GO FOR A FITTING
Before building a bike, Steve strongly urges getting a professional fitter to take your measurements – he recommends thebikewhisperer.co.uk. “It’s quite involved,” he says. “Is like three hours. He will tell me where the customer’s hands, bum and legs need to be – he puts that in a drawing.
“Anyone can benefit from a good fit,” says Steve. You don’t need to be having a custom bike to have that, but if you are having a custom bike, it’s madness not to spend £75 to have that done because you’re going to know that it will be perfect.”
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE TECHNICAL
Don’t worry, an in-depth technical understanding of how a bike works isn’t necessary – that’s what a framebuilder is there for, after all. All you need to know is how and where you plan to ride the bike. “The first question I always ask is what do you want to do with it?”, “How long do you want to ride it for? Do you want to carry luggage? Do you want it to be comfortable for 200 miles or are you going to be doing short Sunday 50-mile club runs? After a conversation about what you want to do with the bike, we start building a picture of what would fit those needs.”
YOU DON’T NEED A SPECIFIC REASON
It is worth noting that not everyone goes down this path for the same reason. For anyone fortunate enough to be covered by the standard size range, a bespoke bike can mean ironing out the compromises that come with all-inclusive solutions, such as components that are too small or big for the frame or rider, or aren’t quite what you want. Or you could be after a TVR-style iridescent paintjob and detailing fashioned from silver or gold.
CONSIDER A STEEL FRAME
Your size, shape and the way you want to ride the bike will give you a rough framework (pun intended), but the rest is pretty much up to you. We use steel to make most of our frames, but titanium can offer a lighter option. “Modern steels are pretty amazing,” says Steve. “You get a bike you can use all the time, treat badly and not have to worry about it – you can repair it.” Then there’s all the components, such as rims, brakes (disc or caliper?), gear shifts (mechanical or electronic?), not to mention the paintwork.
The colour of your frame is perhaps the one aspect of your bike that is totally up to you. A framebuilder won’t be able to give you a definitive answer in terms what will work best for you (it is entirely subjective, after all), although they will be able to offer an array of options. “Paint is always the worst for me because you can’t say anything is right or wrong,” says Steve. “It is often the thing that makes people freak out. ‘I don’t know what to do.’”
IT’S GOOD TO TALK
Steve points out that with a custom build, “every single possibility is open”. As a result, he estimates that as much as a third of the time taken up by each bike is spent just talking to the customer – in some cases, more so.
As with any high-value transaction, the customer will want to get things just right, especially given their personal involvement in the project. But Steve thinks that part of the fun is in the anticipation of what you will get – after all, when else in life do you get to indulge in such a fantasy purchase? “If I was buying it, I’d be a nightmare,” he says. “I would change my mind every five seconds. So I’ve always got sympathy for it.”