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  1. #1
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    want to build a road bike... cheap, tough, fast

    This is my 10,000,000th thread and I apologize, but I keep hijacking my own topics as I find out how misguided I am in my search for a road bike, so here is the last big-picture-question I am going to pose (I hope!)

    I'm hoping for:
    steel frame
    cheap, but solid componentry (sale? used?)
    strong enough wheelset

    I want to be able to do some light touring and ride the bike around town.

    I was originally looking to start with a surly pacer frame/fork and build up from there, but my lbs told me that I would want 105 componentry if I'm going to do any kind of distance, and that it would end up costing me around $1400. For $1199 I could have a Bianchi Vigorelli from another lbs, which satisfies my steel desires and gives me all ultegra and a strong wheelset, but I'd feel like I was parking a porsche with the keys in the ignition anyplace I took it besides work where I can lock it up inside. I want to be able to ride this bike, not worry about parking it at a grocery store or leaving it downtown for a few hours. I'd rather have an $800 bike.

    So, now that you're up to date, here are my questions:
    How cheap can I build up a quality road bike with a steel frame? Is the Pacer a good frame to start with? Or will I get a better deal buying someone else's project?

    And how do you feel about buying a frame you've never sat on?
    Last edited by anticoriolis; 09-04-06 at 12:54 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member FXjohn's Avatar
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    Why must you "build it"?

    Just buy a cheaper new bike, or used.
    Comedian Bill Hicks once said, "Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy a jet ski, and you never see an unhappy person riding a jet ski."

  3. #3
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    In the past year Ive bought 4 gorgous vintage 70's and 80's steel framers
    for a whopping total of 20 twenty dollars. At 5.00 per bike, 25.00 in tires
    and tubes and 3 or 4 hours clean and lube time I have a great commuter
    bike for the price of a tank of gas.
    I will be putting my latest Peugeot pic up in the commuter section
    later so take a peek at it if you want to see what you can do with
    a little patience and even less money.

    Lem ~ RaT BiKe sUpeRsTaR

  4. #4
    Senior Member Thor29's Avatar
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    I built all of my bikes and I can tell you one thing, unless you work in a bike shop, it's way more expensive to do that. Even then you could still buy a complete bike cheaper. From your description, I think you oughtta take a look at the Bianchi Volpe - it's a steel framed cyclocross/touring bike and it only costs around $900. The idea that you have to have 105 to go any distance is absolute and total BS. Seriously. 105 and Ultegra are nice, but not necessary. In fact, now that 105 has gone 10 speed, the thinner chain probably makes it LESS suitable for touring.

  5. #5
    "Per Ardua ad Surly" nelson249's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anticoriolis
    This is my 10,000,000th thread and I apologize, but I keep hijacking my own topics as I find out how misguided I am in my search for a road bike, so here is the last big-picture-question I am going to pose (I hope!)

    I'm hoping for:
    steel frame
    cheap, but solid componentry (sale? used?)
    strong enough wheelset

    I want to be able to do some light touring and ride the bike around town.

    I was originally looking to start with a surly pacer frame/fork and build up from there, but my lbs told me that I would want 105 componentry if I'm going to do any kind of distance, and that it would end up costing me around $1400. For $1199 I could have a Bianchi Vigorelli from another lbs, which satisfies my steel desires and gives me all ultegra and a strong wheelset, but I'd feel like I was parking a porsche with the keys in the ignition anyplace I took it besides work where I can lock it up inside. I want to be able to ride this bike, not worry about parking it at a grocery store or leaving it downtown for a few hours. I'd rather have an $800 bike.

    So, now that you're up to date, here are my questions:
    How cheap can I build up a quality road bike with a steel frame? Is the Pacer a good frame to start with? Or will I get a better deal buying someone else's project?

    And how do you feel about buying a frame you've never sat on?

    How about a Surly Cross-Check complete? This bike is good for everything and comes off the shelf in the US $800 range
    1997 Mongoose Hilltopper, 1988 Bianchi Specialissima, 2006 Surly Cross-Check, 2010 Norco City Glide, 1947 CCM Single-speed.

    "Take him to the forge and show him the instruments"
    Bernardo Gui, Inquisitor The Name of the Rose

  6. #6
    Arrgghh me hearties! damian_'s Avatar
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    I second the recommendation for buying a used 70's or 80's bike.

    IMHO a good bike of that era will last you a lifetime, be comfortable, cheap, tough and fast. Feel free to upgrade whatever components you like - I recommend new brake pads, new chain, and (only if it needs them) some 700C wheels of your choice.

    You could also buy an old bike like this, and fit a new groupset to it.

    PS: Congratulations on your 10,000,000th thread.

  7. #7
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Personally, I have one of those 1970s "gems." I don't like it much and I rarely ride it. The main thing that bugs me is the downtube shifters. The toe clips are pretty obnoxious too. If I put more modern gears and pedals on it, I might ride it more. My sister has a nice new Raleigh that she bought brand new for around $600-$700. It seems like if you're always seeking the PERFECT bike, you might end up with no bike at all!


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    Personally, I have one of those 1970s "gems." I don't like it much and I rarely ride it. The main thing that bugs me is the downtube shifters. The toe clips are pretty obnoxious too. If I put more modern gears and pedals on it, I might ride it more. My sister has a nice new Raleigh that she bought brand new for around $600-$700. It seems like if you're always seeking the PERFECT bike, you might end up with no bike at all!

    You are right that these old-school bikes are not for everyone. But I personally love my 25 year-old "sport-tourer". The friction shifters are dead-simple, reliable, never need adjustment, and completely unattractive to bike thieves. Perfect for a get-around-town/commuter/utility/touring bike. I'm not saying that you club riders should sell your ultegra shifters, just that there are good reasons to have a cheap older bike for general transportation.

    As for our original poster, I'd say either use an old bike you've already got for everyday use (drop some slicks on it). Or get an old beater if you are deadset on a roadie for getting around town. Don't leave even an $800 bike on the street. The $1200 and $800 bike are not a whole lot different in terms of theft rate. The beater on the other hand...

  9. #9
    Senior Member smurfy's Avatar
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    Fortunately 7/8 speed components are still available which I believe are tougher than 9/10 stuff for heavy duty commuter use. One of my road bikes is actually a Sturmey-Archer three-speed which I think is enough gears for commuter use. Only one of my bikes has a nine speed cassette and I hardly ever use all those gears!
    "You handle it like you handle a bicycle" - Jacques Rosay, Airbus A380 test pilot

  10. #10
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    I'll add another steel bike in the $800 range the Jamis Aurora. This with the Bianchi Volpe and Surly Cross Check are my suggestions for good versitile bikes.
    The suggestion of good bikes from the 80s is also an excellent suggestion. This requires a little more mechanical skill but usually alot less money. Plus the bikes will be even less of a theft magnent.
    Craig

  11. #11
    Has opinion, will express
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    70s-80s lugged steel frame stripped to be a single or fixed gear. Tough, reliable, cheap and quite capable of doing what you want.

    For $1199 I could have a Bianchi Vigorelli from another lbs, which satisfies my steel desires and gives me all ultegra and a strong wheelset, but I'd feel like I was parking a porsche with the keys in the ignition anyplace I took it besides work where I can lock it up inside. I want to be able to ride this bike, not worry about parking it at a grocery store or leaving it downtown for a few hours. I'd rather have an $800 bike.
    I have a little trouble with your logic here. I would have thought theft of an $800 bike would have as much impact as a $1200 one if you were living car-free -- if you don't think you'd miss $800 as much as $1200, maybe you should build the old steel FG/SS and throw the remaining $750 in my direction and I will take real good care of it for you.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  12. #12
    Dare to be weird!
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    Anticoriolis, by all means go ahead and build up the bike you want. It won't be quick and cheap, but it will be the bike you love and the one that suits you perfectly. I'm doing that right now. You will learn a lot about compatibility issues between different manufacturers and components. It won't be cheap unless you have access to an inventory of used components.

    Bike shops that concentrate on selling new bikes won't be very helpful, in fact some will go out of their way to be snide and critical of anyone who doesn't shop like a normal bike buyer, that's just human nature in operation. Look instead for small used-bike shops that don't advertise, internet resources, and (if your city has one) the local community bike collective. When I finish my post here, I'm heading over to the Yellow Bike Project shop on the other side of town to see what they have in the way of an old style 10-speed Campy front derailleur and chain. Yellow Bike has a fully equipped shop where you can learn to do bike mechanics. Last night I went in to volunteer a few hours. They put me to work checking donated inner tubes for punctures.

    Roody, I think I've found a way to upgrade downtube shifters to bar end friction shifters. If it works out I'll post the details.

  13. #13
    3rd Grade Dropout Erzulis Boat's Avatar
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    My take on the issue is this:

    A top of the line bicycle from 1996 trumps a 2006 middle of the road one.

    High end will always be high end, and it shows.

    Let's say you get a great 1996 bike with then "state of the art" components, that was perfectly capable of sustaining a professional's mileage and exertion, that bike will work for you.......day in, day out. No fiddling with adjusters, wearing out chainrings, and on and on.

    Modern middle of the road stuff is a huge departure from modern "state of the art". Trust me.

    Your modern low/mid stuff will fall out of adjustment, the bearings will not be able to cope with rain if you commute and pack on the miles.

    I rode over 40 miles a day, six days a week for 3 1/2 years (no car, no choice) and I started with mid range stuff..........EVERYTHING failed, including the frame. I slowly replaced every part with Campy Record as the crap failed (bearings, pedals, chainrings, junk-ball pads etc.) After the bike went Record and frame went Pinarello.......NOTHING failed or needed adjustment, I am not joking.

    These were not the "latest and greatest" components of today.... but badder mofracks than I will ever be conquered the Alps on this stuff, day in, day out back when it was.

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