Custom, Part 1: Year of Indecision

February 7, 2010 at 11:53 pm 2 comments

February 7, 2010
Total Mileage: 44

“Maybe I really do need a custom bike.”

That phrase popped into my head last summer while I was standing next to the bike, waiting for the fire in my feet to subside, and watching my riding buddies crest the last hill in sight. It had taken twelve long months to even admit the possibility that I might not be suited to off-the-rack. Twelve months of fooling myself into thinking all would be well if I just trained harder, or adjusted the seat fore/aft position for the hundredth time, or insert-your-favorite-fit-trick-here. I now refer to that period as my year of indecision.

This is Part One in the story of how I learned to embrace the idea of a custom-made bike. Although every body is different, for many people standard bike sizes are acceptable. These bikes are shipped to the local shop from the factory in predetermined sizes, your size determined by inseam measurement. As an adult, I have purchased three bicycles based on my inseam, and had additional fit adjustments made especially for my needs. None of them has suited.

Other cyclists love their bikes, but I fight mine. The latest model is relaxed geometry, chosen in the hope it would solve the fit problems. In fact, it just made them worse. There are minor issues I won’t go into. Instead, I’ll focus on the bitterest pill–my feet. As the cycle computer approaches 30 miles, the toes and front half of the feet become numb. They stay numb until around 40 miles, when they begin to feel like someone is flaming them with a blowtorch. It’s a hot, sharp pain that overrides all pleasure of riding. By 50 miles, my mind is screaming, “Gotta get off the bike! Gotta get off NOW!” That’s when I end up by the side of the road, watching the other cyclists disappear.

This has been going on for years now, and I thought I’d learned to live with it. So what finally changed my mind? Mr. Spoked read an article about custom cycle makers, and noticed that one of them was a woman who made bikes for women, and lived in Portland, Oregon. “We both love Portland,” he said by way of persuasion. “Why not talk to her about your problems? If you like her, she can make you a bike and we can go to Portland to pick it up.”

For months I fretted over spending as much money on a bike as both our (used) vehicles were worth. A couple of pivotal conversations with other cyclists finally convinced me it was the right way to go. There was another woman with exactly the same foot problems, and she also was 5’9″ tall. Proof it wasn’t all in my mind! On another ride I met a man with a friend who’d recently invested in a custom bike because of some serious fit issues. Not only did the custom bike resolve the problems, but it increased his performance by 10%. Hmm, maybe there was something to this.

Husband and I continued to ride all summer long, and encountered still others who had had great experiences with custom bike manufacturers. I began talking about it as a possibility. Just in case I decided to back out, though, Mr. Spoked fired off an email to the maker in Portland to see what her schedule was like. She emailed back directly. Now it was up to me to get the ball rolling. So very much money. What if it didn’t work? The weeks passed by, the summer was nearly over, and still I hesitated. Did I finally commit? You’ll have to read next week’s post to find out.

The cyclocross tires really paid off this week. They handled the city streets well, despite all the junk on the road. A few snowflakes, some sand and slush can’t stop me now.

Cyclocross tires

Next week:
Custom, Part Two: Is It Love, Or Just a Crush?


Entry filed under: Bicycling, Custom bikes. Tags: , , .

Let Me Do It Custom, Part 2: Is it Love or Just a Crush?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bill poindexter  |  February 13, 2010 at 4:57 am

    I understand you thinking a custom bike is the way to go and to be sure you would like it, but do you really need it.
    Most physical discomforts can be overcome by adjusting seat ht, stem, seat placement fore or rear.also things such as numd feet hands, neck, etc can be aleveation by rest, self massage,losen the shoes so you can let blood flow..just cures to name a few. Even if you get a new bike most likely issues will still be there if you ride much…every rider is must be aware of your own body. We Americsns tend to look for the magic fix/ pill to cure our ills. Millions are just fine with off the rack bikes …custom bikes should be for the pro racers or the rich. -I almost bought a custom 8K bike once, but asked myself a question “do I really need this or want it, and if – had no other choice and had to keep the bike I have how could I make it fit like the custom or as close as possible?”And I kept it amd adjusted it to fit me and it fits great..everytime I buy or ride a rented bike I make the aadjustments. All works out well.’KNow your body, then know the bike.

  • 2. getspoked  |  February 13, 2010 at 6:08 am

    Thanks for the advice, Bill. But trust me, I’ve tried it all–seat adjustments, seat height, bike sandals instead of shoes, stem adjustments, etc., etc. I’ve done a lot of research into the subject, and it’s not at all unusual for short or tall women (I’m one of the latter) to have serious fit issues. The bottom line is that off-the-rack bikes are made for men and not for women. A custom bike is not a decision I made lightly, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I’m hoping the new bike will improve my problems but I’m not sold that it will eliminate them completely. And by the way, I was just reading your blog this evening. I’m not carfree myself, but I do commute several times a week many months out of the year, and I applaud what you’re doing. You’re absolutely right about Americans and our obsession with cars. They isolate us–from nature, and from each other. You’re doing a great thing by living car-free. Be safe!


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Passionate about Bicycling

I don't bicycle for a living, but I do bicycle to live. It's that simple.

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2012: 3,624 miles total
2011: 1,632 miles total
2010: 3,132 miles total
2009: 2,840 miles total

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