Burls steel and titanium custom built bicycles

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custom built steel 24" wheel bike
Alex's bike

This was my solution to a request to build a frame for a guy who's needs were quite diverse. Alex needed a versatile bike that he could use for commuting, off road cycling and leisure cycling - but his main requirement was to build a frame that could accommodate his specific physical attributes, namely limited range in the hips and a height of 4' 2".

After much thought and consideration on various frame designs and wheel sizes, together with several consultations with Alex at the workshop, the decision was made to build a frame with a steep sloping top tube built into a mountain bike configuration. The use of a 24" wheel maintained proportion and also made available a good range of tyre choice. This attention to detail in understanding Alex's specific needs produced a custom fit bike that met all his requirements.

Alex's review

If you're not roughly the same size or shape as an average person, finding a bike can be a very tricky business. In my case I'm only a little over 4 foot tall due to a congenital condition, and despite being very interested in cycling it was very hard to get one suitable for me. There are lots of shops which will sell you children's bikes, but these aren't a great option for two reasons - firstly, it's quite likely that for a variety of reasons a children's bike simply won't fit correctly - and secondly, children's bikes are generally, to be honest, pretty rubbish.

I used to have a bike which was modified by a family friend, which had done its job fairly well for many years. I think I was actually very lucky to have this, because I think a lot of people in a similar position to me have simply assumed that bikes don't fit them, and given up. So I was initially quite upset when it was stolen last year. Because I live in Cambridge having a bike is almost essential, so I set about finding a good one. I decided to take advantage of my bad luck, and make sure that this time I had a bike which was really nice, and a pleasure to ride. So, I started trying to find a custom bike builder.

custom built steel 24" wheel bike

There are surprisingly few custom frame builders in the UK now. I went to visit a few, which were all medium-sized companies. They seemed pleased to have my custom - but none of them seemed to take a particular interest in the fact that my bike would really have to be different to a normal bike, and they couldn't just make a normal one only smaller. Because I didn't really feel that anyone was listening to me, I began to get a bit frustrated, until I visited Justin Burls, a custom frame builder based near Harwich.

The most noticeable thing about Justin is his incredible enthusiasm. As soon as I told him over the phone what I was looking for, he seemed really keen on the project, and when I went to see him he straight away started talking about different approaches we could take to designing the bike. And, most importantly, he really listened to what I had to say, and modified his initial ideas quite a lot.

I decided to ask Justin to build the bike for me, and he straight away got down to trying to finalise the design, work out what parts would work well and find suppliers for them, and generally bring the project together. A couple of months later, and I had a bike! And what a bike too!

I can't overstate how pleased I am with it. It's incredibly carefully and nicely made - Justin seemed so proud of it too, I don't think he wanted to see it go! I think it had been quite a pet project, and he had enjoyed the unusual challenge. So, now I'm zipping around Cambridge again - and quite a lot more quickly than before!

It really goes to show that there are solutions to quite difficult problems with things like bikes. I've not really mentioned the problems we were up against, but there were quite a few - I can't get my legs very high off the ground, so the bike had to be very easy to get on; getting quality components in a small size can be difficult; quite a few difficulties with building things on a smaller scale that I don't really understand, and so on. But with a bit of thought and someone who really takes an interest in the project (and knows what he's doing!) a lot can be achieved.

Alex Wilber

Bike detail pictures
Bike detail pictures
Bike detail pictures
Bike detail pictures
Bike detail pictures

 

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