S.C. cyclists willing to spend thousands for that custom ride

Columbia area shop reports waiting list for $4,000 models

COLUMBIA -- The growing interest in custom-built road bicycles is a win-win for Columbia and Lexington specialty bike shops, owners say.

"We've seen a lot more (custom-built) road bike sales in the last few years," said John Green, owner of the Cycle Center stores in Five Points and Northeast Richland.

This month, about seven customers are waiting to buy the 2008 models, averaging $4,000 each, Green said.

The shop owners said more riders invest in these types of bikes because of the benefits they provide.

"There are more riding groups, and people are reading in magazines ... and their doctors are telling them, it's better to ride," he said. "We're getting a lot of crossovers from runners. They get bad knees, and it allows them to cross-train."

Lexington's Bike To Nature owner Doug Waitzman also said he has noticed lately that a growing number of women are interested in boutique and custom-fitted road bikes. And manufacturers have responded by making more of the bikes specific to women's arm length and shoulder width.

On average, Waitzman sells one boutique bike per month. "They are extremely light. And comparative to other sports, the cost is relatively reasonable," he said.

The initial price of the bikes can be a bit steep. But unlike golf and some other sports, Waitzman said, customers do not have to continuously buy accessories and pay fees. Also, the bikes can be insured via a rider policy on the owner's home or renter's insurance.

For a while now -- especially in the past five years -- Patrick Augustine said he has seen sales of custom bikes on the uptick at Outspokin' Bicycles.

Augustine, manager of the 24-year-old Devine Street bike shop, said not only are Columbia residents seeking these bikes, but so are shoppers from as far away as Atlanta and Charlotte.

"These types of bikes are for people who have an appreciation for bikes as an art ... and the good ride."