Custom Bikes compared to Generic bike sizing

Custom Bikes compared to Generic bike sizing

Custom Frames Compared to Generic Factory Bikes : Why Bike Size Charts don’t tell the Whole story

When bike brands like Pinarello and to some extent Wilier offer so many sizes its easy to see why they begin using the term custom. Indeed, Pinarello now use a MYWAY method, which is described as "a configurator to customize your Pinarello... our Italian painters give color to your idea of unique bike." But the term custom is being used at brand discretion and not necessarily true to the original intention of custom bike ideals. Regardless, the wide variety of sizes implies the potential for a very close fit. This is particularly positive for the petite riders. Most brands however offer an average of only 5 bike sizes. We look at the process of bike size charts to see what differences are held against custom bikes that are infinite in their variables.

checking riding flexibility
A good bike shop will ask questions regarding activities off the bike to ensure the model you choose is appropriate to your body as well as your cycling aims

You may ask why the image of this man pictured above? It provides the reason why two riders who share the same physical proportions will not likely feel or ride the same on an identical bike. A riders flexibility and past injury history will impact on their movement and position on the bike. With this in mind, it is illogical to think that a chart based on proportions will provide a concrete conclusion in our perfectly sized bike frame.

Sized charts are rarely followed correctly by customers and, dare I say, most bike shop staff. Why? Because they require specific knowledge about bike geometry and physique. In fact when you visit most large bike shops that use a generic program to check your sizing of their models, they use details from bike charts to come to their conclusions. It takes the work away from staff members and requires little to no skill. Actually you can enter a few details with no experience and come to the same conclusions.

chart for selecting size of a bike
Do you understand these numbers and how they correspond to a riders appropriate size. If the answer is no, you are not alone. A professional bike shop should be capable of translating this table. Unfortunately too many rely on simplistic and unreliable programs.

Programs do not mean the selected size is either exact or right. For instance advising programs found in most department bike shops can not take into account bike feel, which is a very individual experience. Nor will they successfully explain how the bike provides synergy.

"You understand synergy when every chosen and installed component comes perfectly together so that your movement with the bike feels seamless."

Synergy occurs during your ride when you feel part of the bike. This requires many things and starts with the idea of purchasing a bike. At a point of purchase of a true custom bike we don't look at size charts, we look at details regarding your physique, your flexibility, your ride history and experience. It also requires foresight as to what terrain or type of riding your future holds. You understand synergy when every chosen and installed component comes perfectly together so that your movement with the bike feels seamless.

Many size charts are not far from using the technology used by bike advising programs. You can find size charts accompanied by online suggested sizings. You simply enter your height, your inner seam and your gender. The outcome is based on generics. It's rare to find a rider with generic proportions. Often the answer to the perfect bike is found in your unique attributes and not just your height and innerseam. As for your gender, our experience insists this plays no part in deciding frame size whatsoever.

orbea orca with new handlebar

We explore two case studies of riders who purchased Factory complete bikes, and later changed components to suit more personal riding needs. Read more here ...

As with most buying experiences, buying generic complete bikes requires after-purchase alterations. To have you fit the bike, you'll often swap out stems, saddles, bars, gears, crank length, pulleys and the other variables. This can be costly and when the alterations in sizings are significant it indicates a probable problem with the frame. We would always recommend a factory frame custom build, or better still a full custom bike over a factory complete bike. Though we understand the ease of buying complete has its purpose.

When it comes to bike fits, the popularity in the profession tells a story about the lacking generic sizes. It suggests that the need for bike fitting is a direct result of the failures of generic size charts and generic components.

Bike Fit as a result of Generic issues

Fitting a bike is something we cannot rely a simple program to solely and successfully do. There are so many incredible nuances involved in professionally selecting a suitable bike it has become a science. A highly developed sense of geometry, a thorough assessment of the rider, and an understanding of how the body will fit the bike in movement is not something you will commonly experience in a department style bike shop. What you will find is a staff member who either finds the bike that fits the budget and limits options within their range, or who measures you and consults either a computer program or a chart to find your ideal size.

This method is rudimentary to say the least. Unless the system provides a comprehensive methodology such as the Identity Matching System by Selle Italia, the system essentially misses too many nuance in a rider. While a rider may think to save money with the simplified process of purchasing a bike with a generated sizing program, we come across the many mistakes this process develops. The issues begin from injury or pain, to failed performance, wasted money and demotivation.

The objective of purchasing a bike specifically designed for your body and your goals is to reduce distractions that negatively impact your ride and prevent you performing at your best. In essence, a custom bike made by expert masters should correctly add synergy to your ride. What is flow to the artist is synergy to the cyclist. Synergy is dependant on a state of mind and provided by the perfect alignment of a riders goals with the proper equipment.

chesini steel custom bike

As we increase our skillset and our fitness we look to match our betterment by upgrading our equipment. Simultaneously we also increase our challenges. We aim for higher mountains, longer rides, we travel further and, for many of us, we plan holidays on the bike.

And so naturally we look to matching our equipment. We invest in new kit, rain jacket and booties to ward off the foul weather, new set of tyres for better grip and rolling resistance. Our helmets are upgraded to aero, lightweight aerated models.  We buy anti fog glasses with photo-chromatic lenses. The details we chose are based on extending our experience and every change we make distinguishes us as riders. Furthermore we surround ourselves in items that promote better riding to accomplish increasing goals and to achieve more satisfying purpose than often provided by our jobs.

the right gear for riding a bike

It goes without saying that upgrading your bike is part of this process and, like combining all your particular accessories and apparel mentioned above, the combination of parts that make your bike should be identified as specific to you. 

If you're capable of upgrading you're capable of moving through your challenges. Increased synergy is possible. With custom bike geometry the frame is built with your idiosyncrasies in mind with the terrain you'll traverse in sight. Stability and assuredness will follow. A correct bike fit will position you to take advantage of your strengths. The chosen frame material will allow for a specific bike feel. The build will ensure the bikes efficiency and comfort. Appropriate components will combine to offer a perfected holistic functioning machine. Mechanical precision will ward off any functional distractions. And functional accessories and apparel will assist the rider in the details appropriate for any condition.

This holisitic approach is central to our comprehensive custom methodology. The aim is to enhance your ride performance by celebrating what makes you unique.

Synergy is dependant on equipment, but the success of that equipment relies on knowing what works for you. Too often we look to what works for others. We look at our friends, our fellow bunch riders, we look at magazines and journals. We look towards the Manufacturers and Brands, and we look at the Pro’s.

But we don’t get better simply by looking at others, comparing ourselves to others or identifying ourselves by mirroring others. A bike chart will not assist you to extend your strengths and permit your weaknesses. In essence, we only improve when we look to ourselves in order to understand how our choice in equipment must cater to our individual needs.

In conclusion, we each are as intensely different as our goals and our experiences. A clear sense of our riding purpose provides ways to enhance our performance, obtain synergy to increase our potential.

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