Custom bikes can seem like an extravagance nowadays. The market has accustomed us to all sorts of adjustments applicable to standard bikes: stems of various sizes and angles. Seatposts with multiple setbacks. Saddles and handlebars offer different positions. And so the question naturally arises: if we can fit almost any bike to our body, who still needs a bike that is built (and not adapted) for us?
Where custom bikes come from
Bikes have been custom-made for decades. From 1900 until the 1990s, the bikes were only customized and made to measure. The change came precisely with Asian industrial production. The large quantities necessaries to reduce production costs have forced bike brands to limit the number of products designed and built. So, if once we used to have a frame for every cm, obtaining 14 – 15 basic measurements, also with the availability to be modified with small tricks such as different angles or the length of the rear triangle, today we find ourselves with sizes S, M, L etc. which at best offers 7 measurement variants.
Past and present of standard measures
The reduction of production costs by large companies devoted to standard measures has mainly created greater profits and, therefore, more significant investment margins in the marketing tools. On the cheaper range market, it has created a level of performing bikes in proportion to the market sector with very competitive prices. At the top end, it maintained prices similar to custom bike prices but with higher sales margins, allowing greater communication power.
This has been for the past 20-25 years or so. The present is significantly changing: the high-end selling prices of large producers have skyrocketed. The costs of advertising and marketing have gone up a lot. For example, to sponsor a professional team in the early 2000es, talking about a complete supply of bikes (racing, training, spares, time trial bikes, etc.), the manufacturer used to add an investment of 100,000 euros. Today 1M euros is not enough, and the number of bikes needed has practically doubled with the global activities of modern teams. So today, a bespoke bike often costs less than a standard bike from a major brand.
Custom bikes in carbon, steel, titanium and aluminium
One of the false beliefs that have developed today is that custom bikes can only be made of steel or titanium. It is false. Many craftsmen worldwide have chosen to work only on these two materials due to the greater demand in the bespoke bike market. In reality, this process can also be applied to aluminium, although it rarely occurs because it is considered a less noble material, and especially to carbon, thanks to the hand-wrapping method.
Why a tailor-made bike
We often hear that the custom bike is a need only for people with apparent physical disproportions. The cyclist with very long legs, who needs a shorter but taller bike. The one with little flexibility wants a higher and more comfortable handlebar. Or the athlete who demands a longer, lower bike to achieve the best aerodynamics.
That said, it seems that only a tiny part of the cycling population needs a custom bike. It is not so. From our decades of experience in the field, we can confidently tell you that over 80% of people would have profound benefits from riding a custom-made bike. The benefits concern not only the comfort but also the bike’s handling. Partly also the performance, because if we are better positioned on the bicycle, we surely perform better.
Custom versus adapted
We said that the prices of a custom bike are similar – indeed often lower – than those of a standard bike. This is because behind the production of stock bikes, the marketing has a significant increase in costs. But we have also said that there are many possible adaptations. So why is a bike expressly created for us better than an adapted bike? First, adaptation means modifying something. In modifying something we usually accept a compromise. We improve the most crucial thing important at the expense of something else. For example, a longer / shorter stem will improve our comfort on the saddle but will also change the bike’s handling. A seat post with a different setback will improve our pedalling angle, but will also change the weight balance of the bike. In short, simplifying we could say that a custom bike is built for us without compromise.
If a few years ago the price was a problem to choose a custom bike, now it is much less. The advantages of a custom bike are not limited to the measures. The colouring and graphic customizations can also influence the choice. In our opinion, the privilege of having a unique piece is higher than the joy of owning a copy of a famous champion’s bike.