How to find your best custom bike builder
So you’re thinking about custom bikes and want to learn more? Likely you’re intrigued by the lure of your own tailor-made fit. Perhaps you want to solve problems with discomfort, or maybe you want a beautiful bike to stand out. Either way, you’ll quickly realise that buying a custom bike is nothing like buying off-the-shelf bicycles. The additional options are so overwhelming some riders just give up because, lets face it, its an expensive mistake if you miss crucial details. But we promise, whether you work with us or take note to answer these suggested enquiries, the feel of a professionally built custom frame is worth it.
1. What tailored bike will suit you?
Understanding where you want to take your future riding is crucial when choosing a suitable custom bike to last. A thorough analysis of your aims and preferences will prioritise the style and potential geometry of bike you’ll need.
Two custom carbon frames by Gianni Pegoretti, DeAnima. The left is built for a road rider very petite. The right is for a commuter wanting to tackle off-road adventure. Both display vastly different geometries.
Breaking down your future riding plans may sound so obvious that we shouldn't have to put it in words. But many riders skip this process and go for the romance of how a bike looks. A custom bike is one you should rightly want to own forever. The best custom bike will motivate you so that every future ride is as profound as the first. Knowing exactly where you want to ride in years to come will help you find the most appropriate frame as opposed to prioritising a bike because its aesthetically appealing or socially popular … which is a sure way to lead to bigger mistakes, buying the wrong bike, and regretting the purchase.
2. Do you know the craftsman responsible for the tailored geometry and frame construction?
This is more important than ever before. Years ago the numbers of frame builders in Italy was prolific. Then two adaptations to technology re-shaped the world : Methods of mass production and the popularity of automobiles. In effect, the cycling industry changed forever. Asia became the centre for cycling mass manufacture while only the most stubborn and adaptable Italian masters refrained from selling their workshops and tools. Some continue to build for specific clients like yourselves who seek tailored options.
The signatures of master frame builders Alberto & Maurizio Barco, stainless steel custom frame at Chainsmith
Now there is an added and growing group of “frame designers” who work under the guise of custom. With the power of social media and marketing riders are easily blinded by their dazzle and even imitation, and forget to question the name of who exactly makes the frames.
Many of these new brands outsource their work and send it to unknown metal workers in Asia. Meanwhile older brands are occasionally bought out, and the silent outsourcing utilises the skills of external frame builders. You can usually know if a brand outsources because the website will avoid the subject of origin and names of frame builders.
Knowing the exact name of the builder is an important point for Chainsmith because it maintains consistency in quality and signature styles. We also have abundant experienced advise and conversation directly with the master who constructs the tubing. Knowing the reason behind why a tube is shaped a certain way or how it is welded, or even the different carbons are used to wrap is an example of this. A practical example involves rider weight limits - a master builder can dictate the exact tubing required to withstand heavy loads and stress without concern for cracking or fatigue.
3. What is the history of the builder?
If the frame is cheaper in comparison, its likely you’ve found a brand without the support of history. While there is an argument that new innovations come from fresh perspective, a cyclist can reach in excess of 70km on a descent. In these situations we’d argue that trust in experience can be hard to pass as opposed to innovation. There are master builders like Gianni Pegoretti possessing a family name entrenched in building frames, but who works with carbon on gravel models. De Rosa is another family name known to cycling circles, Doriano and daughter Mariana De Rosa now specialise in pedigree steel and ti frame building. Testing through trial is certainly not a new thing for masters.
Doriano De Rosa with David Piacenti, Chainsmith. De Rosa started building made-to-measure steel and titanium bicycle frames from 1975. The skills continue at the Bixxis workshop with his daughter Martina.
We enjoy playing part in the history of cycling. When you can name where the frame builder has made the frame alongside the history of the company it certainly changes the relationship you have with a bike. But more than that, skills are developed through generations, tools and techniques are passed on to produce frames that bare details distinct to the brand itself. We value the history a builder creates and are proud to be a part of maintaining respect for craftsman and the art of frame building. Sometimes a clients philosophy toward riding can lead us to a shared respect by a building master. And so the match between the two is aligned.
4. Who will mechanically build the frame?
Of course, the frame is the heart of the bike. However, as the rider you’ll have requirements in terms of your comfort, efficiency and performance appropriate for the terrain you aim to cover. Chosen components can also specifically target your riding aims to address your priorities. Knowledge of what are the best components, what is compatible and available, whether it fits your budget and whether the components will aesthetically suit will be required.
David Piacenti at Chainsmith. The mechanical side to completing a bike build should never be underestimated nor handed to amateurs. You depend on the efficiency and correct advise provided by experience.
Aside from taking care to choose components, the mechanical skills applied to the installation process is equally important. A smooth running drivetrain and synchronised braking depends on proper installation, as well as having the bike look tidy in keeping with the quality of the frame.
5. What details can you add to the bike?
Know the details that can be additionally chosen for areas of the frame, from badges and name plates to paint graphics and colours. Frame builders have signature styles in the form of particular brake bridges or seat clamp systems. Even drop out designs can be a feature.
Chesini produces beautiful high end ti frames designed with the clients choice in material finish.
The details make a frame personal and you can really embellish the finish of the frame. If you’re choosing metals or even carbon, you may like exposed materials, and then chose to paint sections.
For metals you can choose satin, brushed, chromed. These finishes should define how a frame builder chooses to weld. The welds themselves are also something to discuss as they will often identify a builder from another. You may like to keep the welds exposed to show this link to the art of frame building, or hide them so to keep a clean flawless appearance.
When it comes to custom, detail is certainly a joy to work through. It may however be a nightmare if you’re unprepared.
These are some of the inquiries you can find answers for and gain your best custom frame. Of course there will be considerations with materials, geometry and measurements as well. But if you keep these questions close as you move through the practical stages of frame choice you will be equiped to make better choices to serve your riding aspirations long into the future.
If you're interested in working with our custom bike building consultants, please continue by filling out the Recommended Best Bike Form. We're happy to assist to clarify your best options.