Over the years I have had several great bikes. To replace my venerable Madone 7, I decided to explore the custom build route. I have been intrigued by the thought of custom for some time. You get to choose everything you want and your ride will be a one of kind built for your fit.
Factory bikes are incredible. Big companies like Trek, Cervelo, et al, spend millions in wind tunnels developing ridiculous technologies. Small builders will never be able to compete with the wind tunnel results from the big boys. But, small builders have soul in my opinion and build bikes with heart to your exact fit. Sure I could buy off the rack, but this time I wanted something bespoke. Something tailored.
To get it built right, I started with a professional retul bike fit from expert fitter, Jim Manton at ero-sports. Jim has been fitting me for years and has gotten me dialed-in on everything from a Cervelo P5 to a Santa Cruz Highball.
The fit starts by getting decorated in an array of sensors he uses to capture body position in the computer to assess all the angles of my body while he optimizes me on a special "fit bike". Once we get to where I am comfortable, making good power and he is satisfied, he measure the entire fit bike down to the millimeter with a special capture tool and creates a fit report the builder uses to create a perfect, custom frame.
After that, my friend Rich Sawiris at wheelbuilder.com fixed me up with Craig Calfee's team at Calfee designs. While you can get a bike built via telephone and email using a retul bike fit, I was fortunate enough to make the trip to La Selva Beach just South of Santa Cruz, California to see the factory.
The Calfee factory is pretty incredible. It's got character. It's located on the campus of the Monterey Bay Academy, right on the beach.
My bike was going to be custom geometry according to the expertise of the builder based on my fit. To get all the angles custom, they use a 3D printer to create custom lug molds that will form the lugs to connect all the tubes together to create the bike. For stock bikes, they use the steel lug molds you on the wall.
I choose the dragonfly design for my build. It uses skinny tubes with thick side walls that provide stiffness while being very low weight. I think it creates a very delicate, crafted, bespoke aesthetic. In a world of thick tube bikes, the dragonfly looks like it floats.
After spending several hours with the Califee team, it was all about the waiting. Most custom builds take about 2 months. Mine was closer to 4 due to some delays in making the custom lugs, the holidays, etc.
During the build, Jason from Calfee did a great job keeping me up to speed with progress pictures. It was really exciting watching it come together.
Once the frame is complete, you can have them just send the frame or can opt to have an Enve fork included and painted to match. You can opt for a matching seat post as well.
I wanted a fully built bike versus a frame set, so wheelbuilder was able to send all the parts to build my complete bike for me in the factory.
As far as I am concerned the finished product is just perfect. It totally exceeds my expectations.
So, now for a little self indulgent bike porn (queue the music).....
So, at the end of the day, how did it work out? I love it! I think it rides like a dream. It's light (15.4 pounds), stiff, accelerates like a champ and handles like its on rails. Compared to my Madone 7 (arguably a Super Bike), it seems more nimble. It think that must be the fit. It fits me like a glove. It was made for me. It's my precious. But, I also think the craftsmanship is top notch. Made by hand within a stones throw of the Pacific Ocean.
I still love my Madone. I put over 6,000 miles on it and over 1,000,000 feet of gain. But, I don't miss it a lick when I am on my Dragonfly...