Affordable custom aluminum frame options?-
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  1. #1
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    Sep 2018

    Affordable custom aluminum frame options?

    Hey all,

    My wife is 410 & has a custom Alchemy road bike. Now she wants a gravel bike, but even aluminum frames are ridiculously cost prohibitive. Might there be a no frills aluminum frame builder/company around? I have the required details for the build & require no hand holding in that respect.

    With respect, Im not seeking fitting advice for short women. Im looking for a low cost custom aluminum frame builder.

    Thanks for the advice.

  2. #2
    Mtn Biker Machinist
    Reputation: 1 cog frog's Avatar
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    Dec 2004
    Out of curiosity, why aluminum?

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  3. #3
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    Jul 2007

  4. #4
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    Sep 2019
    Yeah, why aluminum in particular? And what's your price range? You can get a full custom titanium frame from waltly for right around $1000, which sounds like a lot until you shop around for other custom steel builders. I wouldn't expect to find a custom aluminum frame for less than that.

  5. #5
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    Reputation: scottzg's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Weird topic.
    Finding a builder that wants to build a frame where they have minimal input on the design isn't super easy. Much harder than finding custom alu. Most prospective custom frame customers who don't want to have their ideas questioned have really dumb ideas about frame design. Not saying you do!

    You know aluminum isn't particularly cheap when it's custom, right?

    At 4'10 it's a bit tough to make a road bike that isn't 'accidentally' a competent gravel bike too, unless potential scope of the project was ignored. Which is silly (imo)- at 4'10 a custom bike isn't a luxury, so it should have been designed to be as versatile as possible.

    There are some really smartly designed/versatile drop bar kids' road frames available that would probably fit your needs. Isla, canyon, fuji have stuff worth investigating, as i recall.

    Paul at rock lobster does tons of cx/gravel frames, hits a super competitive price point, and builds with aluminum. Dude's a legend. Rodriguez also has a lot of experience with little frames and a competitive price/weight, but they only work in steel, afaik.

    Hopefully there's something useful here. I've had the privilege to build bikes for very small women, and it's really interesting to me. All the design assumptions break down and you have to look at it like maths.
    "Things that are complex are not useful, Things that are useful are simple."
    Mikhail Kalashnikov

  6. #6
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    Sep 2018
    Awesome replies.

    I assumed that aluminum cost less to produce than steel or ti. Id be content with steel or ti as well.

  7. #7
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    Reputation: TandemBear's Avatar
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    Aug 2013
    And I'd add that a small rider is the LAST person you want to put on oversized aluminum, which most everything is. The best application for aluminum is tandems - oversized, low-flex, large aluminum tubes and tandems are a match made in heaven, as far as using aluminum is concerned. Two strong riders mashing the pedals will get a long tandem frame to flex. (The difference between a steel Santana and a production Cannondale was jaw dropping for me.) And the worst candidate is the small rider, using short tubes who will feel every single vibration coming through the frame.

    At least that's the conventional wisdom.

    Also, given aluminum's poor reputation as a frame material in the high-end bicycle industry, I cannot imagine there are many (if any) custom makers who would waste their time on aluminum. If you're going to go to all the trouble of designing and marketing custom bicycle frames, the LAST material you're going to choose would be aluminum. The time, effort and expense is much better suited for any of the other materials.

    But perhaps there are exceptions.

  8. #8
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    Feb 2019
    And for doing 1 offs I cant imaging aluminum could be cheaper than steel. To get good results with aluminum it needs to be hydroformed and I dont think theres many people trying the hydroform at home thing. And IMO steel is way easier to weld.

  9. #9
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    Jan 2007
    Dont know your definition of affordable, but Ventana make a cyclocross frame and do custom.

  10. #10
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    Reputation: dr.welby's Avatar
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    Jan 2004
    As mentioned above, the Isla Luath is worth looking at.

    Custom aluminum will never be cheaper because of heat treating. It's not economical to heat treat one frame at a time.

    Since he's not here representin' anymore, check out the small bikes Walt(works) has been building:

    Introducing the Jefe Jr. – yes, I’m making a kids bike

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