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Buy used racing bike or build one instead? Cost vs labor...

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Buy used racing bike or build one instead? Cost vs labor...

Old 04-08-21, 04:24 AM
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dglevy
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Buy used racing bike or build one instead? Cost vs labor...

Hi all, I have a friend who is looking to get his first racing bike, used, here in Washington DC. He's having trouble finding one in his price range. I thought he might find, say, a 10 or 15 year old bike in the $7-800 range with Shimano 105 or even Ultegra components but no luck. He says the bikes he's interested in have an asking price of $1300-$1400. So, now he's looking at building one himself. For example, starting with this, currently on the market:

"BMC ALR01 51cm frameset, $450, frame, fork & seatpost, geometry is identical to the carbon version."

My question is this: Would he be biting off more than he can chew? Seems like a huge project to me that will take too long, like 3 months. He's a good, amateur mechanic but can only work nights and weekends, at best; plus he wants to save money by buying used parts wherever possible. On the plus side, he's got a friend who is a professional mechanic who is willing to help him with the more challenging moments. Personally, I think it's WAY too much of a hassle, but I don't have enough mechanical experience to know for sure. What do y'all think?
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Old 04-08-21, 05:46 AM
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There are two time considerations here. One is how long it takes to put the parts on the bike, which isn’t a lot if he’s worked on bikes before and has access to the right tools.
The second, more important factor is the time it takes to get all the parts if you’re looking for deals and buying one at a time. If you want to keep your costs low, you have constantly check for good deals and be patient until they come up. That can certainly take months.
This is also a bad time to be buying a bike, as the warming weather creates a lot of buyers.
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Old 04-08-21, 05:51 AM
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It's usually cheaper to buy a bike than the individual parts. It's not necessarily that hard to assemble a bike, but sourcing all the parts can be time consuming, especially if you're waiting for used parts to appear. And, while you're waiting, you're not riding.
If he has a frame at $450, how much for wheels, crankset, derailleurs, chain, brakes, seat, pedals—well, you get the idea. I won't be long before you're approaching the 1300 mark.
I don't know what the situation in Washington is, but up here in Ottawa demand for bikes is sky high. Our local co-op has stopped selling used parts, because they need all the parts they can find do create refurbs to sell.
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Old 04-08-21, 06:16 AM
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That's crazy. Just took a peek at the DC CL and found a half dozen possibilities in less than 5 minutes.
Will he find The Deal Of The Century just as the weather turns beautiful? No.
But there should be no shortage of acceptable under-$1300 carbon bikes with 9-10 speed STI type component groups out there.
Exception may be if your friend needs an unusual -very short or very tall- bike.
Also, you can't wait until the night or a weekend to jump on that good deal- they go quickly.
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Old 04-08-21, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by rccardr View Post
That's crazy. Just took a peek at the DC CL and found a half dozen possibilities in less than 5 minutes.
Agreed:
e.g.
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Old 04-08-21, 08:41 AM
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Thanks for the advice!

The friend (ahem, me) needs a 48-51cm frame, and there are very few used bikes being sold in that size. The ones that I saw and would consider are asking $1,500-$3,000. Even with that as a bargaining starting point, the question is whether I'll be able to build one myself for less. Cost aside, I agree that the biggest impediment is waiting to find parts. Though I have some suboptimal parts that I could use (like wheels) until something better comes along, I'll definitely need to get the drivetrain, and I've not seen many acceptable drivetrain parts advertised in the last many weeks I've been looking.

Thanks to you all for the advice!
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Old 04-08-21, 10:09 AM
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Having built bikes from the frame, as well as buying, unless your friend has great connections/sources/parts bins to get parts cheap, and can build the bike himself, it is almost always more expensive to build.

In my experience you build because you want something that is unique, and you really like to build them. Just building basically the same as what a mfg already specs will probably be a losing proposition.

John
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Old 04-08-21, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Having built bikes from the frame, as well as buying, unless your friend has great connections/sources/parts bins to get parts cheap, and can build the bike himself, it is almost always more expensive to build.

In my experience you build because you want something that is unique, and you really like to build them. Just building basically the same as what a mfg already specs will probably be a losing proposition.

John
This.

That said, once you've gotten all the parts and assuming you have the right tools, it shouldn't take more than an evening to assemble it.
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Old 04-08-21, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Having built bikes from the frame, as well as buying, unless your friend has great connections/sources/parts bins to get parts cheap, and can build the bike himself, it is almost always more expensive to build.

In my experience you build because you want something that is unique, and you really like to build them. Just building basically the same as what a mfg already specs will probably be a losing proposition.
Absolutely, the whole is almost always cheaper than the sum of its parts. I've also built several bikes up from bare frames but either got a great deal on a complete "build kit" or transferred most of the components from other bikes. The old cliche "Good, cheap and fast. Pick any two." applies here also. If you have plenty of time you can assemble a good bike at relatively low cost. If you are in a hurry, it's going to be expensive or poor quality.
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Old 04-08-21, 10:54 AM
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If this was a few years ago I would say it would be no problem. But with covid and parts being difficult to obtain it might be a bit of a headache and more of a over the winter project. Just a 105 group set if you can find one is going to be around $600. Then you have to buy forks, wheels, seat /seat post, headset etc. He's going to quickly exceed his budget.

Maybe it's where I live but I find a lot of decently priced smaller sized road bikes on facebook market place. But you got to be fast and always watching. When one pops up if you sit and think about it for a hour or two it will be gone.
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Old 04-08-21, 11:44 AM
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A lot of people have pointed out that putting together a bike will cost more than buying a complete bike. What they neglected , is that the complete bike will also cost more than the complete bike! You see, when you buy a complete bike, you will almost always replace the seat , stem, and pedals. Maybe the handlebars. If you're replacing handlebar you'll replace the tape and most likely the cables. You might replace the tires with wider tires which are fashionable now, and these are expensive. Some people have a known preference for crank length also. Crankset. Depending on the terrain you are riding, you might want a wider range cassette. New cassette and chain.
So you see, a complete bike also costs more than its price tag. I would lean towards the build-your-own route, not because it's cheaper, but because I am getting exactly what I want.
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Old 04-08-21, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
A lot of people have pointed out that putting together a bike will cost more than buying a complete bike. What they neglected , is that the complete bike will also cost more than the complete bike! You see, when you buy a complete bike, you will almost always replace the seat , stem, and pedals. Maybe the handlebars. If you're replacing handlebar you'll replace the tape and most likely the cables. You might replace the tires with wider tires which are fashionable now, and these are expensive. Some people have a known preference for crank length also. Crankset. Depending on the terrain you are riding, you might want a wider range cassette. New cassette and chain.
So you see, a complete bike also costs more than its price tag. I would lean towards the build-your-own route, not because it's cheaper, but because I am getting exactly what I want.
Almost all of this only applies to a seasoned rider.

You want exactly want you want, and so do I after decades of riding. Not for a first racing bike. I am willing to bet your thought testing your first bike in a parking lot wasn’t... is this my preferred cram arm length.

Ride 5000 miles first and then tell me what you think. Or the OP’s friend can buy a half dozen cranks, handlebars, etc. to build that first bike.

John
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Old 04-08-21, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Lewis Yelin View Post
The friend (ahem, me) needs a 48-51cm frame, and there are very few used bikes being sold in that size. The ones that I saw and would consider are asking $1,500-$3,000. Even with that as a bargaining starting point, the question is whether I'll be able to build one myself for less. Cost aside, I agree that the biggest impediment is waiting to find parts. Though I have some suboptimal parts that I could use (like wheels) until something better comes along, I'll definitely need to get the drivetrain, and I've not seen many acceptable drivetrain parts advertised in the last many weeks I've been looking.

Thanks to you all for the advice!
Yep, harder to find a truly competitive bike in an extra-small size like that. Just make sure you know what your size ‘looks like’ because sellers are notoriously bad at listing the correct frame size.
When doing searches, don’t rely on the size itself being posted. And try using ‘small’ as a search term.
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Old 04-08-21, 01:25 PM
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I think one issue is that everybody searches for the typical Trek, Giant, Specialized, etc. Most people don't look at brands like Fuji, or Jamis, or Perfomance's Scattante.

There are good bikes to be had for less that are not one of the big names. But it takes a bit of research, which most people just don't want to do.

John
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Old 04-08-21, 01:26 PM
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Just looking on CL in Washington. Full Aero CF 2012 Cervelo S5 VWD 2 lbs. Carbon Fiber Aero Road Frameset -... (craigslist.org) $1200. Time trial bike so probably not what he's looking for Cervelo P1 Triathlon Bike - Ultegra & Dura-Ace + upgrades, 51cm -... (craigslist.org) $950
If he went up to a 52cm Specialized S Works Road Bike - Just Tuned Up - bicycles - by owner... (craigslist.org) ($895)

But if he's planning on putting a bike together then joining your local bicycle Co-op is a good idea. You can often use their specialty tools and ask questions which will save you a bunch building the bike.
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Old 04-08-21, 01:28 PM
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Personally I’d go with a new bike with 105 groupset. Usually the LBS performs a basic bike fit to get you dialed in. And you get a new bike warranty. And you’re riding today. You can always buy a quality used frame and build that up slowly with good parts. Before you know it, N+1.
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Old 04-08-21, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by cbrstar View Post
Just looking on CL in Washington. Full Aero CF 2012 Cervelo S5 VWD 2 lbs. Carbon Fiber Aero Road Frameset -... (craigslist.org) $1200. Time trial bike so probably not what he's looking for Cervelo P1 Triathlon Bike - Ultegra & Dura-Ace + upgrades, 51cm -... (craigslist.org) $950
If he went up to a 52cm Specialized S Works Road Bike - Just Tuned Up - bicycles - by owner... (craigslist.org) ($895)
But if he's planning on putting a bike together then joining your local bicycle co-op is a good idea. You can often use their specialty tools and ask questions which will save you a bunch building the bike.
Thanks for your post! I think that Specialized S-Works is probably too big for him but I'm urging him to look at it anyway. I figure, even if it's a bit uncomfortable, he can always resell it at the same price or more and search for another bike when he's not under time pressure.
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Old 04-08-21, 03:04 PM
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Buy that used race frame-set in your size for $3-400, then buy a decent used race-bike, fully built for $500 and swap all the components over. Sell the larger frame for $200. Net $6-700. Just make sure, before you buy, that the fork steerer tube diameter, seat post diameter and BB threading are the same on both frames and that the cranks are not too long for you. Your LBS can help you remove/install the headset and BB....everything else is straightforward. The cable housings will be a bit long but you can leave that be for the time being.
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Old 04-08-21, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Lewis Yelin View Post
The friend (ahem, me) needs a 48-51cm frame, and there are very few used bikes being sold in that size. The ones that I saw and would consider are asking $1,500-$3,000. Even with that as a bargaining starting point, the question is whether I'll be able to build one myself for less. Cost aside, I agree that the biggest impediment is waiting to find parts. Though I have some suboptimal parts that I could use (like wheels) until something better comes along, I'll definitely need to get the drivetrain, and I've not seen many acceptable drivetrain parts advertised in the last many weeks I've been looking.

Thanks to you all for the advice!
What is budget? Are you truly racing or what will you be doing? When do you want to be on the road?

IME piecing a bike together from used parts takes time, is still more expensive than you thing and often does not work as smoothly as matching parts

understand with covid part of the issue is finding any bike

but consider what you baseline new bike would be like and look for something similar i.e a Specialized Allez Elite is $1500 105 equipped alu frame, carbon fork

did see this on DC craigs list

Cervelo R3 carbon bike - $1,150 (Springfield)

https://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/bik/d/springfield-cervelo-r3-carbon-bike/7300653851.html

Cervelo R3. Lightweight carbon frame/front fork. Size 51cm. 10 speed Ultegra mechanical with rim brakes.
Lowered the price. Sold the tubeless Hunt wheels separately. Bike now has original unused Fulcrum rims.
Frame is clean and in excellent condition aside from nick in front fork.
Must sell
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Old 04-08-21, 04:39 PM
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When you buy a complete bike, you can ride it immediately even if you intend to upgrade or replace parts over time. When you start with only a frameset, you have nothing to ride until you install all the parts. With part shortages just as bad, if not worse, than complete bikes (at least if bargain hunting), how much time is wasted not riding?
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Old 04-09-21, 11:17 AM
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Lewis Yelin options

48 CM FUJI ROUBAIX PRO REYNOLDS 853 ULTEGRA 9 SPEED - $475 (GLOVER PARK)

https://washingtondc.craigslist.org/doc/bik/d/washington-48-cm-fuji-roubaix-pro/7303419643.html

2003 FUJI ROUBIAX PRO
NICE SILVER, GREY, BARE METAL, BLACK AND RED PAINT JOB.
700C SHIMANO 105 RIMS.
FRAME MATERIAL IS REYNOLDS 853.
IT HAS A FUJI CARBON FIBER FORK.
FRAME GEOMETRY IS 49CM. WITH STANDARD 6 INCH REAR SPACING.
ULTEGRA 53/32 TOOTH CRANKSET. ENGLISH THREADED, WITH ORIGINAL CRANK ARM.
COMES WITH ULTEGRA 9 SPEED FLIGHT DECK SHIFTERS.
ULTEGRA SHORT CAGE 9 SPEED REAR DERAILLEUR.
ULTEGRA 9 SPEED FRONT DERAILLEUR.
THREAD LESS FSA HEADSET WITH 1" FORK FOR HEAD TUBE.
SHIMANO 600 ULTEGRA BRAKES.

THIS BIKE IS A LIGHT WEIGHT STEEL FRAME THAT IS EXTREMELY DURABLE.
PEOPLE TEND TO LIGHTEN THESE FRAMES EVEN MORE BY PUTTING A LIGHTER WHEEL SET.
EXTREMELY FAST BICYCLE. IT CAN CLIMB AND HANDLES WELL. VERY DURABLE IN ALL KINDS OF
ENVIRONMENTS. CAN ALSO KEEP UP WITH NEWER CARBON FIBER.

STEEL IS REAL!!

Cannondale R1000 - Shimano Ultegra - $600 (Hyattsville,MD)

https://washingtondc.craigslist.org/mld/bik/d/hyattsville-cannondale-shimano-ultegra/7303328853.html
The Cannodale R1000 road bike
50 cm frame size
Excellent condition
Aluminum frame
Carbon fiber forks
Hand made in the USA
Full Shimano Ultegra 27 speed group set (3x9)
DT Swiss wheelset
700x 25 mm tires
Really nice bike
Super lightweight, smooth and fast
Easy to climb hills
Fresh tune up and ready to go
Test ride is welcome
The price is firm

Specialized- Allez Sport- 700c, 18 Speed Carbon Fork Road Bike- EXCEL - $695 (North Potomac)

https://washingtondc.craigslist.org/mld/bik/d/gaithersburg-specialized-allez-sport/7303147357.html

00 x 23c tires
Carbon 2 Kinesis fork
Quick release front and rear wheels
Bike computer (needs battery)
Shimano 105 STI shifters
21" aluminum frame with 31 1/2" standover height
**(When I measure from the the center of the pedal sprocket to the top of frame tube where the seat post goes in, it measures 54 cm. There is a sticker on the top of the down tube that says 50. If I measure from the center of the pedal sprocket to the center of the crossbar, I get 50cm)
Pedals not included. Bring your own pedals if you want to test ride.
Missing shifter cap as shown in last picture
Almost LIKE NEW! Only ridden a few times.
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Old 04-09-21, 11:35 AM
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Thanks, Squirt dad! I've am appointment to see the Fuji today. (The Specialized is too big for me.)
I quite appreciate everyone's input!
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Old 04-09-21, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Lewis Yelin View Post
Thanks, Squirt dad! I've am appointment to see the Fuji today. (The Specialized is too big for me.)
I quite appreciate everyone's input!
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Old 04-09-21, 03:36 PM
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Hey all, so, as it turns out, Lewis bought the Fuji Roubaix for $400, which he had spotted online and asked for my opinion for yesterday. Many thanks to the experienced many who kindly took the time to give feedback. He bought the bike without even riding it because the bike had no brake pads and the tires were flat! Hopefully it will turn out to be just right for his needs. We shall see. For the benefit of those who took an interest in the question, I will post an update once he has ridden it (with brake pads, that is...)
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Old 04-09-21, 04:00 PM
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squirtdad
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Originally Posted by dglevy View Post
Hey all, so, as it turns out, Lewis bought the Fuji Roubaix for $400, which he had spotted online and asked for my opinion for yesterday. Many thanks to the experienced many who kindly took the time to give feedback. He bought the bike without even riding it because the bike had no brake pads and the tires were flat! Hopefully it will turn out to be just right for his needs. We shall see. For the benefit of those who took an interest in the question, I will post an update once he has ridden it (with brake pads, that is...)
it listed the brakes as ultegra 600.........if that is correct they are nice brakes, but single pivot. I either of you is handy upgrading to some dual pivot brakes would be IMHO a really good and not expensive investment
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