$14,000 and a 1 1/2-year wait for a personal bicycle

Mr Sulaiman who makes bikes from scratch in his workshop.

SINGAPORE - When Mr Andy Sim finally decided to retire his trusty steed - a 26-year-old bicycle - no off-the-shelf replacement would do.

Instead, the country manager for an electronics company forked out $14,000 for a handmade specimen, customised to his specifications.

He commissioned bicycle servicer and restorer The Rebound Centre in Geylang East Industrial Estate for a bike that had a steel frame (specially fitted for his body, of course), a geometric pattern on its paintwork and his name painted on a prominent part of its frame.

That was about three years ago. He waited 1½ years for his bicycle to be ready and took possession of it in December 2010 - whereupon he promptly took a photograph of it.

On Sunday, Mr Sim, 47, explains: "When I collected it, I felt a sense of accomplishment. For me, it was realising a childhood dream that I am able to afford a bicycle like this. This might be the last bicycle I get, so I wanted to splurge on something that nobody has."

And the big-ticket item has been thoroughly worth it, he says. "It is unique to me. I am more comfortable riding it because it is customised to my dimensions."

Mr Sim, who is married with two children, cycles for leisure. He rides about 42km along East Coast Park every Sunday morning.

The Rebound Centre is one of the few local companies that will build a bicycle from scratch for customers, fabricating the steel frame right here in Singapore.

Other bike shops here such as TR Bikes in Serangoon Road can custom-make a bike for you, but it has the frame fabricated abroad - in the United States, for example.

In contrast, The Rebound Centre's owner, Mr Sulaiman Sahat, 49, is a frame builder who trained for about 1½ months at the United Bicycle Institute in Oregon, in the US, in 1994.

Upon his return, he found that there was little demand for custom-fabricated frames here.

When his shop opened in 1995, it did mainly bicycle servicing and about two custom-fabricated frames in a year. But this dropped to none in the late 1990s.

Six years ago, however, demand for custom-fabricated frames started to pick up slightly. From zero a year, Mr Sulaiman now custom-makes about two bicycles every year. Each costs between $6,000 and $20,000. Customers of these bespoke jobs include male and female working professionals in their 20s to 40s.

It takes a minimum of 80 man hours, over at least six months, to build the frame and assemble it with wheels, gears, brakes and other parts.

Making the frame is meticulous work that involves measurements of up to one-tenth of a millimetre and degree. While fabricating frames is not Mr Sulaiman's bread and butter, it is an enjoyable process for him.

He says: "It's creative work. There is the satisfaction of making something that can be used to ride, out of nothing."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.