Custom bikes vs. mass-produced ones -- which one would you pick, and why?

I bought an Aethos (frame) cause James told me to.

If James tells me to buy a custom bike then I will buy a custom bike.

A custom bike needs to provide me with something I can’t get from a standard bike be it cool design, paint, etc. All bikes are cool, but if it just looks like another bike then I tend to pass on by.

I am a firm believer that the human body is pretty good at adapting to its environment so geo is actually the less of my custom wants and I feel like can be addressed through the moving parts (obviously to an extent).

Finally at the point where I could afford a custom or small boutique frame, so we will see what the next bike is. Like the looks of the Bossi Strada SS or maybe Prova.


Do custom bikes never have flaws?

I have been toying with getting a custom frame for years but my 2006 Cannondale ‘Handmade in the USA’ frame is still going strong. A custom frame would suit my short legs and aging flexibility but it it just smacks of being mildly pretentious if not done for biomechanical reasons.

Similarly, my carbon giant 29er is as boring as they come, but what custom bike could ever offer the weight, comfort and buyer support? Sure, i lust after the tri-colour Ritchey p-29 or a custom steel option, but it isnt going to make my rides better.

TL;DR riding isnt about the bike.

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No. Well, none that anyone would fess up to.


For the price of an Aethos frame, you can easily have a custom (Ti) frame in the UK or the EU. It may not come from a boutique builder, but it can definitely come from a builder who knows its stuff and builds himself. (There are also lots of custom vendors who let the building do by an external workshop, small or large.)

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Fast or slow the smile on your face might just be bigger though. Aesthetics are still part of the equation. :slight_smile:

Bloody hell, who’d you shoot, root or electricute to get a Bishop? I’d give my left nut for a Bishop, however having said that I’ve not exactly put myself in Chris’ build queue… ;O)

Totally agree, it’s not about performance only, although I expect Chris’ bikes ride really well, but hell they look the goods. His craftsmanship is on point!

Regards, garnetti

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Comfortably. In the UK, in theory at least, you can only buy an S-Works Aethos frameset (£4-4.5k). When I bought my recent custom frame, that money would have got you stainless steel from a ‘name’. If you’re happy with ‘just’ 853/Spirit or similar, then you’d pay 1/3 to 1/2 less, depending on things like paint job etc.

A bit OT, but I didn’t look at ti; the only UK ti builder I’m aware of who actually builds (their higher end frames) in the UK is Enigma.

I think there’s quite a strong argument that with the price of the higher end framesets from Spesh etc, custom is arguably better value. Certainly, a few of the builders I spoke to said they’d never been busier. Obviously, Covid shortages play a big role here, but perceived value is another. You can get something unique, personalised and handcrafted and, in many cases, get enough to spare over an S Works frameset to buy yourself decent wheels too. That was a factor in my decision process.

The (possibly big) downside, and I’m not sure if it’s addressed in the podcast, is lead times. Almost everyone I contacted was citing wait times of >6 months, with some pushing 2 years. And while everyone says on boards like this, ‘oh I’m happy to wait’, in my experience, most people aren’t. That was precisely the reason given to me by one builder, who stated that as soon as his lead time got >12 months, he stopped taking new orders except from known and existing customers.

Edit: I still absolutely lust over a Kirk Onesto, but the VAT & import costs from US to the UK make it likely that Mr Kirk will have hung up his torch by the time it’s financially realistic.

Further point: if anyone in the UK is looking for a very good but lesser-known (and, frankly, slightly cheaper) builder, I’d strongly recommend Pete Alfano (Alfano frameworks). Complete bike nerd (in the best possible way) and a really nice guy.

This assumes I want a steel or Ti frame. I mentioned Bossi or Prova because they look different. Probably would never buy just a round tubed custom frame. I find them aesthetically boring, although Waltly is pretty affordable enough, but it would probably be a gravel or hard tail mtb.

I find the Aethos aesthetically boring as well, but I had a goal in mind making a WW build on the “cheap”.

It was also available now with many positive reviews (again James said so) and I needed a bike now, not in 6 months or two years as Mintaero mentions above.

I might wait in the future. We will see.

So many similarities … I had a local builder (Joe) make me a road frame as a 40th birthday present to myself. Still love that same bike (fits 32mm tyres by using long reach caliper brakes) 18 years later. But my favourite bike is the tourer I bought in ‘94. The only completely original thing on that bike is the seat post. Converted it to 650B about three years ago which gave it a whole new lease of life, touring on the dirt roads of SEQ.

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Production for me, preferably if I can customize component choices. With the plethora of choices it’s easy to find a frame with an agreeable geometry, and I don’t have much faith that a small shop is going to do a better job with CF than a big manufacturer will.

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