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Build a bike....

davidren's picture

By davidren - Posted on 19 July 2010

If you were looking to build your own bike what are the best options and resources to complete this ?

At present I'd see the options as :

1) Buy a complete bike - expensive ?
2) Buy all the parts and have the LBS build it for you.
3) Buy the parts and build as much as possible with the LBS doing the tricky stuff.

Resources :
- Books
- YouTube videos
- Maintenance courses - KOM Cyclery run one ?

For those here who have built a bike can anyone provide any advice at all ??

Rob's picture

You shouldn't be that intimidated by building a bike to be honest. Everything fits together pretty easily - just like Lego!

The most tricky parts are getting the shifting right, and perhaps putting in the headset/BB if they happen to be press fit. Cutting a fork steerer is easy enough if you are patient - just start long with too many spacers just in case! A decent LBS should happily help you with the small things like press fitting bearings, fine tuning the shifting, etc. if you do the rest. A good relationship with your LBS helps here.

That said - buying a complete bike can be better value, depending on what you're looking at. Especially in the next few months when 2011 stock comes along and there should be some close-outs around.

The Park Tool website has some great little videos. There's load of others on YouTube I'm sure. You just have to know what to type into the search box.

Oh, and if you get stuck, you could always, 'phone a friend'. Getting your mates round to help build while eating pizza and drinking beer is always entertaining Eye-wink

Nick R's picture


Especially if you get a end of season run out deal from the LBS. Plus you have peace of mind with warranty and service issues.

I would only build a bike if I could get an amazing deal on a frame / groupset / wheelset or I wanted to build something that wasnt available as a complete bike purchase.

TimmyAus's picture

In my experience, buying a complete will come out cheaper than building your own, especially with the discounts being offered on 2010 models (as has been mentioned) which benefited from the strong aussie dollar when they were imported. Having said that, building your own bike from the ground up is a very 'educational experience' and gives you a far greater appreciation for the hunk of metal/composite materials that you will use to inflict joy and pain upon yourself.

Even if you buy complete, the urge will always be present to upgrade bits and pieces which will offer plenty of opportunity to get the fingernails dirty...

herzog's picture

I did this a couple of years ago. Basically bought a nice frame, and then started getting all the bits
and pieces and built up the bike over a few months.

It's definitely a very rewarding thing to do, but not necessarily if your aim is to save money. A
complete bike will nearly always be cheaper, since the bike makers get all the bits in OEM volumes at
very low rates.

Case in point, a mate recently bought a fairly high spec, brand new Merida dually for $2600, which came
with a 2010 Fox TALAS fork. Buying the fork alone retail would be something like $1500.

Having said that, you can do quite well if you get a good deal on a frame, and select parts which are
on special, or hunt around for bits and pieces on Ebay.

So why build your own?

-It's an enjoyable project that you can do over a few months.
-You learn all about bike maintenance in the process.
-Can end with with a unique bike and build. If you want something more unique than a generic Giant or
Trek, this may be the best reason.

My frame doesn't use a press fit headset, so I didn't need too many specialised tools other than what
comes in a 40 buck Bike Toolkit from Torpedo7. Trickiest thing was finding something to cut the Shimano
gear cable hoses. These are a real bugger. Ended up using a Dremel which does a great job, and doesn't
squash the hose in the process.

Shortening and bleeding hydro brakes for the first time is a bit tricky too.

If you have carbon anything, get a low-range torque wrench (1-10Nm)
Get a copy of Zinns MTB maintenance book.
You don't have to do it all at once. If you get stuck on something come back to it another day.
There's some good videos on youtube for stuff like derailleur adjustment.
Use a Shimano chain with an Sram Powerlink rather than the special Shimano joining rivet.

muvro's picture

Yeah, I reckon it's a great way to learn about your bike and know what's gone into it and how it all works. The main advantage to this is out on the trail, you can use this knowledge to getting the bike going again if anything craps itself.

I haven't bought a new bike yet. I just build up what I want.

My Norco 6, has been an evolutionary excersize and probably wouldn't have cost me as much as buying a new bike at the spec it is. But as has been said, I did the prowl Ebay and forums thing. waiting for the right price on stuff and getting things when I could afford to. It's left me with an awesome freeride bike.

My Cannondale Rush was the same thing. I got the frame at a good price, then scouted forums and ebay for well priced stuff. Starting off with a carbon frame and a Fox RP23 helped alot, then got some Fox float 32 RL's, XT brakes, XT and XTR drivetrain, mavic/hope wheels, carbon seatpost, stem and bars. Got it all for $1900. The spec level and weight it's at, you'd be hard pressed to get a bike as good, new for under 5k. It probably took about 4 months of scouting.

The things to be wary of when building a bike up is, knowing what you need and what parts go with what. For instance, I was lucky my frame came with a bottom bracket conversion tube (converts cannondale BB to standard style BB), without that, I'd still be crankless. Little things like that can make you come unstuck in a big way and then cost you a fortune to make it work. So do your homewrk and research it thoroughly.

The downside to building your own bike up, is the lack of warrenty. If something breaks, you're up for buying a new one out of your own pocket and that's where buying second hand can get you unstuck and possibly buying things twice. Also, Ebay can be a deadly trap if you don't triple check with the seller as to exactly the condition, and specs of the parts you are buying.

For instance, I pulled my rear hub apart after doing the rocky trails 4hr. two of the four springs in the hub were broken and three out of the four pawls were badly worn. There was metal shards all through the ratchet mechanism. Now because I bought these second hand, I've got no recourse. Luckily, I had another hope hub (new) that I pilliged the parts from and will order new ones when they are in stock. These hubs looked brand new, but had obviously had a well used life with no love.

I'm not trying to scare you off doing it, as it is a great way to do it, but buying a new bike from a store does have it's advantages, especially if (as said) you hunt around for last years models that are getting clearanced.

Good luck Smiling

Funkychicken's picture

+1 complete bikes are almost always cheaper. It *may* be cheaper if you get the frame, parts, or combinations of those *2nd hand*. Difficult, but not impossible. Building it on your own will be very satisfying, and a good learning process. BUT it can also be very time consuming and very frustrating if you dont know the *exact* parts you need.

I built mine up by getting a 2nd-hand complete bike, and replaced fork, shock spring, drivetrain, stem/bar/grips and brakes. My biggest savings were in the 2nd-hand frame+shock+wheels.

RichH's picture

@ davidren - Im in work and havent read down through all the replies but I may have something for you. My lovely titus will be hitting the for sale forum soon-will PM you once it is posted.

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