Bespoke Bicycles: Self-Building?

In the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking about my list of requirements for a bespoke bicycle that I would dearly love to have built before I travel to cycle the length of Japan in 2020. I have yet to write down a definite list – perhaps I never will – but I have located a potential builder, Woodrup Cycles in Leeds, and, crucially, started saving. Ultimately, that might be the biggest hurdle as custom bikes are wincingly expensive. However, whether it be literal or metaphorical one, every long journey started with one step so I’m not going to let the obvious barriers to purchasing my own bespoke bicycle stop me from thinking about doing so. Hold that thought…

I know where you come from. Apologies; that does sound a little sinister. I should perhaps say I know where a few of you come from. There is a small box in the ‘stats’ section of this website (that only I can see) called ‘referrer’. It does what it says on the tin and allows me to see where you, the visitors to this website, have clicked on a link to get you here. The vast majority of you come from search engines (although Google clamped down on revealing search terms a few years ago so I no longer see those) and social media. However, a handful of you arrive here after clicking a link on another cycling / travel website. These links sometimes throw up a gem and I just found another one: is the website of cyclist and traveller Jamie Anderson. Jamie is travelling the world in what appears to be a fairly leisurely fashion and has been doing so for several years. He describes himself as follows:

“This weirdo has cycled more than 25,000km on his touring bike in over 30 countries. He doesn’t take planes and hasn’t stepped inside a car for over 3 years. He also, apparently, cuts his own hair.”

His latest posts reveal that he is currently in Azerbaijan. His list of statistics about his cycling makes interesting reading. The person who came to via had done so via a link on this page of Jamie’s website where he writes about his experiences of cycling from Barcelona to Valencia. (Thanks for the link Jamie.) Anyway, back to the point and, bicycles…

Jamie has a bespoke bike and this page of his website is fascinating. I’ll leave you to peruse it in detail but it makes me think. I’m no mechanic but should I be taking a more hands-on approach to realising my ambition to own a bespoke bicycle. Should I, in effect, try building one for myself? Thoughts, as ever, welcome.

Here is Jamie in action, building his bike in a video from the Bike Ramble Vimeo page:

Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Travel

7 replies »

  1. I have a Thorn Sherpa bought used for ยฃ500. Would highly recommend a Thorn. They have a website with a forum for used sales. Check that out before other forums. Steve

  2. If you are thinking of a self build, get some practice by giving Reggie a good service. You will learn a lot and accumulate most of the tools you need. Personally I wouldnโ€™t spend too much on a touring bike, as it will get locked up in all sorts of places, may get scratched etc….. My touring / commute bike was ยฃ1100 and has done almost 20,000 Miles with very little problems

    • I don’t disagree with what you say there Barry. Reggie was ‘only’ ยฃ1,100 when I bought him in 2010 and he’s also done about 20,000 km (OK, probably not miles but with all the commutes, perhaps…). But… touring bikes are fundamentally not very attractive to thieves – they aren’t that ‘sexy’ to the masses (just to bizarre people like us) – and aren’t easy to flog down the pub. And anyway, I’m almost always with the bike when touring; scratches are badges of honour! ๐Ÿ™‚ Perhaps I should take your advice and practice on Reggie. He may need a strong anaesthetic… ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’d be more tempted to go for a good second hand bike like a Thorn with a rohloff speedhub.Then change the parts I wanted to such as butterfly bars etc after that as a brand new bike is only brand new until you’ve ridden it once. You could then use the money you save for sushi and Japanese whiskey

      • Below is a description of one on eBay at the moment

        One of the very first Thorn Raven expedition touring bikes ever built.

        Full details to follow with further images and sizing.

        Update 24/7/18:

        Apologies for the delay to those of you watching this auction.

        Frame size is 537L and fits me well, at a smidge under 5โ€™9โ€ tall.

        To the best of my knowledge and belief itโ€™s done no more than 370 road miles from new and is in immaculate condition.

        From what I understand of itโ€™s history it was first purchased in August 2004 by a gentleman from Huddersfield but was never used and subsequently re-sold via a motorcycle store in Sheffield. It came into my possession about 5 years ago showing just 70 miles on the fitted cat eye computer.

        At that time I was planning a future extended world tour – hence my purchase. Well the future is here and sadly my plans didnโ€™t materialise. I now have a small fleet of bikes some of which have to go due to a pending house move so Iโ€™m reluctantly offering this much cherished bike up for auction. I added a further 300 miles to it on a number of individual day rides when I first got it, but it has since been gathering dust. I have just had to replace the computer battery so the odometer mileage is no longer correct.

        I swapped the original Thorn comfort handlebars for Thorn flat bars and Ergon GP5 bar ends but the originals are included in the sale. I also replaced the original saddle for a Brooks B17 (Narrow) All other components are original.

        The tyres are Panaracer Pasela Tourguard 26×1.75โ€ and show no sign of deterioration. I will be including a pair of nearly new Schwalbe Marathon supreme 26x 2โ€ tyres. These have covered approximately 100 road miles.

        The original owner had anti theft skewers fitted to both wheels and handlebar stem. Original skewers included.

        The brakes are Radius V brakes and seem just as powerful as Shimano XT.

        The rear rack is Blackburn (alloy)

        Forks are Reynolds 531 twin plate.

        Frame: Thorn 969 cromoly double butted with Reynolds 725 heavy duty chain stays.

        The bottle Dynamo is fully functional to the b&m lumotech halogen headlamp but falls far short of modern day lighting systems for illumination.

        The wheels are hand built by Thorn on Sun Rhyno rims.

        Also included:

        a Rohloff oil service kit

        Original invoice/specification list and owner manuals.

        Original pedals (please note the fitted SPD pedals are not included in the sale)

        Zefal high pressure pump.

What do you think?