This post comes after reading a few recent news pieces as well as the geometry section of a big bike brand...
Cyclingnews.com wrote an article about Katie Compton (US CROSS Champ) and her switch from a small custom frame builder to GIANT for 2011/12. The article appears on 1/13/12.
"When a rider changes bikes, there's always an adjustment period, and there was no exception in Compton's switch to her Giant. The small bike is still relatively large, with a 52.5cmtop tube, and this has forced the use of a custom zero offset seatmast clamp and a stem 1cm shorter than she might otherwise prefer."
OK, fair enough, sometimes a rider has to swap out parts and pieces to get a standard bike to fit. As long as it doesn't imperil their position, render the bike unsafe, or affect the bike's handling characteristics this is part of the concession some have to make to riding a standard product. But, such an accomplished pro who has an obvious fit issue on her bike and she doesn't even get a custom frame...
From Cervelo's website:
"Even the most demanding pros fit properly on a stock Cervelo, no need for custom sizes. That's our conclusion after supporting hundreds of the world's best athletes. The reason we don't need customs where other bike companies do lies in our unique reach-based geometry. This results in six properly spaced-out sizes with minimal overlap."
This is a stretch...To suggest that 6 sizes cover every rider and that supporting hundreds of the world's best athletes (most of which are men, aged 20-30, with tremendous natural gifts, extremely fit/lean and by no means indicative of the average cyclist) is an argument that falls pretty flat. Their "unique reach-based geometry" is just a different way to express frame geometry that is basically on-par with most other standard frame geometries and that reduces a frame's geometry to just one number instead of the typical ones which actually inform the rider on how a frame is going to fit…Instead of giving more info, "REACH" gives less. Not a good trend and not much help to the rider.
These are just two examples of many that suggest a custom frame is a no longer needed. In some cases, it's obvious that the rider is making a compromise because of sponsorship obligations. In others, it's just the marketing angle that a company takes because they have built their brand around a particular argument and can't afford anything that undermines that.
We know that some riders need custom, some don't, and some just want the prestige of a custom frame. There are arguments for standard geometry frames with custom materials simply because so many of today's frames are just too darn stiff and abusive for a lot of riders. At Cyfac, we can build both standard and custom geometries. We don't have a big asian factory that keeps churning about frames that must be moved and we pretty much build to order. So, our approach is to get our clients on frames that make them better riders. Personal budgets count, of course, but even with that as a prime consideration there are various custom Cyfac options sat the same price point as some mass-produced, open-mould frames made in China.
Let's underscore the idea of "The Custom Bike."
At Cyfac, the "Custom Bike" is the rider's dream bike realized. It is the bike that is perfectly dialed into each client's fitting needs, material requirements, and personal aesthetic tastes. It is the sublime pairing of rider and bike that transcends all other set-ups to deliver unmatched comfort, confidence, and performance. It represents a one-off build that is made only for the individual rider and that showcases the builder's commitment to that one rider. The dialogue, intimacy, and intricacy of the custom process is the antithesis of mass-production.
Producing a custom frame is special. A machine and all of the fixtures that would normally be set-up to work with hundreds or thousands of tubes of the same dimensions are set up just once, to do a single frame. The builder is highly-skilled, experienced, and passionate, working as a craftsman AND technician and not just a cheap source of labor. The painter employs technical savoir-faire and artistic excellence with actual paint to give the frame finish in lieu of the decals that only provide uniformity and time/cost savings.
The "Custom Bike" is truly a one-off creation at Cyfac. Each time. All or nothing.
Cyfac offers a level of customization that is unmatched in the cycling world. Today, "Custom build” is something of a misnomer, as the term generally means that a rider can spec the components, bar tape, wheels, tire options, and such that relate only to the set-up and not to the frame at all. Cyfac is a frame builder. For us, customization speaks to the heart of a bike and the relationship between the rider and vélo with the frame at its core. Adding different components can help to dial in a standard frameset but true customization is the combination of myriad factors that can only be addressed by starting with a frame perfectly adapted to the rider. Our goal is harmony for this rider-bicycle pair. This ensures optimal rider function, bicycle dynamics, and performance regardless of the rider level or cycling discipline. To others, the "custom bike" term has been appropriated to cover a bike build that gives the rider the chance to mix and match components and possibly some of the finishing attributes all on a standard frame. It suggests that a special brake hood color, cable housing kit, saddle choice makes the bike "custom" and unique to the rider. We don't subscribe to this view and offer something entirely different.
We proceed from a passion for the sport, for delivering the rider his bike and not something that in some way falls short. We operate in the domain of the artisan, not the accountant. We are a builder, not a marketer. We can build YOUR dream custom bike so that it fits you, corresponds to your wants and needs, and delivers you where you want to go to the best of your abilities and our skill and experience as an actual builder.