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  1. #1
    Senior Member screwdriver's Avatar
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    I want to build my first bicycle

    I want to build my first bike but I know absolutely nothing about where to start. Some of the dimensions I've seen on some frames and other components are a little confusing to me. I will give some ideas as to the type and size bicycle I would like to build and I would appreciate any help I can get with recommendations. Please keep in mind that I don't want to buy the most expensive components but I don't want any junk either. To start, I am 5' 10" with a 30" inseam. I want a 10 or 12 speed bike with 27" wheels and tires. I want the distance between the head tube and the seat post to be approximately 20". I want the style of handlebars that has the shift incorporated in the grip assemblies. I don't mind using used components as long as they are quality working parts. I do not necessarily have to have a light weight frame. I use to be very particular about doing thing perfect but I have mellowed a bit in my old years. On a scale of 1 to 10, my mechanical abilities are at lease an 8. My 1976 Schwinn Superior is a great old bike but it is far from being comfortable for me and my riding habits. I don't want to start buying a bunch of parts thinking that they will go together the way I want them to. That why I would like some guidance as to where to start. I have in mine a price range of $250 to $300 by the time I'm through. Is that a reasonable goal? I already have a nice Campy crankset. At least that's a start. I don't have any special tools but will buy them if the need be. I never have been into using a pair of channel-locks, screwdriver and a hammer but I have noticed there are some components that do not need special tools to assemble. The picture included is not so great but is a fairly close resemblance to what I have in mind to build. The only thing I know for sure is, I want it to be a Schwinn frame. I really like the way the frame and front fork looks on my '76 Superior.

    Last edited by screwdriver; 10-28-08 at 12:20 PM.

  2. #2
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    If you want integrated shifters, a price of $250 to $300 is going to be pretty challenging.

    Integrated shifters alone cost a minimum of $150 new, and only rarely go used for under $100.

    If you really want 27" wheels and integrated shifters, you will probably need to either get wheels custom built, or build your own (I had mine built). This is because the wheels with freehubs that accommodate the 8 cogs and higher needed for integrated shifters didn't come on 27" wheels. However, 700c wheels can work on many bikes that were designed for 27" wheels as long as the brakes can reach an additional 4mm.

    In general, the shifters must match the type of cassette used (and must be compatible with the wheel). For example, an 8 speed Shimano shifter must use an 8 speed Shimano cassette. Campagnolo 9 speed shifters must go with a Campagnolo 9 speed cassette... (and so on).

    The derailleurs are not typically as fussy (but there are exceptions) so any index capable Shimano rear derailleur will work with Shimano shifters, and any Campagnolo indexing derailleur will work with Campagnolo shifters.

    Frames are personal taste, and if you like Schwinn, you will do fine, just as long as you get a bottom bracket that is compatible with the frame, and the crank used.

    You will in some cases need special tools (or for one time installations, a trip to the bike shop to have them do the work) such as bottom bracket or headset installation.

    For comparison... I bought a 1986 Schwinn Voyageur, and had a set of wheels built for it, and had it built by a shop with new Shimano 105 components. The cost of the upgrades (not counting the frame, saddle, handlebar/stem) was $850. If I had done it myself, I could have probably done it for about $500. I could have bought a similarly equipped new bike cheaper... which is the norm.

    The unfortunate truth is that it is often cheaper to buy a bike than to build one, unless you find many of the used parts you need, and get good deals on them, and they are in great shape.

  3. #3
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    Why did you write that all in bold?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    That's not much of a budget for building a whole bike but it's definitely do-able.

    My advice is to check out garage sales, thrift shops and Goodwill. I used to even roam the subdivision on garbage pick up mornings in search of donor bikes.

  5. #5
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    That's not much of a budget for building a whole bike but it's definitely do-able.

    My advice is to check out garage sales, thrift shops and Goodwill. I used to even roam the subdivision on garbage pick up mornings in search of donor bikes.
    Definitely finding the right bike to start with is key, and then a good donor bike or two for parts...

    The right sized bike for the frame etc, or a donor bike with the integrated shifters and wheels (regardless of frame size) could be the items that will make your budget work.

  6. #6
    Pants are for suckaz HandsomeRyan's Avatar
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    Why not just buy a complete [used] bike and just replace components slowly over time as you decide what needs upgrading? I say this because there are several problems with building a bike from scratch:

    (A) you need certain bike-specific tools to assemble bottom brackets, cassettes, etc. and buying these for "one time use" will quickly eat up your budget.

    (B) If you don't already have your heart set on what components you are using it will be very hard to make sence of what to buy based solely on the recomendations of internet strangers with unknown cycling credentials. For example, A no-name caliper road brake might cost $35, a similar Ultegra brake might cost $150. What is the difference between these two brakes? Primarily the weight- specifically about the weight of 2 nickles.

    (C) Locality of available [inexpensive] parts. Some cities have a huge cycling presence and many shops with "used parts bins" full of bargains while others have barely a single bike shop in town. If you have to buy all the parts online and pay shipping this is another quick way to eat your budget.

    Little Darwin - I believe the OP is refering to grip shifters, not brifters. Grip shifters are considerably less expensive than brifters but are also generally of much lower quality than trigger shifters. Based on the budget you have, grip shifters (if you like them) are probably the most cost effective solution.

  7. #7
    Senior Member screwdriver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HandsomeRyan View Post
    Why not just buy a complete [used] bike and just replace components slowly over time as you decide what needs upgrading? I say this because there are several problems with building a bike from scratch:

    (A) you need certain bike-specific tools to assemble bottom brackets, cassettes, etc. and buying these for "one time use" will quickly eat up your budget.

    (B) If you don't already have your heart set on what components you are using it will be very hard to make sence of what to buy based solely on the recomendations of internet strangers with unknown cycling credentials. For example, A no-name caliper road brake might cost $35, a similar Ultegra brake might cost $150. What is the difference between these two brakes? Primarily the weight- specifically about the weight of 2 nickles.

    (C) Locality of available [inexpensive] parts. Some cities have a huge cycling presence and many shops with "used parts bins" full of bargains while others have barely a single bike shop in town. If you have to buy all the parts online and pay shipping this is another quick way to eat your budget.

    Little Darwin - I believe the OP is refering to grip shifters, not brifters. Grip shifters are considerably less expensive than brifters but are also generally of much lower quality than trigger shifters. Based on the budget you have, grip shifters (if you like them) are probably the most cost effective solution.
    I have just about come to that conclusion myself. As a matter of fact, I have a 1990 Schwinn Aluminum 434 in mine.
    Is this bike worth $250

  8. #8
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    I guess that is what I get for responding from behind a firewall and not seeing the picture(s).

    Without brifters, the budget becomes much easier to meet.

    For grip shifters, they are available for 6 speeds also, so 27" becomes more reasonable to find on a donor or starter bike since 6 speed freewheels are available.

  9. #9
    Senior Member screwdriver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Darwin View Post
    I guess that is what I get for responding from behind a firewall and not seeing the picture(s).

    Without brifters, the budget becomes much easier to meet.

    For grip shifters, they are available for 6 speeds also, so 27" becomes more reasonable to find on a donor or starter bike since 6 speed freewheels are available.
    I don't care to much for the small tires on the 434 but maybe those can be changed as well.

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