Author Topic: Custom touring bike vs. mass produced  (Read 14910 times)

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Offline hikerjer

Custom touring bike vs. mass produced
« 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.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2018, 05:57:09 pm by hikerjer »

Offline dedgren

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #1 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.



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Offline ghh@me.com

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #2 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.


Offline Inge

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #3 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.

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.

Offline DaveB

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #4 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.

Offline aggie

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #5 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.

Offline canalligators

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #6 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.

Offline hikerjer

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2018, 02:40:36 pm »
"it’s your money" - you're right about that.  ;)

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #8 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?


Offline hikerjer

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #9 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.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #10 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.

Offline hikerjer

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #11 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.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #12 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.

Offline Patco

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #13 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.

Offline zzzz

Re: Custom touring bkie vs. mass produced
« Reply #14 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