A custom road bike is the dream bike for any amateur who is serious about road cycling competition. Instead of buying a new bike every year, buy a bike that is perfectly fitted to you and enjoy your ride for years to come.
Unfortunately, custom anything costs more than mass-produced. The good news for anyone who’s been saving up for a custom bike is that the price differential between custom and better off-the-rack bikes has narrowed, making a custom road bike more affordable.
Serious Cycling is Not a Low-Impact Sport
Casual cyclists consider riding a bike to be a low-impact form of exercise. Serious cyclists have experienced many more impacts than they care to think about and have the scars to prove it. Even if a cyclist is never seriously hurt in an accident, long hours of hard riding causes a lot of wear and tear on the body.
Cyclists don’t usually stop riding because they no longer love the sport, but because their bodies have paid too high a price for too long. The list of chronic injuries that can afflict cyclists is a long one: various types of knee injuries including osteoarthritis, hand numbness from handlebar pressure, muscle cramps, sprains and strains, issues with the Achilles tendon, problems with the feet and neck and back problems. Broken bones and concussions round out the list.
A Properly Fitted Bike Reduces Wear and Tear on the Body
Every serious cyclist understands the importance of fitting their bike to their body. A properly fitted bike lessens chronic damage to the body, meaning that it’s possible to enjoy the sport to the fullest for a longer period of time. This may not seem important at the age of 21, but becomes much more critical at 35.
It may be possible to find a stock bike that fits your body perfectly, but that’s unlikely. Being fitted at a custom bike shop will involve as many as 100 different questions and measurements. That frame made in Taiwan by the thousands is fine for a casual rider, but probably won’t ever be a good fit for a serious cyclist regardless of how many adjustments are made.
If you find a stock bike that fits you, great. If not, give serious thought to a custom road bike that fits your body precisely. A properly fitted bike reduces fatigue, helps you to train and ride longer and to perform at your personal best. Have your measurements taken first and then go shopping for your dream bike.
Performance and Durability
Countless hours are spent discussing the pros and cons of carbon fiber vs. titanium vs. steel. Which is better for an individual rider depends upon how the bike will be ridden, its expected life expectancy and affordability. Whichever material is chosen, remember that there are quality levels in all materials. A bike made from low-end carbon, for example, will not perform the same as a high-end carbon bike.
The pros typically ride carbon fibre bikes. Their sponsors are paying for their bikes so cost is not a concern to them. If the bike survives the season, it will be sold. Unless an amateur rider has unlimited funds, he or she will have to weigh performance against durability. The sad truth is that a carbon frame can be cracked by over-tightening bolts or in a routine accident that wouldn’t faze steel or titanium. That would be at least £2,000 down the drain. Carbon cracks when metal dents.
That being said, the pros choose carbon bikes for a reason – carbon’s excellent strength-to-weight ratio. Frames that weigh in at under 700g, but can be ridden to the limit in the world’s toughest races. Carbon can also be shaped in ways that metal cannot, maximizing rigidity and aerodynamics without sacrificing too much comfort.
Titanium is costly and difficult to work with. If it were less expensive, it would probably be most people’s #1 choice for a bike frame. It’s twice as durable as steel; expect to ride a titanium bike for many years. In fact, a custom titanium bike could be the last bike you ever need to buy.
Titanium is similar to steel in its stiffness-to-weight ratio, but weighs less. A high-end titanium frame can weigh as little as 1,250g but titanium isn’t as light as carbon.
Since titanium resists rust and corrosion, most titanium frames aren’t painted. Titanium is also much easier to repair than carbon, a major benefit.
Titanium has excellent ride quality. It has natural damping or shock absorption properties, minimizing vibrations.
Bikes were once all made from steel. However, many serious cyclists today automatically discount steel bikes.
Steel is both very strong and very durable. It is heavier than carbon or titanium, but modern steel technologies have made it possible to build a fairly light chromoly steel chassis that has almost as good ride characteristics as top-level carbon.
Steel bikes make excellent touring, commuting and winter training bikes. There are many small custom shops that produce excellent custom steel frames.
Detailing and Finishing
Generally, ordering a custom road bike involves getting measured at an authorized bike shop and selecting the components. The dealer orders, receives and assembles the bike. The components can be selected separately or as a less-expensive kit. A typical finish kit can range from about £800 to £5,000 or more. Add a custom paint job and watch heads turn.
Why A Custom Road Bike?
The most important reason to get a custom bike is the fit. It is tailored to the unique geometry of your body, ensuring your long-term cycling enjoyment because of reduced stress and fatigue.
Whether your competitive streak pushes you to ride hard and long or you just want to explore the back roads on the weekend, you will be very happy with your beautiful custom road bike.