Custom made frame? Worth it or bull s#%t

Gregstar
Gregstar Posts: 10
edited June 2013 in Road buying advice
Hi all

I currently ride a bianchi c2c. I'm looking for a new bike and don't really know we're to go. I can't really have several bikes so I need one that I can do everything on. I intend to buy it and keep it, not upgrade for a fair few years. I do triathlons, road riding as well as the long group sessions.
I have already decided I don't want a tri bike as I don't get on with tri bars and they are not good for climbing

So do I get a custom made frame and kit it out as I would want it? Or are they a bit if a gimmick? Is it worth it?
These are the custom ones I've seen
http://www.bicycles-by-design.co.uk/sho ... e-bicycles

Or should I just go to Planet X/ribble and order the standard size frame and make it fit using the right parts for me?

Can a custom frame make that much difference?

I'd be looking around £1100 for the frame alone. Plus all the parts bearing in mind I want this bike to be my dream do it all bike so it's going to be a few more £££s after that.

Or there's the off the shelf bikes like the felt AR2?

What are your thoughts

Comments

  • MattC59
    MattC59 Posts: 5,408
    Worth every penny in my experience. I had an Enigma Esprit built for me last year and it's fantastic. It fits me perfectly and rides to my requirements.

    If you've got the cash then I'd highly recommend buying a bespoke frame. Just make sure that you spend plenty of time researching, making sure your requirements are clear and don't jump in too quickly.
    Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed.
    Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved
  • schweiz
    schweiz Posts: 1,644
    I looked into getting a custom frame 5-6 years ago. Their was only a small difference in price between the off-the-shelf frame and the custom frame (IIRC < 10%) so I was really tempted. After being measured up and the more I though about it, I opted for a 'standard' frame as the difference were tiny.

    Unless you need a frame that it significantly different to 'standard' sizing because of your body proportions, flexibility (or lack of) or any other physiological reason, I'd not bother with custom sizing.
  • Hoopdriver
    Hoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    MattC59 wrote:
    Worth every penny in my experience. I had an Enigma Esprit built for me last year and it's fantastic. It fits me perfectly and rides to my requirements.

    If you've got the cash then I'd highly recommend buying a bespoke frame. Just make sure that you spend plenty of time researching, making sure your requirements are clear and don't jump in too quickly.
    Excellent advice.

    I have a bespoke Enigma and it was - is - worth every penny. It is a beautiful bike to look at, and one that is uniquely mine - like no other - but the nicest thing about it is the absolute perfect fit.
  • owenlars
    owenlars Posts: 719
    What everyone has said is correct. The key is to talk to someone who knows how to fit a bike properly, if you fit an off the peg frame well then buy it, if you need to get one made then do that. I can, however, vouch for the fact that a frame made for you, with your own colour scheme and component choice is the next best thing to..... Well a couple of things I can think of :twisted:
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Gregstar wrote:
    So do I get a custom made frame and kit it out as I would want it? Or are they a bit if a gimmick? Is it worth it?
    These are the custom ones I've seen
    http://www.bicycles-by-design.co.uk/sho ... e-bicycles

    That's a seriously expensive way of doing it. Frame builders with less trendy websites will charge far less for a bespoke frame. Also, bear in mind the points already made about whether your body dimensions actually need a bespoke frame. And also note that different manufacturers build to different geometries themselves so, if you are open minded about branding, there is a good chance you'll find a ready made frame made by someone that is a perfect match for you anyway.

    I do wonder how many people have had custom frames built over the years that aren't actually any different to standard geometries available elsewhere.......
    Faster than a tent.......
  • jibberjim
    jibberjim Posts: 2,810
    There is no one correct position, there are hugely different positions depending on what you want to do, how you want to ride etc. Just about any frame has the flexibility to provide the range of positions suitable to meet these needs - but everything is a compromise.

    If you are a particularly unusual size (such as being very short) then the compromises to match what you want may be difficult - for example if you're 5' then it's quite difficult to get a very race orientated bike with 700c wheels - and in that situation it may be worthwhile to go custom to meet that need.

    However it's pretty unlikely that the position you want today will be the same as the position you want in a few years if you're new to cycling - you may decide you want to race, or ride Paris Brest Paris, or only enter Hill Climbs.

    They are not a gimmick, they're just not very useful, remember it's not just the higher initial cost, but the lower resale value too...
    Jibbering Sports Stuff: http://jibbering.com/sports/
  • ugo.santalucia
    ugo.santalucia Posts: 28,301
    schweiz wrote:
    I looked into getting a custom frame 5-6 years ago. Their was only a small difference in price between the off-the-shelf frame and the custom frame (IIRC < 10%) so I was really tempted. After being measured up and the more I though about it, I opted for a 'standard' frame as the difference were tiny.

    Unless you need a frame that it significantly different to 'standard' sizing because of your body proportions, flexibility (or lack of) or any other physiological reason, I'd not bother with custom sizing.

    +1
    left the forum March 2023
  • crikey
    crikey Posts: 362
    Nothing wrong with buying a custom frame if you want one, but very few people actually need one.

    ...and the cynic in me is wondering why custom frames come with adjustable seatposts, stems and handlebars?
  • desweller
    desweller Posts: 5,175
    It's not just the geometry that's custom, fellas. Braze-ons, paintwork, some nice fancy dropouts... Everyone on here is always rattling on about how 'if it's your money why not ride something nice', well to me a frame built to my spec would definitely fall into that category!
    - - - - - - - - - -
    On Strava.{/url}
  • Grill
    Grill Posts: 5,610
    I had the opportunity to go custom for my Massive Attack, but standard geometry works fine for me. Instead I spent the money on badass paint :D
    English Cycles V3 | Cervelo P5 | Cervelo T4 | Trek Domane Koppenberg
  • schweiz
    schweiz Posts: 1,644
    DesWeller wrote:
    It's not just the geometry that's custom, fellas. Braze-ons, paintwork, some nice fancy dropouts... Everyone on here is always rattling on about how 'if it's your money why not ride something nice', well to me a frame built to my spec would definitely fall into that category!

    True but the OP's question seemed to be based on size and fit.
  • desweller
    desweller Posts: 5,175
    schweiz wrote:
    DesWeller wrote:
    It's not just the geometry that's custom, fellas. Braze-ons, paintwork, some nice fancy dropouts... Everyone on here is always rattling on about how 'if it's your money why not ride something nice', well to me a frame built to my spec would definitely fall into that category!

    True but the OP's question seemed to be based on size and fit.

    I thought the words 'dream' and 'bike' were mentioned in close proximity?
    - - - - - - - - - -
    On Strava.{/url}
  • neeb
    neeb Posts: 4,470
    If you are just thinking about fit, there's point going custom unless you understand your fit (as well as bike geometry) very well and know that you need to go custom to get a perfect fit. It's quite easy to get a custom frame built and end up with something that actually fits worse than a frame you could get off the shelf if you don't actually know your perfect geometry. Even if you get fitted up by a specialist, there's a limit to how well they can fit you because a large part of it comes from experience and personal preferences.

    Of course if you want a nice paint job and/or a unique frame made from some exotic metal, that's a good reason for going custom, but if you want something for speed and efficiency you probably want carbon and there aren't all that many custom carbon frame builders (and they are expensive). I'm actually getting a custom steel frame built at the moment, but it's an indulgence, something for long rides in good company when I'm not looking at the power meter... The carbon bike will still be the one for "serious" riding.
  • skyblue337
    skyblue337 Posts: 135
    Custom steel from Enigma is only £80 more than off the shelf so if you can stand the lead time the cost is negligible in the grand scheme. For me it meant I could have the top tube length of the 57 with a taller head tube than even the 59.
  • me-109
    me-109 Posts: 1,915
    schweiz wrote:
    Unless you need a frame that it significantly different to 'standard' sizing because of your body proportions, flexibility (or lack of) or any other physiological reason, I'd not bother with custom sizing.

    +1
    +another 1.

    I did get one custom made years ago. Turns out that my measurements are pretty much average so an off the shelf frame in my size is a pretty good fit. The sizing diagram gives me something good to work from when comparing new frames or full bikes though. I did like having the choice of paint etc. and even went so far as to get my name on it in script under the lacquer.
  • Hoopdriver
    Hoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    DesWeller wrote:
    It's not just the geometry that's custom, fellas. Braze-ons, paintwork, some nice fancy dropouts... Everyone on here is always rattling on about how 'if it's your money why not ride something nice', well to me a frame built to my spec would definitely fall into that category!
    Absolutely.
  • FatTed
    FatTed Posts: 1,205
    Very few people require a custom bike.
    What ever bike you ride your contact points should be the same, get your builder to fit you to your bike,
    The wait time for custom should let you have enough riding time to know if he is right. You can then design the frame around these measurements. For me for some reason I wanted a 100mm stem and horizontal top tube and very few spacers.
    Mine is an indulgence it has the same angles as my Colnago MXL but sizes 56.5 cm and longer chainstays and lower bottom bracket. Of course I think its better than my previous bike, couldn't afford to think any other way.
    http://www.llewellynbikes.com/HTML/Llew ... ycles.html
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    crikey wrote:
    Nothing wrong with buying a custom frame if you want one, but very few people actually need one.

    ...and the cynic in me is wondering why custom frames come with adjustable seatposts, stems and handlebars?

    Tell the cynic in you that stems and handlebars are not part of the frame itself (and few road bikes have adjustable stems and I'm not sure I've ever heard of an adjustable handlebar!) and that the adjustable seatpost is always necessary to a small degree to account for variations in saddle design and shoe stack height.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • smoggysteve
    smoggysteve Posts: 2,909
    Me-109 wrote:
    schweiz wrote:
    Unless you need a frame that it significantly different to 'standard' sizing because of your body proportions, flexibility (or lack of) or any other physiological reason, I'd not bother with custom sizing.

    +1
    +another 1.

    I did get one custom made years ago. Turns out that my measurements are pretty much average so an off the shelf frame in my size is a pretty good fit. The sizing diagram gives me something good to work from when comparing new frames or full bikes though. I did like having the choice of paint etc. and even went so far as to get my name on it in script under the lacquer.

    Something that rarely gets mentioned. What happens if you want to sell it? Who is going to want to buy a second hand bike built to someone else's spec? Fine if you intend keeping it for a long time but if you want to move on to a better bike?
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Something that rarely gets mentioned. What happens if you want to sell it? Who is going to want to buy a second hand bike built to someone else's spec? Fine if you intend keeping it for a long time but if you want to move on to a better bike?

    Assuming someone wants a custom geometry frame because they need one (ie it is genuinely different to a normal geometry frame), what sort of person would they be to choose instead to buy an ill fitting standard geometry frame because it might have a higher resale value?

    It's a bit tragic thinking about resale value anyway but favouring resale value over fit would be a bit demented IMO!
    Faster than a tent.......
  • passout
    passout Posts: 4,425
    Rolf F wrote:
    crikey wrote:
    Nothing wrong with buying a custom frame if you want one, but very few people actually need one.

    ...and the cynic in me is wondering why custom frames come with adjustable seatposts, stems and handlebars?

    Tell the cynic in you that stems and handlebars are not part of the frame itself (and few road bikes have adjustable stems and I'm not sure I've ever heard of an adjustable handlebar!) and that the adjustable seatpost is always necessary to a small degree to account for variations in saddle design and shoe stack height.

    Point is you can flip stems, buy shorter/longer stems and generally adjust the position of a bike built around an off the peg frame to suit you perfectly. Of course some people may have back problems, unusual proportions or other issues that require a custom frame. Personally though I'd just buy an off the the peg frame that fits me and then fine tune with set up - never had any issues with this. Taking advice from experts (ie bike fit) is wothwhile but need not mean a bespoke frame. That said there is nothing wrong with a bespoke frame, may not offer the best value though. Engimas do look nice too...
    'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.
  • smoggysteve
    smoggysteve Posts: 2,909
    Rolf F wrote:
    Something that rarely gets mentioned. What happens if you want to sell it? Who is going to want to buy a second hand bike built to someone else's spec? Fine if you intend keeping it for a long time but if you want to move on to a better bike?

    Assuming someone wants a custom geometry frame because they need one (ie it is genuinely different to a normal geometry frame), what sort of person would they be to choose instead to buy an ill fitting standard geometry frame because it might have a higher resale value?

    It's a bit tragic thinking about resale value anyway but favouring resale value over fit would be a bit demented IMO!

    There are people who genuinely would need a bespoke bike. body shape, old injury etc. Then there are those who get one as a fad or just to be different. I don't go buying bikes with resale in mind but it something that will happen eventually. Not everyone can afford a new bike without selling their old one first to finance it. Also, as has been mentioned, there can be a small difference in geometry from a factory bike and a custom one. For all those that buy custom, how many went for a bike fit before hand? We don't know. I would bet a fair amount of people who bought a custom frame could have easily got comfortable on a factory frame with a correct fitting. One final question, what if the custom bike no longer "fits"? People do change. get bigger, smaller in weight. As we get older joints become less mobile. These changes may only be minute, but the ones on the bike probably are not much bigger. And you are paying for them.
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    There are people who genuinely would need a bespoke bike. body shape, old injury etc. Then there are those who get one as a fad or just to be different. I don't go buying bikes with resale in mind but it something that will happen eventually. Not everyone can afford a new bike without selling their old one first to finance it. Also, as has been mentioned, there can be a small difference in geometry from a factory bike and a custom one. For all those that buy custom, how many went for a bike fit before hand? We don't know. I would bet a fair amount of people who bought a custom frame could have easily got comfortable on a factory frame with a correct fitting. One final question, what if the custom bike no longer "fits"? People do change. get bigger, smaller in weight. As we get older joints become less mobile. These changes may only be minute, but the ones on the bike probably are not much bigger. And you are paying for them.

    Oh I take your point - but of course, the counter to it is that irrespective of who it was made for, a bike frame is a bike frame and will only be suitable for those of the right proportions. If you are oddly proportioned, then a bike frame that fits you perfectly will not fit as many other people perfectly well as a standard geometry frame so yes, it will be worth a bit less second hand. But you can still adjust the fit of a bespoke frame so chances are, lots of people with the similar torso length as you will be able to make it work. And if you are of reasonably average height, chances are your frame will still be worth more in resale than a frame that fits an extremely short or tall person. Bob Jackson charge about £200 extra to make one of their frames to bespoke geometry. Probably in resale you lose that £200 but not much more.

    Besides, if you look at most bespoke geometry frames you'd never be able to tell without getting the tape measure out that they aren't standard geometry anyway.

    PS i've never sold a bike and probably never will!
    Faster than a tent.......
  • Hoopdriver
    Hoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    I've never sold a bike either - and, like you, probably never will.
  • marcusjb
    marcusjb Posts: 2,412
    It's all a very interesting question.

    I always thought I would love a custom frame. A couple of years ago, I went through the process of finding a builder, working with them to design my ideal frame for 'a bike for life'. That part was very interesting and rewarding - the decisions on braze ons, lugs etc. etc. I even visited the paint shop he used to choose my colours etc.

    We'd agreed on a target delivery month around 6 months away. That tied in with my plans nicely. I was beginning to put the idea of riding PBP into my plans and wanted to have the new bike early 2011.

    The builder moved workshop - added around 3 weeks to the build date. Fine, that works.

    Come and see the frame before it goes to the painters he says - great I say. For two successive weeks, he cancels on me last minute.

    Third week - he says he'll definitely have the front triangle for me to see! Off I go - he's only built it with the wrong lugs!

    By this time, I had had enough. I basically told him that he had a week to build the frame correctly, or we were no go. Take it or leave it. He left it.

    Anyway - that's all a bit of a long way of saying I didn't end up with a custom frame. I ended up buying my Condor Fratello frame off the peg with the plan to resume the search for a custom builder after the summer of 2011.

    I still haven't started that search. I am beyond comfy on that Condor. I have ridden rides of 1000km+ on it without dramas. Why would I need a custom frame?

    There's still a hankering for a custom frame - but it is based more on vanity than sanity. I loved the design process, I would love to own something bespoke, but I don't need it.

    I am not that typical a shape - long torso and arms, short legs.

    There are people that need a custom frame to get a bike that fits. Small number of people.

    But most of us don't need one - but many of us want one. But is it worth the extra money? Possibly. I'm riding on a £600 frameset rather than a £1200 one - £600 buys some nice wheels...

    If you're a funny shape, or have some weird and wonderful requirements for extra braze ons etc., or you just want to own something built just for you - go for it!

    If not - there are many very, very good off the peg frames that will be just as comfortable for 99% of us.
  • Gregstar
    Gregstar Posts: 10
    Thanks for the advice. I'm short but I'm short all over and don't think I'm oddly portioned. So maybe try a bike fit and see what fits me best or see if I am odd. Swaying towards Planet X as I can customise my bike from new not buy it then try to get it to fit.
  • passout
    passout Posts: 4,425
    Gregstar wrote:
    Thanks for the advice. I'm short but I'm short all over and don't think I'm oddly portioned. So maybe try a bike fit and see what fits me best or see if I am odd. Swaying towards Planet X as I can customise my bike from new not buy it then try to get it to fit.


    Sounds ike a plan.
    'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.