It might help as you read the process that I went through to order a custom bicycle frame to understand a bit about who I am and what my particular needs were. Obviously a custom frame addresses personal needs and what you might need will ultimately be quite different than mine. Therefore, your design might be different, but you might also experience considerable differences in the process based on need and builder.
I’m a guy – about 6 feet tall and around 150 pounds. Yes, I’m a lightweight, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting a pretty stiff bike and a very light bike. I can’t lose too much weight off of my body, so I think that 2 pounds off the bike is just about as easy as 2 pounds of fat. In fact, it just might not be healthy for me to get much slimmer. I’ve been beat up by bikes over the years, and so frame material became important as we’ll discuss later.
I’ve been riding since college – about 17 years as of this writing. I raced in college when I rode a variety of bikes from my Bianchi to my beloved old Gios Compact SL, to my other beloved Ritchey. Along the way, I rode other frames loving the Guercciotti the most for it’s quickness and sprinting. The Ritchey ultimately became my frame that I rode from 1993 to 2003. Within that time, I actually stopped riding between 1995 to 2000 after I graduated college and had a hard time figuring out how to ride and work at the same time. It wasn’t until I had a bit more stabiloity in my life that the riding became possible again. During the 5 year layoff though, my ability to ride strongly deteriorated and I haven’t been the same since – when you’re in college and can ride 2-400 miles a week, you can acheive a different level of fitness than when you can only ride during the weekends. Since 2003, I’ve been riding a Wilier Mortirolo. Most people in the U.S. haven’t heard of Wilier, but they are a pretty well known brand in Europe. The Mortirolo is a scandium frame giving it some nice ride qualities while being both light and stiff.
Because I’ve been riding for a while, I consider myself to be a pretty good bike handler. In fact, the only crash I’ve had since I started riding again in 2000 was a stupid crash in the rain. It was an off camber corner, downhill, wet, and with oncoming traffic. Add to that the fact that I promised myself before the ride that I would not push the pace, I was going way too fast. While this has been the only crash I’ve had, it was a significant one and has made me a bit unsure of myself over the last 12 months. In general, I’ve been really good at avoiding crashes. During races when the person directly in fromt of me goes down, I’ve been successful at literally riding right over then a couple of times – I credit the mountain biking skills there. And of course since I do some races, I’m not too timid when it comes to bumping in the corners. Overall though, I wanted to find a bike frame that would provide more secure stability and handling to help me get my confidence back.
Additionally, I’m getting old. Sure I’m going to be 35 when I get my new frame, but when I was in college, I had a fairly absurd set-up that I’ve never adjusted. Let’s just say that the drop from my saddle height to the top of the handlebars is about 13cm. I’m guessing normal is between 4-8cm. My back simply isn’t as flexible anymore and longer rides simply become painful. While i’d like to have a comfortable frame today, I also want to make sure the frame is still comfortable in 10 years if I actually have the bike that long. The main problems I’m trying to solve for are my age and the handling mentioned above. I hope this gives you a quick idea of what’s important to me as you read through the rest of the process.