Well before I knew it, a full season has passed since I got the Bantam Rambleneur. Three months since I got my custom bike. A custom bike! It’s still weird to think that I own a custom frame, because up until a couple years ago I never thought I would.
So, how is this “dream” bike? Well, great! It’s proven itself as a capable light-moderate tourer, distance rider, rough stuff adventurer, and day-in, day-out commuter. I’m no Jan Heine, but it is definitely the “liveliest” and sportiest bike I have owned possibly ever. It’s more fun to ride than the Long Haul Trucker, though I have not pushed its load-carrying capacity in the same way as I did with the LHT. And it’s relatively light, but no lightweight, especially since that Carradice Camper Longflap lives on it!
I will be riding the heck out of it in the coming years. It’s a keeper. And right now, there aren’t many changes I want to do to it. I think this is mostly because I had it built from scratch, and decided exactly what I wanted with most things. (While I bought my Long Haul Trucker as a frameset, most of the components came from another bike that I broke.) Most things were tried-and-true (for me), while a few others were new to me, most obvious are the dirt drop handlebars and the 1X8 drivetrain. Both of which I like. And disc brakes! I know that according to some they are not a “mature” technology, but I like them. I definitely feel the difference in stopping power!
I still want to install an Alfine 11 internally geared hub wheel at some point (esp. since I have the hub,) but right now I am in no hurry. And at some point it would be nice to get a small front rack, one to hold that custom rando-style handlebar bag (before I went custom frame, I went custom bags. 😉 ) But like the Alfine 11, I’m in no hurry.
Now the ultimate question: Was it worth it going custom? In this case, yes, because I had a bike built the way I wanted it to, rather than a stock bike with compromises. It would not be possible to find a stock frame that could take disc brakes, switch between 26″ x 2.25″ or 650b x 42 mm, be able to switch between a derailleur system or an IGH, and have braze-ons up the wazoo. (And have internally routed dynamo wiring!) But I probably would not have thought about going custom if I was still happy with my Long Haul Trucker, or if I had an XO-2 with 26 inch wheels versus the 700C XO-3, or if the Crested Butte fit me better. I wanted to find a long distance/touring frame that would make me happy for a long time. I briefly thought about getting a Rivendell, which would be a great bike, but there would still be compromises.
Will I ever get another custom bike? Maybe, but that would be a long way down the road. I got a screaming deal on my Bantam frameset, but even with that, I’ve spent several grand on frameset and components, more than any other bike I’ve ever owned. In the past I would rather save several grand to go travel than spend on a bike. And in the next few years I’d like to go do some extensive travelling. I don’t make a lot of money, so maybe when I get that fabled “good job” I could swing another custom bike. But I don’t know what that would be yet, and honestly, most regular bikes fit me and I get a kick out of vintage bikes. We’ll see, we’ll see.
Now, should you buy a custom bike? I feel that the three biggest reasons to get one are:
- You’ve had fit issues with most “off-the-shelf” bike frames and want a bike that finally works for you.
- You want some very specific things in a frame, things that are not common or not found at all on production frames.
- You want to support a craftsperson.
For me, I did it for reasons 2 and 3. But of course none of this matters unless you have the cash for a custom build, and with custom frames usually starting at about two grand, it’s not cheap. Now, I’m not denigrating bike builders for charging that much, as building by hand takes time and experience. They’ll never be able to compete with a production line in Taiwan. But it’s going to be a price that only the dedicated are going to pay.
How will I be using the Rambleneur in the months and years to come? It will definitely be the go-to machine for touring and distance. While I’ll still do some commuting and utility riding, I think I’m going to keep it more as the “special” bike. This wasn’t the original thought with this bike, as it’s supposed to be the “do anything” bike. But since I’m keeping the Crested Butte and also have the Wayfarer, I’m going to use those as the more day-to-day machines rather than the Bantam. But the Rambleneur will still see its fair share of use!