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Question for DIY bike builders

Old 09-10-20, 12:50 PM
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cvrle1
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Question for DIY bike builders

I had some time on my hands, and was looking around CF bikes. One thing lead to another and I went down a rabbit hole a bit. Got idea of building my own CF bike using Chinese made frame and some parts. Dont want this to be another discussion if they are safe or not (plenty of those threads around, and topic has been beaten to death) but I do have general question when it comes to DIY bike building from scratch. Since I am new to road riding, bought 1st road bike in over 15 years few months ago, and have very basic knowledge of bike parts, would this be a good idea? I would start this process sometimes next year, at least 6 months from now, and plan on reading, researching and asking questions as much as possible, so that I have knowledge needed. I am still not sure however if even at that point building my own bike would make sense. Could I do this safely and properly? How would you proceed in my place? I was playing with idea of getting old used bike and rebuilding it, to learn how parts interact and work with each other, but covid has made that impossible. I am looking at several hundred $ for cheap bike locally here.

Thanks for the help.
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Old 09-10-20, 01:05 PM
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genejockey
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Building up your own bike can be very rewarding. When you're done, it's more "yours" than any other bike you'll ever own!

There are plenty of used frames on Ebay. The key is knowing what size frame you need, and being able to judge condition from the pictures. Another thing is, although many of the parts simply bolt on, there are some like headsets and bottom brackets that may require specialized tools. I built up an old steel frame I bought on Ebay, and also took down another bike to have the frame repainted and then built it up again. In both cases, I had a local bike shop handle the headset and bottom bracket, and handled the rest myself.
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Old 09-10-20, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by cvrle1 View Post
I had some time on my hands, and was looking around CF bikes. One thing lead to another and I went down a rabbit hole a bit. Got idea of building my own CF bike using Chinese made frame and some parts. Dont want this to be another discussion if they are safe or not (plenty of those threads around, and topic has been beaten to death) but I do have general question when it comes to DIY bike building from scratch. Since I am new to road riding, bought 1st road bike in over 15 years few months ago, and have very basic knowledge of bike parts, would this be a good idea?
It's a bad idea if you want new current Shimano/SRAM parts in a standard configuration. With the steep OEM discount, you can buy a complete bicycle from bikesdirect for not much more than the price of a groupset alone.

It's a good idea if you want Campagnolo or something you can't buy new. E.g. I like triple cranksets with tight cogsets, 2010 Campagnolo Ultrashift levers, and 2003-2006 other parts. I built wheels with retroreflective rims, a power meter in back, and dynamo hub up front. Nearly everything aluminum is silver anodized, and anything black is carbon fiber so scrapesdon't show.

Buy a bottom bracket tool because bottom brackets are a wear item you'll replace occasionally.

You can improvise on your headset or pay a shop to do it once - I'm still on the same headset I had installed in 1997 with 37,000 miles since I stopped eschewing bike computers in 2010 and unknown number before then.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 09-10-20 at 02:44 PM.
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Old 09-10-20, 01:19 PM
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I was in your position several years ago. Since then I have not purchased a complete bike. I like being able to decide exactly how I want the bike, or at least I want to be the one deciding where to save money. Like @genejocky, I don't have the tools to install a traditional headset or pressed bottom bracket. I would take those to a local shop to be installed. If you have a carbon steering tube, I would also take that to the shop to be cut (once you are sure of the length that you want.) Apart from all that, it's not rocket science. There are lot's of helpful Youtube videos out there and I also rely pretty heavily on Lennard Zinn's Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance. Some frames are very straight-forward and build up without any issues, while others are kind of quirky and might make you have to stop and think. A little patience and some basic mechanical skills are all it takes though.
Make sure you have a torque wrench if you're working with carbon fiber.
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Old 09-10-20, 01:19 PM
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I always wanted to build a bike from the frame up, got my chance when a nice old MTB I had developed a crack in its frame. Bought a Nashbar aluminum frame, a new steel fork, and put it together with mostly parts I already had. BB is a simple square taper, headset I put in using one of the DIY/all-thread methods you can find on YouTube (Al or steel frame only, not CF. It works, but it takes about 1-hour and some care to put it in and get it set correctly). The bicycle is about 4 years old and works great as my commuter. I also built a 'roadie' the same way, with a Nashbar CX frame, ride it regularly with no issues. CF frames are mostly 'integrated ' headsets, so that would make the tough part of a build a lot easier than what I did.

FWIW: Too bad Nashbar is now defunct, those frames were a bargin for the price they charged, even better if you could catch a sale event.
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Old 09-10-20, 02:03 PM
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I Did It Last Summer...

I purchased the Chinese frame from a friend for $180 (I think). Ultegra R8000 throughout. Wheelset is DT Swiss 240s laced to carbon 50s. I think that my total was $1800. It weighs 17 pounds and rides really nicely. Climbs well. Descends well. I didn't need to build it. I simply felt like it. Glad that I did.
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Old 09-10-20, 02:36 PM
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Interesting take from another person I read. His thought is that it makes no sense for me to do this, as main reason people do these builds is to control every component they select. They know why make x/model x is better choice than make y/model y, Since I dont have than knowledge, there is no point of building it myself. While I never thought of it that way, it kinda does and does not make sense. I get what he is saying, but in all honesty I dont remember reading in any threads that main reason people built these bikes was because they can control each nut and bolt used. Is he correct in his view?

Thanks again for all the help and info so far.
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Old 09-10-20, 02:44 PM
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Building bikes is fun! It doesn't really take much in the way of specialty tools until you get to the bottom bracket - otherwise, you can get by with a basic set of hand tools for the most part.
My philosophy has always been to buy the tools/manuals instead of taking it (bike, car, motorcycle, etc) to a shop so that I'll have the tools on hand next time I need them. It's far cheaper and more satisfying than paying someone else to do the work.

And without ragging on the Chinese frames (there certainly are good ones out there but, you really want to know what you're looking at before you buy) I would suggest looking on e-bay for "new old stock" brand name frames - there are tons of great deals on brand new carbon frames for around the same price as the no-name stuff. I scored this brand new, never built BMC RM01 frame for $400 shipped to my door from a bike ship in Huntington Beach. It was 3 years old at the time.

Do your research before you buy - that way you'll be ready to pull the trigger when that great deal pops up.


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Old 09-10-20, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by cvrle1 View Post
Interesting take from another person I read. His thought is that it makes no sense for me to do this, as main reason people do these builds is to control every component they select. They know why make x/model x is better choice than make y/model y, Since I dont have than knowledge, there is no point of building it myself. While I never thought of it that way, it kinda does and does not make sense. I get what he is saying, but in all honesty I dont remember reading in any threads that main reason people built these bikes was because they can control each nut and bolt used. Is he correct in his view?

Thanks again for all the help and info so far.
Not in my case. I wanted a bike built from Columbus MAX tubing, their steel tubeset for larger/stronger riders. I think they may have stopped making MAX by that point (2007), and it was always a premium product. Maybe a Merckx MX Leader, but that wold have been prohibitively expensive! So I found a used Battaglin MAX frame in my size on Ebay, had it stripped and repainted in red, and then built it up with 2006 Chorus parts I spent months accumulating from Ebay and various vendors, making up spreadsheets of prices. All together, I think it cost about half what I'd have had to pay for a new MX Leader.
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Old 09-10-20, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by BHG6 View Post
Building bikes is fun! It doesn't really take much in the way of specialty tools until you get to the bottom bracket - otherwise, you can get by with a basic set of hand tools for the most part.
My philosophy has always been to buy the tools/manuals instead of taking it (bike, car, motorcycle, etc) to a shop so that I'll have the tools on hand next time I need them. It's far cheaper and more satisfying than paying someone else to do the work.

And without ragging on the Chinese frames (there certainly are good ones out there but, you really want to know what you're looking at before you buy) I would suggest looking on e-bay for "new old stock" brand name frames - there are tons of great deals on brand new carbon frames for around the same price as the no-name stuff. I scored this brand new, never built BMC RM01 frame for $400 shipped to my door from a bike ship in Huntington Beach. It was 3 years old at the time.

Do your research before you buy - that way you'll be ready to pull the trigger when that great deal pops up.


Thats a great looking bike! I was looking on eBay at NOS CF frames as well, just to get a general idea on prices. I was surprised to see some are about same as China CF ones, so definitely something I will keep an eye out on. In terms of tools, I completely agree. I work on my motorcycles, have tools for them, dissembled carbs and cleaned them, do all regular maintenance and so on. Not worried about getting dirty and using elbow grease when needed, was more worried about doing something wrong and having a catastrophic failure because of it since bicycles are not something I know much about as of right now.
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Old 09-10-20, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by cvrle1 View Post
Interesting take from another person I read. His thought is that it makes no sense for me to do this, as main reason people do these builds is to control every component they select. They know why make x/model x is better choice than make y/model y, Since I dont have than knowledge, there is no point of building it myself. While I never thought of it that way, it kinda does and does not make sense. I get what he is saying, but in all honesty I dont remember reading in any threads that main reason people built these bikes was because they can control each nut and bolt used. Is he correct in his view?

Thanks again for all the help and info so far.
It sounds to me like your friend is mostly correct, with some caveats. Some people absolutely build their own bike because they want to select every individual component themselves, instead of being locked into what an OEM selects for them. It's very much like building your own PC instead of buying one from Dell or some other computer OEM. However, as others have said, you will pay more for components than an OEM will, so your chance of saving money over buying a complete bike is pretty slim.

I would assume that if you are embarking on this project, you will research and learn what brake system, crankset, wheels, and so on will be best for you. So your friend is not correct to say that there is no reason for you to build a bike. Building up your own bike can be a great learning experience, and that in an of itself is a good reason to try it. Starting with your level of knowledge and building out a complete bike from the frame up is basically the bicycle equivalent to compiling Gentoo. You should do it.
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Old 09-10-20, 03:11 PM
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Regarding above post, he is correct in his view, in that it is just that, his view. Building a bike can be, and is for me, very rewarding when it is done. Acquiring needed tools, while not a huge expense, comes at a cost. Acquiring specific, individual components can definitely get expensive, with that cost increasing if improper, non compatible parts are purchased. For me, there is also the frustration that can occur when things are not working out as one thought they would. Not if, but when, mistakes are made, keep it in perspective and learn from it.

If you are wanting to do this to save money, probably not happening. If the purpose is to challenge yourself, to gain the knowledge of bike mechanics, for self satisfaction and sense of accomplishment, they are all valid and good reasons to do it. Figure out what you want, why you want it, and what you expect in the end. Come up with a budget and do as much research as you can regarding all the components/parts, and make sure you know what size is needed for you. Not just the frame, but also things like the stem, handlebar, saddle, etc. Have a plan with the understanding that the plan may need to be amended as the process progresses.
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Old 09-10-20, 03:25 PM
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There are several reasons to build a bike from the frame up. In most cases you won't save money unless you are willing to settle for NOS type parts. You also have to factor in the cost of tools.

The benefits are many fold.

For me, building for myself was the only way to get exactly what I wanted. I have really found favor with mechanical discs for example. That really narrows the field down dramatically, and it typically narrows it to lower end bikes. Then there are plenty of other places where I could build what I couldn't buy. Building brings a certain level of pride and satisfaction with it. Another benefit is that you'll learn how to wrench on bikes in the process. That will save you money on adjustments, repairs and replacements.

You may find certain things that you don't want to do or don't want to buy the tools to do yourself. For me that is headset press stuff.

On a closing note, I am not generally good at e-learning. I function much better in a master/apprentice or student teacher environment. The instructional videos from Park Tools have been very useful. Much to my surprise, I have used them with good results.
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Old 09-10-20, 03:41 PM
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Building a bike from the frame up may be more expensive initially, but you'll also acquire many tools that are essential to maintenance (and familiarity with those tools). Chains and cables are annual maintenance (or more often at higher mileages), and all but the best bottom brackets seem to need replaced every few years at most. Investing in the tools (and knowledge) to build a bike now ensures cost savings over time. (You can always learn to wrench on a new, complete bike as components wear -- but many owners seem to shy away from taking that initial step.)
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Old 09-10-20, 03:43 PM
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This guy built a bike from cheap Chinese carbon parts:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYu...lrDmFj2gNuAwZw

He identifies what worked for him and what didn't, and does talk about the caveats of "cheap Chinese carbon".

£1279.55, 7.65 kilos.


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Old 09-10-20, 04:21 PM
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You say you are going to do research and that is the best thing you can do. Iíd start with the bike you have now. Since you bought your first bike in 15 years a few months ago and how you want to build a bike, that one sure missed the mark.

You should still be in the best thing I did stage or just leaving it if you really liked the bike. Even then a lot of people who love their bike will look to upgrade it first. So figure out what you wish you had bought.

You may also want to test out other bikes that you may want to buy complete instead of building as it probably will cost more to build. Iíve built bikes and it is a lot of fun, but donít plan to have everything fit perfectly. That only happens if you transfer from basically the same frame. You will end up with parts that donít work.

John
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Old 09-10-20, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
You say you are going to do research and that is the best thing you can do. Iíd start with the bike you have now. Since you bought your first bike in 15 years a few months ago and how you want to build a bike, that one sure missed the mark.

You should still be in the best thing I did stage or just leaving it if you really liked the bike. Even then a lot of people who love their bike will look to upgrade it first. So figure out what you wish you had bought.

You may also want to test out other bikes that you may want to buy complete instead of building as it probably will cost more to build. Iíve built bikes and it is a lot of fun, but donít plan to have everything fit perfectly. That only happens if you transfer from basically the same frame. You will end up with parts that donít work.

John
I actually really like bike that I bought, and have no 2nd thoughts about it at all. I love riding it and enjoy it very much. Whole build is just something that popped into my head while I had some time, and was looking around because I had nothing better to do while at work haha. Once I found out about all these dyi bike builds, it got me thinking and I looked more into it. I would definitely not do this until I got bored of my current bike, or felt it is holding me back, and knew what I liked and didnt like about it. That may come next year or year after or who knows (kinda goes against what I originally posted, I know) I just wanted to get more ideas on if I should even be thinking about something like this, and get feedback on some things I may not have thought about. So far all the feedback and info has been really helpful for sure, and gives me more things to keep in mind and think about
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Old 09-10-20, 09:37 PM
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While the idea of a clean-sheet build has a certain 'I made it myself' appeal, unless you've got a really specific plan, or a couple key 'signature' components, we've seen a lot of first-time builders get lost down the rabbit hole of availability or compatability that takes more time, money and/or skill to get out of than they want to spend. Getting the big parts like wheels, bars, and driveline is pretty easy, it’s the little stuff like seat posts, headsets, cable jewelry and other small parts that can nickel and dime a build to a standstill.

Take a look at what kind of riding you're doing with your current bike, and what it is and isn't good at. Maybe a whole other style of bike might be in order. A lot of today's niche bikes are very similar (functionally) to bikes that have been around for decades, if you do some mods and component swaps. Modding older bikes can also let you build a fleet of 'mission-specific' bikes for a fraction of the cost of new or nearly-new machines.


Fat-tire Drop-bar Fire-road / Adventure bike?An MTB from the 7/8/9 speed era would be a good start, there are a lot of them around, they’re sturdy, versatile, and many of them were pretty well spec’ed. If you can find an XC race bike (NORBA era) they'll be fast, light, and tough, too. Swap in some 'Dirt-Drop' bars, a short stem, and brifters or barcons, and you're ready to shred some gravel.

If a classy, swept-back cafe-racer / path-bike is what you’re after, then look for a Japanese road bike from the late 70’s -early 80’s, Add a Brooks saddle, and North Roads bars (or Moustache bars, if you're feeling daring) Filigree and pinstriping depends on whether you're going for the British, French or Italian style. Skinny Jeans will be required.

Need speed and style? Try updating a classic racing bike with modern wheels and running gear. There was a 1989 Cannondale Black Lightning on here a couple years back that had been updated to full (2017-spec) Shimano R5800 group (in black-on-black, of course) That bike was a rocket back in the day, but this made it not only faster, but easier to ride, too.
Actually, it's often easier to do a radical overhaul on an older race bike, because they were a little more 'standard' than modern, Aero / 'Superbikes' that may be designed to only use a specific component / group / setup.
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Old 09-10-20, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by cvrle1 View Post
Interesting take from another person I read. His thought is that it makes no sense for me to do this, as main reason people do these builds is to control every component they select. They know why make x/model x is better choice than make y/model y, Since I dont have than knowledge, there is no point of building it myself. While I never thought of it that way, it kinda does and does not make sense. I get what he is saying, but in all honesty I dont remember reading in any threads that main reason people built these bikes was because they can control each nut and bolt used. Is he correct in his view?

Thanks again for all the help and info so far.
I like working on bikes. It's that simple. So building my own is just the natural order of things. Yes, I did hand pick each component.
Building your own is not some anal compulsive itch to scratch, though, I suppose for some it may be, but creating something yourself and learning in the process brings a sense of accomplishment.
I come from the old school, where your dream bike was hand built by a frame master and measurements were taken, questions were asked and in a few months you had your dream bike.
Today I see incredible amounts of money spent on clone bikes made by anonymous factory workers, from who knows where.
So, building my own, just keeps that personal touch.
Plus it's good to know that no matter what breaks on my bike, I am capable of repairing it.
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Old 09-11-20, 05:41 AM
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My cycling hobby is about exercise and the process of building/ restoring the bikes I ride. I am one of those vintage road bike people that enjoys finding neglected , retired racers and breathing new life into them. Every bike I own has been built by me. I completely take them apart and build them back up to make sure everything is good. I change whatever I need to make the bike dependable and comfortable for me. I try to stay original but my intent is to have a bike I want to ride. I now own bikes that I could only dream of owning in the seventies when I could not afford a full Campagnolo racer. Joe joesvintageroadbikes.wordpress
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Old 09-11-20, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by cvrle1 View Post
Interesting take from another person I read. His thought is that it makes no sense for me to do this, as main reason people do these builds is to control every component they select. They know why make x/model x is better choice than make y/model y, Since I dont have than knowledge, there is no point of building it myself. While I never thought of it that way, it kinda does and does not make sense. I get what he is saying, but in all honesty I dont remember reading in any threads that main reason people built these bikes was because they can control each nut and bolt used. Is he correct in his view?

Thanks again for all the help and info so far.
If your talking new components, he's not wrong if you price out the cost of the groupset/wheels/frame.

If you are willing to purchase used or NOS at a discount then you can save. You can find some pretty good deals on used groupsets, you just need to know what you are looking at and know where to look for damage as an indicator that it was laid down. Up to you if you think it is worth it. I got a great deal on Campagnolo Record 11 Ultra-Torque groupset and I slapped it on a used bike that I had purchased.
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Old 09-11-20, 08:07 AM
  #22  
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I think building your own is absolutely a good idea - but do your research first. I've built up several bikes over the years with variable degrees of success, but if the result is not to my liking I just sell the bike and move on. In most cases I break even and I don't consider my time to be a waste because I always learn something.

But research is important. The mechanics forum here is a good resource, but also check out the technical docs available from Shimano and other manufacturers. As mentioned before, when you are buying parts there are some very specific compatibility issues. I still have a brand new 1 1/8" threaded headset that I bought on clearance that I will probably never use.

The other piece of advice I can give: don't buy cheap tools.
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Old 09-11-20, 08:54 AM
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If you want an inexpensive build for now, and spread out the cost of upgrades over a year or two it's not a bad idea. I believe that it can be cheaper than buying new if you build on either end of the price spectrum. Either low end on the pricier parts, or buy a top level group set. Because high end bikes add a premium for style and cachet over parts cost, the full group of components is a smaller portion of the bike's price.

When I built mine, generic aluminum frame with generic components, it was just a few hundred dollars at first. Including tools. I already had some wheels and other bits like seat post and saddle, and it was very basic, 1x7 Sora basic. By the time I improved it, it cost about the same as the equivalent you'd see online.

It's very easy if you're mechanically inclined. CF builds have a few extra considerations, mainly applying correct torque but none of it is really difficult. The big gotcha is having incompatible specs on the various pieces. If you're like I was and don't at first really know all the eccentric details like pull ratios vs brakes and derailleur capacities and so on, research and double-check the research.


*edited1: BTW I went more upscale on parts like the headset and bottom bracket, because those remain on the bike for a long time before having to mess with them. Handlebars or stem or seat post, who cares. I think we need to balance being realistic and being discriminating.

*edited 2: We can have different reasons for wanting to build, but it is a good question because sometimes the reason in not realistic. In my case, it was pragmatic and design philosophy. My "road bike" was a starter bike that was universally reviled (at least a little justified) and I wanted a true road bike and didn't want to lay out much for it. Secondarily I didn't want to cheap out in the places where most of these entry-level bikes do, but rather in components that I'd replace eventually anyway. Other people have explained completely different reasons such as wanting to learn the mechanics of their bike, which seems to me to be perfectly reasonable. Expecting to cut our cost in half in the long run though, would be one of the unrealistic ones.

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Old 09-11-20, 10:24 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Ironfish653 View Post
While the idea of a clean-sheet build has a certain 'I made it myself' appeal, unless you've got a really specific plan, or a couple key 'signature' components, we've seen a lot of first-time builders get lost down the rabbit hole of availability or compatability that takes more time, money and/or skill to get out of than they want to spend. Getting the big parts like wheels, bars, and driveline is pretty easy, itís the little stuff like seat posts, headsets, cable jewelry and other small parts that can nickel and dime a build to a standstill.

Take a look at what kind of riding you're doing with your current bike, and what it is and isn't good at. Maybe a whole other style of bike might be in order. A lot of today's niche bikes are very similar (functionally) to bikes that have been around for decades, if you do some mods and component swaps. Modding older bikes can also let you build a fleet of 'mission-specific' bikes for a fraction of the cost of new or nearly-new machines.


Fat-tire Drop-bar Fire-road / Adventure bike?An MTB from the 7/8/9 speed era would be a good start, there are a lot of them around, theyíre sturdy, versatile, and many of them were pretty well specíed. If you can find an XC race bike (NORBA era) they'll be fast, light, and tough, too. Swap in some 'Dirt-Drop' bars, a short stem, and brifters or barcons, and you're ready to shred some gravel.

If a classy, swept-back cafe-racer / path-bike is what youíre after, then look for a Japanese road bike from the late 70ís -early 80ís, Add a Brooks saddle, and North Roads bars (or Moustache bars, if you're feeling daring) Filigree and pinstriping depends on whether you're going for the British, French or Italian style. Skinny Jeans will be required.

Need speed and style? Try updating a classic racing bike with modern wheels and running gear. There was a 1989 Cannondale Black Lightning on here a couple years back that had been updated to full (2017-spec) Shimano R5800 group (in black-on-black, of course) That bike was a rocket back in the day, but this made it not only faster, but easier to ride, too.
Actually, it's often easier to do a radical overhaul on an older race bike, because they were a little more 'standard' than modern, Aero / 'Superbikes' that may be designed to only use a specific component / group / setup.
Thanks a bunch for this info. I actually just happen to have a Cannondale R600-Sport from 2001 as my road bike currently. I was playing around with idea of upgrading it before, but heard it makes no sense, as it will cost as much as just buying a newer bike with components that I would want. As an example I have 9 speed cassette right now, and would really like to swap it for 11 speed. But to do that I need to swap a lot of other parts as well to make it work. Was told dont bother, just get bike with 11 speed cassette, it will be easier and cheaper. It seems that there are always going to be more than 1 schools of thought, if you will, about upgrading vs buying newer or building from ground up vs buying new.
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Old 09-11-20, 10:29 AM
  #25  
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There is a lot of great info here, and I thank each and every one of you for taking time and providing it to this newbie. It definitely gives me lots to think about down the road, and things to consider than I may not have done before I posted this.
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