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The best handbuilt frames — 25 makers who can craft your dream frame

Fancy a frame to your exact specification? These builders can deliver

Not all that long ago, most high quality road bikes were custom built to order by your local frame builder. Times have changed and today most are produced on a mass scale in the Far East where advances in manufacturing and production processes have seen all types of road bikes become both more affordable and more technologically advanced than ever before.

That doesn't mean that people don't want custom produced handbuilt bikes any more. Far from it. In recent years there has been a dramatic resurgence in the number of custom builders in the UK and other countries, and while most still work in steel there are also artisan builders working in titanium, aluminium, and carbon too. We're going to look at some of the best working today.

Bespoked 2013 sneak peeak - Sven road bike seat tube lug

There's no denying that most production road bikes sold these days are are well designed, well made and competitively priced and specced. That's why your local bike shop doesn't build its own frames any more, but there's still a place for the custom builder. If you've got particular needs in terms of sizing or geometry that aren't met by the mass market then custom is the way to go and, of course, it's also the option for those that want to stand out from the mass produced crowd.

Most of us don't need a custom built bike. A properly set-up off-the-peg machine can be made to fit very well. Of course, 'need' is only a very small part of the equation when it comes to justifying having a bike made just for you.

TBA day 3 - brian's go

Despite the decline of the bike shop frame builder, there are still a healthy number of frame builders, old and young, making frames, by hand and to order, in the traditional way. Some of the established names like Brian Rourke have been working for decades. In the last five years there's been a noticeable increase of younger framebuilders picking up the welding torch and reviving the nearly lost art of frame building. If shows like Bespoked Bristol and the North American Handmade Bicycle Show are anything to go by, demand for their work is increasing.

A custom handbuilt frame is a thing of personalised beauty: built to order and to your exact specifications, and made one at a time. Whatever the material, It’s usually a slow process, with the meticulous work meaning that some framebuilders produce just a couple of dozen frames a year. You have a dialogue with the frame builder from conception to completion, and you might have a say in every minute detail. If all goes well, through their experience you can have a frame so purely personal to you that it's your perfect bike.

Kajak hardcourt bike polo frame brazing.jpg

Back in the 80s, when custom handbuilt frames were common for racing cyclists, steel was the material of choice. The advent of mass production saw aluminium become the dominant material, because it's easier to mass-produce a light frame from aluminium. Carbon fibre and titanium, however, don't lend themselves to such mass production techniques and even frames that are produced in high numbers are to a large degree handbuilt. The making of a carbon frame has not yet been fully automated. The individual layers still need to be laid by hand into the mould and the way that is done will have a significant effect on how the finished bike rides.

There's no doubt that steel is still the material of choice of most custom frame builders - although there's plenty of variation in the ways that they stick it together to make a bike: lugged, TIG welded or fillet brazed. Some of the bigger builders offer both standard build and custom frames - that goes for carbon-fibre frames too from the likes of Parlee and Legend. So in a way there's handbuilt on a huge scale and handbuilt on a personal scale. They both have their merits.

So if you’re craving a handmade frame with that custom touch, just what are your options? We’ve rounded up a small handful to give you an indication of the current choice, including specialists in both steel and carbon fibre.

This isn't intended to be a comprehensive list; if you have a favourite custom builder who's not mentioned, tell us about them in the comments.

Prova Cycles

prova cycles supreme

Australia might not be the first country that springs to mind when someone says "amazing frame building" but this glorious creation from Melbourne's Prova Cycles took practically every award it was eligible for at the 2019 Bespoked UK Handbuilt Show, including the coveted Best In Show gong. It features a mixture of Columbus XCr and Reynolds 953 stainless steel tubing, 3D printed steel dropouts and seat cluster, and a carbon fibre seat tube that extends into a seat mast.

Prova main man Mark Hester has a degree in mechanical engineering and cut his workshop teeth building one off race cars and high performance road cars with his dad. His grandfather's an engineer too — but everyone knows genetics isn't destiny, right?

Complete Prova bikes run from around AU$8,500 to AU$20,000.

MacKenzie Cyclone

MacKenzie Cyclone

Back in the 1930s and '40s the British framebuilding scene was host to a wave of inventiveness as builders sought ways to improve the ride and performance of their bikes, often making dramatic-looking bikes in the process. The era produced the curly Hetchins with its baroque lugs, the Paris Galibier with its raised down tube, and the short-wheelbase Baines Flying Gate among others (those links all go to sources of modern versions of those bikes).

The striking, swoopy lines of the MacKenzie Cyclone reminds us of that era. Creator Age MacKenzie admits the design started as a doodle, but with a serious purpose. The shape "does away with the seat tube and seat stay completely and replaces them with a curving tube that better absorbs bumps," he says.

It certainly absorbs attention too.

Rodford Built Transport

Rodford Big Billy

Custom bikes aren't just about sporty riding. Bristol's Rodford Built Transport specializes in carefully thought-out family/cargo bikes and in particular the Big Billy here. It'll take a variety of bags, boxes and seats for up two two kids, and if you need to carry heavier loads you can retro-fit a mid-frame motor and battery.

Filament Bikes


There still aren't many places you can get a custom-made carbon fibre frame, but from his workshop in Worcestershire, Richard Craddock has been doing lovely work in composites. Like other small-scale carbon outfits, Craddock uses a tube-to-tube process, wrapping joints in prepreg carbon before curing them to consolidate the frame structure.

Woodrup Cycles

Woodrup Maurice close-up

Woodrup's shop on Kirkstall Road is Leeds cycling institution that's now run by second-generation framebuilder Stephen Woodrup. The flagship Maurice Woodrup model is named for the company founder and features cut-out lugs so each frame is unique.

Hallett Handbuilt Cycles

Hallett 650B Sport

Former cycle journalist, and still an occasional contributor, Richard Hallett learned framebuilding from the legendary Cliff Shrubb. Hallett specializes in highly individual touring bikes, often with 650B wheels, and won the best touring bike award at the 2015 Bespoked Handbuilt Bike Show.

Reilly Cycleworks

Reilly Cycleworks SPIRIT.jpg

Former Enigma man Mark Reilly gives this relatively new company its name, but he's not alone. Carbon specialist Neil FitzGerald looks after the firm's composite creations while graphic and product designer Damon Fisher makes sure they look good. Reilly makes frames in a wide variety of steel alloys, as well as titanium and carbon fibre.

Read our review of the Reilly Gradient gravel/adventure bike

Sarto Antonio


Usually just referred to as Sarto, this Italian father-and-son outfit is run by Antonio and Enrico Sarto and has been making custom frames since 1950. They've become prominent in recent years as a specialist in very light, very expensive carbon fibre frames, and they also make frames for other manufacturers. Sarto specialises in tube-to-tube manufacturing, allowing virtually unlimited customisation.

Read our review of the Sarto Asola
Read our review of the Sarto Seta

Saffron Frameworks

Saffron Frameworks Audax.jpg

Saffron Frameworks was founded in 2009 by Matthew Sowter. Like many of the new-generation custom framebuilders, he solely works with steel. Sowter has won various awards over the years, testament to the quality of his workmanship. As a result of his growing reputation and the popularity for going custom, there's a long waiting list to get a Saffron frame.

Read our review of a Saffron Frameworks custom

Stoemper Bikes

Stoemper Darrell

The motto of this Portland, Oregon cyclo-cross and road specialist is "Designed to be raced the shit out of", which is admirably to the point, if a bit clunky. There's nothing clunky about their clean, tidy bikes in titanium, aluminium and steel, though.

Read our reviw of the Stoemper Darrell Disc
Read our review of the Stoemper Taylor



​It sounds like someone's name, but this Italian outfit's brand actually stands for High Energy Race Sport History. They started in 2009 with a bike shop in Riva Del Garda and now offer a range of custom carbon road bikes, using tube-to-tube construction to allow fine-tuning of the geometry.

Read our review of the Hersh Trinity

Demon Frameworks

Demon Frameworks Manhattan - full bike

Demon Frameworks started up in 2009. Set up by Tom Warmerdam in Southampton, the brand is among the new wave of young British builders. Pictured is the Manhattan, one of his signature frames. The lugs, dropouts and fork crown are all lovingly handcrafted. Demon's work has been recognised with awards, including the 'Best Road' prize at the North American Handbuilt Bike Show this year.

Swallow Handmade Frames

Well known in the 1980s and '90s in the UK for their innovative frames and specialist components for tandems and mountain bikes, Peter Bird and Robert Wade are hand-making frames again after a 12 year break. Back in the day, they were the world's youngest Reynolds 753-approved frame builders.

Hartley Cycles

Hartley Cycles 853+mini+tourer+full+side.jpg

From her workshop in London, Caren Hartley has forged a formidable reputation as one the UK's most meticulous builders. A former sculptor and jeweller, she turned her skills and attention to detail to bicycles after becoming disenchanted with the art scene; that world's loss is cycling's gain.

Enigma Cycles

Well established as one of the finest producers of titanium frames (and a few steel ones) in the UK, Engima are passionate about craftsmanship and have been actively trying to bring back the nearly lost art of frame building. Alongside a nice range of production steel and titanium frames, Enigma can produce handbuilt titanium and steel frames at their East Sussex facility.

Feather Cycles


Another of the new wave of young British framebuilders reviving the tradition of handbuilt frames is BMXer turned framebuilder Ricky Feather. He launched Feather Cycles about 10 years ago in North Yorkshire. From there has been building exquisite head turning frames with beautiful hand carved lugs. He's self taught and currently builds around 25 frames a year, and is in demand. He's co-author of new book called Made in England, a lavish celebration of British framebuilders.


Based in Livingston, Scotland, Shand have been handbuilding frames since 2003. They have launched several interesting bikes since then, including a disc-equipped cyclocross model. They specialise in handbuilt steel frames but now also offer a couple of production frames, with several sizes available.

Beaumont Bicycle


Liz Colebrook started, as so many framebuilders do, as a mechanic before picking up a brazing torch and setting up Beaumont Bicycle at the beginning of 2016. But she has also worked as an occupational therapist and has a special interest in keeping people cycling whose ability has been affected by a reduced range of movement.

As well as classic diamond frames, Colebrook crafts beautifully-made and thought-out step-through frames like the one above, which won a prize in the 'Outstanding Design' category at the 2016 Bespoked handbuilt bicycle show in Bristol.


Burls is the work of Justin Burls, a self taught framebuilder with a background in engineering. He's not immune to a custom challenge and has built some interesting bikes in his time, including a tandem. He'll custom handbuild a steel frame from his Harwich base. He also offers bespoke titanium frames which are made in Russia.

Brian Rourke

Brian has been building frames in Stoke-on-Trent since 1972 and has been a popular choice with racing cyclists over the years. Rourke bikes have been ridden to success in national and world cycling events. Perhaps most famously, Nicole Cooke rode a Rourke frame in the world junior road race championships in 2000. Rourke builds in steel and usually fillet brazes or TIG welds his frames. The wraparound seatstay design is a signature design element.

Breadwinner Cycles

I first met Ira Ryan of Breadwinner Cycles on the inaugural Cent Cols Challenge, and discovered an intensely passionate and driven individual. He was incredibly strong on the bike too. He has been making frames from his Portland, Oregon base for several years. Since he started in 2005, Ira has focused on bicycles as a tool for discovery with an emphasis on durability, and many of his builds are sturdy yet light touring bikes. The Randoneer is a classic built for long distance rides.

Breadwinner is his partnership with another Oregon builder, Tony Pereira, who is also dedicated to making wonderful but practical bikes, and who lectures at the United Bicycle Institute, an Oregon framebuilding and mechanic's school.

Independent Fabrication


Independent Fabrication BIkes started life in 1995 from the remnants of mountain bike company Fat City Cycles. It’s a small company staffed by passionate people and they produce some of the nicest frames you’ll ever set eyes on. Their paint finishes are some of the neatest around. Models like the Crown Jewel, Club Racer, SSR, Corvid, Planet Cross, XS, and most recently the Ti Factory Lightweight, have become modern day classics lusted after by cyclists in the know. They work with carbon fibre, titanium, steel, stainless steel, and in some cases a mix of several materials.


Parlee Z Zero.jpg

Bob Parlee started making carbon fibre frames over a decade ago and the brand has since become one of the most desirable out there. Parlee only deal in carbon and they're at the forefront of carbon frame design. With an eye to the future, their new Z-Zero is being offered with disc brakes.


Nick Crumpton runs his frame building business from Austin, Texas. He specialises in carbon fibre and he doesn’t build many frames a year: about 40 or so. Every measurement, every angle, every tube, is tailored towards the needs of each customer. The build process involves precision cutting of the tubes, bonding them together and wrapping the joints with strips of carbon, all by hand. It’s a labour intensive process.


Legend HT7.5 - full bike

Legend handbuild their range of carbon, titanium and steel from their Italian factory and offer a full range of custom options. You can choose the geometry, the tube specifications and the paint colour. While the Legend brand hasn't been around for long, there’s a lot of expertise behind the bikes, and they’re clearly passionate about building frames by hand.

David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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AllegedlyAnthony replied to davenportmb | 3 years ago

Oh yes! Glorious Ti machines with tidy 3d printed lugs, etc.
Tom really knows what he's doing. Mine rides better than I thought possible.
He's based in Frome, not too far from's offices, so I was surprised he wasn't mentioned.

PRSboy | 6 years ago
1 like

No mention of Filament bikes?  Small UK builder, bikes look great... check out the tandems!

thejimmerman | 6 years ago

Sarto make Hersh bikes

simonmb | 6 years ago

Dave Yates? One thing about lists is someone always gets left off. Another thing about lists is there's always some smartass who takes delight in pointing it out.

caw35ride replied to simonmb | 5 years ago
simonmb wrote:

Dave Yates? One thing about lists is someone always gets left off. Another thing about lists is there's always some smartass who takes delight in pointing it out.

I was hoping to be that smartass. Dave Yates is a glaring omission. Two people posted links to lists of UK frame builders, Dave is missing from both.

I believe that Dave still runs his three-men-in-a-shed frame building course. If you can get a place on it, it is well worth it. He's a lovely bloke who deserves a place at the top table of British frame builders.

Unapologetic plug:

Nice wee film about the man:

geomannie 531 replied to caw35ride | 3 years ago

Thanks for the link to the DY video. I enjoyed that. I had the pleasure of meeting him when he built me a light tourer frame a couple of years back. I've built it the nicest, most comfortable bike I've ever owned.

davel | 6 years ago

@GusT: I'm thinking Ellis Briggs, Bob Jackson and Woodrup of the oldies that are still going. They all had roots in inner-ish Leeds but I can't think of any being round Great Wilson St (I lived round there for a few years, but only about 10 years ago).

Gus T | 6 years ago

Can anyone rmember the name of the Leeds based steel /ti frame manufactuer who was based on the inner ring road/Great Wilson Street area and are they still going?

pudseypedaller replied to Gus T | 6 years ago
Gus T wrote:

Can anyone rmember the name of the Leeds based steel /ti frame manufactuer who was based on the inner ring road/Great Wilson Street area and are they still going?


Still around, but have moved to Gargrave.

Bradfasta | 7 years ago

Seriously, "There are very few Italian frame builders around these days " - what can you mean?  Passoni, Tommasini, Casati, Sarto, Univer, Formigli, Faggin, Nevi, Pegoretti are just a few names I came up with easily.

As someone said on another review of bikes "It's a very populist list, and it's criminal that Formigli and Pegoretti aren't on it. People at Road really should know better."

matthewn5 replied to Bradfasta | 6 years ago
Bradfasta wrote:

Seriously, "There are very few Italian frame builders around these days " - what can you mean?  Passoni, Tommasini, Casati, Sarto, Univer, Formigli, Faggin, Nevi, Pegoretti are just a few names I came up with easily.

As someone said on another review of bikes "It's a very populist list, and it's criminal that Formigli and Pegoretti aren't on it. People at Road really should know better."

Indeed so! Irio Tommasini is still in business, still designing frames, still coming to work every day. Taught by the great Giuseppe Pelà back in the 1940s. An absolute legend.

And even Colnago will build you a custom C60 frame if you want. In Italy.

Jharrison5 | 7 years ago
1 like

I like the idea of something bespoke (pun totally intended) built. I read Rob Penn's fun crusade to create personalised perfection a few years ago and performed a Google exercise of my own to try to find out about it, potentially for a tandem. I've never followed through on the idea but may do one day.

There's a slightly longer list of UK frame builders here:


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