A bike just for you
If you’ve had off-the-shelf bikes before you may have found that they rarely hit the mark for the exact way you use them. Until recently, the bike industry has been almost solely driven by racing. As a result most bikes emulated racing bikes making them ill-suited to regular people and the way they want to use them. Once you start carrying stuff, as most people find themselves wanting to, these bikes that look like those in Le Tour or from the world of MTB racing become even less well suited. We have been building custom bikes for people since the early days of Commuter Cycles. These builds are often built around a frame which is unlike those offered by the big brands. They are often steel, which is commonly more comfortable and resilient when loaded up with gear for commuting and touring. They are often comfortable in their angles and versatile in their handlebar set ups to allow a ride suited to a regular person doing regular things. They are often for people with specific requirements and preferences. People who have had off-the-shelf bikes and are now experienced enough to know what works for them. They are often for people who’ve never had a bike fit quite right. Sometimes they are just for people who want something that looks a particular way.
Planning a custom build
Planning a custom build can easily take as long as actually building it. When you first approach us for a custom build, in person, on the phone or via email, the first thing we will do is mine you for information. We will ask about your requirements, your preferences, your planned usage, your budget, and any decisions on frames or components that you may have already made. Armed with this info we will put together a proposed list of specifications (or spec list) that details the build along with a quote for that spec.
Once the spec list is approved, we will ask for a 20% deposit and begin assembling components. For any given custom build we often have about half of the components in store already but the other half will need to be ordered in. Bikes are relatively simple machines but as always the devil is in the details. It is surprisingly easy to find yourself with incompatible (or worse, only seemingly-compatible), or ill-fitting components despite lots of research. Not only are we exceptionally good at avoiding these incompatibilities, we are also very good at judging the suitability of each component for the job at hand. Any components that need ordering are now ordered and we give you an ETA on anything that is likely to take more than a week.
At this point we might already have your fit sorted based on test rides, matching an existing bike or taking a few measurements such as inseam and arm length. Sometimes, customers have had a fit done by a physio or another bike fit expert. We are happy to use the recommended fit data to set up your new bike when available. If there is any doubt it is at this point we will get you on our fit bike to confirm the fit and lock in sizing on the frame and any associated components (such as stem length, crank length, seat post offset, etc.). Bike fit is tricky because there are competing factors at play. Usage, handling and sizing are all at play when locking in a fit. The fit on a fully-loaded touring bike that will be ridden at 15k/h for long days is completely different to that of an unloaded gravel bike that will be moving at 25k/h for a few hours at a time. Our expertise is in fitting people for pretty much any type of riding that isn’t racing. We all have significant personal experience with touring, commuting, gravel and dirt road explorations, long distance road riding and mountain biking.
The build itself
Once the parts all arrive the build itself is often done quite quickly. In some cases it is done in a single day. Frames are always prepped before building. This means headset and bottom bracket fittings are reamed, chased and faced where appropriate to ensure the headset and bottom bracket bearings run as straight and smooth as possible. Everything is fitted and adjusted before being test ridden and further refined. A small amount of steerer tube on the fork is left above the stem to allow for small adjustments in the fit after it has been ridden for a while. Tape will sometimes be left unwrapped until after you’ve taken it for a test ride if there is any doubt over perfect handlebar and lever angles.
Like any new bike, a custom built bike will benefit from a first service to make small adjustments after things have settled into place. We typically recommend this after a month or two, or sooner if you notice anything dropping out of adjustment. Even if it seems to be running perfectly, we still like to spend some time going over it to make sure everything is as it should be. This first service is free and we would not expect it to need another until you have put some decent km on it and it’s getting closer to a year old.
How have other people customised their bike?
Here’s a listing of some previously completed custom builds for customers. Check them out and get inspired!
Is tell EVERYONE about Bridge Club!
If you’ve dropped into the store, or kept an eye on our social media, over the last twelve months you’ll have noticed a growing number of Surly Bridge Clubs getting around. And with good reason. After initially being underwhelmed by it on paper prior to it’s release, the Bridge Club really has proved itself as an extremely versatile, great value and super fun option for so many different kinds of riding.
At Commuter we’re very lucky to have been able to forge relationships with some great brands and offer some of the industry’s leading commuting, touring and adventure bikes. Within this range though, there are a few that really shine, like the Tumbleweed Prospector we featured recently. To be fair though there is a solid standout for us when it comes to versatility of setup and mixed terrain capability. The Wolverine from Soma Fabrications.
We’ll start our series of deeper introductions to our range with what is definitely the least well known member of the Commuter family, the Tumbleweed Prospector
Now that he’s back on home turf and running out of continents to ride across, he has decided to trade in the Ogre for something at bit more capable for everyday trail riding. This custom built Karate Monkey should be tough enough to take on the burliest of trails in his home state of Tasmania.
Sometimes during the process of tailoring a bike to suit a customers needs all elements come together to create something truly special. In this case Cjell Mone created one of the sweetest brazed frames known to man, then David walked in and fell in love that gold braze on raw steel. We complimented the frame with some parts from the best in the business.
We had first met Ben via email when he was gearing up to take on the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel race in 2017. We helped deck him out with some Apidura kit and Dynamo power for the long stretches in the dark.
We already knew that the Soma Wolverine was a versatile bike — it can take any gearing, chain or belt drive, wide 700c tyres with fenders and almost any combination of racks and bags — but in this build we discovered it can be set up as a more rugged off–road tourer visually reminiscent of early mountain bikes. We squeezed in 2.1″ tyres on 650b rims, fit the brand new through–axle fork, set it up with a swept flat bar and added a bit of character with pink anodised hubs, seat clamp and headset.
This new offering from Soma blends the best features of the Smoothie road bike and the Double cross disc into a versatile Road Disc package with generous tyre clearance. We recently received a frameset courtesy of Soma fabrications to build up. We’ve kept it more road centric than a lot of our Wolverine builds as the carbon fork and tighter geometry are screaming out for a build that is both fast and comfortable for all day rides.
We’ve been building tried and tested commuting, touring and adventure bikes for a while now so we have a great understanding of what people want in a bike. This had led us to creating some off the shelf custom builds. Thus allowing us to hand pick parts and QC the entire build process. Some of the bikes we love such as the Soma Wolverine, Soma Juice and Saga disc are only available as frame-sets so we wanted to give customers a feel for how great these bikes really are. We’ll be adding more bikes to the website in the coming weeks so stay tuned and in the mean time call in for a test ride!
Adam didn’t realise he needed a SOMA Wolverine, until he saw mine. “I saw an orange bike on your Instagram feed” said the man as he wandered around the workshop, “I am on the lookout for a new bike, and had been thinking about an internal gear hub town bike, but that bike looks like fun”. The seed had been sown, and a test ride of my Wolverine and six months later, Adam is the proud owner of a SRAM Rival1 Wolverine.
Albert was looking for a tough bike to take on the rough roads near his home town of Deniliquin. He was finding his cross bike just wasn’t cutting it. The Surly ECR grabbed his attention and we worked on a build that would be good for long day rides and also longer trips into the outback.
Our mate John loves a single speed. He’s got an enviable collection of bikes and had a gap between the cross bike and the SS hardtail that needed filling. Despite being the biggest frame size we’ve built, John’s is the lightest Wolverine that’s been through the shop.
This bike is a niche filler. There aren’t many options for touring bikes that can tackle the sort of trails and fire roads that you’d usually need a mountain bike for. Velo Orange has just started producing one and they’ve called it the Piolet.
Riley has been commuting on a Paconi steel road bike for years. He came to us looking for something more suited to the daily grind of poor roads, all weather conditions and emergency braking. He also wanted a bike that he would be able to take on dirt road adventures on the weekend. It had to be fast, and black too.
Belinda’s bike was a bit of an enigma. She came to us with a brief that didn’t at first make a lot of sense. She wanted a lightweight build on an old favourite of ours, the Surly Long Haul Trucker. During the build we affectionately nick-named it the Light Haul Trucker. Needless to say, by the end we were all convinced and pleasantly surprised with the result.