Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => General Discussion => Topic started by: hikerjer on March 31, 2018, 08:21:53 pm

 
Title: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: hikerjer on March 31, 2018, 08:21:53 pm
I've been giving some serious thought to purchasing a custom built touring bike in the very near future. I haven't decided on a builder yet but would like to hear from folks who have a custom built touring bike. As we all know, they don't come cheap. I'm wondering if your experience with a custom built bike vs. a mass produced one from a reputable manufacturer, justifies the extra cost.

Thanks.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: dedgren on March 31, 2018, 08:48:09 pm
[...snip...]

I'm wondering if your experience with a custom built bike vs. a mass produced one from a reputable manufacturer, justifies the extra cost.

Hey, hikerjer, I can’t speak from the experience of having a custom frame built, but I can tell you that a quality mass-produced touring bike frame such as a Surly Disc Trucker can be used as the basis of a great touring machine by adding custom components to your heart’s content.  The components on my bike: Rohloff Speedhub, custom built wheels on Velocity Dyad rims with Schwalbe Marathon+ tires, Brooks B17 Deluxe saddle, Schmidt Dynamo Powerhub, Supernova lights and Powertap, Tubus steel racks and the like, are worth many times the cost of the frame.  In a way you can say that it was custom-built, as I didn’t put all that stuff together.  The guys at my LBS did, and they did a great job.  I’m sure I could have somehow done better (and probably spent a bunch more money) but I have 7,500 quite happy miles/12,000 kilometers on the bike over the past two years and am not looking back.



Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: ghh@me.com on April 01, 2018, 01:21:05 am
The biggest advantage a custom frame gives you is getting a bike that absolutely fits you perfectly.  If you have certain physical features (under 5 foot 5, over 6 foot 4, very long/short legs or torso or arms, super light(less than 90#'s), Large (>250#'s)) then a custom bike may be your only hope of getting a truly well-fit bike.  People of average dimensions can usually get a really good fit from a production bike and possibly the use of a professional bike fitter. 

Another feature of a custom bike is that you can get exactly the goodies you want (3-4-5! water bottles, S&S frame couplers, rack mounts, fender mounts, go pro mounts, etc)

And dont underestimate a cool paint job. 

And lastly, let me put in a plug for United Bicycle Institute in Oregon.  (https://www.bikeschool.com/index.php/classes/frame-building). You can go to one of their classes and build your own frame in either steel or titanium.  I built a Ti frame (having never welded anything in my life) that weighs 3.5 pounds, has a super low BB and loooooong chainstays and slack head angle and steep seat angle (all my preferences).  The Ti class costs about $3k and takes 2 weeks.  If you paid a custom Ti builder that same amount of money, you might get a little lighter bike (the Ti tubes I used arent butted) but I think you'd probably have to spend a lot more.

Just my 2 cents.

Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: Inge on April 01, 2018, 02:08:36 am
If you can afford a custon built bike - I would go for one. have done so myself and cost wise it does not make much difference with a mass producuced frame and adding custom components. For me a mass produced frame was not an option because I wanted ie a dropperpost (hip poblem) as well as a top tube that is a bit shorter for I need to sit a bit more upright. Had my bike build by M-Gineering (Hollands top holdiday/ touring bike builder). If you are wondering what he builds a link to his photoalbum http://www.m-gineering.nl/mindex.htm (http://www.m-gineering.nl/mindex.htm).

However select a builder with care and make sure that you what you want so that you can use his/ her expertise to fine tune your wishes.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: DaveB on April 01, 2018, 10:17:41 am
And lastly, let me put in a plug for United Bicycle Institute in Oregon.  (https://www.bikeschool.com/index.php/classes/frame-building). You can go to one of their classes and build your own frame in either steel or titanium.  I built a Ti frame (having never welded anything in my life) that weighs 3.5 pounds, has a super low BB and loooooong chainstays and slack head angle and steep seat angle (all my preferences).  The Ti class costs about $3k and takes 2 weeks.  If you paid a custom Ti builder that same amount of money, you might get a little lighter bike (the Ti tubes I used arent butted) but I think you'd probably have to spend a lot more.
Wow, considering the extensive training that competent commercial Ti welders go through, I'd be very leery of trusting a bike frame welded by a complete neophyte.  I'd watch and inspect those welds carefully and frequently.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: aggie on April 01, 2018, 10:47:50 am
I have a custom Moots.  It's their older Mootour model.  It is very comfortable if a little expensive.  I plan to keep it as long as I can ride.  It is a Ti frame (no paint) so I don't worry about scratches or rust.  Make sure you know how you are going to use and equip the bike before you purchase it.  It can be a pain and real expensive to make changes after the fact.  For instance: are you going to be using panniers (front and rear) or a trailer or both; how wide a tire; do you want fenders, do you want pump pegs, do you want to be able to attach a kick stand, just road riding or do you want to go off road; are you going to be taking it on airplanes (S&S couples).  The only real change I'd like to make to mine is disk brakes.  They were just starting to come out at the time I got mine and wasn't an option.  Not really possible to add them now so I'd have to get a new bike (per the manufacturer).  I love mine and I'm sure any one you purchase will be perfect for you.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: canalligators on April 01, 2018, 11:57:35 am
What problem are you trying to solve with a custom bike?  Are you unable to get a good fit with a good production bike?  You might better spend some money on a good pro fitting, then see if a custom frame is warranted.

But I have a couple of biases.  I prioritize function way over appearance.  I’m also big on cost effectiveness.  And I’ve had a series of production bikes over the years that worked well and I got very attached to.

If bragging rights for having a custom frame, or appearance, are important to you, knock yourself out, it’s your money.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: hikerjer on April 01, 2018, 02:40:36 pm
"it’s your money" - you're right about that.  ;)
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: Pat Lamb on April 01, 2018, 03:08:51 pm
I'm wondering if your experience with a custom built bike vs. a mass produced one from a reputable manufacturer, justifies the extra cost.

I have a custom "sport touring" bike, although it's not the one I take for most tours.  I got the custom bike with S&S couplers specifically so I could take it on business travel, when I expected 4-6 2-week trips per year.  I could take that bike as my second checked bag, free.  That lasted two years, until I changed jobs and the airlines got even worse and started charging $$ for bags.

That was my reason for buying a custom bike; what's yours?

The $1500 production bikes for loaded touring are very good.  Duplicating that in a custom bike costs roughly $3,000 and up.  Unless there's something you really need different, that's $1,500 freely spent with little or no return.  Remember the $1,000 app you could get for your cell phone a few years back that did nothing, but you could show it to people to brag about how you could spend that kind of money?

Now for the flip side of the coin, so to speak.  If you have problems getting fitted to a bike, that's a good reason to go custom.  If you have at least, let's say, a month of touring under your tires, then you might have some ideas of something that's not available in a mass produced frame, that would be another good reason to go custom.  If you're going to do lots of air travel and want something to take with you, that's another reason.  Just be aware that you might save $300 per trip, and it'll probably cost you $1,500-$2,000 above the "base" custom price to get set up with a coupled bike (or Bike Friday), so it's going to take a LOT of travel for that option to pay off.  (Remember you'll want a case, and couplers, and your choice of several other parts will be limited to travel with that bike.)

Let's say you got that custom bike.  What do you do with it when you're on tour?  If you lean it up against a wall, the wall might scratch that rad paint job.  If you run into a convenience store for a nature break, are you going to worry about will the bike be there when you come out?  Brag about how much it costs, and do you really want to camp in the park in that town and leave Precious Bike outside your tent?  What will you do if it's stolen or damaged?  If it was a production bike, it's feasible to budget a couple thou to replace the bike and keep touring.  If it takes 6 months to get a new custom, are you going home to pout until next year?

Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: hikerjer on April 01, 2018, 05:33:28 pm
You raise some good points. As to why I 'd buy a custom bike, mostly because I'd like one.  Call it vanity, snobbishness, bragging rights - whatever.  Just something I always thought I'd like. I currently have a Kona Sutra witch is a nice bike but I'd still like something special.  Whether I actually spring for a custom bike remains to be seen. It's always been a dream of mine.  As for damaging it, that's an issue with any costly bike so I'll just live with it.  As for it being stolen in spite of being careful, I have an insurance rider on my home owners insurance which has a very reasonable premium and which covers loss, theft or damage to my bicycle and gear. Maybe those points don't make sense to you, but they're all I got.

Appreciate your  comments.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: RussSeaton on April 01, 2018, 07:28:00 pm
As to why I 'd buy a custom bike, mostly because I'd like one.  Call it vanity, snobbishness, bragging rights - whatever.

That is one of the three valid reasons for getting a custom touring bike.  Those logical reasons are:
1.  Vanity.  Different from everyone else.  Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.  Its unique for me.
2.  Size.  You are oddly shaped and no stock frame fits you.
3.  Special function.  S&S couplers would be a special function.  Although several touring frame makers offer this as an option on factory bikes (Gunnar).  Disc brakes, built on racks, kick stand, bell, pump peg, nine water bottle holders, mixte frame, belt drive, eccentric bottom bracket, etc.  Something that is not offered on stock frames.

If you want a custom bike for any of those reasons, go for it.  But if you think you are going to get a "better" bike with custom over stock, then you are smoking weed and chugging booze.  Custom does not get you any better functionality.  Custom or standard bikes all work the same and function the same.  Neither is better or worse than the other for riding a bicycle.  Or touring on the bicycle.  Bicycles, and touring bicycles, have been around for many decades now.  They have been perfected.  No one is going to invent a better mouse trap or bicycle.  You can maybe refine it a little bit.  But there is no miracle break through a custom builder is going to give you on a bike.  Everyone is working with the exact same materials and construction techniques and ideas that have been around for decade and decades.  There are no new ideas out there.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: hikerjer on April 01, 2018, 08:18:11 pm
"then you are smoking weed and chugging booze"  - well, in the wasted days of my youth, maybe. But back then, I really didn't care about getting a custom bicycle.  The old J.C. Penne model I had was fine.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: Pat Lamb on April 01, 2018, 08:56:00 pm
As to why I 'd buy a custom bike, mostly because I'd like one.  Call it vanity, snobbishness, bragging rights - whatever.  Just something I always thought I'd like. I currently have a Kona Sutra witch is a nice bike but I'd still like something special. 

That's fine.  Key point is you know (and can "verbalize" - at least on the screen) what you want and why.

Call me sentimental if you want.  I got a new frame, with a mix of new parts and old, as a warranty claim 10 miles into my cross country trip.  I had some nasty things to say about it, including calling it "Iron Pig" because it wallows like a pig when it's fully loaded and it's steel, during the trip.  But the longer ago that trip becomes, the more I value that bike; its worth to me is tied up with the experiences, bad and good, I had on it.  I'd say I value it more than the coupled custom bike, except for some rides like the out-and-back to Promontory Point on the Bilenky.

Back toward the topic, I'd note that there are a few things that would force you towards custom.  If you want a low trail bike with 650b tires, you'll tend towards custom.  Rim brakes, strange as it seems, are getting rare on production bikes.  I suspect trendiness has more to do with those decisions that function.  The same could be said of fancy paint jobs, which is why I tend to pick on them.  Like a fantastic flame fade paint job, I'd also like a Ferrari, but I'd never pay for a monster like either.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: Patco on April 01, 2018, 09:53:06 pm
I toured for a number of years with 'mass produced' bikes, and it was fine. About 10 years ago I decided I wanted a custom bike on which to tour. I now tour on a Waterford, as does my spouse. I wouldn't go back. My spouse said it well...its like driving a BMW compared to a truck. Different strokes for different folks. I didn't ask anybody what they thought since I did not care. If you want a custom bike then just ignore the noise and purchase a custom bike. Also, when I purchased our bikes I also obtained touch-up paint for any eventual scratches.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: zzzz on April 02, 2018, 05:51:18 am
Count me as a +1 to Aggie's and Patco posts. If you're comfortable with the money it costs and you want to treat yourself, theres a lot worse things you can spend the 2 or 3k difference between a good stock and a custom bike.

I've had 3 bikes built over the last 20 years. They have all been made by Tom Kellogg (aka Spectrum Cycles). In 1998 I had a (steel) race bike built that replaced my original race bike that I bought in 1973 w paper route money. Then 7 years ago when I got it in my head I was going to do a C to C ride, I got him to build me a Ti bike that was appropriate for that. Last year was the GDMBR so I needed a another bike for that. All 3 of them were some of the best consumer experiences of my life as dealing with Tom and the process is a pleasure. I'm coming up on 70,000 miles between the '98 & the '12 bike and over the time I have ridden them I continue to get a kick out of how sweet they are.

Find someone you can trust. Talk to previous customers to see if they were happy. Know what you want from the bike and then take their advice on how to best accomplish that. And I would recommend you find someone within driving distance to actually see you on a bike. I think all these guys will build a bike to your body measurements and a couple of photos but for that kind of commitment I would want them to see me on my existing bike. Talk about what you like and don't like about it. And then at pick up to have them make any final adjustments after you take a short inaugural ride.

And lastly, if you're going w a 1 or 2 man shop (as opposed to Moots or Waterford who may be different) do not consider the delivery date as set in stone. If they tell you it will be done in April, maybe it will be, and maybe it will be done in June. Some serious anxiety can be avoided if the nominal bike completion date and your tour start date are at least several months apart.

Pete

Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: paddleboy17 on April 04, 2018, 04:05:39 pm
I started off with an off the shelf touring bike.  Most so called touring bikes sold are light touring or sport touring bikes, and they never ever have panniers on them.  The bike companies know this, so be advised that most off the shelf touring bikes are terrible touring bikes.  My off the shelf touring bike was a great ride, until you put panniers on it, at which point it wiggled and was unstable to ride.  The factory gearing was also too high to tour on.

So I bought a full custom frame from Waterford and had it built up as a touring bike.  There is nothing special about me that requires a custom frame. Sure I got to add features I wanted (that would not have come on a factory frame).  I don't know what Waterford did in designing my frame but I ended up with a fabulous touring bike.  I can make the frame flex, but it immediately dampens out.  I chose the components, so of course the gearing is perfect.

So if you are going to look at a stock bike, be sure to try riding it under load to make sure it really is a touring bike.  A lot of people start with stock bikes and work into a custom bike, and vanity is never one of their motivating factors.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: adventurepdx on April 04, 2018, 04:36:36 pm
I started off with an off the shelf touring bike...be advised that most off the shelf touring bikes are terrible touring bikes.  My off the shelf touring bike was a great ride, until you put panniers on it, at which point it wiggled and was unstable to ride.

When exactly did you start out with an "off the shelf" touring bike? I got my Surly Long Haul Trucker 10 years ago and it was very stable to ride with panniers, front and back. While I had the bike built from a bare frame/fork, I've heard that the gearing on the stock builds has been good for touring.

Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: BikeliciousBabe on April 04, 2018, 05:02:19 pm
I got my Surly Long Haul Trucker 10 years ago and it was very stable to ride with panniers, front and back. While I had the bike built from a bare frame/fork, I've heard that the gearing on the stock builds has been good for touring.
Mine has served me well since 2008, even fully loaded on unpaved, hilly and mountainous terrain, although last year I dropped the granny from a 26t to a 24t for physiological reasons. Have never come close wiping out due to handling reasons.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: Pat Lamb on April 04, 2018, 05:09:09 pm
Touring bikes may have been noodly 20-30 years ago (except for the Trek 520 and Cannondale touring series), but most loaded tourers made today have pretty stout frames.  Production touring bikes went through a phase maybe 10-15 years ago when the manufacturers went to "road triples" with lows of 27 gear inches, which is pretty high for loaded riding in mountains.  However, bikes like the LHT, Fuji Touring, REI 1.1, and Salsa Marrakesh have low gears around 20 gear inches.  You can get about one gear lower than that, but it's getting close to the zone where it's easier to push the bike than ride it.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: hikerjer on April 04, 2018, 05:56:39 pm
My current touring bike is a 2012 stock Kona Sutra. While it is a mass produced bike, it's a good one and certainly built as a dedicated touring bike.- frame geometry,  tire clearance, rack braze-ons, etc. The only improvements I made were lower gearing and a Brooks B-17 saddle.  It's actually been a very good bike but there is still something in me that desires a custom built bike. Maybe it's because I'll never be able to afford a BMW or Lexus so I'll go  with what I can afford. :D
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: EmilyG on April 06, 2018, 09:34:55 pm
I have a custom Bruce Gordon Rock & Road Touring bike, built 2016-17.    Love this bike, and all I want to do is ride this bike.  You take someone who has built bikes for a living for decades, with all that experience and knowledge....he measures you, measures the bike you ride on, asks about what you like/don't like about your current bike, asks what you intend to do with the bike, and he does magic with tubes and welders.    This bike fits, and it does exactly what it was designed to do.  May of my complaints from previous bikes are GONE.  I am comfortable and feel like I belong on this bike.

Granted, I saved for 3 years to get this bike, and it is likely the last bike I will ever buy (unless I decide to go the recumbent route in my later elder years).   I have ridden on many off-the-shelf bikes and just had never been happy with the fit for my short torso/long legs frame.

And yes, there is a bit of personal pride in it.   This is a very, very good bike, built by an excellent craftsman, and people who know the name come up to talk about the bike and the builder, in the most obscure locations!
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: EmilyG on April 08, 2018, 11:58:42 pm
Let's say you got that custom bike.  What do you do with it when you're on tour?  If you lean it up against a wall, the wall might scratch that rad paint job.  If you run into a convenience store for a nature break, are you going to worry about will the bike be there when you come out?  Brag about how much it costs, and do you really want to camp in the park in that town and leave Precious Bike outside your tent?  What will you do if it's stolen or damaged?  If it was a production bike, it's feasible to budget a couple thou to replace the bike and keep touring.  If it takes 6 months to get a new custom, are you going home to pout until next year?
(snipped by me for focus)

Well, I am not concerned too much about scratches, I lock my bike, and I don't tell random people that it is a custom bike.  People who know Bruce Gordon bikes come up and talk to me about it, and that's really cool to have that connection.   My bike doesn't LOOK like a bells and whistles bike, unless you know what you're looking for.  It flies under the radar.    I figure if my bike gets stolen, it's going to  likely end my tour.  That would be the case no matter the bike. I can't budget to replace it, so I will protect it.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: staehpj1 on April 09, 2018, 06:52:27 am
I figure if my bike gets stolen, it's going to  likely end my tour.  That would be the case no matter the bike. I can't budget to replace it, so I will protect it.
That is one way to look at it. Me, I ride a bike well within my means and figure I could easily replace it at any time with no real pain.  Whether loss/theft would end my tour, that would depend on the tour.  For a shortish tour, yes, I'd just go home.  For a multi month tour, I'd be far more likely to do whatever it takes to continue.

I find that bikes in the $1000-1500 are in a sweet spot where spending more buys you less and less in improvement.  They are really very good bikes and very serviceable.

Again, just me, but I'd only buy a custom bike if it really solved a fit problem that I couldn't resolve on an off the rack bike.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: BikeliciousBabe on April 09, 2018, 10:14:56 am
That would be the case no matter the bike. I can't budget to replace it, so I will protect it.

Inasmuch as Gordon has retired from the biz, the bike is irreplaceable. Sounds like you got your just in time.  8)
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: EmilyG on April 09, 2018, 10:43:24 am
That would be the case no matter the bike. I can't budget to replace it, so I will protect it.

Inasmuch as Gordon has retired from the biz, the bike is irreplaceable. Sounds like you got your just in time.  8)

Indeed!  Ours were two of the last he made. We ordered them, and then he had a wreck on gravel, hurt his knee, and was unable to work for months.  It took almost a year to get our bikes, from the time we ordered them. And he announced his retirement soon after. Fortunately, we weren't planning to do our first long tour until this year, so we weren't freaking out about the delay!  (our only worry at the time was that he wouldn't be able to make them at all....)   Well worth the wait.  For me, knowing that Bruce went over every detail of this bike gives me great peace of mind and confidence.   Plus this bike is a sweet ride. Fits like a glove.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: paddleboy17 on April 09, 2018, 12:11:08 pm
I started off with an off the shelf touring bike...be advised that most off the shelf touring bikes are terrible touring bikes.  My off the shelf touring bike was a great ride, until you put panniers on it, at which point it wiggled and was unstable to ride.

When exactly did you start out with an "off the shelf" touring bike? I got my Surly Long Haul Trucker 10 years ago and it was very stable to ride with panniers, front and back. While I had the bike built from a bare frame/fork, I've heard that the gearing on the stock builds has been good for touring.

I got my Waterford in 2008.  2008 is also the year that I saw my first LHT.  I have seen a lot of people ride on them, but I have not seen anyone touring on one.  I might add that Surly does not push the LHT as a light touring bike. 
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: paddleboy17 on April 09, 2018, 12:16:57 pm
Let's say you got that custom bike.  What do you do with it when you're on tour?  If you lean it up against a wall, the wall might scratch that rad paint job.  If you run into a convenience store for a nature break, are you going to worry about will the bike be there when you come out?  Brag about how much it costs, and do you really want to camp in the park in that town and leave Precious Bike outside your tent?  What will you do if it's stolen or damaged?  If it was a production bike, it's feasible to budget a couple thou to replace the bike and keep touring.  If it takes 6 months to get a new custom, are you going home to pout until next year?
(snipped by me for focus)

Well, I am not concerned too much about scratches, I lock my bike, and I don't tell random people that it is a custom bike.  People who know Bruce Gordon bikes come up and talk to me about it, and that's really cool to have that connection.   My bike doesn't LOOK like a bells and whistles bike, unless you know what you're looking for.  It flies under the radar.    I figure if my bike gets stolen, it's going to  likely end my tour.  That would be the case no matter the bike. I can't budget to replace it, so I will protect it.

Touring bike with panniers on them are not exactly sexy looking.  I don't think they are anymore likely to be stolen than any other bike, and the morons doing the theft don't know what they are stealing anyhow.  Adding a rider to your home owner's insurance to cover a bike is pretty cheap.  I think my Waterford is $50/year.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: staehpj1 on April 09, 2018, 12:26:14 pm
2008 is also the year that I saw my first LHT.  I have seen a lot of people ride on them, but I have not seen anyone touring on one.
I am surprised to read that.  On some tours the LHT was the most common bike among other tourists I met.  That especially was true of my Trans America in 2007 and my Pacific Coast tour in 2011.  It for some reason seemed less common, but still popular on my other tours.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: paddleboy17 on April 09, 2018, 01:29:18 pm
2008 is also the year that I saw my first LHT.  I have seen a lot of people ride on them, but I have not seen anyone touring on one.
I am surprised to read that.  On some tours the LHT was the most common bike among other tourists I met.  That especially was true of my Trans America in 2007 and my Pacific Coast tour in 2011.  It for some reason seemed less common, but still popular on my other tours.
I tend to do shorter trips in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  I am seeing more touring bikes now that the US routes are taking off.  USBR 35 covers a lot of my favorites. 

My wife has family in Oregon, right on the Trans America route, and I have done a lot of day rides there.  It must be a timing thing as I never saw a single touring bike there.  I suspect the bikes come through in the spring and the fall but not summer.
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: hikerjer on April 09, 2018, 09:39:12 pm
Just  couple of comments.  First, I agree with attaching a rider to your renter's or homeowner's insurance. It's remarkably affordable and while your bike and gear may be stolen and that may end the trip, you can recover your losses and live to ride another day. I'd look into it 

My observations on LHTs are pretty much as staehpj1's. Seems like you can't  swing a dead cat while on tour without hitting one.
Easily the most common bike I've seen on my tours.

Finally, the last thing I worry about is scratches and dents on my bike. It's going to happen sooner or later so why worry about it. I don't see my bike as a museum piece but as something to be used and used a lot.
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: BikeliciousBabe on April 10, 2018, 09:32:40 am
That would be the case no matter the bike. I can't budget to replace it, so I will protect it.

Inasmuch as Gordon has retired from the biz, the bike is irreplaceable. Sounds like you got your just in time.  8)

Indeed!  Ours were two of the last he made. We ordered them, and then he had a wreck on gravel, hurt his knee, and was unable to work for months.  It took almost a year to get our bikes, from the time we ordered them. And he announced his retirement soon after. Fortunately, we weren't planning to do our first long tour until this year, so we weren't freaking out about the delay!  (our only worry at the time was that he wouldn't be able to make them at all....)   Well worth the wait.  For me, knowing that Bruce went over every detail of this bike gives me great peace of mind and confidence.   Plus this bike is a sweet ride. Fits like a glove.
I talked to Bruce back in '99 in preparation for my first tour. His former associate, Robert Beckman, was having some trouble delivering my custom racks and panniers so I was exploring alternatives. Seemed like a very nice guy. Fortunately, Beckman came through after I gave him a drop-dead delivery date, which was only three weeks before the start of my tour.
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: fastrog on April 19, 2018, 03:19:58 am
Well, I think a custom built bike is an unnecessary luxury. But over-the-counter bikes may not meet your needs. As some people alluded to above, I went with something in-between, after a lot of research. An excellent frame from Surly, and them working with my regular bike-shop guys on the build. Got the major components on-line, for best pricing, and saved by using things like my REI 20 percent off member coupon. Ended up with a great bike, with better components than the stocky Surly. Spent more than a stock Surly, but think I got a bike comparable to the  customs -- for less money.
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: paddleboy17 on April 19, 2018, 12:28:21 pm
Well, I think a custom built bike is an unnecessary luxury. But over-the-counter bikes may not meet your needs. As some people alluded to above, I went with something in-between, after a lot of research. An excellent frame from Surly, and them working with my regular bike-shop guys on the build. Got the major components on-line, for best pricing, and saved by using things like my REI 20 percent off member coupon. Ended up with a great bike, with better components than the stocky Surly. Spent more than a stock Surly, but think I got a bike comparable to the  customs -- for less money.

I don't think anyone would every buy a custom bike for its equipment, you buy one because there is something worthwhile in the frame.  Part of what makes a custom bike so expensive is cost of equipping it.  You can almost always buy a finished stock bike for what a build kit costs, based on the the same components and wheel set.  There are 3 ways to buy parts:  at list price, in a build kit ( where you save 10% or 20%, it has been a while so I don't remember exactly, other than being disappointed on the discount for a build kit), or attached to a bike.  When you buy a new stock bike, most better bike shops will give you a credit for the parts that you don't like as long as you buy the replacement parts from them.

There are lots of reasonable reasons for getting a custom bike.  I went that way because at the time I did not believe that I could get a stiff enough frame from any of the stock bike makers.  I did indulge myself with a lugged frame, but I did not get hand carved, stainless steel lugs from Italy.  I have a friend with a long torso and short legs, and he has fit issues outside of what can be done with a set back seat post and a longer stem.  Most of his bikes are custom, just to get the fit issues right.   Many women have a hard time getting a bike to fit them.  The big guys seem to have walked away from women specific bikes.  I know of a local bike shop whose business plan seemed to be fitting petite Latinas on Gunnar (Waterford's budget line) frames.  If you are tall and thin, there is a stock bike for you.  Everyone else has fit challenges. And most small frames are designed for adolescent males, not women.
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: Goodaches on April 19, 2018, 11:26:18 pm
When I couldn't find a production bike equipped and geared as I wanted I began to fantasize a bit on how I'd like to spec a custom bike. But, having had 4 locked bikes stolen over the past four decades I didn't want to be that commitment to a bike not readily replaceable.  So, I was delighted last fall when I saw the 2018 specs for the Surly ECR 27+. It exactly met my very practical specs including gearing that makes sense for loaded touring. Wife and I got a matched pair in Octobef and we'll use them on GDMBR this year.
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: David W Pratt on April 28, 2018, 03:33:55 pm
Perhaps you could consider a semi custom.  I second Emily G's sentiments about the BG Rock and Road quality.  If you find one, used, that fits you will have a lifetime treasure.  One further consideration, the Beckman pannier choices that fit the BGs are superb, pricey, but superb.
Good luck
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: Ryld on May 24, 2018, 04:22:06 am
If you fly the best custom bike add on to get is those socket collars that let you split the bike in half. I think you can pay them 600+ and they will take a frame and put on the coupling collars but if you are going to pay that much is is better just to start with a coupled frame from the start.
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: DaveB on May 25, 2018, 09:25:01 am
If you fly the best custom bike add on to get is those socket collars that let you split the bike in half. I think you can pay them 600+ and they will take a frame and put on the coupling collars but if you are going to pay that much is is better just to start with a coupled frame from the start.
They are S&S Couplers and, while they can be retrofit to an existing steel or Ti frame, they are a very expensive addition.  I agree, it's better to get a frame factory equipped with them to begin with.

Also, unless you fly with your bike frequently, the extra cost of the couplers may not be worth it as the airlines now charge for all checked baggage so the ability to have the bike fly free is gone.  Finally, you have to have a place to store the packing case while you are on your ride so if you are doing a point-to-point tour the case will be a problem. 
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: Pat Lamb on May 25, 2018, 09:50:26 am
In addition to the $600 the S&S couplers will cost, you'll want the case ($250-$400 IIRC).  You'll want to get the bike repainted, if you start with an existing bike (maybe $200). 

Of course, custom bikes already come painted, but they start pricey and go up.  Cheapest custom I know of with S&S couplers is about $3,000 now.

OTOH, it does fly as a second or third piece of checked luggage.  That's currently $35 per leg, $70 round trip.  Stinking airlines charge $150-$200 per leg for a normal bike.  I've had my S&S coupled bike for about 10 years now, and while I don't know if it's paid for itself in reduced airline fees yet, I've enjoyed the ride.

Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: netdomonz on June 03, 2018, 04:44:28 am
it's your money, up to you
Title: Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
Post by: ghh@me.com on March 17, 2019, 03:12:32 am
And lastly, let me put in a plug for United Bicycle Institute in Oregon.  (https://www.bikeschool.com/index.php/classes/frame-building). You can go to one of their classes and build your own frame in either steel or titanium.  I built a Ti frame (having never welded anything in my life) that weighs 3.5 pounds, has a super low BB and loooooong chainstays and slack head angle and steep seat angle (all my preferences).  The Ti class costs about $3k and takes 2 weeks.  If you paid a custom Ti builder that same amount of money, you might get a little lighter bike (the Ti tubes I used arent butted) but I think you'd probably have to spend a lot more.
Wow, considering the extensive training that competent commercial Ti welders go through, I'd be very leery of trusting a bike frame welded by a complete neophyte.  I'd watch and inspect those welds carefully and frequently.


I have now ridden said neophyte welded bike about 2000 miles of mountain biking.  So far so good.  The UBI class teachers are super involved in the build process.  And you learn lots of tech savvy sayings.  The one that stuck with me the most is this:   a good titanium weld will last forever.  One that is too cold will fail catastrophically.  One that is too hot will fail gradually. 


It is just so satisfying to ride a bike you welded together.  Insert plug for UBI here again!  (https://bikeschool.com)
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: dim on June 10, 2019, 03:46:23 pm
my first post (great forum!)... im UK based

I've recently bought a 1985 Miyata One Thousand touring bike in mint condition ....

I ride Audax but want to do some touring (wild camping/fishing) and my 1st trip planed is a 650km fishing/camping trip along the south coast of Ireland

I'm 5'7 and looked carefully at the geometry and the most important critera was the top tube length ... My other bike is a Trek Emonda Sl6 with Dura Ace Di2 and that is a 52cm ....

top tube length of the Miyata in 50cm is alsmost identical to the 52cm Trek

bought the Miyata and I went for a bike fit from a local LBS who was recomended by several cyclists in my area

the price was not cheap (£200) and what I can say is that before I had the bike fit, I set the bike to what I felt was correct ....

after the bike fit, things were set up a lot differently .... hard to explain the difference, but the easiest way to describe it is that before the bike fit, I was sitting 'ontop' of the bike, where as now I'm sitting 'inside' the bike (if that makes sense)

the fit that I had took over 2 1/2 hours, was amazing as it was in 3D and the computer automatically gave all the angles and highlighted the problems in red (amazing software) ... cleats were also properly set, I needed insoles in my shoes, arse measurements were taken to ensure that the saddle is suitable, handlebar width was checked etc etc

the fit I had was with software called STT 3DMA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx_tkGUtYTY (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx_tkGUtYTY)

so what I'm saying is that you don't have to get a custom frame built because even that might not fit you properly if the people making it don't have the correct software to check each and every angle as you cycle

get a bike that has the correct top tube length..... go for a proper computerized 3D bike fit .... you amy need to change the stem length, handlebars, saddle  etc, but you will have a bike that fits proper, and which is comfortable for long distances



Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: hikerjer on June 11, 2019, 01:51:14 am
Thanks for the input. As you alluded to, fit is everything. Like boots, the most finest, most expensive bike is worthless to you if  it doesn't fit.
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: staehpj1 on June 11, 2019, 07:16:48 am
Just me, but...

The biggest and best reason to get a custom bike is if there is some bio-mechanical fit reason and an off the shelf frame doesn't offer what you need because of your body characteristics.  I think it is a fairly rare case where it really makes sense for that reason.  If it makes sense for that reason then absolutely go for it.

The next best reason is probably because you want the braze ons, do dads, and finish just so.  Personally I think that it will usually be a pretty steep price for not much in return, but if it is important enough to you, and you can afford then it go for it.  Me, I figure that stuff can always be worked out well enough on an off the shelf frame.

Last if you just want the bragging rights of saying you have a custom bike and can afford it, it is your money.  This last one seems like a lame reason to me unless there is some pretty good support for it in the first two reasons, but it isn't my bike or my money.

I am not rich, but am well enough off that I could buy whatever bike I want without too much pain and I always subscribed to the "good enough is good enough" philosophy.  I like to buy and enjoy riding bike in what I consider a sweet spot of price vs functionality.  On the other hand everyone needs to decide where on the scale between the cheapest walmart bike and a top of the line $$$$$ bike is their sweet spot.  So one rider's sweet spot might be under $1000 and another's might be over $5000.

BTW, a really nice bonus of having a bike and gear well within your means is that there is far less worry about theft, loss, or damage during shipping or on tour.  It is really nice to think that even if every bit of my stuff went missing on a long tour I could replace it all and keep going without worrying about how I would pay the bills.  On a shorter tour obviously I'd probably go home if my bike and gear went missing, but if I was in the middle of a coast to coast trip I could be rolling again pretty quickly if I wanted to.

Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: hikerjer on June 12, 2019, 11:03:34 pm
Truly a well thought out and informative response. 

Thanks.
Title: Re: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
Post by: froze on June 18, 2019, 10:02:42 am
I can't take the time to read all the posts so this may have been already brought up, so sorry if it has.

If you have been able to ride off the shelf bikes with no fit issues that a fitting couldn't resolve then you will be able to ride an off the shelf touring bike.  Most people can ride off the shelf bikes, in fact most touring people ride off the shelf bikes without any issues, sure you may have to get a fitting done if you don't know how to do that on your own, but spending a couple of hundred plus maybe parts plus the cost of the off the shelf bike is way cheaper than going custom.

Sure custom is nice, you do get a fancy paint job, but touring is rough on paint so do you really want to scratch up a fancy expensive paint job?  Unless you have some odd physical dimensions I wouldn't go custom...ever!  And according to Grant at Rivendell he said some time ago that his factory off the shelf sized Atlantis was 95% as good as his custom Rivendell's but the price was about 50% more; odd guy Grant is, it's like he was trying to sell more of the Atlantis bikes?  Regardless I see any advantage to spend a lot more money on a bike vs an off the shelf bike, in fact for touring purposes I don't see spending more than around $1,500 for an off the shelf touring bike because the components that comes on those bikes at that level are very reliable and easy to field repair, and cheap to replace if it ever got to that point.

I need to get a new touring bike myself since I crashed mine, another reason not to get a custom job, I've looked at a bunch and for my needs I settled on the Masi Giramondo 700c because it comes with a 3 sets of water bottle braze ons on the frame and two more sets on the fork, this means I can carry 5 bottles of water, which when touring you'll discover water is important not only to drink but to cook food with; plus it came with the right gears for climbing mountains when loaded, Tubus racks which are the best in the business.  There is also some other good bikes as well like the Salsa Marrakesh, Kona Sutra, Surly Long Haul Trucker (which I dismissed immediately due to no water bottle bosses on the fork), Fuji Touring (I think they've now may have stopped making this one?), Trek 520 which I dismissed immediately because it was overpriced with lessor components, Jamis Renegade Escapade (which I dismissed immediately due to price and no grannie gear for climbing while loaded).  Those really represent the bulk of the off the shelf bikes, you just need to check out the specs and see which one checks most if not all your boxes...unless of course you're going for something more expensive like the Miyata Koga World Traveler or the titanium Van Nicholas Deveron.

So the choice to go off the shelf vs custom can really only be answered by you, but I hope I gave you little food for thought