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Next bike: Build or buy?

Old 10-16-19, 09:34 AM
  #1  
vinnyvincent
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Next bike: Build or buy?

So, my "first adult bike" was a 300 dollar BikesDirect road bike. It's served me well and I've put quite a few thousand miles on it and will continue to do so.
I've also since gotten a MTB from them, and I enjoy doing my own maintenance.
I've gotten a nice wheel set for the road bike, with an extra rear wheel to use in case I want to ride when I break a spoke and it's in the shop. I've changed out cassettes, retrofitted brakes from an old bike to my friends new fixie, and several other easy jobs in addition to doing all the maintenance(except wheel truing) on my bikes and friends bikes..

Lately I've been thinking about getting a more modern, light weight road bike to use for faster group rides.
I'm trying to decide if I want to go with a complete bike from the shop, or buying components and slowly building the bike myself.
I'm worried I might be underestimating what it takes to build a bike and that it may end up being more than I can handle.
Based on my experience, what do you think?

Is it any cheaper to build it yourself, or is it just more of a hobbyist thing? Seems like a lot of bikes come with crappy wheels, so maybe by the time I put decent wheels and tires on a new bike I would come out ahead building it myself?
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Old 10-16-19, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by vinnyvincent View Post
So, my "first adult bike" was a 300 dollar BikesDirect road bike. It's served me well and I've put quite a few thousand miles on it and will continue to do so.
I've also since gotten a MTB from them, and I enjoy doing my own maintenance.
I've gotten a nice wheel set for the road bike, with an extra rear wheel to use in case I want to ride when I break a spoke and it's in the shop. I've changed out cassettes, retrofitted brakes from an old bike to my friends new fixie, and several other easy jobs in addition to doing all the maintenance(except wheel truing) on my bikes and friends bikes..

Lately I've been thinking about getting a more modern, light weight road bike to use for faster group rides.
I'm trying to decide if I want to go with a complete bike from the shop, or buying components and slowly building the bike myself.
I'm worried I might be underestimating what it takes to build a bike and that it may end up being more than I can handle.
Based on my experience, what do you think?

Is it any cheaper to build it yourself, or is it just more of a hobbyist thing? Seems like a lot of bikes come with crappy wheels, so maybe by the time I put decent wheels and tires on a new bike I would come out ahead building it myself?
Generally cheaper to buy a complete bike as the components by themselves are higher priced. Shimano, for example, is notorious for jacking up the retail prices of the components.
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Old 10-16-19, 09:44 AM
  #3  
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If money is no object. build your dream bike and if you run into a problem, consult the 'experts' at the shop. I personally, would buy a bike with the geometry I like and then improve upon it as I see the need. What's right for you is personal preference.
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Old 10-16-19, 12:36 PM
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If you were selling bicycle components which do you think would be cheaper for you to do?

1. Sell parts one-at-a-time with point of purchasing packaging and instructions and have to market and deal with multiple individual buyers.
2. Sell parts in pallet bins with no packaging and only have to market and deal with one buyer.

Assembling your own new bike is definitely more satisfying and more fun but, if you are using all new stock parts, there isn't going to be a cost savings. I used to build a fair number of wheels which is a relatively labor intensive process. At that time I could buy an Open Pro wheel set with Ultra hubs and DT Competition spokes already built for the same price as it cost me, at wholesale, to buy just the components. Also, unless you buy everything at the same time and from the same vendor, you are going to pay multiple individual shipping charges.
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Old 10-16-19, 03:04 PM
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It probably won't be cheaper unless you have the parts already or are transferring the parts from another bike. However, it does allow you to add the components you want.

I like to tear down, clean and put back together ~30 year old bikes I purchase. This process can take a 4-5 hours and I usually set goals to do certain things in a few days as I loose focus otherwise. Plus, there are certain things that can add time, such as wrapping bar tape, since I try to make it perfect.
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Old 10-16-19, 03:28 PM
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If a budget is in mind, if you want up to date equipment, buy the whole bike. You will probably still want to switch out saddle, maybe handlebar and, if they come with the bike, pedals. Even if you, at some point, want to upgrade, still less dollars to buy new.
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Old 10-16-19, 03:31 PM
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The initial cost of a prebuilt bike will be less, but if you end up changing out the saddle, bars and other parts, that cost advantage may disappear. The last complete bike I bought was in the early 90's. I did recently buy a complete colnago c-rs with 105 parts for $1000 off the msrp, then tore it down and sold the build kit on eBay. I ended up with a colnago c-rs frame for under $1000 and built it up with the new campy chorus 12, for under $3000. I used my favorite carbon bars and post, an SMP saddle, and zonda wheels. It's a much better bike, for about $600 more than the msrp on the 105 bike with lots of cheap parts.

Finding good frames only can be hard. Sometimes you have to buy a complete bike and part it out to get what you really want.
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Old 10-16-19, 04:45 PM
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Putting components on a frame is more of a hobbyist thing. As with all hobby's it usually costs more, but affords the owner more freedom in component selection. I have only purchased three bikes ready to ride. Two of them I changed all the parts out to stuff I liked better. One was just fine as it came. If you don't mind the labor of love and losing on the cost end, putting the bits on the frame is very rewarding and makes the bike perfect to your liking.
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Old 10-16-19, 08:59 PM
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Common wisdom is that building from 'scratch' is a good way to spend $1000 to build a $700 bike.

While the big-ticket items like the frame, wheels and drive group can 'save' you a little over a complete bike, when you add in all the small things like headset, stem, bar tape, cables, seat clamps, etc, that can easily add a couple of hundred bucks on to the total cost for the bike.
These small parts are also where most of the incompatibilities happen, that can derail a build, searching for the right combination to make the big parts work together.



It also helps if you have a (very) specific goal or key component(s) in mind before you set out, otherwise you may find yourself down a rabbit hole that takes a lot more time, skill or money to get out of than you were prepared to spend.

If your only goal is 'something lighter and newer than my old $300 BD bike' then I would say buy a complete bike. If you think you have a good handle on what size bike fits you, and a general idea of the (Shimano) component group hierarchy, then you can often find really good deals in the used market. ~5-year old bikes can be had for a fraction of the price of new bikes, if you don't nead the latest-and-greatest, leaving plenty of room in the budget for the 'make-it-yours' mods.
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Old 10-17-19, 08:11 AM
  #10  
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Yea, definitely cheaper to buy one complete. I did a frame up build last time though on a BD frame, just for the fun of it.

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Old 10-17-19, 01:08 PM
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I have built frame-up or heavily modified most of my bikes. I don't do it any more because my income has dropped sharply.

Also, drive train component prices have skyrocketed once Shimano cut off the UK discounts. And every part you put on the bike has to be sourced, chosen and shipped, which takes time and money, and you will generally pay a lot more for each part (even on EBay) than a major manufacturer pays buying in bulk. Further, you will have to spend a lot of time on EBay searching for just the right parts (new, take-off, hardly used) to get any kind of affordable prices. People selling bike parts watch the market, and prices have gone up a lot in the past several years. (I spoiled it for all of you who came later. )

Nothing compares to the satisfaction of seeing the parts and seeing them come together. The headaches of the inevitable technical issues are about balanced out by the pleasure of overcoming them. The costs of the tools .... well, the tools last. And when the bike is finally dialed in, yeah, that's great.

However, I find that I get pretty much equal joy from riding pretty much any of my bikes, from my almost-stock Fuji to my frame-up builds or rebuilds. Ultimately it is just a bike and if the control surfaces are in the right places and the controls work, it is all about riding. So the pride of ownership seems not to be as big a deal as I thought it would be ... I cannot like a bike less because I did less work on it, if it it delivers on the road.

So .... if I were you, I would find the most bike I could afford and buy it. I would count on eventually changing stuff .... stem and/or bars, eventually, saddle, eventually .... and almost every bike needs (or wants) better wheels. But even if you buy everything from China (great frames if you shop carefully, plenty of good, non-brand components for people who don't care about the decals as much as the ride, and even good CF rims if you shop carefully) you are still going to spend a lot more on a built-up bike, and ultimately get a bike about as good as what you could have bought off the rack for two-thirds the cost.

As for having the skills needed .... it is really easy to build a bike. If you have all the tools, CF paste, other lubricants, and parts, you can assemble and tune a bike over a weekend without much trouble. Just make sure you don't skip any steps, forget to grease some part, etc. I have spent as many hours going back to do something I forgot as actually building a bike (unwrap the bar tape, loosen the brifter, swivel it to get better access, feed through the dang cable, put it all back together ...Ugh, I forgot the barrel adjuster..... feeding cables (internally routed) can also be a bit of a thing, ) but actual tech difficulties are few and far between, and YouTube can explain about everything.

It's fun, but it is expensive fun. If you have the budget, and can spend the time shopping for affordable parts, or can afford full-price parts .... expect a few delays, and cost overruns, and have the experience on your resume. Count on spending $2800 for a $2000 bike, or $2000 for a $1200 bike. If it is less, great, and if it is even more, oh, well ... you are committed (because sometimes you see that better part which is only a little more than you had planned, but .... )

Either way, post lots of pics.

Last edited by Maelochs; 10-17-19 at 01:15 PM.
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Old 10-17-19, 01:27 PM
  #12  
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Building up is usually considerably more expensive. Assembly labor doesn't cost the manufacturers much, and they're buying the parts in large batches at costs vastly below MSRP.

Building up can be fun, and might be better if you have a particular nonstandard idea in mind. But if you have to ask "why?", buy complete.
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Old 10-18-19, 06:49 AM
  #13  
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FYI, couple years ago I went to a lbs and was shown a $12,000 Venge. I bought 3 year older new-old-stock, Dura Ace 9100 groupset and campy shamal ultra wheelset and built it myself for a total cost of $2,500.

Good luck
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Old 10-20-19, 11:53 AM
  #14  
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I have built two bikes using parts I had laying around from various upgrades over the years. It was cheaper to build than a new bike, but not quite cheaper than getting a complete used bike and modifying it. Best part of building a bike is being able to spec it to your exact tastes. Only part I did enjoy was setting up shifters and derailleurs for the first time and adjusting them to shift perfectly. I had to acquire some specialty tools in the process as well.

If you have the time and don't mind spending some extra money I would recommend building a bike.
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Old 10-20-19, 02:55 PM
  #15  
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Building up vintage bikes can be less than buying new.
Many don't want vintage.
A few of us don't need new to satisfy our biking needs.
I have at least 4 vintage bikes that cost me less than $400. These are quality bikes with Reynolds531 frames, vintage tubular wheels, etc.
It takes patience at times to find the right deals, but Winter is a good time for deals and you already have 2 to ride. CraigsList and Facebook markets are your friends.

YouTube videos will give you the skills, no problem. But a couple of steps need special tools.
Do you have access to a bike co-op? Friends with tools?

Nothing more satisfying than doing it yourself.
Learning new skills open huge possibilities for cost savings in the future.

edit: as post below states = my comments are for road and city, not mtb. Also, vintage geared steel bike will not be lightest by a few pounds, hence the reason for tubular wheels and nice tires. With integrated levers for shifting/braking, dual pivot calipers, and the gearing for your territory = you give up nothing to an 18lb modern bike, excepting mountain riding or sustained hill climbs and even then not really much (unless you are racing and care about seconds

Old cycling Truisms:

Train heavy, race light.

Better to have a moderate frame with great wheels, than a great frame with moderate wheels.

90+% of your race wins* are due to teamwork, cunning and personal engine output+endurance, not the bike.
*excepting time trialing, of course = engine output and aero position (The Bike) for non-technical, flat-out speed conditions.
*also excepting track riding, ya gotta have the right bike.

10 pounds dropped off the rider makes a faster racer than 4-5lbs off the bike.

Learn to support yourself on the road.


re-edit: this thread needs more pics.
Below a retro frame and fork, with 9 speed triple. My 'take me anywhere' road bike. It likes to head to the mountains of western WA.
Shown in final build stage. I wanted all Campy so not $400, but not much more.
I love the orangesicle color (Dutch frame) and chrome socks.

Frame is not Reynolds or Columbus, but much undervalued Ishiwata022. Purchased from BikeForum Classic & Vintage Sales = $100, never crashed, no dents and pretty good paint/decals.

Last edited by Wildwood; 10-20-19 at 09:05 PM.
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Old 10-20-19, 05:48 PM
  #16  
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You can build a bike pretty cost effectively, but not if you're using brand-new parts.

Bikes and components in the 5-10 year old range can offer a lot of value for the dollar. I'll keep this to road bikes, since MTB's are a whole, rapidly evolving category.
A bike with 9-speed Shimano 105 might be 10 years old, but it'll sell for what you can land a brand-new Claris bike for. Let's call it $500.
They might both be 9-speed (for the sake of argument) but the 105 bike was more like $1,000 when it was new. A lot of people talk about tech 'trickle-down' from upper-end groups to lower/mid-range, but other than the number of gears on the cassette, and maybe the brifter layout, not much. You'll see less cast aluminum and more stamped steel in the deraileurs, and more budget-minded selection in big things like wheels, and small things like the BB, stem and headset. The older high-(er) end bike probably also has a frame from the next higher tier, they might both be the same 6061 alloy, but better finished welds, integrated cable routing, that sort of thing.

If you have some mild customization in mind, a 'new to me' bike that meets ~80% of your criteria can save a lot of time and money since it already has all the little things taken care of.

Last edited by Ironfish653; 10-20-19 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 10-20-19, 06:28 PM
  #17  
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[QUOTE=Ironfish653;211722B51]A bike with 9-speed Shimano 105 might be approaching 10 years old, but it'll sell for what you can land a brand-new Claris bike for. Let's call it $500.
/QUOTE]

Actually it might be approaching 15 years old. 10 speed 105 came out in 2006 (which is when I bought my "new" bike).
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Old 10-20-19, 08:52 PM
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Ironfish653
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Originally Posted by MikeWMass View Post
Originally Posted by Ironfish653;211722B51
A bike with 9-speed Shimano 105 might be approaching 10 years old, but it'll sell for what you can land a brand-new Claris bike for. Let's call it $500.
Actually it might be approaching 15 years old. 10 speed 105 came out in 2006 (which is when I bought my "new" bike).
I was thinking of my last project bike, which has 5600 series 105 DRs (which are 10-sp) but Tiagra 4500 9-speed shifters (and cassette)
That said, 5600 is really nice stuff, and can still be found pretty inexpensively, even NOS.

That bike is a pretty good example of how to build a nice bike for cheap. I was doing more road riding and events, and wanted to move up from my heavy-ish 1970's Bridgestone roadster. I had always wanted a Softride beam bike, and one came up semi-locally for $225, so I jumped on it. It was a CrMo framed 1997 Nor'wester, with 3x7 RSX, nothing really great, but it was complete and in decent shape.
I started riding on it, and found that the gearing was really more suited to recreational / light touring, not a sporty as i'd hoped and the box-section 32h wheels were really heavy and 'dead' feeling. I also didn't like the height of the Softride suspension stem, or the narrow 40cm bars (typical 90's)

I was searching CL for a suitable set of wheels and came across a ~2008 BD Mercier 'Aero' with 20/24 semi-aero Shimano wheels and the 5600/4500 9-speed setup for $200, which was about what i was looking at spending for a wheelset.
I purchased that bike, a 52cm, which was too small for me, as a donor for the Softride. I swapped the wheels, DRs, cranks and 7-sp brifters, and sold the Mercier for the same $200 i'd paid for it. It also came with a bunch of accessories, like a lightly-used helmet, a pair of generic SPD pedals and shoes, a saddle bag, and generic multi-tool; most of which i didn't need, so I sold that as a 'kit' for $75.

For those playing along at home, my project bike thus far, including the original bike/frame, and the wheel/drive/control upgrade has now put me back $150 (net)
Some careful shopping of close-outs and the take-off bin finished the bike out for a Ben-and-a-half with new tires, a 31.8 stem and adapter, Romin Evo saddle and a Salsa Cowchipper bar, so all finished up for a shade less than $300.



I'm in the process of scouting donor bikes for a Cannondale speed weapon project; there's a couple of 2.8's an hour+ away, and a CAAD-4 frame with a really nice triple-fade colorway literally around the corner that's almost to cheap not to grab, (even if it ends up as wall art)
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Old 10-20-19, 09:46 PM
  #19  
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My experience (as others have stated) is that it's cheaper to buy a complete bike than to build, especially if you take in the cost of the tools you will need and if you put a cost to your time spent assembling the bike.

I'm typically looking for deals on last years model. If your patient you can find some good deals. The last bike I got was full carbon, disc, ultegra, crappy aluminum wheels and generic stock seat/cockpit/tires for a few dollars more than a full ultegra groupset.

The money I saved on buying the bike went right back into a new cockpit, saddle, wheels, tires, bottle cages, etc. I ended up tearing the whole bike apart anyways just to make sure it was greased and assembled correctly (glad I did).

Unless you have a dream build in mind that doesnt come already assembled, taking the pre built bike is the way to go.
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Old 10-21-19, 08:39 AM
  #20  
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Generally as mentioned if you pick out a new bike, spec out all the parts, source them and buy them separately it's more expensive than the new bike.

I built mine more cheaply but I started with a wheelset from another bike, and saddle etc, started with a single ring up front with DT shifter, and waited for bargains and clearance sales to get it the way I wanted. I think there are several approaches that *can* be cheaper building, but probably not from just ordering all the parts at once from the usual sources.
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Old 10-21-19, 06:36 PM
  #21  
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I built my "dream" bike over the last year. It was awesome fun and I learned a lot about bikes. If you have a little extra money to spend than build and enjoy the fun. If budget will be tight and set than you should buy. A complete bike will be cheaper, just not as much fun.
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Old 10-22-19, 08:30 AM
  #22  
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I guess I'll be the odd man out on this thread. I don't own a road bike that I purchased complete. All of them have been bought as a frame & forks and I purchased all the components separately. eBay has been a great resource. I don't buy the latest and greatest of anything, but instead focus on what was top-of-the-line a few years ago. I have two SRAM Red bikes (mechanical) where I found sellers letting the shift levers go for far less than retail. I'd estimate that both of my bikes off a showroom floor would be in the $5K range and I likely spent an actual $3K doing it myself.

Get an idea of what you want to get - Shimano 105 is an excellent quality vs. price point group, then make a list of everything you need. Take your time buying, and spend a few extra dollars on the few specific tools you'll need. As long as you get a frame & fork set with the headset already installed the wrenches or spline tools for a standard bottom bracket are really cheap. If the BB is a press fit then you might have to go to a bike shop, but there are plenty of YouTube videos that show how you can even do that yourself pretty safely.

Building your own bike and tuning it up is very satisfying and rewarding. I highly recommend it!
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Old 10-23-19, 10:48 PM
  #23  
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Bikes: 2.6kw GT LTS e-tandem, 250w Voodoo, 250w solar recumbent trike, 3-speed shopper, Merlin ol/skl mtb, 80cc Ellswick

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A more competent, easy version of an e-tadpole than the geared, rigid, sporty recumbent trike i have now.
I need more of a GT. So a hub motor and full suspension will set this apart.
MikeyMK is offline  

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