What's in a word or Rantings of a mad man.

I ride a custom ( insert name here of a mass produced bicycle ) “

I want to just go through what I personally believe to be “ custom “ vs. Not custom or call it “ Customized “. It's difficult to find the right term in the first place, Custom, Tailored, Artisan, Bespoke, Handmade, Hand Crafted, they all fit but they are all also used horribly wrong very very often.

Handcrafted, I'll do it this way, to me, this means someone's hands were used as the main tool to craft the bicycle frame. We are really speaking about the frame here. Well even those very very inexpensive department store bicycles are mitered, welded and assembled by hand. Does that put a “ RoadHuffMurrNext “ in the same area as a bicycle that one individual labored over for many hours to bring into existence ? Maybe. If the hands that build the frame are the criteria for the title. Yes. I also want to say just about ever frame made today is “ Handcrafted “.

Steel is cut, filed, fitted and brazed or TIG welded by hand

Carbon sheets are wrapped and laid into molds . . by hand

Aluminum tubes are placed in a fixture and welded by hand

Titanium is cleaned and TIG welded by hand

Wooden frames are glued, shaped and sanded by hand

Basically almost every bicycle frame out there is “ Handmade “. This does NOT translate to custom.

Handmade – see above. I know I know, there is this show that travels around the US with that word in it’s name.. it's just a name kids, just a name.

Bespoke – I like this one, “ Spoke “.. But this word has been used by many that are not even in the neighborhood of the previous meaning. But I think it probably the best fitting for the product made by small shop with a few highly skilled individuals that have a passion for the task. In my eyes it evokes a product that is made for one individual and it is designed with those needs and desires in mind. So I like this one.

Artisan – This is the owner of the hands that do the making. But still applies to the end product. A skilled individual that has learned and continues to learn the skills of the trade. Making something from a mess of very basic items, creating a one of a kind piece for a specific individual. In the past an Artisan was honored, as the owner of the business in which the skills were learned. The Artisan was an important part of the community.

Tailored – Well that's really about clothing, but hey a bicycle frame should fit like a well made suit. If it doesn't then the whole game is changed and things like 6 stem spacers happen. So tailored does .. fit .. in my eyes. Yes ?

Custom – This is the term that seems to be the most commonly used and misused. I will speak my opinion here and that's all it is, my opinion. But I would guess many of the frame builders in the US would be somewhere close by my thoughts. Custom is s bicycle that has been designed and built to the needs and desires of the customer through the vision and artistry of the frame builder.

Brief moment here, for that last bit. “ Through the vision and artistry of the builder “. You wouldn't go the Van Gogh and ask him to paint Michelangelo Sistine Chapel ceiling ? You wouldn't go to Cadillac and ask them to copy exactly that Lexus SUV ? Van Gogh paints as Van Gogh paints, Cadillac builds .. Cadillacs, not Lexuses ( Lexii ? ). If your looking for a Custom built bicycle, find the builder that gets you excited by what they create in a bicycle. Not the one that all the other guys want, or the one that won this award or that award, or that got the most ink in the cycling magazines. Do some research, send an email or 10, make a few phone calls. Find that builder that who crates bicycles that will carry YOUR dreams to new places.

Sorry, tangent. But my point being that a custom, bespoke, artisan, tailored, handcrafted bicycle frame is a labor of love. The person sweating, bleeding and cussing while building this new bicycle is putting some of themselves into that bicycle. It's art work, it will have a few flaws, it will have things that you may never see but that builder knows their there. Those minor flaws will be addressed in the next build will be a chance to find new ways to get the process one step closer to “ perfect “. Knowing that the goal of perfection is an elusive prize, those skilled hands will labor on.

If you want as close to perfection as can be made.. mass production is that answer. But it may not have the same life to it as the one made in a small shop by a few skilled hands that bleed, and brow that sweats and a mouth that cusses like a sailor.

A bicycle is a tool, yes, but there is an elegance to the simplicity of the vehicle.

Even if it's build in a very fast paced environment, there is a bit of someone in that bicycle. I know some will think I am an ass after reading this and feeling I have belittled their prized “ XYZ “ frame that they want to believe is custom. But hey it's just a word and these are just words. If you don't like them don't read them. Tell the world you got a custom “ XYZ “ bicycle, you can put red bar tape on it and a different saddle. . To you that means it's custom, BUT by all means get out and enjoy that fucking ride, Bitches.

This is dedicated to Linda, you know who you are..

and so it starts . . .

This is titled “ Writings of a torch bearer “ but it might be better labeled as ramblings or better yet miscellaneous random thoughts. It's what happens when I find myself on a road bicycle, my mind will wander off on it's own. I can't say this is normal or if I am the only one that has this escape while I participate in my life long passion. I have been asked when finishing 4 plus hours of endurance ride “ so where'd ya go “ and the best answer I had was “ Left “. I'd forgotten where I went and what I'd seen, this is my version of therapy. My mind was clear and content, ooommmmhhhhhh ( think a chant when one meditates ).

Therapy or meditation is probably the best way I think of riding and it's a lot cheaper than the couch in an office. There is a solitude and community to riding. It's your pain. It's your pleasure. It's your choice. I guess as a long time cyclist there is a bit of sadomasochism embedded within. The pain of a long climb with the elation of getting to the top. I've heard that we as humans don't remember pain, or at least the total level of pain, we just know it hurt and sometimes “ don't want to do that again “. But there we are grinding our way up that climb again and again knowing there is no monetary prize at the top. No one will be there to celebrate our moment of glory. Yes, I know you got the KOM on Strava, pin on a number and get that KOM in a race, brief rant.

I believe one of the most self abusive things to do is.. bicycle racing. After racing for many many years and moving up a few categories it did nothing but get harder and harder, faster and faster with an ever present level of pain. But I kept signing up and paying to abuse myself at 26+ mph. The truly crazy part is I want to return to the racing world. How sick is this guy ? I ask myself.

I am not taking anything away from all the other aspects of the world of Bicycles and Cycling. I’ve done many parts of the bicycle world. Dirt, gravel, touring, just pedaling the beachfront, commuting, riding with kids to just introduce them to the world. They all have their trials and tests, but I think that racing is the place you will find your personal level of “ to much pain “. I have watched riders that believe they are the strong guy on the weekly group ride, winning the KOM, jumping for those city limit sign to pip all the others at that imaginary line. Only to pin on a number and a few laps into the race find themselves alone in a group of one off the back of the field with nothing but pain as their friend. Some take that as a personal challenge to not get dropped others return to the comfort of the group ride.

I think I found the training one of the big bonuses of racing. I could go out and shake off all the hate and anger of the day. Excising my personal demons leaving them in the weeds on the side of the road. Note, some of those demons are well rooted, but it sure cleared my head.

I could even find creative motivations while out riding and training. 10 to 15 hrs of training a week gives lots of time to think and allow an imagination to develop abstract ideas. I'd dig around in my own head about all sorts of things. Be it as simple as a list of chores that needed to be done around the house or as complex as taking the car apart to swap out the engine, transmission, brakes, fuel system, dashboard, and all the suspension. .. it was a long ride.

I think the best part is that cycling and riding is a place for “ you “. It's your world and you get to choose the path and the length, how much therapy you need that day. For it is therapy, best kind, drug free with physical stress to disconnect the mind from the tasks of modern life. I think what I'm saying is . . Get out there and turn some pedals !!