Building a bike from the ground up



wiggles

New Member
Jun 15, 2006
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I work as a technician by trade. I love taking things apart, learning how they work, and building them back from the ground up.

I've seen there's a pretty huge aftermarket for bike parts, so I was thinking - instead of just buying a new bike, is it possible to just get the frame, fork, sprockets, etc, and then just build everything from the ground up myself? Would it be cost effective?

Is it more or less complex than a computer? My goal isn't so much to save money as it is to get started in understanding the components of a bike, and how everything works together.
 

Sn4fu

New Member
May 7, 2006
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I suppose it depends on who you ask. I've built several dozen computers and 1 bike, and the bike was more difficult than the computers. With the Computer, you plug the parts in the right slot and they work. Not so with a bike, as there is a ton of fine tuning required that will make or break it. I found the bike a lot more challenging and fun to build.

There are a couple other things you need to consider as well. Installing things like the fork require special tools and some knowledge of what you're doing. If you find a part too difficult to install, take it to a shop and have them do it or show you how. A good toolkit (parktools.com) and an assembly book are pretty much required.

Also, keep in mind that you will end up paying more for the bike by building it piece by piece than if you buy a prebuilt. In this age of use it, throw it away and buy a new one, most people don't see the sense in doing it yourself if it costs more. I encourage you to do it anyway. You'll get a great sense of satisfaction from doing it, and you'll be saving our landfills a bit more space. Just because it's hard doesn't mean it's not worth doing. Good Luck!
 

ryanspeer

New Member
Jul 19, 2006
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It's really not terribly complex at all. The mechanics of derrailleurs (i.e., hooking up cables and adjusting the der itself), inserting seat tubes, etc., are bone-simple. The finer points of adjusting your drivetrain might take some time to learn if you don't already, but assembling a bike from scratch isn't rocket science at all.

Building a bike from scratch really won't save you much (if any) money however - if you're buying everything new. In many cases it could end up costing more. Buying used on eBay and Craigslist can help mitigate this to a very large extent, but you just have to buy with knowledge and the risk involved is a bit higher if you're inexperienced with what to look for in used equipment.

I agree completely with the previous post in the satisfaction you get from building a custom bike. Another big benefit is being able to completely customize the bike exactly the way you want it. You get to pick the exact headset, handlebars, seatpost, tires, fork, etc. In that sense, it beats buying a pre-packaged bike with some great components and then a mix of other lower-line components (such as headset, handlebars, brake calipers, hubs, etc.).

You can often score big-time on a complete bike that's slightly used though (eBay and Craigslist). Again though, you just have to be wise. Go to eBay this morning (Monday the 18th) and do a search for "Specialized S-Works" and you'll pull up a ton of duplicate entries from people with little to no feedback, separate auctions from different sellers, but who are using the same photo as the other guy along with identical descriptions (all the while having little to no feedback - for all I know they're the exact same person) and are quite clearly frauds. However, in the middle of them are a few sellers who appear in absolutely every area to be valid and honest sellers. You just have to be wise.

I scored a 9-speed Ultegra groupo on eBay a couple of months ago for $440, compared to the [almost] $1K that it'll cost new. Had less than 300 miles on it and works beautifully. Just be wise in shopping. If it sounds too good to be true, it just might be.
 

DiabloScott

New Member
May 15, 2003
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I did it and I did save money but you certainly could over-spend compared to a fully built bike. You can save a lot though if you go with slightly used stuff.

You can also spend too much money by upgrading or swapping parts off of a full-bike purchase - look at how many posters here just bought a new bike and now want to do that. Don't like the saddle that came with it? Add $70 for a different one. Different crank/cassette/handlebars? That's big money.

I picked every single component that went on my bike and that in itself was the most satisfying part. Putting it all together myself was nice too.
 

Powerful Pete

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May 29, 2004
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If you are careful and know what you are doing you could come up with something that fits you to a tee completely and saves you a bit. If you do not have the tools, it is not a problem. Really the only 'specialised' tools/knowledge that you would need would be for the headset and bottom bracket. You could easily have this done for little money at a shop and build up the rest of the bike for yourself, no problems at all.

Enjoy!
 

Xsmoker

New Member
Apr 25, 2003
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Here is a perfect example of spending too much on a project. I picked this up at a garage sale for $14 US. It was a rusted heap at the time but I figured, what the heck? I had the frame done at Spectrum Powder Works $350, wheels built:used hubs and rims, new DT swiss 14-15-14-$100. The rest of the parts, except the FD, which was lost during the project and replaced with 105, I just polished and reused. The bike just hangs in the garage most of the time or is used by my Daughter once a year or so. Talk about crazy!!!

cycling002.jpg
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KellyT

New Member
Aug 20, 2006
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[QUOTE
Talk about crazy!!!
[/IMG][/QUOTE]
Perhaps, but it does look lovely, so not that crazy.
 

wiggles

New Member
Jun 15, 2006
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I take it the frame wasn't rusted when you got it? Either way, whoever did the powder coating did an awesome job, it looks great!
 

Bro Deal

New Member
Jun 26, 2006
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I build all my bikes from a bare frame. It is usually not cost effective, but you get exactly what you want. The lower you go on the price spectrum, the less cost effective it is. The big manufacturers get unbelievable discounts on Shimano groups. (I have heard figures like $400 - 500 for a Dura Ace group--even that might be high). So there is no way you can build a bike that will compete for price with something like a mid range Trek.

Campy does not discount like Shimano does. If you live in the U.S. then you can typically get Campy stuff for much cheaper from some online sites based in Europe, making it possible to build a bike for close to U.S. retail--maybe even cheaper in some cases.

At the high end you can often do better than retail. There are many bike companies with ridiculously costly top end bikes. When you subtract off what you can get the components and wheels for, you are left with a way overpriced frame. This is a judgement call, but when I look at an $8000 Specialized I laugh and start to think that for $5000+ I can get a frame made by a craftsman in the U.S. rather than mass produced in China and it will have ten times the bling factor as that Specialized.

It is fairly easy to build a frame up. It is not rocket science. If you don't want to buy all the tools, then I suggest using a LBS to install the headset and the bottom bracket. The work that is left just requires basic tools like allen wrenches, a cable cutter, torque wrench for the cranks, etc. What is more is that aside from the BB and fork there is not much you can screw up permanently. You can always get your LBS to bail you out if you cannot get the shifting dialed in.
 

Xsmoker

New Member
Apr 25, 2003
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Thank you KellyT and wiggles for the compliments, it was a fun job, but a bit silly to spend that kind of money on.
 

wheelist

New Member
Jul 7, 2005
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if your goal is to get to know your way around a bike then just take an old one to pieces and put it back together again.

Spend your hard-earned cash on a shiny new one - with the skills you've learned on the old bike you'll be a dab hand at maintenance.

Wheelist.
 

dmathatas

New Member
Sep 22, 2006
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Greetings,


The only kind of road bike frame that I have ever used or have ever wanted to use is lugged steel. I also prefer down tube friction shifters and non aero brake levers. It's pretty hard to buy that new anymore. So I buy the frames used on Ebay, strip them, paint and build them up myself.

Why do I do this? The reason is that there is nothing on my bikes that I can't adjust or fix myself. I learned to use friction shifters years ago so I don't need to spend hundreds of dollars for an indexed groupo with brifters. I build my own wheels so I don't have to spend hundreds of dollars for wheels that can only be adjusted or repaired at the manufacturer or a bike shop.

I prefer Suntour deraileurs and shifters and older Sugino 110 mm cranks. I use six speed freewheels and I've even rebuilt a couple of those when I had to. All my bikes have a Q factor of less than 150 mm which is a lot easier on my infirm knees.

I weigh well over 200 pounds so It's not rational for me to worry about how much my frame or any of it's componentry weighs. If I ever get down to 150 again then I might begin worrying about those things.

Steel frames can last a lifetime. This is not true of aluminum or composite frames. If you damage these frames in any way you have to throw them away. Aluminum will eventually develop fatigue cracks, a process that is often accelerated by the corrosion that occurs when the paint surface chips or cracks allowing sweat to get under the paint. A cracked aluminum frame is an accident waiting to happen. No one knows how long composite frames may be safely used because they haven't been around long enough to develop any experience. All plastics that I have had any experience with eventually embrittle and I suspect this will be true of composite frames.

Steel is still the best material to build frames from and good steel frames can be had for a lot less that aluminum, titanium, or plastic composite. If want a good bike that will last you a life time and it has to be new, then go to Rivendell and buy one of their products. They have several lines including some models with Japanese built frames that sell at very reasonable prices considering the quality and value your getting.

Cheers.;)
 

peet9471

New Member
Dec 11, 2004
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The only way to know how to make these things work is to take them appart and put them back together. The trick is to know what you are looking at and not pay too much. I look at everything and buy only what is too good to be true. Usually there is a good reason why someone gives away a $500 bike. Maybe its too small or it could be a WSF. The componets are the same. I bought a "professional" the other day that was starting to rust! But it was fully Shamino 600. I took $700 worth of parts off a $5 bike, sanded it, painted it and put some lower quality stuff on it. Now I ride a $20 "pro" and pocketed $680.
 

nathanb74

New Member
Aug 30, 2006
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I think it can be more cost effective if your prepared to take your time purchasing all the bits. I just finished on sunday building my new bike to race on next season. All up cost me £600. There is no way I could buy a bike with the same spec for that money.