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  1. #1
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    Questions About Building Your Own the First Time

    I currently have a decent bike (Cannondale R700) but am looking to upgrade to a better one because the fit on my current bike isn't as good as I would like.

    So, I'm thinking about building my own bike next time to really immerse myself in the sport and get the bike the way I want it to. So a few questions:

    1. How difficult is it? The most mechanically challenging thing I've ever done on my bike was to adjust the derailleurs and their low and high limits. On the other hand, I am pretty good at picking up on things like that (work in IT, built my own PC, etc.)

    2. What's a good way to learn and get started? Is there a good book? I already have Zinn's book on bike repairs.

    3. How much extra equipment do you need to buy? I have a small toolkit and plan on buying a work stand (any recommendations?). What else do I need?

    4. How can I ensure a good fit? I know close to nothing about bike geometry.

    5. Where do you order your parts?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    cab horn
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    1) Difficulty is easy. Well it was for me anyways. You can pretty much look at your bike and know how it's put together. With the exceptions of a few specialized tools for the BB and the headset possibly everything is like building an ikea wardrobe.

    If you a good enough idea of how the bike would fit together in your head already, you'd be a good candidate for building a bike.

    Are you starting completely from scratch? For example frame/fork/headset in place already or is everything completely seperate? This would change the difficulty.

    2) I consulted mostly online sources to build my first bike when I had trouble. Some things I could not do at home I brought to the LBS (when replacing my fork and having the headset race pressed).

    3) Buy the tools as you need them (some might not be economical for a one time use). Allen wrenches for starters.

    4) Fit wise, find out what's wrong with the setup on your current bike, fix it and use that as a template for your new one.

    5) If you live in the states, i'd just get everything off performance/nashbar. Look for the deals. Or you can patronize one of your local LBS's if you need advice on what size parts to fit etc. Ebay for a first build might be a hair puller/unecessary hassle.

  3. #3
    nik
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    Quote Originally Posted by Comatose51
    I currently have a decent bike (Cannondale R700) but am looking to upgrade to a better one because the fit on my current bike isn't as good as I would like.

    So, I'm thinking about building my own bike next time to really immerse myself in the sport and get the bike the way I want it to. So a few questions:

    1. How difficult is it? The most mechanically challenging thing I've ever done on my bike was to adjust the derailleurs and their low and high limits. On the other hand, I am pretty good at picking up on things like that (work in IT, built my own PC, etc.)

    2. What's a good way to learn and get started? Is there a good book? I already have Zinn's book on bike repairs.

    3. How much extra equipment do you need to buy? I have a small toolkit and plan on buying a work stand (any recommendations?). What else do I need?

    4. How can I ensure a good fit? I know close to nothing about bike geometry.

    5. Where do you order your parts?

    Thanks.
    1. No, it's not difficult if you have the right tools.
    2. You learn by doing. Practice removing parts and putting them back on your c-dale. Replace cables and housing. Put on a new chain. As you get more confident then start fiddling with the bottom bracket and headset. The book you have is a good reference. Also see www.parktool.com for free instruction.
    3. A good bike stand is important. Search the threads for that one. You can buy a complete tool set or you can buy the proper tool for the job as you go.
    4. The million dollar question. Use your c-dale as a reference. What don't you like about it? What kind of riding do you like?
    5. I've ordered parts from Nashbar.com harriscyclery.com performancebike.com airbomb.com (don't recommend them) I've also bought parts and tools from my LBS.

    Good luck. It's a lot of fun and addictive and expensive

  4. #4
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    Is it more expensive than if I just went and purchased a complete bike from a LBS (economy of scale, etc)?

    Also, where can you buy a frame from? Can you just order a frame from a bike manufacturer?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator
    1) Difficulty is easy. Well it was for me anyways. You can pretty much look at your bike and know how it's put together. With the exceptions of a few specialized tools for the BB and the headset possibly everything is like building an ikea wardrobe.

    If you a good enough idea of how the bike would fit together in your head already, you'd be a good candidate for building a bike.

    Are you starting completely from scratch? For example frame/fork/headset in place already or is everything completely seperate? This would change the difficulty.

    2) I consulted mostly online sources to build my first bike when I had trouble. Some things I could not do at home I brought to the LBS (when replacing my fork and having the headset race pressed).

    3) Buy the tools as you need them (some might not be economical for a one time use). Allen wrenches for starters.

    4) Fit wise, find out what's wrong with the setup on your current bike, fix it and use that as a template for your new one.

    5) If you live in the states, i'd just get everything off performance/nashbar. Look for the deals. Or you can patronize one of your local LBS's if you need advice on what size parts to fit etc. Ebay for a first build might be a hair puller/unecessary hassle.
    I was thinking completely from scratch. Does it make it that much harder? Would buying the frame with fork on there already make it much easier?

    I'm not quite sure what's wrong other than my lower back hurts after 20 miles but doesn't get any worse after. I'm 5'7" but ride a 48 cm frame. The LBS where I got my bike from and another LBS who did another fitting session seems to think that frame and a 80mm stem is the right fit. My back still hurts though. It's more annoying most of the times than anything else.

    Thanks.

  6. #6
    la vache fantôme phantomcow2's Avatar
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    I built my bike from scratch, and will build any other bike I own from scratch also.
    As for cost...
    If you buy the parts retail and put it all together, it will cost more. Bicycle manufacturers order these OEM so their cost per unit is cheaper.
    But if you buy from ebay, look for sales, overall take your time and do your shopping, it is cheaper to build from scratch. I spent a lot of time on ebay, and I believe I would have payed much more for a bike at my LBS of similar quality.

    Frames can be purchased through many of these online bicycle stores, ebay has tons of good frames also. I originally bought a frame from a store called LeaderBikeUSA for 99 dollars, excellent frame and price. But then i bought a homegrown later.

    I think that most of the tools you need are "handy man" type tools. Things like a set of metric allen wrenches, set of sockets, a torque wrench (debatable), screw drivers, etc.

    The only specialize bike tool I bought was an installer from FSA for my bottom bracket. And the tool to remove a cassette lockring.

    You will learn a lot about the mechanics of your machine after you have held and assembled every part, it is well worth the effort.

  7. #7
    bike rider jimmythefly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Comatose51
    Is it more expensive than if I just went and purchased a complete bike from a LBS (economy of scale, etc)?

    Also, where can you buy a frame from? Can you just order a frame from a bike manufacturer?

    do you have a really short torso? My wife is 5'5" and rides a 52cm (non-wsd) Trek.

    In terms of dollars, it will almost certainly be more expensive than purchasing a complete new bike. Still, you have to factor in other positives, like the learning experience and the fact that you'll save on repair costs if in the future you can fix stuff yourself. And there are other costs, such as the time you put into putting your bike together. Of course, ending up with a bike that doesn't fit is probably the worst cost of all. This is where test-riding at an LBS can help, even if you end up buying a bare frame, at least you have a starting point.

    Most manufacturers only have their higher-end stuff for sale as frame or framesets. There are tons of smaller frame manufacturers out there, not to mention used bikes.

  8. #8
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    I just finished building my first bike... came out perfect. Bought the frame and headset from ebay, and the rest of the parts were migrated from my previous bike.

    The only 2 things that will be difficult for you are the headset and the bottom bracket. This is only because you need special tools to do this. Luckily I had a friend with both tools, and it took about 5 minutes to put in both the headset and the bb.

    You can just take your frame to any LBS and they can press your headset in for next to nothing. As for the BB, id reccommend getting a newer hollowtech II crank (ebay has these too!) These are the cranks with the bottom brackets built right in. The beauty of this is that it goes in so easily, and comes off so easily (for cleaning, etc) that it eliminates a LOT of hassle. After you get the headset pressed in and the crank/BB screwed in, you are laughing. Everything is pretty much allen keyed on. Cables are straightforward - and if you arent up for putting them on, the LBS will usually do them for the cost of a tune up (and include a tune up with it)

    As for fit, the most important thing is the right frame. Don't skimp on this, because it's the one thing you can't change. Once you are certain you have the right frame, put your forks on but leave lots of extra steer tube (temporarily, you'll need spacers for this.) With all the extra tube sticking out of the end, you can use the spacers to find out exactly the best position for them, and when you do, cut the tube accordingly. You can also experiment with different stem lengths and angles, which will affect your ride as well. Other than that, your seatpost will also affect the way you sit on the bike, not only the height but the angle of the seat itself.

    There is lots of information online about proper bike fits, and while they wont directly apply to what you are doing, once you have a basic understanding of how the concepts work, you can apply them to your project.

    It was stated before, but just to emphasize the point... if you shop around, and take your time... you *will* save a bundle on your new ride. Ebay, online sales, and plain online sites offer bargains all the time, its just a matter of finding what you need. Even if it was more expensive to build your own, it is worth it in the long run simply from the knowledge you will gain from the experience. You will know your bike inside and out, because you built it. (dont forget... this means it's also your fault when your wheel flies off doing 60km/h on pavement!

    Hope this helps! Good luck!
    -Andrew

  9. #9
    DNPAIMFB pinkrobe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Comatose51
    I was thinking completely from scratch. Does it make it that much harder? Would buying the frame with fork on there already make it much easier?

    I'm not quite sure what's wrong other than my lower back hurts after 20 miles but doesn't get any worse after. I'm 5'7" but ride a 48 cm frame. The LBS where I got my bike from and another LBS who did another fitting session seems to think that frame and a 80mm stem is the right fit. My back still hurts though. It's more annoying most of the times than anything else.

    Thanks.
    As others have said, learn by doing. Wrenching on your own bike is a great way to start. If you are doing this from scratch [which is the most fun and the most expensive], consider getting pre-built wheels for your first time, especially if you haven't ever looked at building a wheel before. In the past I've built a couple of great, durable wheelsets, but pros do it better, and usually for less money than I can. www.oddsandendos.com is a great example.

    Buying a frame/fork combo isn't necessary, since very few frames come with headsets. If the frame/fork comes with a HS installed, that's one less thing to worry about [usually].

    5'7" on a 48cm? My wife is 5'4" and on a 49 with a 90 mm stem. Another friend of ours is on a 48, and she's 5'1". Your personal physiology may necessitate a 48cm bike, but you might want to do a self-assessment of your bike fit using one of the many online tools available. For example: http://www.coloradocyclist.com/BikeF..._worksheet.cfm or http://www.wrenchscience.com/WS1/Sec...ing/Height.asp can get you into the ballpark in terms of proper bike fit. You'll also want to test ride a bunch of bikes to see what you like in terms of fit and components.

    Good luck!
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  10. #10
    Cat None SDRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantomcow2
    I built my bike from scratch, and will build any other bike I own from scratch also.
    As for cost...
    If you buy the parts retail and put it all together, it will cost more. Bicycle manufacturers order these OEM so their cost per unit is cheaper.
    But if you buy from ebay, look for sales, overall take your time and do your shopping, it is cheaper to build from scratch. I spent a lot of time on ebay, and I believe I would have payed much more for a bike at my LBS of similar quality.

    Frames can be purchased through many of these online bicycle stores, ebay has tons of good frames also. I originally bought a frame from a store called LeaderBikeUSA for 99 dollars, excellent frame and price. But then i bought a homegrown later.

    I think that most of the tools you need are "handy man" type tools. Things like a set of metric allen wrenches, set of sockets, a torque wrench (debatable), screw drivers, etc.

    The only specialize bike tool I bought was an installer from FSA for my bottom bracket. And the tool to remove a cassette lockring.

    You will learn a lot about the mechanics of your machine after you have held and assembled every part, it is well worth the effort.
    Agreed. I bought a frame off ebay (2000 LeMond Zurich) and started collecting components while the bike was off to the painter for 3 months. I happened to fall into a particularly good deal on a carbon fiber LOOK bike (which I'm still working on the fit-I think I finally have it dialed in) and I ended up putting most of the components I bought for the LeMond on it. I picked out high end Campagnolo Chorus/Record components with an emphasis on lightweight carbon fiber parts. I think they work better (visually) on the LOOK though and the 9spd Campy Chorus stuff that was on the LOOK works better on the steel frame LeMond.

    I haven't ridden the LeMond yet, but I think it will suit me fine so long as I can find a zero setback alloy seatpost for it. The LeMond will be an old school bike with a touch of modern. Alloy quill stem, all alloy components but with modern 9spd brifters. No carbon bits at all though.

    I've learned a ton about bike mechanics by doing this stuff myself. The only thing I won't tackle is the headset and bottom bracket. I don't have the tools for the headset and I don't want to screw up the bottom bracket.

    As far as tools go, get a decent stand and a set of metric allen wrenches. A chain whip, a BB/cassette tool and chain tool are necessities as well. I would also recommend a good set of screwdrivers and some metric open end wrenches (preferably thin ones-some pedals require this).
    Last edited by SDRider; 03-18-06 at 05:31 PM.

  11. #11
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    Thanks everyone. I'll definitely be getting a crankset with external bearing.

    I'm fairly proportional, just a little short. Maybe my bike is too small for me. Going by the inseam x .67 formula, I need at least a 51 cm bike, if not bigger. My first LBS really screwed me over. The bike was overpriced and undersized! Fortunately, I still loved the sport.

    Hopefully the next bike will fix all of that. Unfortunately, the MS150 is only a month away.
    Last edited by Comatose51; 03-18-06 at 06:03 PM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Comatose51
    I'm 5'7" but ride a 48 cm frame. The LBS where I got my bike from and another LBS who did another fitting session seems to think that frame and a 80mm stem is the right fit. My back still hurts though. Thanks.
    I think an 80mm stem is too short for good handling. A short stem can make the steering squirrely. If you need a stem that short it means the top tube is too long.

    My choice was a Colnago when I built my latest road bike because it has a short top tube. I have a short torso. All of my parts were purchased from my LBS owner who turned out to be a good backup when I had problems. It was necessary to face the fork crown before the headset lower race could be driven onto the fork. That required a special tool that my LBS was able to come up with. The rest of it was all me including building the wheels.

    Some frames need to be faced at the bottom bracket, mine did not need that.

    As it turned out I saved about $500 by building up my bike. I did not expect that. It was less money than what I would have spent ordering the parts online.

    Al

  13. #13
    la vache fantôme phantomcow2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943

    As it turned out I saved about $500 by building up my bike. I did not expect that. It was less money than what I would have spent ordering the parts online.

    Al
    Its not that uncommon either I dont think. I am unsure of why people always say how much more expensive to build it is, it's really not.

  14. #14
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    Wow, a 48cm frame? I am about 5' 8" and I ride a 54-56cm depending on how the bike is built. Not only your torso will matter but also your inseam and arm length. If the LBS is the same place you bought the bike, try another LBS for a fit recommendation. If you don't have another reasonably close, try a local club ride. There will probably be an experienced rider who can eyeball your position.

    I ride a relaxed race position as that is how I have always ridden. Lower back pain can be the worst to adjust out. It typically happens to me when I am overly stretched and back flat.

    Good luck on the fit and the build.

  15. #15
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    Building a bike from the bottom up will always cost alot more than buying a showroom bike, and the fact that you will have a parts set up that will be what you want instead of settling for whatever. Assembling a bike from scratch is not that difficult unless you are not mechanically incline. That said I put together my first bike after learning how too from tearing down my old Bianchi, and in so doing so I learned what I wanted in a bike that would appeal to me. Like frame size, stem length, crank length, gearing, type of rims, bar, and seat. Even lacing my own rims was enlightening. The thing is if you are like me I couldn't settle for anything less than Ultegra group and nothing too cheap on the parts department; this would make an exspensive build. Then again on my first build I used used parts that I had incurred over time to assemble an inexpensive roadie. Of course buy everything on sale if you can; like from Price Point, Cambria bike, Nashbar, Performance, Airbomb, Jenson, Bikeman, and maybe even your lbs. Take your time and you can save a dime. The basic necessities for assembling a bike is allen wrenches, lockring tool, crank tool, a good wire cutter, a chain breaker, and a headset tool if you want to set your own in place. Oh and a truing stand if you build your own rims. And if all else fails ask questions from all that knows, like from the lbs, Nashbar tech, or someone you know that is experience at this. I did and have learned a lot since.
    Last edited by rmwun54; 03-19-06 at 12:27 AM.

  16. #16
    118AHC "Thunderbirds" 2372ighost's Avatar
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    Here's some fitting info
    http://www.coloradocyclist.com/bikefit/

  17. #17
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    Just a thought. When I started working on bikes, a mechanic at an LBS recommended that I purchase a beater from a yard sale, take it apart, then reassemble it, (within reason). I made plenty of mistakes, but I was less concerned about these mistakes since I knew I would trash the bike in the end. It was an excellent $5 investment.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member jazzy_cyclist's Avatar
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    The build part is easier than it might first seem - I am doing it now. Once you have a grasp of these machines fit together, it is pretty straightforward. In my case, I didn't need a special tool for the headset, although I have acquired a few tools along the way. I bought a frame off ebay, and then worked with my LBS to buy the componentry from them. I could get it cheaper through the internet, but I wanted to 1) support my LBS, and 2) have someone who could help if I screwed up. Although I haven't finished, I got a good deal on the frame and a not-so-bad deal on the components, so it should come up fairly close to retail when I'm done. I was going to get a rusty clunker to start, but I wanted something nice when I was done, so I ended up with a higher-end bike than I first started out thinking about. But it's not a problem

    The more interesting question will be the fit. There are a few approaches. You can use the online calculators mentioned above, most of which are pretty good, but use several since there a few that give (IMO) bizarre numbers. You could also go to your LBS as though you are going to buy a bike, and they will try to size you. If you really have no intention of buying a bike, you might consider this a little disingenuous (there are probably plenty of rationalizations - e.g., you will buy service and parts from them , etc.). Or you can find a place which offers the service of fitting you (the service that you pay for is the fitting itself). I found a number of places that would do this for me, although it is typically not too cheap if you go to someone who's good. One variation on this is Serotta fitters who do a fitting and then use an "X-Y tool" to compare this with stock bikes. Or, you can combine all these approaches; I'll bet you will learn about fit in a fairly short time.

    Good luck and let us know how you make out.

  19. #19
    Senior Member bellweatherman's Avatar
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    Dude, take it from me. It's really not that hard to build up a bike if you have the right tools. Just take it one step at a time. There are a TON of resources on the internet, that I don't even think you need to buy a book if you want to have a shot at it. It might take a little time your first time, so don't expect to finish it in a night. Maybe work on it a little at a time for a couple weeks. Trust me, each build after that is easier and faster too!

    PS - I would buy the parts as I go, that way you get exactly the tools you need and none of the stuff you don't need.

  20. #20
    Cat None SDRider's Avatar
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    Well, I built up my first bike over the weekend. I took my time and everything went very smooth. I did a short 5 mile ride last night and everything works perfectly! The new bike seems to be a great fit and very comfortable!

    Anyway, I would go ahead and try doing the build yourself. It's great experience and this way you won't be running off to the the bike shop everytime you need to fix or adjust something on your bike.

    I did replace the handlebars on my LOOK recently and I cut the cables a bit too short. An expensive mistake but one that really helped me when it came to this build. Sometimes you have to learn by making some mistakes.

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