WHAT GOES INTO BUILDING A CUSTOM MADE BICYCLE?
In April 2017 we engaged Rob from Tempest Bicycles to build two custom made touring frames. How did we come to choosing custom touring frames? Well firstly, we have always had issues with basic bicycle frame sizes. At a height of 6ft 4, I have always had trouble finding the right bike. Teagan on the other hand is pretty little and our search for a nice fitting bike with suitable attachments for touring was also a little difficult. On top of that we weren't savvy cyclists and having Rob's help was pivotal in our learning for the trip. We did initially look at the common touring bikes like the Surley Long Haul Trucker and the Vivente bikes but these just weren't our cup of tea. So deciding on custom made frames was a simple choice because: 1. The price difference wasn't going to be much more than that of common touring bikes like the Vivente bikes or the Surely long haul trucker; 2. We had an opportunity to create completely unique set of touring bicycles, and; 3. Rob's the man.
During the build, it was our job to source all the parts and equipment for the bicycles. Obtaining these parts meant that we went into detail on each component of the bike. This really gave us a much better understanding of how to source, build and maintain parts on the bike. However, this wasn't a simple task. It meant long hours of trawling through blogs, websites, swap/sell sites and many frustrating hours looking at contradictory information as every man/woman and their dog has their own way of doing things. A benefit/downfall to this is that you get obsessed with looking at bike gear and bicycle blogs. We really liked the look of the gear from the company Velo-Orange, so you can see that a lot of our components came from their online store. These guys specialise in vintage looking touring gear. Generally, the gear is in the mid-range price bracket but are super quality and look sooo sooo nice. Just check out their cranksets...
Once the parts were ordered and shipped in we delivered them to Rob for the build. We will put an extensive list of our parts and travelling gear in a seperate post in future but for now check out the picture our bikes deconstructed.
GETTING SIZED UP AND BUILDING
The stages of the build comprised of: getting sized up, generating a computer bike model, ordering, brazing the frame together, painting and then building the bike. For the initial stage of being sized up, Rob had organised the help of physiotherapist named Dan from "Form Bike Fit" to measure our body dimensions including our positioning on a bicycle. Teagan loved this! Being a sports science university student she was worried about the long term effects of being on a bicycle day in and day out. Using Dan to size us meant that our fit on the bike would be ergonomically designed and perfect for max power during long hours in the saddle.
The information supplied by Dan was translated straight into bicycle CAD (Bike CAD is a computer modelling programme for bicycle frames) which compiled a computer model of our bikes. Rob played with the computer model generated by bike CAD to determine the exact frame sizing for each of us.... literally to the millimetre. Rob then sent through PDF versions of the computer model including dimensions of the bicycles. This was our first visual of our future bikes and it was really wild! Finally, the bike dimensions generated by the computer model was used to order all of the frame equipment.
After the components came in and with a little bit of two and fro, Rob started brazing. He polished the bikes until they were criminally smooth and suddenly we had two perfectly sized fillet brazed Columbus Zona touring rigs with bentley components low mount dropouts, internal cable routing for the rear disc brake, a power hungry drivetrain, mean looking cranks and all the bells and whistles..... simple right? Well with Rob's help it was.
Once the frames were all polished, Rob sent them to paint. Choosing a paint style was one of the hardest decision we made ahaha... particularly for Teagan. I think we searched for bikes with every RAL colour code possible in blue, green and grey. Hours later we were at the decision of RAL 6005 moss-green for me and RAL 5008 grey-blue for Teagan. The company who painted our bikes tried to match the colours they had in stock as best they could. Eventually my bike was sprayed highland green the same colour as Steve McQueen’s iconic 68 Boss Mustang in the movie Bullitt and Teagan's bike was painted Ferrari Maribeau blue.
All this took a year to complete. A long time for some and short for others. For us it was enough time to save money, research and get pumped for all that was upon us! We expect these bikes to last our trip and for years to come so we were cheering about how these dream bicycles turned out.
Rob was in touch with us every step of the build. He is a classic bicycle nerd and his love for bikes shows in the effort he puts into making them. He made these bikes unique, strong and so versatile. For example, Teagan's bike has enough tyre clearance that we can interchange her 650b x 38mm touring tyres with 2.25inch mountain bike tyres and it can even fit 700c x 35mm touring tyres too! Also, a crucial bit of the equipment is Teagan's derailleur hanger which sneakily has a bottle opener on it. Teagan has a swiss army bike. Mind blown. Rob thought of everything to make these bikes one of a kind. We definitely recommend you get in touch with Rob if you want to go through a build of a lifetime at https://tempestbicycles.com.
SUMMING IT UP
Would we build again? Looking at the quality of these bikes I don't think we would ever need to build again. Due to the quality of these bikes, I would encourage anyone who has the time to look into getting a custom made frame. The downside to custom made frames is that they are more expensive than the classic touring bikes and they take time to build/research parts. If you are financially or temporally constrained then paying an extra one to two thousand ($AUD) dollars or waiting a year for a custom bike might not be your thing. In the end, building the bike has been just another brilliant addition to our journey. Also, if touring doesn't work out for us these bikes are very suitable for city riding too and, therefore, they are bikes for life not just the tour.
Massive thanks to Rob from Tempest Bicycles for being a 2000% champion and having such patience with our bike ignorance. Rob made this bike build an experience and hopefully the rest of our trip is as much fun as the building of our bikes!