First, any properly designed and built custom bike is going to fit better than a production bike, unless you’re lucky enough to precisely need one of the relatively few sizes available. If you are a male of roughly average proportions, the difference in fit may be noticeable but is certainly not critical. As your dimensions depart from the norm, however, the gap between what is ideal and what is available widens exponentially. The production market is currently so slanted toward the narrow road-racing male demographic that many females of comparatively average proportions still can’t find a bike that really fits.
In the search for a touring bike fit is even more important, because when touring you are in whatever position your bike puts you in for much of the day- for days, weeks, or more at a time. What might have only been a minor annoyance on a short ride begins to grow, day after day, until it is no longer an annoyance but a real physical issue that can hamper enjoyment of your trip, or even prematurely end it.
Short answer: Yes. Production bikes and racks are cheaper because they are standardized. Thousands of like objects can be made incredibly quickly and at minimal cost because emphasis was put on the efficiency of production. The problem with making thousands of racks all the same is that in order to sell those thousands they have to be made to fit hundreds of different bikes designs. Of course, the bike frames have been designed either without regard to cargo racks, or with a similar “one size must fit all” approach to the multitude of racks out there. This makes for a lot of potential combinations. Adaptability is accomplished with compromised mount locations and lots of adjustment slots, clamps, and long flimsy brackets; all at the expense of functionality and rigidity.
With a custom integrated approach, every setup is different. Mount locations and geometry are optimal for rigidity and functionality. Flimsy horizontal struts are replaced by short, tubular steel arms, which are then mitered to a solid flush mount on the seat stay. There are no adjustment slots or brackets because everything is built precisely where and how it needs to be for the maximum strength and efficiency of the machine as a whole. In short, truly integrated racks aren’t an addition to the frame, they are an extension of it.
The result of this careful integration? A frame so solid and stable that it’s easy to forget you’re hauling anything at all, even at speed around hairpin turns or at walking pace in a crowded square.
Even without an integrated rack a custom Littleford is superior to a production frame because each of the double-butted chromoly tubes is selected to suit a particular use, weight and riding style. Where those tubes are cut (and thus the length of each butted section) is also determined with a particular rider in mind. This careful consideration allows me to personalize the liveliness and feel of a frame- and is especially noticeable in lighter weight road and randonneuring frames.
All custom bikes are significantly more expensive than production ones. The value of a custom Littleford is in the considerable time investment, careful design, meticulous craftsmanship, and close attention to detail of a bicycle that is truly built for life. The cost depends on the complexity and extent of the design. Basic, custom frame bicycle prices are very competitive with those of other custom builders.
Depending on the extent and complexity of the design most bikes take 3 weeks to 1 1/2 months from drawing to delivery. Wait time before your build is completely variable, but orders are taken on a first come, first served basis. A consultation (by phone & email, skype, or in person) and a $600 deposit secures your place in line.
If you are interested in exploring by bike and already know how to ride one, that is enough to warrant a conversation about it. We can talk about your needs and how best to meet them.
Ideally, you and your current bike would be on hand so that we could do an interview over a bike ride. This way I can see your posture and riding style, and we can talk about your current bike’s fit while you’re feeling it. I would then consider your body measurements, posture preference, and current bike’s geometry, along with your personal experience and feedback,to achieve the best possible fit.
If my shop is out of your traveling range, some video or photos of you riding is helpful, along with exacting measurements and information from an in-depth conversation about your riding style, your current bike, and the bike you want me to build. We can work out any particulars by phone and/or on the web.