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Old 10-15-13, 12:10 PM   #1
pttrnlanguage
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Penny pinching slow build vs used complete?

What do you think is a better value, building a bike from scratch slowly, over a year or so or finding the perfect used ride (scouring ebay/CL for 6 months).
Do ya'll have a strategy for either? I'm specifically curious if buying used drivetrain components is stupid or not
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Old 10-15-13, 12:15 PM   #2
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I've tried the slow approach a couple times (3, I believe). Each time, I ended up way over budget (and that's doing all the work myself, if you took it to someone else to assemble, it would be way, way more expensive). Would have been much better off buying a used bike and being more patient or buying a frame and a donor bike.
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Old 10-15-13, 12:16 PM   #3
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Depends on many factors, including, your personal finances, how much free time you have, your personality (can you delay gratification for THAT long), etc.

When I first began to ride, bikes were built from scratch--they were put together from various sources. Then they started selling bikes as whole kits (they still do). Now there seems to be a move back to building from scratch (as you call it). My Bottecchia and Colnago were built from scratch.

Good luck either way.
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Old 10-15-13, 12:20 PM   #4
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The donor bike concept seems smart. There's a lot of great components to be had from weird sized/ugly/dumb bikes. Then just find a frame and patch up any needed upgrades. Anyone had a good experience with this?
My last used bike seemed awesome on paper, but replacing the drivetrain over my first 500 miles cost meant I ended up paying double on it. Could have bought a new one
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Old 10-15-13, 12:32 PM   #5
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Even working in Bike Shops I kept my Eye out for distributor's closeouts.


But, OP, has not stated what they want in the end.. a classic Race bike.
with all premium, period correct parts ..the C&V thing..

or a UJB JRA transportation Bike..

used chains and freewheels might be not in good shape by the time you get them,

but the crankarms if they use common bolt circle sizes ,

you can replace worn chainrings with new ones..

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Old 10-15-13, 12:41 PM   #6
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I enjoy building bikes from parts, but it's not the most economical way to do it. Even if you think you're getting a good deal, you have to factor in shipping and the time spent hunting them down. Far cheaper to buy a complete bike.
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Old 10-15-13, 12:55 PM   #7
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I've done both. I built my '92 Schwinn Crosscut up from a frame I bought off of craigslist and spent 3 months finding the components I wanted on Craiglist, Ebay and swap meets. Not including the Brooks saddle, I think I spent about $450 on it and ended up with a bike that I feel is comparable to new bikes running around a grand. Even if I had bought something complete, I would have changed some components to suit me and that would have added to the cost.

It wasn't my only bike, however, so I had all the time I wanted to find the right parts at the right price.
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Old 10-15-13, 01:11 PM   #8
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If I am looking for very specific single components, the one piece at a time method I like to use. Otherwise I match specs and buy whats on sale/get a donor bike. FYI I do all my own work myself and even then, you end up upside down on the single component method.
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Old 10-15-13, 02:17 PM   #9
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Well you could do both, buy a used bike and then slow-build it.

I built mine with new parts from Nashbar, Amazon and other online sources and it did cost about what a new bike would. But I wanted to use all new parts because I needed to know that if a problem arose it was something I probably did and not a worn-out part. Over time I've swapped out wheels and drive train parts, everything except the frame headset and fork in fact. Sure, it's a good way to spread out the expense. If you like to scrounge for used parts you could come out way ahead, buy new parts and you won't.

As far as I'm concerned, if you don't go off the deep end buying a high end drivetrain, or stick to 8 or 9 speed, most of those parts are practically consumables.
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Old 10-15-13, 02:22 PM   #10
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I briefly considered getting the frame I want and adding components but like others have found it turns out more expensive. To me it isn't worth the learning experience I would go through.
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Old 10-15-13, 03:05 PM   #11
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Money aside, do you think that you'd like the building process or do you just want to ride?

The thing about building a bike slowly as you acquire parts is knowing when it's done. That's definitely my M.O., but the bikes tend to continually evolve over time so they're never really "done". I'm constantly thinking of something I want to add or change or do to it. I guess it would be more expensive to build a bike that way if you insist on all brand new parts, but a used bike will have all used parts too. Over time, your collection of bike components tends to grow and you can do a lot of putzing around for little or no money. My grand son and I built up a pretty nice road bike with leftover parts my son and I had and and I think the only things bought new were tires and handlebar tape.
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Old 10-15-13, 03:05 PM   #12
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Depends. I built my Cannondale Six-13 around a used frame, mostly NOS Centaur and built my own Carbon tubulars. About $1300. I would never have found it already built, and even if I did, I think I did well on price by slow-build.

Campy Centaur, built 50 mm carbon tubulars using Chinese rims and hubs I had lying around, used frame. (front shown is a used Zipp, but the hub shell broke and I'm now using the homebuilt wheel)

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Old 10-15-13, 03:52 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I enjoy building bikes from parts, but it's not the most economical way to do it. Even if you think you're getting a good deal, you have to factor in shipping and the time spent hunting them down. Far cheaper to buy a complete bike.
It depends on what you're building, what you're starting from, and how you feel about used parts.

If you don't mind an off-brand crankset and maybe brakes, you can get a complete brand new bike for about what you'd spend on a Shimano group imported from the UK.

OTOH, if you want a bike with this year's $1100 Chorus gruppo that'll probably be a $4000 bike and you could spend less on a custom build that's exactly what you want.

Bike parts breed. Although I practice serial monogamy with my bicycles I'd just need handle bars, stem, and headset to turn a frameset into a bike.

In other situations you want something different or more contemporary and not a +1. Starting from mostly there is a lot less expensive - I joined the 10 cog era with NOS 2010 Campagnolo Centaur Carbon Ultrashift levers, used 2004-2006 Record Titanium derailleurs, and new chain + NOS cogs for $600 which would not have happened used in the form of a complete bike.

Used the way you want often isn't a viable option. In a few years of looking I've yet to see a titanium Litespeed cyclocross bike in my size setup the way I'd want or even just a frame.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 10-15-13 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 10-16-13, 08:08 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by pttrnlanguage View Post
What do you think is a better value, building a bike from scratch – slowly, over a year or so – or finding the perfect used ride (scouring ebay/CL for 6 months).
Do ya'll have a strategy for either? I'm specifically curious if buying used drivetrain components is stupid or not
I don't believe in the slow approach. If I'm going to build, I'll can build a bike up from nothing to functional bike in less than 8 hours...and that includes driving 60 miles round trip to get the frame and building a new set of wheels from scratch. I strike hard, fast and get it done without needless delay.

That said, I only build bikes from scratch because I get something that I want that I can't purchase. If I can purchase the whole bike, I'll go that route because it is much, much cheaper. Even used bikes are cheaper to buy the whole bike than to build one.

Drivetrain components aren't all equal. Derailers, wheels and cranks are usually okay if they don't show visible signs of damage. Shifters, especially old ones, can be tricky because they might not shift properly. Old ones tend to get gummy inside and don't work properly. You can salvage them by spraying WD40 or another solvent in them and get them working again. I've done it numerous times.

The only drivetrain part that I would hesitate buy used would be cassettes and chains. You can't easily tell how much wear the cassette has seen. It may be okay or it may skip. A chain you can measure wear but then both cassettes and chains are relatively cheap. Buy both new and save yourself a lot of grief.
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Old 10-16-13, 08:13 AM   #15
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Bike parts breed. Although I practice serial monogamy with my bicycles I'd just need handle bars, stem, and headset to turn a frameset into a bike.
I don't practice serial monogamy with my bikes...I have a harem...and I have a pile of parts. Recently I needed a bike to take to Tucson when my daughter moved there. I was able to build up a Specialized Stumpjumper Pro from the parts I had in my parts bin. That's frame (had one), 100mm suspension fork, wheels, crank, derailers, shifters, cassette, brakes, brake levers, saddle, seat post, stem and handlebars. The only thing I had to buy was knobby tires and a chain. It's kind of frightening. And I still have enough parts left over for a road bike if I want...I even have the frame
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