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..