Can Anyone Build Me A Frame?

Hi everyone,

Because of a TBI and neck injury in the Army, I have limited range of motion in my neck, and can no longer lift my head to see cars riding my 2022 56cm aluminum Trek Checkpoint gravel bike.

Frame building is one of the hobbies I plan to pursue during retirement, and I am planning to eventually braise a steel frame for my first project.

However, I currently need someone else to design and fabricate me a frame that will position my torso more upright: short stems and stem spacers make only a barely noticeable improvement: I need something drastic, to achieve the following two top-level design goals:

  • Super tall stack
  • Super short reach

To achieve the above goals, I need an expert in frame geometry to:

  • Slacken head angle to reduce toe overlap resulting from super-short reach
  • Based on my atypical torso angle, analyze my atypical weight distribution to determine the optimal chainstay length

Even if I knew the perfect geometry for my frame, I won’t be ready to build it in time to resume riding this Spring.

Oh yeah, I’m kinda poor and must reuse parts from Trek.

Anyone interested?

If not, do you know anyone that can make me a frame?

I’m not familiar with the Checkpoint but I’m assuming it’s a drop bar bike. I think based on the injury you’ve described a drop bar setup is not going to provide the optimal fit for you without a very compromised geometry. I think moving to a flat or swept back position is the go even if that’s means you’re unable to reuse parts off the Trek.

Eva (@liberationfab) built a really interesting looking lightweight ATB that would be the direction I would probably head in if I was chasing comfort above all else.

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What you describe sounds a lot like the famed “Pedersen Bike”:

Maybe this is worth exploring further?

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That’s really interesting.

Yes, my Trek has drop handlebars.

My initial thoughts were the same as yours, however conversion to flat bars would require not only new brake levers, but also new calipers. Also I like the different hand positions offered by drop bars, as I intend on using this as a long-distance hauler.

I actually don’t need to be sitting fully upright like someone riding a beach cruiser; instead I need to be bent down about halfway as far as usual.

If riding on the hoods, the most significant difference between flat vs drop bars, is the latter doesn’t include the additional 3 inches of reach between the hoods and the top of the stem. For example, on my size Large Trek gravel frame, the reach is 407mm, plus a shorter 35mm stem, plus 80mm (3”) = 522mm <— horizontal distance between BB and hands [on the hoods]. For comparison, a Trek Fuel in size Large has a reach of 485mm; with a 35mm stem, (ignoring backsweep) the horizontal distance between the BB and the hands is 485mm + 35mm = 520mm, which is the same as what I have now… In other words, the reach on a stock road frame with a MTB stem will feel the same as the reach on a MTB frame… so if I decide to get a custom frame with super high stack and super short reach, the road frame is almost as easy to customize; regardless, in order to shrink the reach, the head angle will need to be slackened so front wheel can clear downtube and to minimize toe overlap.

In summary, for a road frame, I will need a stack of around 700mm with a reach of around 350mm-ish.

This is my current bike. I already have over $1000 invested in the brakes, so I’m reluctant to give them up for flat bars.

I’ve done quite a bit of bike fitting for people with mobility issues, what you are describing (short reach/tall stack), sounds like something any good custom frame builder should be able to accommodate. It’s not such a short reach that toe overlap should be a big issue. I’d suggest finding someone local to you who does bike fitting so that you can figure out what your ideal position would be.
I’d also suggest that you could make your current bike fit you a lot more comfortably if you put a short but tall stem on it. Something like the VO cigne stem

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How can I search for builders near me?

Lennard Zinn has done bikes like that before.

If you’re set on drop bars then I’d check out the Analogue Cycles / Tanglefoot Hardtack for the kind of geo that might work. They make an XL with 690 stack and 440 reach but sell them with “0mm” stems so you would end up with your hands about where you want them (520mm forward of BB). And you don’t have to worry about to overlap at all. You could even get post to flat mount adapters if you want to use the same brakes. Custom is an option but that could end up being a very expensive experiment in which case a good bike fit will be key as @olivia_violet suggested.

Have you looked at Rivendell bikes? Grant Peterson (the founder) espouses a very upright seating position with (generally) swept-back bars.

-Jim G

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If budget is a constraint, keep in mind a custom frame will set you back minimum $2500 with fork. HERE is a great resource to find framebuilders locally. It’s by no means a complete list. If you let us know where you are located, we can steer you toward a local builder well suited to the bike you want.

If $2500 on a frame set is not in the cards, there a couple great options below which I might suggest over a custom frame since you’re still exploring what is comfortable to you.

  1. Swap out your carbon fork with a steel fork like the Brother Steel Gravel Fork (which matches the geo of your fork) this will allow you to stack infinite spacers to fine tune the bar height.

  2. Swap out your frameset with a taller stack option like the the Black Mountain Mod Zero. It’s a very similar bike to your checkpoint but has almost 60mm more headtube stack and a steel fork that won’t limit you to only 40mm of headset spacers like a carbon fork will.

Both of these options will allow you to experiment with your position and find a stack/reach that works well for you. Once you find the comfortable position you’re seeking, then have a custom frame made or make it yourself.

As others have said, a Rivendell Style Swept back bar may be better suited to your needs especially if you’re not able to find comfort in the drops during this experiment. The swept back bars have many different positions with the main position being similar to a hoods position when the frame is designed that way (like most Rivendell’s are)

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My apologies to everyone. I am located in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Just in case this is helpful: I recently purchased a bike with extremely high stack and short reach. It’s someone else’s custom frame, but as a leggy person with a short torso, it fits me great. I’m 5’7" with an 85.5 cm inseam; the original owner was 5’8. Linking the bike geometry here in case it helps OP or someone else. This is the finished bike. Note that this bike has a ton of toe overlap. For me, it’s probably worth it for the fit. If you’re desperate to avoid this, you could use smaller wheels in the design or perhaps extend the top tube & use handlebars that are not drops.

The frame builder Marino in Peru makes steel frames starting at $320 + ~$150 shipping to the US. He has a very good reputation though I’ve heard his frames are heavy.

Side note: I’d love to find a buy/sell website or group devoted to frames with custom geometry. For those of us with special bodies, it would save everyone a ton of money. In the current market, having a custom frame built can be very pricey, and selling it is very difficult.

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Recently I had a disappointing experience when talking with the owner of a gravel bicycle brand, who was unwilling to actually listen to what I was asking for, immediately deciding that I was a nut job and firing me as a potential customer.

I’ve since decided to switch to a flat bar and buy all new Hope downhill calipers & levers.

I find drop bar frame fabricators kind of narrow minded, and from my experience: shitty and arrogant.

Sorry to hear that.

I think some ‘custom builders’ don’t take on projects beyond simply adjusting the size on a standard model. It’s a lot of extra work to do a truly custom frame as you’re requesting.

As someone else said, a custom frame from the friendliest builder will be $2500 + shipping, tax etc.
I don’t really see anyone near you so you’re likely having to work remotely. You may try to get a fit locally from a PT or chiropractor and then use those measurements to order a frame.

Sorry, that happened. Framebuilders have varying levels of technical and people skills to work with. It is part of the mystique of framebuilding. It’s both good and bad…

I did a bit of background research for you:

Setting an arbitrary front center criterion of 600mm for toe overlap, this was the tallest and shortest gravel bike I would feel comfortable building:

  • Stack: 325mm
  • Reach: 656mm

You will likely deal with standover and still have some toe overlap issues. To help with standover, you probably need a bent top tube:

If you are willing to use the 50 or 70mm rise drop bars, you get a more “normal” looking frame, but the reach grows (keeping the hood height constant):

If you want to dive deeper into the design, it could be a fun project for the forum. We could also quote a few titanium manufacturers in China to see if they are willing to take it on. Or we can try @kfinan 's suggestion of Marino. This design is not really in Neuhuas and Artefact’s workflow, so I am happy to find you another American builder to work with if you prefer to keep it domestic…

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Zinn makes a fork with a real long steerer tube if you want not to use a riser bar.
I may do it on my next backpacking frame so I can get enough stack.

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Maybe our fork might help to increase the height.

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Up until recently, I was unaware of adapters that allow me to mount PM calipers on my frame and forks. Without getting too detailed, these adapters open up the option of using a flat bar (and ditching the drop bars), which will provide the upright posture I require.

This was the original plan, which resulted in me ordering a flat bar from Doom with 8” of rise, and swept back like a beach cruiser (almost). It was only after I received the bars that I learned that my drop bar calipers use a different hydraulic ratio, and couldn’t be used with flat bar levers, requiring new calipers.

That was when I departed down the rabbit hole of increasing ATC and/or using alt drop bars with a shit ton of rise.