Building a bike

by Colin Peyresourde   June 11, 2014  

I've got to a time in my life where I think I should build my own bike and not just buy a pre-made one. Firstly because I need a new bike, secondly because I think I should improve my confidence with setting up and maintaining my bike and finally because I want to get a great bike cheaply.

Can anyone offer good tips on where to source frame and components at the best prices? And any tips on the pitfalls of doing so?

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Building a bike is great, just make sure you've got the right tool for the job and for things like headsets I would get the LBS to do. As for sourcing frames and components etc any where is good, but in my experience buying a whole groupset is cheaper then buying it in bits. Also depending on your budget it can often be cheaper to buy a complete bike than build one from bits bought separately. Also buy the frame first so you know your BB size and headset sizes.

Here also has some good advice: http://cyclingtips.com.au/2013/02/how-to-handle-a-custom-bike-build/

posted by mattbuckley [16 posts]
12th June 2014 - 9:26

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You probably won't get a great bike 'cheap' as, unless you already have most of the bits, it will cost you more than buying a new complete bike.

One plus point is that you will have the right length stem, a saddle that suits you and have no need to have the budget wheels and brakes that come on some bikes that are built to a price point.

I built a cross bike last autumn. The likes of Ribble and Merlin offer good prices on components, although in the case of Ribble the cables that came with my shifters (despite being labelled by them as Dura Ace! - I would have been happy with basic Shimano ones) were crap, compressed all over the place and required replacing.

You may also also need some specialist tools. For example my frame needed facing and chasing to fit the bottom bracket. How confident are you chopping down steerer tubes? I got the LBS to do both of those. A gear hanger alignment tool might be an advantage (I already have one of those, so i was okay on that).

The rest of it is mostly straightforward with normal maintenance tools such as bottom bracket tool, cassette lockring and chain whip, allen keys.

I bought my frame from Dolan. The frame was good for the price, but the geometry on the website was totally wrong. I ended up phoning up and asking them to measure a frame they had in the warehouse. There seem lots of places knocking out budget alloy frames. I am not convinced of the value of some of the carbon framesets that are for sale.

If you are mostly buying budget stuff then you are probably better off using the likes of Ribble bike Builder or something and they will effectively build your spec for free.

posted by Chris James [184 posts]
12th June 2014 - 9:30

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Some of it's dated and I'm sure you already know of this site but I always find http://sheldonbrown.com/ is really helpful for DIY stuff.

This page in particular might have some relatively helpful links, esp. on tools etc; http://sheldonbrown.com/diy/index.html?PHPSESSID=20424d3519a0da8f83edcc8...

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [542 posts]
12th June 2014 - 9:33

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Ribble and Merlin are the obvious UK component suppliers, Rose and Bike Discount in Germany tend to be a little cheaper but charge postage, which wouldn't be a problem if you're placing a large order.

It's very hard to recommend somewhere to get a frame without knowing your requirements.

You'll probably end up spending more than you would on a complete bike, because you'll want to fit more expensive components in the areas where complete bikes have suffered from being built to a strict budget - nice seatpost and stem, fancy headset, posh saddle etc.

Don't scrimp on tools - buy cheaply here and you'll be buying again in short order. Oh and get a workstand!

posted by srchar [55 posts]
12th June 2014 - 10:12

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I built up a Kinesis T2 frame set and had loads of fun doing it. Threaded shimano bottom brackets are easy with a crank tool. just grease them up and screw them on. Steerer tube was a little harder but easy enough for me to do. I didn't make the cleanest of cuts (used just a hacksaw with not clamps or guides) , but that doesn't really matter as the cut surface doesn't come into contact with anything.

Youtube is a great resource for how to do's.

posted by Scoob_84 [197 posts]
12th June 2014 - 10:33

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You can do about 90% of a build - attach front and rear mech, brakes, seat post clamp, saddle to seat post, bottle cages, cranks, pedals to cranks, stem to steerer, preload headset, bars to stem, brake/shifters to bars - with a set of 3/4/5/6/8/10mm allen keys, a flat and phillips head screwdriver (for adjusting the stop screws on your mechs), a set of cable cutters (you want good ones), a chain breaker (to shorten chain - it will inevitably come a few links too long) and a cassette tool. I would imagine these are all tools you probably have lying about (although see my earlier posts on my views as to the advisability of using a torque wrench).

Tools you may not have lying around which you might need:

1. Saw guide to cut down steerer tube and a sharp hacksaw. You can buy a jobsworth one from Planet X for £15 or use two old stems clamped around the steerer (cut between them), although this latter method often results in marking stems. Or other work arounds. Or take to shop. I've cut aluminium steerers without a guide and the result wasn't too bad after a bit of work with a file. And you want a sharp hacksaw. I've got a speacial carbon one but it is a bit of a pain because it doesn't fit in saw guide very well and I've never had any problems with an ordinary (sharp) hacksaw blade when cutting carbon steerers. Remember, measure twice cut once.

2. Headset press. If you don't have a drop in headset you will need a press of some sort to get the cups in. You can fashion your own or buy one (c.£30) but not sure they are all that good value for money cause you don't use them all that often (esp given increased prevalence of drop in head sets) - although see below re: BBs. So might be worth visit to shop for this bit.

3. BB tools. If your frame has a regular threaded external (GXP for SRAM, not sure what it is for Shimano or Campag) BB you will need a BB wrench. Worth owning if you don't already and not too expensive - £6.50 from PX. If you have a press fit BB or something else exotic I would take it to a shop (although if you buy a headset press you can often use them to press in pressfit BBs, so might be worth buying one after all). Gentle taps with rubber mallet useful to seat crank spindle in BB.

A workstand will make your job much easier but isn't essential.

I usually start by cutting down fork, installing headset, stem (and spacers, if any), bars; then seat post collar, attach saddle on seat post (don't tighten bolts too tight just yet), install seat post; then bottom bracket; then brake calipers, front and rear mech; shifters; then crankset; install cassette on rear wheel; at this point I will usually take off stand and put wheels on and get saddle level (using spirit level) at whic point I'll tighten bolts holding saddle to correct torque, bars at an angle where I want them to be and shifters in appropriate spot on bars. Then back onto stand for cabling and installation of chain; index shifting and install bar tape, bottle cages and pedals and conduct a final check to ensure all of the bits you bolted on are done up properly and you are done. I usually drink beer while I am doing this.

Once you've done it once its pretty easy. Although after having done it numerous times over the past few years (maybe 8 full builds and several partial rebuilds in 2 years) I am well over different bottom bracket standards.

I always forget ferrules. And cable outers, especially if your new frame has full length cable outers or internal cabling.

And remember - building bikes is like $ex: more lube is always better, so lots of grease.

posted by surly_by_name [144 posts]
12th June 2014 - 11:37

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mattbuckley wrote:
Building a bike is great, just make sure you've got the right tool for the job and for things like headsets I would get the LBS to do.

Why ? Most frames these days the headset bearings just drop into the headtube, no tools required.

posted by dreamlx10 [138 posts]
12th June 2014 - 12:29

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