What was quite interesting was a) the fitting process and b) the discussion about tubing.
Rourke want you to come with, if possible, an existing bike that you feel fits you reasonably well, for you to be able to explain what you do and don’t like about it, what you’d like the new frame to be or do that the existing bike doesn’t, and any physical issues or pains you’ve got. They then put you on your bike on a trainer, make a basic assessment and a few tweaks, observing and asking lots of questions, then transfer that position to a jig and start experimenting, again observing and asking lots of questions. In my case, after almost 2 hours we settled on a position just a few mm longer and lower, and with a little more setback, than my current bike, as well as deciding on a different bar shape. As Wayne put it, sometimes the most awkward fits (from their point of view) come when someone turns up with a pretty well set up bike, as you almost feel obliged to justify yourself by making changes.
We’ve transferred the changes to my existing bike and I now need to put in half a dozen good rides and report back before we totally finalise the numbers.
The material chat was also quite interesting. In our phone chats, Jason and Wayne had obviously been quietly trying to put me off stainless, but Wayne was more enthusiastic about it in person. He pointed out that 853/853 pro/Spirit is always a more cost-effective choice, as the resulting frame will be within c. 100g in terms of weight, and probably 90% as stiff. He also noted that for the budget I had in mind, I could go 853 + Record and have a little change for better finishing kit, or transfer my existing groupset, and get 853 plus a really top notch wheelset. Objectively, either of those options would produce a lighter and probably faster bike.
On the other hand, he said that as a fairly light and reasonably strong rider I would actually benefit from stainless if the budget was there. He also agreed that for a ‘special’ frame it was a better choice, especially as I really wanted the polished stays. Finally, he agreed that given the ‘vision’ for the bike (gosh, that sounds Radavist-y and pretentious), absolute performance wasn’t necessarily the goal: for the same total spend I could have the Aethos or the Foil in the next room.
Ultimately heart won out over head (I don’t think you buy a custom steel frame - if you have fairly normal proportions - as a totally rational decision), and I chose stainless and new Chorus, but it was quite cool to talk it through and fine-tune the whats and whys.