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Old 05-22-12, 06:28 PM   #1
Timtruro
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I Want To Build A Bike

One of my goals since retiring is to build a bike. In preparation, I have been doing my own maintenance and repairing bikes for neighbors and friends, as well as rehabbing a few dump bikes.

I need some advice on how to get started. Do I just buy a frame and then piecemeal the various components?

I am leaning toward a Salsa Caseroll and am wondering if the best way to start is with a kit if such a thing exists.

Any guidance and/or direction is much appreciated. I know several of you have done builds from the ground up, I'm looking to tap some of that experience and knowledge.
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Old 05-22-12, 07:20 PM   #2
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My first build was a bike I didn't really care about, an older, Raleigh low end, rigid fork MTB. I did that to build confidence and to add some of the knowledge I'd need to build the bike I really wanted.
I'm not sure if it was the second or third build, but I eventually built up a 1992 Nishiki Ariel, Cunningham design, raised chain stay MTB. I was lucky, it came with the correct bottom bracket so I didn't have to figure out which size was correct. Otherwise it was a complete frame up build. One thing that is very true, building a bike is not the low cost way to get it done. In fact it is just the opposite. Many parts were taken from yard sale purchases I made and it still cost more than just buying the complete bike off ebay. However, there is a lot of satisfaction and pride in completing a build.
I've since completed several more, one being a 1986 Nishiki Prestige road bike upgraded with Shimano STI shifters and dual pivot brakes.
If you want to build because you want to do something different and custom design your bike absolutely you should go for it. There's nothing quite like the feeling you get from riding your own creation.
Edit: I'm not aware of kits to build bikes, not saying it's not out there, just not familiar with any. BikesDirect makes bikes that require some assembly, but they're not frame-up builds, just adding a few parts and tuning up the bike.
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Old 05-22-12, 07:31 PM   #3
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Here's how three builds turned out:


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Old 05-22-12, 07:41 PM   #4
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I began by modifying existing bikes with new/different parts that I wanted to try. Eventually, I came by a bare frame and that was the beginning of building everything from the frame up. I would never look back now.

I get what I want, and I get a great deal of satisfaction.
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Old 05-22-12, 07:54 PM   #5
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In 1976 I bought a Gazelle Champion Mondial frame in Holland and hung parts on it from the LBS. I just got back from a 20 miler on it tonight. I even built and trued the wheels. Over the years there are a number of parts that have been replaced but there still are a lot of the late '70s components on it. It still makes me smile.

In more recent times I have found used bikes in fair to moderate condition and set about to tailor them to my liking. This suits my sensibilities more than ground up builds. I figure I will probably scatter the bike to clean and grease it anyway and I can upgrade or replace parts from my parts bin as suits my idea for the bike. So I am doing a ground up build. I just start with a full set of parts that should work together but may need some attention.

My passion is fillet-brazed butted steel frames with non-indexed shifters. I also see no reason to hang more than 7 cogs on a rear wheel.

Whatever you do, think it through well. It may end up being a dear friend for decades!
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Old 05-22-12, 09:02 PM   #6
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In my case I bought a frame and then got the parts I wanted. I was riding my Jamis at the time so I could ride and aquire parts at the same time. Got a good deal on a Compact crank and bottom bracket. Picked up a SRAM Force Grupo and added some Aksyum wheels and Attack pedals. The bike was one of my favorites from day one. It was a climber with a super light Scandium frame. 50x34 compact and 11x29 rear cassette. May have saved some money by getting it from Lapierre but it would have had a different groupo and I would never have had a chance to build it like I wanted. Later I got some Dura Ace 7801 wheels that made it even better.

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Old 05-22-12, 09:36 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Timtruro View Post
One of my goals since retiring is to build a bike. I need some advice on how to get started. Do I just buy a frame and then piecemeal the various components?I am leaning toward a Salsa Caseroll and am wondering if the best way to start is with a kit if such a thing exists.
Quality Bicycle sells bike kits which contain basically everything that you need except the frame. A bike kit is usually a complete parts group of your choice plus all of the other parts, like handlebars, that aren't in the group. They sell Salsa Caseroll frames too. You'll have to get a bike shop to order it for you.
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Old 05-22-12, 10:11 PM   #8
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I started by reading sheldonbrowndotcom when I replaced my shifters, cables derailleurs etc. Then did the complete bike few months back when my frame was replaced under warranty by Trek.

LBS wanted $200 to do the component swap. I decided to do it myself, took me 20 minutes to strip the bike then 1 1/2 to rebuild on the new frame including cleaning components, relubing, new cables etc.

I can't see paying the shop $100 an hour to do easy basic mechanics. Best thing I did was learning to do my own maintenance. Few cheap tools and I can do any repair needed. But let me say, once you start doing your own mechanics, the need for repairs are far fewer. Nobody puts in the TLC that you will put into your own bike.

I also built the wheels after reading Sheldon's site. Check out youtube as well. Lots of instuctional videos.




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Old 05-22-12, 10:55 PM   #9
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I think the key to a really fine build is figuring out what you want the outcome to be first. Then the rule of equifinality comes into play... There are multiple paths to the same end. Try to discern as far as possible what you want: primary use, level of components, colors, etc. All of my builds have started this way. Sometimes I ended up buying a complete bike, taking it back to just the frame and adding the components I wanted. Another time I purchased a new frame and put used parts on it. Once I took three bikes and made the one project bike. In all cases, however, I had a specific vision in mind. Above all else I viewed it as fun/rewarding for the experience I gained.
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Old 05-23-12, 12:24 AM   #10
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The heart of any bike is the frame--closely followed by the wheels.

My first build was in 94 as I had a pile of bits in the garage from the Kona. Parts that I had upgraded and still had plenty of life in. Got a custom built lightweight steel frame in Fuji Steel and stripped the kona of all the parts. Then rebuilt the Kona with all its original parts that were still good.

If starting from new- then still think about the frame. Get the one you want for its future use. Wheels do make a bike aswell so get the best you can for the use and without going bling for a reputation- get ones that will more than do the job. Groupsets are available from plenty of online stores so look at what you want and check the prices. Doesn't leave much after that but bars- get the right size and not only on width- They come in different heights and lengths aswell. Stems- seat post- saddle and this is where weight could be added so if you are a weight weenie-get the right ones again.

Enjoy the experience.
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Old 05-23-12, 05:26 AM   #11
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I find ebay to be the best source for components after you get your frame.
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Old 05-23-12, 06:07 AM   #12
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I find ebay to be the best source for components after you get your frame.
Part of the fun there is the hunt. Several of the bikes I've built have been designed around those components that were unresistable bargans on Ebay. I admit that I feast on NOS (new old stock) 8 and 9 speed equipment that's been collecting dust in some shop while everyone scrambles for newer equipment.
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Old 05-23-12, 06:30 AM   #13
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You should read Blues Dawg's thread on his recent build form scratch http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/804399-Planning-my-next-bike-build-for-retirement. The thread details his search for a frame and deciding on the parts to use for his Retirement bicycle.

He had done a few builds before and writes a really good report of his work. Best of luck.

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Old 05-23-12, 06:49 AM   #14
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It is fun to build up your own from frame up as I do most of mine that way. Keep in mind though, you will probably need to invest in some special tools if you really want to do it all yourself. If you were closer I'd let you use my headset press...
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Old 05-23-12, 06:56 AM   #15
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I've built up a bunch of bikes. I enjoy it. I buy the tools as necessary. I think it's really handy to have a supportive mechanic at your local bike shop. Mark at Baywood Cyclery always encourages me to do what I can, and gives me advice when I ask. He knows I'll be giving him all the jobs I can't do. I let him do the headset work, and I buy parts from him, accessories, etc.

SheldonBrown.com is a great resource, as is the Park Tool site.

On some bikes I've bought really solid components, usually new, and on others I've used Ebay parts and shopped for deals, depending on the bike's planned usage.

Even on the bikes where I've shopped for deals I've always spent more than if I had just bought a complete bike. I haven't done it as a money-saver. I've done it for fun, to learn how to fix and maintain my own bike, and to ensure that my bikes had exactly the components I wanted and were set-up the way I prefer.
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Old 05-23-12, 07:21 AM   #16
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You need to decide what you want the bike to do. What style of bike do you run at the moment? Is it flat-bar or drop-bar? Road oriented, touring, utility (errands), commuting? Do you ride hills or are you in flat country? The answers to those questions aren't going to alter your choice of frame if you are set on the Casseroll, but it will influence the groupset or assembly of components. Things like shifters, crankset, wheelset, cassette.

Then there is fit. How is the fit on your current bike(s)? You will need to measure the frame with the best fit and use that as a guide to getting the right-sized frame. Again, it's not the model choice, but the size that counts. Unless you can ride an already-built bike with the same frame as you want, then it is a tiny bit of a lottery if the frame you do get will fit you. I always have my heart in my mouth when it comes to finishing a build and getting on, or even more importantly, Machka gets on a bike I have built for her. So far, it's been all good, but it has taken quite a bit of time cross-checking dimensions to make the correct choices. And occasionally, the sizes of a new bike will fall somewhere in the "range" rather than being the same.

You'll also need to know the little things such as seat post internal diameter, headset diameter, etc. Usually frames come with seatpost and collar (if needed) and headset included. The stem length and rise will be another issue, especially if the bike dimensions aren't identical with the one you already have.

Then, you have two choices. Spring the big cash for a complete groupset, plus the extras such as wheelset build, handlebar, seat and so on. Or draw up a list of what you need and get browsing on eBay and Peformance and Nashbar to seek out the best prices of the individual components.

AND, you will need to collect together the tools you need to complete the job. You can get by with a mallet and piece of wood to get the headset cups in if they are friction fit, and you might need to be creative to get the headset bearing race or collar on the fork. You can get by with eyeballing the cut for the steerer tube. But the correct tools can be picked up relatively cheaply, they work well, and because you will complete one build, you will do others and those tools will come in handy then, too.

The best part is you can specify exactly what you want on your bike. You can mix and match as you see fit -- an MTB crankset, with road front derailleur, MTB rear derailleur and drop bars with STI shifter all work very well as many touring cyclists will tell. Or you might want to keep it plain and simple, and go single speed.

Oh, that also leads me that other conundrum... you'll have to choose whether to go Shimano, Campy or some other mix of brands.

Wheels are the one area that you can have complete control over, too, if you have the patience to get started. They are challenging, but a well-built wheel will last a long time.

Ultimately, you will have to do the costings before you start out to see if the price is within reasonable bounds. If you aren't prepared to do the legwork in buying cheap on eBay or elsewhere, then maybe buying a complete bike might be the best course. But then, you won't get the bike you might really want.
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Old 05-23-12, 07:27 AM   #17
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^^^ +1,000,000 What Rowan said is golden advice.
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Old 05-23-12, 07:45 AM   #18
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Well, I started a thread on BF with my idea, reviewed the suggestions which were more gentle than the idea rated, then did something different. I'm totally satisfied with what I wound up with.

You probably have more bike mechanic experience and knowledge than I do but here's what I did. I compiled a list of parts from various sources including my box of junk, with prices including shipping, weights, estimated quality, comments and installation notes. From the list I put together virtual builds which I laid out to compare side by side, sort of like Bikes Direct but more detailed. Pruning this down by total budget and total weight limit.
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Old 05-23-12, 08:46 AM   #19
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Next comes the order in which you do the build. That depends to some extent on what tools you have and what sort of space you have available.

I have a relatively inexpensive workstand which precludes doing some of the high torque jobs like bottom brackets while mounted in the stand. Because of that I build in an order that gets the bike onto the ground on it's wheels before the bottom bracket goes in. This means that I start with the headset, fork, a temporary stem and wheels first. I usually don't cut the steerer tube at this point. How you arrange the build order will depend on your setup. You don't have to do it in any particular manner, but it helps to plan the order in advance.
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Old 05-23-12, 10:48 AM   #20
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Build a bike? You might want to start hanging out in the Classic&Vintage forum. Over there they (including myself) talk about and build bikes every day. I have 5 solo bikes and a tandem. The oldest, a 1972 Peugoet UO8, is the only one I bought ready to ride. The rest were built up from pieces.

There are lots of decisions to make about part dimensions, tools to obtain, part compatibility, functionality and style. It's part of the challenge and the fun.

The project most recently finished:



The newest bike (built up from just frame, fork, headset):



The most technically complex, for a bunch of reasons:

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Old 05-23-12, 11:31 AM   #21
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you could take a frame-building class to build the frame itself..

I was already well versed in bike frame geometries, and metalworking,
when I winged it on a frame build , in 1975, with borrowed facilities.
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Old 05-23-12, 05:51 PM   #22
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Thanks everyone for both the information and the encouragement. My plan is to identify the type of riding I will do with the bike (touring methinks) and I'm still thinking Salsa Caseroll or maybe Surly. Going to take it one step at a time. Acquire some tools, order the frame, then the build kit. The whole process seems challenging but I am looking forward to both the challenge and the satisfaction of building it from the ground up.
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Old 05-23-12, 06:54 PM   #23
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Building bikes is almost as fun as riding bikes. Even as a kid I was constantly changing parts on my bikes for styling or function. I have built up or reconfigured several bikes over the years. The whole process of dreaming up an end product, choosing the pieces that will come together to make that real and the actual assembling, wrenching and adjusting to create the bike is something I find very satisfying.

Whether starting with a clean slate or working with some existing parts, there are many choices made about styling, compatibility, function and cost. Some of my builds start with wondering what I can do with all these parts I have accumulated. The greatest joy is when it all comes together and works as well or better than expected.

You are starting at the right place in deciding what you want to do with the bike. Salsa Casseroll is a very nice and versatile frame. I sure like mine. It can be made into a fine light touring bike, but keep in mind that it is not designed to carry heavy fully loaded touring loads.

I'm looking forward to seeing the process as well as the final result. Keep us posted and don't hesitate to ask questions.

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Old 05-23-12, 08:17 PM   #24
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A word of caution. Building bikes can be addictive. Working on #20 right now.
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Old 05-23-12, 08:34 PM   #25
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I just completed my first build about 3 weeks ago. The two finalist were a Casserole and a Surly Cross Check. I ended up going with the Surly and a Sram Rival groupset. I did buy the wheels already built and had an LBS face and chase the BB as that tool is just to expensive to own. I will say that the confidence in doing this was well worth the added expense.
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