2011 NAHBS Mosaic Steel Lugged Track Bike

Hand built bikes are undeniably intoxicating. They pose as swoon inducing works of art, sculptures in metal that can take you places, become an extension of your body, connecting to your hands and feet like no other, carrying you off on an exciting adventure.

But for the average rider, a handmade bike falls in to the category of “unobtainium”. Shrouded in mystery and intrigue, most cyclists are unaware of the true benefits of a custom handmade bicycle and are left without a clue as to where to begin to build one.

The Story

Working in a bike shop that did not sell custom made frames, my first full spectrum experience came in 2009 at the North American Handmade Bike Show in Indianapolis.  Despite spending every day of my life surrounded by top of the line carbon bikes, this was obviously a very different matter.  These bikes were sophisticated, unique and at the show, I had the opportunity to shake the hands that built them.  I was in love.

A love that required a post show beer (or two) to still my beating heart.

And I suspect I was not alone.  I can only imagine that evening in the Mid West, bars full, starstruck, dreamy-eyed cyclists balancing atop bar stools, coolly talking bikes with their friends while deep down fighting their burning desire to hunt down framebuilders in the street to place a deposit.

Fast forward a few years and a bit of experience, I can still imagine the list of daunting questions associated with building a custom bike.

If I build a custom bike, where do I start?  What frame builder do I choose?  What frame material would work best for the type of bike, my style of riding, size and budget?  What parts do I choose?  How do I know that I am getting a good bike fit?  How long does it take?  How much does it cost?  How do I know that I am making the right decisions?  What sort of warranty and follow up should I expect?

The Project

In my search for guidance to answer these questions, I was fortunate to find experts all around.  Soon the project became clear.  We would build a custom bike, share the story with our readers and maybe find a way to do a little good along the way.

In November we began working on the designs for a custom Girl Bike Love Cyclocross Bike with Pro Peloton‘s Chris Soden and Mosaic Cycles Aaron Barcheck.

We are excited to share the story of our custom bike build with you.  The GBL CX will see its official debut at the 2012 NAHBS in Sacramento, CA this coming March.  A limited edition of the GBL CX by Mosaic Cycles will be produced.  Each bike will be custom built to fit.  The profits from the sale of these bikes will be donated to Boltage – a Colorado based non-profit that encourages kids to walk and bike to school.

From now until NAHBS we will have articles discussing the custom bike building process, choosing components and the culture of handmade bicycles.  As we embark on this adventure we hope that you will come along for the ride, enjoy the story, learn with us and help support a cause that is so close to our hearts.

The Experts

Chris Soden – Master Bike Fitter and Owner, Pro Peloton Cyclery, Boulder, Colorado

Chris and I met one snowy evening in the hotel lounge of our Minneapolis rest spot during Frostbike, an annual event put on by Quality Bicycle Products.  What started out as a “Hi, my name is Sarai, I love bikes, would you mind assisting me in avoiding this crazy dude at the bar?” turned in to a great friendship with endless debates on the challenges for beginners and women in cycling.  I count Chris as my go to guy for expert advice on bike fitting and constant encouragement for our efforts at Girl Bike Love.

Stephanie Loveless – Bike rider, framebuilding apprentice, sassy, hip cycle chic and the other half of the “we” on this project.

A fortuitous event found us hanging out after a night of wedding merriment.  Despite spending almost the entire evening in close proximity, Stephanie and I hadn’t really chatted.  As the party drew to a close with yawns on our faces we managed to strike up a conversation.  It went something like this…

“Blah, blah, blah… I like bikes…”

“Me too!… yadda, yadda, yadda…”

The yawns quickly faded and an inspiring friendship ensued.  Within days we met again and the Built to Fit project was born.  Stephanie has become a regular contributor to girlbikelove.com and will be sharing the stories of framebuilders around the country this season.

Aaron Barcheck – Proprietor and Framebuilder, Mosaic Cycles, Boulder, Colorado

The rumors of Mosaic Cycles beautiful bikes began ringing in my ears almost two years ago.  Respected bike-geek friends Chris Soden and Pete Lopinto of The Pros Closet mentioned his work to me.  I began seeing images online and then in Pro Peloton and quickly determined the bikes to be lust worthy.  As luck would have it Stephanie had been working with Aaron in his shop and introduced us.  Within minutes of meeting it was clear that Mosaic Cycles was the perfect partner to build the GBL CX bike.  Aaron’s experience, knowledge and uncommon approach to his business is just what the Built to Fit Project needed.

Let the fun begin.

By Sarai Snyder – Founder, GirlBikeLove. lover of shiny welded metal.