Hey all. I'm currently just beginning the process of buying a 'custom' frame, and reading round the forum - particularly the threads (with darn awesome pictures!) on frame quality in the retro chat section of the site - and seeing all the beautiful classic bikes spread through the site kinda got me thinking about why on earth I think it's a good idea!
I mean, what is the deal? For me, it's not physical need. I'm 5'9" (ish), reasonably in proportion, and fit stock bikes just fine, always have. My current bike is a '93 Kona Explosif that's been singlespeeded, and it's great... I mean, maybe sometimes I wish the bars were a bit further away (sounds like a stem issue to me!) and compared to my old Bobcat Trail (oh yes!) I find it harder to ride no-hands, but whatever. It just feels natural to ride - I figure maybe a custom bike could ride better, but not by all that much.
Certainly the Kona can handle all the riding (and then some!) that I can... I'm more one for steady cruising than race-pacing, for back-country trails and fire-type-roads than rock and drop strewn radness (which I couldn't cope with at all!). Yep, I got no problems riding anywhere I'd like to ride with the bike I've got - and I figure pretty much any retro bike could easily handle the same stuff too (though after riding 20 miles home on an Alpine Cro-mega I bought for a friend for Â£10 from a garage sale, I was pretty glad the Explosif was mine!) .
So is it a question of quality? Again, I'd say kinda no. The Kona is a pretty reasonable production line frame, I reckon - certainly it's safe, solid and nicely lined up! And look at some of the Ritcheys up on eBay - sweet fillet brazed goodness and a fraction of the price of a custom frame! Yeah, I could probably afford (if I was patient!) a couple darn nice full retro bikes for the price of a modern custom frame.
Showing-offedness? Um, I'll say no. While it could be a reason to go custom, I don't reckon it's one of mine. Checked with friends - they don't believe it is either (fwiw!).
So what then?
Well, I like bikes. Really, I do (bike bits as well!). And I like the idea of folk building stuff (maybe like the early days of mountain bikes, before there was off the shelf stuff). I like the idea of one bike having all the little touches I enjoy finding on other bikes (hopefully without looking like a dog's dinner). I guess the one thing this bike'll be missing, as far as I'm concerned, is the name of a classic American builder down the side! I know I do like the idea of builders putting their name to the things they've actually made... don't know if any of you row or scull, but if so you may know of Carl Douglas Racing Shells. My partner got him to make her a boat, and it's lovely!
At the end of it, I don't need it. But perhaps it's enough that I'd like it, and I can get it without causing myself any hardship, and that my getting it seems positive for everyone involved. Is that what it comes down to? I be keen to hear any other opinions on this (at least in part to reassure me that it's a reasonable thing to do!)
Makrie (who's at least a little sorry he started thinking this much about why he wants a custom frame!)
all of the experts say you've got to start them young
MKM Dominator 1977
Kona Explosif 1994