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Gruntled
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm thinking about getting a custom frame. My 'issues' are (1) weak lower back, which means I have to run my handlebar level with my saddle, and (2) short legs & long torso for my height. #2 is mostly a cosmetic issue; I buy frames by top tube length and have very little seatpost showing. #1 is possibly a bit more serious. It seems like racing bikes are designed to have the bars really low, and I might get a better riding / handling bike if it were designed from the ground up with a more upright position in mind.

I only hesitate because I'm afraid I might end up with basically a stock geometry frame, or stock with a little head tube extension, which I could have got for half the price of a custom.

So, custom frame owners, how different is your frame from a stock one? Was it worth the expense?

FWIW, if I go the custom route it will probably be a Serotta Legend Ti, or possibly an Indy Fab Ti Crown Jewel. Owners of those frames please weigh in.

Thanks in advance!
 

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S-Works Tarmac SL3
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827 Posts
Frankly, given the model iterations on the market you probably don't need anything much different than a stock geo frame. There are plenty of bikes designed around a higher handlebar position such as the Roubaix, Synapse, etc. These bikes are very good and, not hideously overpriced either.

If you are determined to go special, then my advice is to pick a builder who you can communicate directly with and, that will also fit you. Tom Kellogg and Carl Strong come to mind. I think there is greater risk associated with misinterpreting fit preferences and desired ride characteristics when a dealer is fitting you then passing the info to a builder. Not that this does not work because, it often does but, the point is that going directly to the builder omits a step of possible confusion or misinterpretation. Since high end bike vendors don't have a money back guarantee on how well you like what you get, then I would take every precaution to eliminate all possible sources or error.
 

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Take your bike and set it up where you want the saddle and bars at the locations that suits your style, even if that means slaming the saddle all the way back with no post showing or 130mm stem. The relationship at the connection points, saddle to BB, saddle to bars, will not change, the frame design under it will get teaked. For example, if your saddle is slammed all the way back because your riding a 74.5 STA frame with a 8cm stem then the custom could get a 72.5 STA the same top tube lenght and have a 10 cm stem and the positions/relationship to the contact points will not have changed. picture it as the saddle, bb and bars not moving while the STA changes, top tube length changes and the stem lenght adjusts. You have to be honest about what is comfortable, designing from an internet fitting guide will lead to diaster.

My favorite bikes all had less than 10cm stems with the saddle slammed back on the rails so on the custom we eased the STA, kept the top tube lenght close to the same and i got a longer stem as a result, better balance and less weight on the hands. the frame is closer to perfection then anything i own. tweaking it doesn't lead to any strange aesthics. It was worth it. Interesting thing was the builder didn't ask me what angles or lenghts i wanted but instead it was what stem lenght, what reach (saddle to bars) what seatpost, saddle height to center of crank , then the frame design gets tweaked.
 

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Windrider (Stubborn)
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22,029 Posts
Custom is about more than fit to dimensions. It's also about fit to weight, fit to purpose, fit to special preferences (Pump peg, types of brakes, rack mounts etc) & fit to aestetics (how it looks, paint, spacers, proportions etc.). The more unique choices you want, the more custom may be right for you.

That being said, I've had 3!/2 custom frames. A serotta Legend Ti (Full custom) a Serotta Ottrott ST (Modified from spec sheet for Legend Ti), a Dave Kirk Terraplane Fixie & a Sachs. Each experience was different, and each was aimed at something a little different. Some thoughts re your concerns:

1.) The Serotta fit system is totally dependent on the quality of the fitter modified by a review at the plant. If you are unsure about your fit, or if the draft specs don't make sense, then ask questions....be comfortable with the answers. If you are really unsure about your fit......pay for a second fitting from another serotta fitter....compare the 2 ask questions about the differences...IMO, it's a small price to pay for your own piece of mind...plus you'll learn something.

2.) I dialed in my fit over time......the Legend fit perfect, but I wasn't happy with the aestetics (too many spacers) nor the lack of rigidity (I got exactly what I asked for...an all day comfortable bike.....but found I really wanted a comfortable bike that still had some zip when I stood up to hammer.) I signed off on both and came to regret it. The Ottrott solved both those problems.

3.) Someone mentioned Tom Kellogg, I have never met anyone on a spectrum that didn't rave about the fit...especially those that took the time to go up to the barn. I love my Ottrott....but if I was getting TI, I'd go thru the ex[perience with Tom. Knowledgable as hell...plus he is a truly nice guy.

4.) I used the specs from the Ottrott to give Dave an idea of what I wanted. Because I knew the fit would work....everything else was about choices....he nailed all of it.

5.) I went up the Richie's to get fitted for the Sachs. I have no idea what he did differently from the others, but the fit is perfect. The Ottrott & the Kirk are 98% perfect....the Sachs is just that little bit more perfect.......the more I push it, the more confidence inspiring it is.

Be honest with whatever fitter you deal with........and if it doesn't feel right, don't do it. Lot's of good custom Ti builders out there.....trust your instincts.

Len
 

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I have exactly the same body specs as you (long torso, weak back) and went for a custom Moots Mootour. In the end I think I erred a little bit on the conservative side--the top tube is quite long (61 cm) and doesn't allow for a more aggressive configuration (higher saddle) which now, after two years in which my riding style and fitness level have changed, I would like to have. That said, all the problems I had with earlier bikes, in particular lower back pain, are gone. The other great thing about custom is the high quality of workmanship.
 

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eminence grease
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18,559 Posts
I'm simply going to expand a bit on what Len said, because he pretty much nailed it.

Unlike what you will read on the web, custom is not for people with oddball needs - I can pretty much fit any 56 to 58 frame with no sacrifices.

Rather, custom is about getting the bike you want. From a fit, materials, tuning, color and builder perspective.

I have done 7 custom bikes. I did them because a) I like working with builders to design and deliver a special product, b) I had very specific requirements for color and branding, c) I was interested in certain materials in combinations that were not offered by major MFGRs and d) I had some oddball wishes like a short enough seat tube to allow me to put the bike in my stand without changing the seat post postition.

And, custom is no more expensive than what you pay for a top shelf offering from any major producer.

You do custom because you want something special. You don't go into the process thinking you can achieve the same fit with a rack bike, because if you, you may as well save the time and skip the experience and go for the immediate gratification.

No, go do a custom bike because you want to be riding a one and only bike.
 

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Twitterpated
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3,118 Posts
Len J said:
5.) I went up the Richie's to get fitted for the Sachs. I have no idea what he did differently from the others, but the fit is perfect. The Ottrott & the Kirk are 98% perfect....the Sachs is just that little bit more perfect.......the more I push it, the more confidence inspiring it is.

Be honest with whatever fitter you deal with........and if it doesn't feel right, don't do it. Lot's of good custom Ti builders out there.....trust your instincts.

Len
If I were a builder:

Customer: What will it feel like with a slack HT?

Me: ...um, I dunno.

Customer: What if we drop the BB 1cm?

Me: ...heck if I know.

Customer: Would you suggest Life, or S3?

Me: Whaaaaa?

And scene. Thank you very much.

When I dream of becoming a professional custom builder (and I do often), I realize that I don't have the expertise to design a frame for an intended use, or desired ride characteristics. That kinda bums me out.

But that kind of expertise is a major reason why I'd like to commission a custom frame. In choosing a builder, I'd have to be confident in his/her ability in this area. Lucky for us there seem to be a lot of good one's to choose from.

Anyway...

Tshirt

 

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Gruntled
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3,775 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Len J said:
... Someone mentioned Tom Kellogg, I have never met anyone on a spectrum that didn't rave about the fit...especially those that took the time to go up to the barn.
That's interesting. I saw a custom Spectrum on eBay recently that had a really tall head tube, for someone with back issues like me, and the seller said it had a steeper HT angle to compensate for the extra height. I have no idea why (or even if) that would work, but it seems to indicate that the builder is at least thinking about the whole package: fit + ride + handling.

I'll look into it. Thanks for the tip.
 

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Nothing new to add, just my experience. I ride a shorter saddle to bar reach than my measurements indicate, had some smaller frames with spacers and extended seatpost to compensate, had some neck/shoulder pain (ancient bike crash). Got tired of the look, plus smaller frames made fast descents tricky. Started talking with Carl Strong, and after a few months of communication (I provided measurements, likes/dislikes of current rides, pics of me on my current ride, aesthetic preferences, e.g. horizontal TT, pump peg, amt. seatpost showing; and desired ride quality), he built me a bike. It's fairly close to a stock geometry, but rides just the way I want, and looks just like I want a bike to look. In fact, I had him build another one for me with couplers for travel. I know about tube set diameters, but left it to him to decide what was best for me (ended up Life/alpha Q fork on the first, OXP/steel fork on the coupled), and while I still lust after pretty frames, I can't imagine a better ride. Maybe Carl lucked up and built two good frames for me, but in view of others' experinces, I tend to think that he and about five to ten other builders/companies know what they're doing. For steel, I paid less than a stock carbon frame. But I'd bet for Ti, I'd still come out ahead over a stock frame. FWIW, I sold two stock Ti frames, and the remaining ones are loaner bikes now.
Minstrie
 

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Just put the saddle, BB, & bars where they're comfortable, then design a frame around them. I knew what I wanted. English system in those days. I wanted a nice long distance stage race bike, slightly undersquare because of long legs. 73x73, 1 3/4" rake, 22 x 21.5", 10 3/4" BB height, 16 3/4" chainstays. Standard 531 tubing. I don't even have to measure - I still ride pretty much the same fit. Except today's bikes are better. A bunch better!
 
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