By James Bracey
When buying mainstream doesn't cut it and you really want to treat yourself or stand out from the crowd, then it might be time to look to one of Britain's steadily rising crop of custom bike brands.
In sheds, workshops and pristine facilities up and down the country, master craftsmen and women are producing some of the most stunning bicycles you could ever dream of owning.
Going custom is such an experience that you will never forget the process and more often than not will cherish the finished article far more than an off-the-shelf bike. Plus for most of us taking the plunge on a unique machine will result in it most probably being part of your life until the day you can no longer turn a pedal.
Of course, the custom geometry you end up with will be designed for you at the time of the preceding fit - so it's worth waiting until you're happy with your position, and don't expect to be making many changes in the coming years, before taking the plunge.
Below are just ten of Britain's finest bike brands - we know there's far more and hopefully we will showcase these in time as well. Take a look at what each has to offer and who knows, you might just find your forever bike.
Field is a personal favourite of mine thanks to some of the most gorgeous paint jobs seen on a bicycle to date. Handmade in Sheffield, Field is made up of a frame builder, painter and graphic designer and create a range of bicycle frames and components predominately in steel.
All custom frames are TIG-welded using a mix of Reynolds and Columbus steel tubing and feature distinctive Field cycles CNC machined dropouts. Frames can be customised for individual needs to order. Paint and graphics are entirely up to you.
Field are currently operating with an eight week lead time.
Scottish steel experts Shand still builds all its frames in Central Scotland. Whilst the brand is a little bigger now and has a whole host of frames and bikes to choose from it still focusses on hand-built steel across the board.
Shand produces a range of general frame sizes but also offers complete custom options for any of its frames. Unlike some other brands Shand also constructs its own steel forks to match its frames.
Frames are made using a selection of Reynolds, Columbus and Dedacciai steel tubes dependent on intended use. It produces three road specific frames, the Rizello, Rizello Disc and Skinnymalinky.
Rob Quirk hand builds all his frames in a workshop in London. Specialising in one-off custom specials based around three key model ranges, the Durmitor, Mamtor and Kegity. All of which are based around endurance riding and/or all-road and gravel adventures.
Quirk has built bikes showcased at Grinduro and even raced the Transcontinental and Silk Road Race whilst still retaining the ability to be a perfect partner for the weekend club run.
Each frame is handbuilt one at a time, using Columbus steel tubing.
Feather Cycles has built up a reputation for creating some of the most beautiful hand-built bicycles to have come out of the UK over the past few years. Like many brands of this type Feather Cycles is the work of just one man, ex-BMXer Ricky Feather. Coming from a background of industrial welding Ricky has managed to combine his skills with the welding torch with his passion for cycling and now specialises in bespoke steel frames for individual customers.
Anything is possible with the fully custom approach, if you want a lugged classic steel road bike then you can have it, however Feather is also very happy to build you an ultra modern race bike utilising the latest tube shaping if that's your preference.
Stayer Cycles is an independent bike builder based in Leytonstone, East London, formed in 2015. Judith builds wheels and Sam builds frames, giving Stayer cycles a unique offering to it's customers.
Stayer offers two ready made frame options - the 650b gravel Groadinger and the 700c based Chigzag. Both are more aimed at the all-road market but they will obviously still work well on tarmac. If you want something specific then you can go the custom build route with Stayer to create the perfect frame for you.
All Stayer frames are handbuilt from custom steel tubing and feature Stayer's signature wishbone seat stay arrangement.
It's often said the devil is in the detail, but in this case it's more appropriate to say the demon is in the detail when it comes to this UK framebuilder.
Demon Frameworks specialise in creating lugged steel frames with some of the most exquisite detailing found on any frames being made currently. Each lug and feature is painstakingly hand crafted and explains the reason why each frame takes at least 150 hours to bring to life.
Demon’s approach to making frames is complex and very involved, there are no short cuts. The results are strikingly beautiful bikes that ride as good as they look.
Warwick based Meteor Works has recently introduced a production frame, the Æsir to push its capabilities to supply both bespoke and off-the-shelf options, all whilst still keeping things distinctly unique. Meteor Works is able to create any style of bicycle frame from road to MTB thanks to the experience and expertise of master framebuilder and Meteor Works owner Lee Prescott.
Working predominately in steel but with commissions incorporating carbon fibre, Meteor Works frames have a distinctive look enhanced with the ability to spec any finish you wish for.
Enigma is probably the most well-known name in this list thanks to a raft of award-winning production frames available from this Sussex based builder. Enigma is mostly known for its work in titanium but also offers plenty of steel in its catalogue.
It's core collection covers everything from fast road to off-road through endurance and adventure build options. For the rider that wants to push past the production option or who has some specific requirements Enigma has its Signature collection of bespoke frames to create a truly one-off steel or titanium beauty.
Saffron Frameworks is Matthew Sowter, a London based frame builder specialising in one-off bespoke builds. Saffron has won several accolades from Bespoked bike show and other hand-built bike shows over the years and his frames are highly sought after. Frames can be built from the full range of Columbus and Reynolds steel tubing as well as in stainless steel or even featuring a lugged construction if you so wish.
At the time of writing potential customers will have to wait at least eight months to get their hands on a Saffron frame.
Another London based frame builder and named after owner Tom, Donhou keeps things simple by focussing on four distinctive base model ranges to cover all types of road riding. The DSS1 is a disc braked performance road bike, DSS2 has a road and touring slant, DDS3 is CX/gravel based and DSS4 is the full-on road race bike.
Customers can completely customise their specific build, advised of course by Donhou as to what would work best. There are a whole host of extra features the customer can add to create a truly unique build.
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