by John Brown, HaveFunBiking
With hundreds of custom bike builders in the US, and hundreds more spread across globe, how do you pick the right builder? Start with shows like Minnecycle, and when possible and have a conversation.
Minnecycle enjoyed its fifth year this past weekend in the world headquarters of Peacock Groove. Peacock Groove, in Minneapolis, is home to one of Minnesota’s most prolific bike builders, Eric Noren. Minnecycle displayed handmade bicycles from over a dozen other custom builders. Although the location is not a showroom, but rather a basement workshop, the setup created a gallery feel while still being welcoming. A location like this would be a hindrance for many groups but those who run Minnecycle are not your typical group. The workshop displayed bikes in every state of assembly, as a visual lesson on how a custom bike is built. Minnecycle can only be described as an unmitigated success. The attending builders were friendly, the feel was casual, and the work was outstanding. With a show this good, the only question left is “why buy a custom bike”?
In Custom Bike Considerations, Size and Specificity
Custom bikes are great for riders that need something custom. I realize that statement sounds redundant and silly, but it really is the best way to define it. For instance, riders who have unique body types don’t fall into standard sizes bikes. As an example, it’s common for some riders to have a longer torso than the prototypical body type. These riders need a bicycle with a longer top tube than what is available on a standard bike. However, a custom bike built with a longer top tube gives them the proper reach. Additionally, if a rider has unique needs, custom builders can make a bike to fit those needs. Many custom builders focus specifically on bicycle types not available through mass production. Great examples of these bikes are Cargo bikes, Adventure bikes, and utility tricycles, Hand Trikes, and Recumbent bicycles.
Quality and Craftsmanship
Being a professional custom builder is as much a calling as it is a profession. Although builders come from widely varying backgrounds, a few traits seem to be universal. Most builders are mechanically inclined, problem solvers, and are exceedingly detail oriented. Outside of those traits, a professional builder has the experience of building hundreds of bikes. So, when buying a custom bicycle, you are getting the cumulative experience and natural talents of a builder. Additionally, through every step of construction, your bike will be painstakingly reviewed for quality and alignment. That level of quality is not possible at a mass-produced level. While massed produced bikes are great, the attention to detail, quality control, and experience of a custom builder adds up to a truly uniquely riding bicycle.
Finding the right builder for you
Like Minnecycle, try reaching out to them digitally if you can’t meet them in person. Most builders are very accessible through email and social media. Find builders who are already making bikes similar to what you want. Ultimately, you are looking for a builder that you can get along with.