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Calling Cyclists: Get a Custom Bicycle Built for Two (Grand)

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March 20, 2015
Custom bicycle

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part Perspectives on Money Culture series on custom bicycles.

Customized bikes aren’t just for competitive racers. More consumers are looking beyond a serviceable ten-speed to a semi-custom or custom-made bicycle that can make the ride both more enjoyable and safer.

Biking is becoming a greater part of overall transportation. The League of American Bicyclists, citing data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the number of trips made by bicycle in the U.S. more than doubled to 4 billion in 2009 from 1.7 billion in 2001.

 Unlike typical dealers who try to match a rider to a bike, custom shops like to match bike to rider. They spend time with clients to review everything from riding style to body shape, as well as other analysis for the perfect fit. Questions may include any injury history, which can affect  rider motion.

“It’s not necessarily racing performance, but moving comfortably with a bicycle, and everyone has a different idea of what comfortable means,” said Adam Kaplan, co-owner of Get a Grip Cycles in Chicago, a high-end shop that customizes bikes. “We’re here to match the gear to the client. It’s about understanding how to match that person’s movement patterns, goals, and physiology.”

Kaplan said his shop takes body measurements and looks at mobility issues, such as watching how the person gets on and off the bike and foot stability.

Sometimes, technicians watch how a cyclist uses their current set of wheels. “That way I can see how their interview matches up with how they’re pedaling on the bike,” he said. “It becomes clear to see what we’re going to modify or improve once there’s the fitting session.”

The appointment includes a sizing bike and video clips, plus a little lesson on posture.

Costs for semi-custom bikes start at $900, and that includes using a stock frame from a production company like Cervelo or Scott, Kaplan said. A mid-level, carbon-fiber bike off the shelf can average $2,000 to $4,000. The average price for fully customized bikes at Get a Grip Cycles is between $6,000 to $12,000 through wholesalers including Seven Cycles and Parlee. They take about six to eight weeks to complete.  

Custom bikes are meant to last for years. “Bodies change. The goal is to have one nice bike that allows for adjustments as needs change,” Kaplan said.

And next? Your fitting for the yellow jersey.

Coming up in Part 2: A look at high-end bicycle accessories.

Steer Your Own Retirement

Picturing a retirement on two wheels? You can help address income and lifestyle needs by keeping your retirement plans flexible.