carefully selected tubing and meticulous measurements will be used to create a custom geometry. We will remain in constant communication with the frame builder during the weeks a frame is in process. Using BikeCAD to communicate with the builder, we are able to share information and a blueprint drawing of the frame with the rider as well as provide expert advice on any decisions that need made in the process. The end product is a bike of someone’s dreams that will be perfectly dialed at the time of pick up.
What We Offer: Experience and Expertise
Since 1988, we have worked with some of the world’s best builders to offer hand-built bicycles to our customers. We are proud to offer an expert builder in each category of frame materials: steel, titanium and carbon. Since our beginnings with custom bikes, we have worked with Nobilette for the finest steel frames. Beginning his work with custom bikes in the 70’s, Mark Nobilette is an incredible machinist who has literally built 1000’s of custom frames. In the world of titanium, we work with Eriksen cycles. Kent Eriksen was a trailblazer in titanium bike technology during its introduction into the cycling world. As the previous founder and owner of Moots Cycles, he is now back to his roots, working in a small shop, building one frame at a time. Our latest addition to our custom line up is with Parlee, one of the few companies building custom carbon frames. Bob Parlee began his experience with carbon building in the world of competitive boating and has broke ground in the world of custom carbon bicycles.
Beyond the world-renowned frame builders we work with, we are proud to offer our own experience in custom building. Our specialty in custom bike building is not easily found and sets us apart from other bike shops. What we offer is a unique service that offers out of the ordinary options to our customers. We know that the idea of building a custom bike can be intimidating; our expertise is helping. Regardless if a customer has adequate product knowledge, we are able to use our expertise to educate and guide throughout the process. We will be there every step of the way.
What It’s All About
There’s just one, and it’s all about you. Building anything custom, be it a bike, a house or a suit, allows for a unique design for one person that results in the achievement of a perfect fit for one’s needs and desires. A bicycle is a simple device, but the amount of modifications that can be made to customize a bike’s quality, characteristics and aesthetics are endless. Each custom bike is being built by a hand-builder one at a time and there will never be another just like it.
We know from countless experiences that the smile on a customer’s face after owning a custom bike for years is the same as the first day of owning it. The enjoyment of owning and riding a custom bike goes on and on. For us, that’s what it’s all about.