You might have landed on this blog because you’re in the hunt for a new bike. No doubt you have heard of Legend and Marco Bertoletti, heard good things about the company and their exquisite bikes. But like most savvy people, you want to do your research and make sure you’ve made the right decision before you hand over your hard earned cash.
Now obviously I’m biased, and will tell you without a shadow of a doubt that you’ll make the right decision by choosing a Legend. Most Legend owners would say the same. They handle superbly, have a sublime ride quality and are one off custom made frames, just for you. But something else to add to the Legend vote is the personal touch. How many bike manufacturers would let you tour their factory? Would you meet the actual owner of these companies? Would the owner personally have a hand in making your frame? Now I’ve no doubt there are still some small frame shops out there that will give you some of these experiences. But how many of these would hand deliver a finished bike to a different country, to an owner that lives in a different continent?
This is exactly what happened to Mauricio Miranda, a new Legend HT9.5 owner who lives in Mexico. Technology is such these days that a cyclist thousands of miles away can order a made-to-measure frame from a different continent.
If you’re still dithering about buying a Legend, then I recommend you read Mauricio’s story below – it makes for very enlightening reading:
“Right now I’m writing this above the Atlantic Ocean guarding the precious cargo of this plane, specifically two Legend bicycles: my 2014 HT9.5, and a 2014 HT10.5 of my friend and cycling buddy Cocó.
After years of reading bike reviews with the objective of finding the very best bike, I have finally accomplished to have, what it is up-to-date and as far as my knowledge and likings go, the very best bike for me. A dream that started in the early days of my road riding looking at magazines with 7-Eleven Huffys, Pinarellos dressed up in Campagnolo with the Delta brake system, and groundbreaking carbon bikes.
Above: Cocó’s HT10.5
Close to a year ago I concluded that a Colnago C59 was what I wanted, but the inability to speak with Mr. Colnago himself or his personally appointed expert, plus the fact that I would have a very similar bike (or identical) to quite a few others, left me craving for something else. And so then came more research that led me to conclude the only way to feel I reached my goal would be to go made-to-measure/custom. So, before on how I got to Legend, first my answer to “Why custom?”.
Let’s part with the fact that custom made bikes are on the expensive side, thus the comparison I will hereinafter make will be with top-of-the-line “cookie-cut” / “cloned” bikes.
Regarding the “expensive” part of it, the following analogy may serve well: a low end Patek Philippe or a bike? I’ve reckoned I will get far more excitement, real use (as opposed to just wearing it under the shirt sleeve), health, and relationships (some of my closest friends come from cycling) from a bike than from a watch. I do like watches and appreciate their mechanical complexity, attention to detail and technological innovations but, considering the bike also covers said fronts and I’m able to observe and interact more directly with it… some thousands on a watch or a bike?
Yes, vanity could be less served with an expensive bike than with a watch… But on this last thought, I rather be congratulated by a bike connoisseur that by the average Louis Vuitton clientele. Who, beside yourself, do you want to impress, if any? For me this argument also kills the top-tube, down-tube, seat-post tube, fork and chain-stay branded bikes.
Moreover on price, after production cost (i.e. top-end Asia produced frame in the $300 – $400 range), where does the rest of your money go? On mass-produced bikes it goes to: pro-teams, advertisements and marketing, “concept stores” and similar. The custom-made bike shop does not produce in China and by the thousands, thus the extra margin is to keep the business afloat and the real expert making bikes himself. Where do you feel your money should go to?
Of course there is the R&D issue, which comes at a hefty cost that only mass production companies can lavishly spend on. But when it comes to performance, there is little proven difference between the bla, bla, bla new carbon and the already proven top-end carbon of a couple of years back (do refer to the “Conundrum that is carbon”, 2014 Bike Buyers Guide, Road Bike Action Magazine). Yes, there are aerodynamic benefits found in the mass production bikes but, to this benefit, my only argument is that most aero bikes are far from elegant (to be softly said) in a sport where souplesse and aesthetics do matter and aerodynamics play a much lesser role on most rides.
And to compensate for all the R&D, except for those very average sized persons, there will never be a perfect fit from a cookie-cut bike, and there lies the true benefit of a made-to-measure bike: the ability to have a bike made in consideration of the size and length of your arms, torso, legs, hands etc… general and specific flexibilities… riding style and preferences… body weight. For the sake of argument consider this: on the one hand, a sub-1 kg cookie-cut frame will be designed to handle those sub-70 kg Tour de France pro-racers and a 95 kg speed-bump jumper buddy of mine; on the other hand, a custom bike will be made considering the specific rider’s weight and likings, say a climbing enthusiast riding on butter like pavement.
So, in a nutshell (believe me I can go on much longer!) that’s why I chose to go custom.
How did I get here?
Close to a year ago I wrote to a Senior Editor of a serious pro-cycling magazine asking a simple question: “Which is the best bike in the world?” He took a couple of months to consult with his staff, including those who do test riding, and came back with an answer: Legend and Sarto, and then mentioned four other brands closely behind (a French, another Italian, an English and an American one). Colnago had been de-throned from my top choice.
Both first choices had history behind them; in case of Legend, as the brand itself is new, the story is the owner and frame builder Mr. Bertoletti – with 39 years of frame building for top brands. Yes, both Legend and Sarto are way behind from the impact that brands like De Rosa, Pinarello or Colnago have made on the sport, but the history behind each specific bike made by Legend would be above that of many other brands as it would be cut, welded / glued, painted, and ensembled in Italy, in close supervision and, in many stages, by the Italian master himself.
To put it simply: Sarto never answered my emails and Legend immediately did. In addition, I read that the owner and founder, the man with the experience and passion, would be personally supervising and building my bike. I cannot attest to the quality and building process of Sarto, but it did put me off that they “mass-produce” frames for quite a few other brands besides their own. Legend is a smaller shop with Marco Bertoletti heavily involved.
How it went with Legend?
Communication was very good. Their knowledgeable and affable UK representative, Ali Katir, properly and promptly answered my first and subsequent emails. Although I had chosen Legend, I still asked all the questions needed to back up in writing their quality and expertise.
As measurements were made at a distance (following detailed instructions sent by mail), my impression is that there may have been a few more considerations that may have been skipped. Hard to tell as this is my first made-to-measure bike.
Choosing the bike material and frame was interesting with many communications back and forth in order to know I was making the best choice considering the roads I ride on, how I ride, and what I want and expect.
Determining components and colour scheme for the frame was detailed (as much as I wanted to make it) and fun. The specifics on where the components are made, how they are made and so on were exquisite on stories and details. I learned about different brands that I didn’t know existed and are at a par with the very best, if not better. I learned which are true Italian products and which are Italian by name and design, but Asian in raw materials and production. I learned enough to say that everything on my bike will hold a long time before I may even consider changing it for some newer component.
Fabrication / delivery time was very decent: more or less 7 weeks from first payment to delivery.
As a parenthesis, the most personalized unique component is the saddle and its matching bar tape from the very kind and attentive Australian artist Mick Peel from Busymancycles. The end product is worth the extra cost and time to get it. It definitely dresses up the bike quite nicely and makes it even more custom and personal. In addition, the training wheels from Ergottwheels Wheels (Long Island, USA) are very well made, with top of the line components at an affordable price. I am glad to have added the saddle and the wheels from these respective expert craftsmen to the build.
Finally delivery. Legend did not only stay true to the fairly short delivery time (consider some custom-made bikes have a waiting period of over a year!) but Mr. Legend himself delivered it: he and his attentive point-of-contact staff member – Manuel Colombo – drove early in the morning of December 24th from their factory in Northern Italy to Monaco de Baviera (commonly known as Munich, where I was vacationing with my family) to deliver the bike. And yes, after the cup of coffee and very nice chat with the help of Manuel’s translation, they drove back that same day to their families in Italy. And that effort and attention, just tremendously adds to the story behind my bike.
It is a sure bet Cocó and me will have one of the nicest (I leave room for specific tastes) looking bikes of the group, but, what I really care about the most will have been accomplished: to have the very best bike out there specifically made to my liking.
Well, let me land first and deal with the jet-lag for a few hours, and then take her out a few times!
The Legend HT9.5 ‘Ragazza’ specifics:
Frame: Legend HT9.5
Year: 2014 model (made late 2013)
Group: Campagnolo Super Record + Miche Supertype
Cockpit: Deda Superleggera with Mick Peel custom bar tape
Seat post: PMP carbon
Saddle: Prologo (customised by Mick Peel)
Training Wheels: Stan’s Alpha rims (340 front – 400 rear), 20/28-spoke count, Sapim CX-Ray spokes with DT Aero Comps for the right rear, alloy nipples and Tune hubs
Race Wheels: Campagnolo Bora Ultra 35 race wheels
Tyres: Veloflex (clinchers and tubulars)
Pedals: Look Kéo Blade II Ti