Urban Velo

Villy Custom (?) Bicycles

“Custom” is such an enticing way to describe bicycles these days, to the point that what defines “custom” is becoming watered down. Call me a curmudgeon purist, but I always associated “custom” bikes with handcrafted frames not only painted to your individual aesthetic tastes, but also built with measurements spec’ed out solely to your body. I thought a bike built around your biology is what REALLY defined a custom bike.

Enter companies like Villy Customs, who sell you bikes, cruisers to be specific, that are built to your liking by choosing color options on nearly every paintable piece of their bikes. Through a process on their website you are able to pick frame styles, racks, fenders and a couple other options, then also able to pick the colors as well. To the right of your selections you can see your selections by price adding up to a total purchase. Admittedly, there is certainly an element of customization to this process, but I can’t help but feel this paints a grey area between stock and custom. Again, I’m probably just being a self-righteous purist, but I do so in defense of my frame-building buddies.

Let’s be fair though. These are bikes for riders more likely to purchase Dwell magazine than the Rivendell reader.

So, if cruisers are your thing and you’re dying to have every piece of your bike a different color, or the same for that matter, then you have a fun way of designing such a monstrosity through Villy Customs.

About Scott Spitz

Commuting, touring, kid hauling, couriering, mechanic work, sales, advocacy, fixed, free—Scott has had his hands in it all over the years.

View all posts by Scott Spitz →


  1. jorgeFebruary 1, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Ditto for other faux-custom bike brands such as Republic Bikes (owned by Urban Outfitters), State Bicycle Co. (an Urban Velo advertiser), Big Shot (another Urban Velo advertiser) and others…

    I, too, choose Rivendell Reader over Dwell. Yet we must also be careful not to become elitists. In a country where bikes have less than 3% mode share, the main goal (for now) is to get people on bikes — even if that means getting them on “monstrosities”.

  2. bergerandfriesFebruary 1, 2012 at 9:20 am

    fashion over function. Whatever, as long as you ride, I don’t care!

  3. UndergroundveloFebruary 1, 2012 at 10:04 am

    It lets the buyer customize his or her bike in ways they would never be able to pull off on their own. Throw on some skinny tires, a straight bar and it would be all the rage. Just saying.

  4. scottFebruary 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I certainly don’t mean to villanize these sorts of companies, but rather just express my discomfort with selling “custom” bikes. I’d hate to see this somewhat manipulative form of appeal devalue the custom work of independent frame builders. With that said, I fully realize some of these “custom” companies advertise with Urban Velo and I certainly don’t think they are harming bike culture or scaring away people from riding. The more the merrier. I just thought it pertinent to draw the “custom” line a little more pronounced.

    P.S. – I choose Dwell over Rivendell reader (but that’s probably because I just bought a house and don’t need a new bike). :)

  5. jwpFebruary 1, 2012 at 11:24 am

    i think the real difference is the choice of how we use the words.

    custom is simply, not stock. so lots of people ‘customize’ their bicycles even building up from a stock frame. however, what you are calling custom is more a ‘handbuilt custom’ or a ‘sized custom’. i think the world has lots of room for all sorts of different ‘custom’ bikes. i agree with jorge that we mustn’t become elists just because what some refer to as custom isn’t what someone else refers to.

  6. scottFebruary 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Other scott:

    I figure anyone that has the money and knowledge of bikes to order a custom spec’d frame from an independent fabricator will know what the difference is. Not to devalidate the point of stating that a frame builder deserves the title of custom much more. It’s just that the people buying a colorful cruiser for $500 aren’t the target market for a builder that would charge way more for the product. The one’s who want body specific geometry and all the bells and whistles know better.

  7. TerryFebruary 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Biking should be fun, not a contest to see whose way of doing it is “better.” Get a bike, ride it, and don’t worry about how other people do it.

  8. dontcoastFebruary 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    This is off the peg with custom colors

    When I think “custom” i think bespoke, not customizable.

    Oh well, tasteless beach cruisers that won’t get ridden are somehow less depressing than tasteless “fixies” that won’t be ridden.

  9. MasonFebruary 3, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    In the guitar world, there’s a company called Carvin that lets musicians “build” their own guitar off of a list of components. Whenever I see one of these “custom” bicycle companies that’s what I picture. Instead I get a chance to decide the color of my handlebar grips.
    I know Rivendell has this option, but ~$3k for a bicycle is out of my reach. I await the $1000 build-a-bike.

  10. ChrisFebruary 4, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I can understand the anger about calling them custom. But i am happy to see anyone on any kind of bike. Dont be a snob

  11. Mr. DavidFebruary 6, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Language is important. “Custom” vs. “Hand Built.” Kind of like folks on the internet using the word “community” all the time. A group of anonymous typists on a forum does not make a “community.”

    I have visited Villy Customs in person. If you saw these cool cruisers, I bet you wouldn’t judge on their use of “custom.” You would just want to take a cruise on one.

  12. Joe3October 5, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I’m an old fashioned biker, custom means hand built frame, with or without lugs … I agree with some people here, getting people on a bike is good. For the record my next bike will be a RENOVO PANDURBAN … definitely this can be called a custom bicycle ;-)

  13. ChainsawJanuary 23, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    I just ran across this topic and found this a most interesting subject.
    My thoughts on custom bikes, is any style of bicycle that has been changed from the original manufacturers model. Whether it’s as insignificant as an aftermarket water bottle or a buttload of accessories, new tires and a special paint job, the bike has been customized and may or may not stand out as an individual bike in a crowd.

    When I think of custom built, then I’m thinking a one off hand built frame that suits it’s owner’s riding preferences. It may or may not stand out in a herd of bikes but it should definitely be a handbuilt frame at the very minimum.

    Swapping out parts or completely building up a bike from various store bought or scanvenged parts may be custom but not custom built. Some people refer to these as frankenbikes or freak bikes. Yes to frankenbikes, but no to the freak bike term.

    Freak bikes or FreakBikes are full on custom built bicycles or owner accessorized/modified bicycles whose main purpose is to gather as many wow factors from all who cross their paths. A FreakBike is generally ridden at a slow leisurely cruise and is not intended for speed, although there have been a few exceptions.

    I represent the FreakBike Community (yes, community, lol), I build the strange and sometimes quirky bikes known as FreakBikes. I’ve built slammed to the ground stretched cruisers, bicycle sidehacks for jousting, tallbikes, choppers and many other styles. All of the bikes are rideable and serve the purpose for which they are built, for fun and recreation.

    Our group, and others like it, have discussed “custom” more times than I can remember. The debate “as to what is a custom” may never be completely defined and will always leave each of us thinking our definition is right. To make matters worse, FreakBikers also contend with the term “Kustom” and what it’s definition truely is.

    Kustom to me, is a handbuilt bicycle or heavily moddified bike that no matter how hard you look, you’ll never see another one like it.

    As a group of FreakBikers, we’ve come to realize that our bikes represent all three of these terms, “custom’, “custom built”, and “Kustom”.

    I think most of us would agree that any bicycle is a good bicycle as long as it gets us off the couch and out in the great outdoors. I personally love all style of bikes and look forward to whatever any company or individual graces us with. The bicycle hobby/sport can only grow and develope if all bicyclists do their honor and respect each other.

    I believe that everyone always tries to make their bike show a little of their personality. Whether it is in the form of different tires, a new seat or as I prefer …… something that puts a smile on someone’s face while I ride by enjoying the fact that I can get out and ride at my own pace.

    Thanks to all,
    “Chainsaw” Jim Jhonson

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