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  1. #1
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    Building from scratch

    Hi all,

    Making some progress on planning my first real tour, now i'm just number crunching on bikes...

    What i'm trying to figure out, is whether its worth building a bike from scratch or buying complete, i'm sure the topic has been covered many times but i'd be keen to hear suggestions.

    I have a fairly limited knowledge when it comes to putting a bike together, I have no real experience with replacing components or fixing broken bits other than general maintenance and tightening things that are loose etc. but i'm very keen to learn. I would love to know how to fix all the components so that if i have issues on the road, i can deal with them. However if I did this could I potentially build a bike cheaper than buying complete or would all the help i'd need from LBS's etc make it not cost effective.

    I'm pretty well read up on the complete bikes in my price range, $1000-$1500, but.... Could I build a bike much cheaper and learn a great deal along the way?

    My wife would love it if I could get it done for $800 CDN...is this even possible?

    Been reading a few threads and the Nashbar Aluminium Touring frames seems a great deal...good place to start???

    or should I skip it, buy complete and rely on LBS's for fixing any ills along the way?

    Cheers

  2. #2
    imi
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    A complete bike will be much cheaper than putting one together from spare parts, although if you bought the frameset and all the parts at the same time from an LBS I'm sure they'd give you a better price... but still...

    If I was in your socks (cycling shoes I'd buy a complete bike and then practice taking it to pieces bit by bit with the tools I had, then putting it back together again. The correct tools to completely build a bike are going to be fairly expensive, but with tools you'll need (and can carry) on the road you can take the bike down to frame, fork, bottom bracket and headset.

    There's great info to be found on the net (start with sheldonbrown.com or just google) on all things bike, the mechanics forum here is a great resource if you get stuck.

    Then once your done practicing, take the bike back to your LBS to tune it up and check that you haven't done anything that could potentially be dangerous or damage the bike when you set off on tour...

    Do you have a knowledgeable friend who can help?

    Good Luck!

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    That sounds a pretty good plan, I had not factored in the price of tools.

    So that said, which are the better budget touring bikes, the Windsor Tourist from bikesdirect seems a great deal, but I have read great things about the LHT, T520, Jamis Aurora etc...Which although more expensive than the Windsor, would i be able to tell the difference. I'm coming from a daily commuting and just enjoying myself cyclist on a crappy bike. I know the componentry and the quality of the frame make a difference but is the great gap in price justified for a first time tourer?

    Also off-topic, any value in a cyclo-cross? i really like the idea of a quicker ride when not touring, but i will be camping with my non luggage shy wife...

    Theres a bunch of options it seems but here in kelowna the shops are all about down-hill or out and out road bikes, so good advice is limited.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonsey02 View Post
    I'm pretty well read up on the complete bikes in my price range, $1000-$1500, but.... Could I build a bike much cheaper and learn a great deal along the way?
    It's doubtful you'd save any money.

    I've built four bikes up from frames over the last 2 or 2.5 years. On two of the bikes, I spent more than it would have cost to buy a complete bike. On one of the bikes I spent about what a complete bike would have cost. The fourth bike was a bit of a disaster: I built a full-suspension mountain bike for about $500 less than an entry-level full-suspension bike would have cost, but it rode like crap! I sold it in short order and was able to get the majority of my money out of it. I replaced it with a complete bike that I bought as an end-of-year close-out for about 66% of MSRP.

    In all cases, I spent tens or maybe hundreds of hours searching for the best deals on parts. eBay, Craig's List, on-line stores, coupons, sales... I did everything possible to save money. When you factor in that time, building becomes an even bigger loss over buying a complete bike.

    That said, building does allow you the flexibility to specify each and every part. If you look at a complete bike and think you'll want to start making major modifications to it, then it might not turn out to be such a bargain compared to building the bike yourself.

  5. #5
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    If you want to go the custom route, IMHO unless you go top of the line all the way, it's hard to argue with buying the complete. I did a custom LHT and bought what I thought were the best parts for my bike and ended up sinking about $3K into it. In the end, is it more practical than a complete? Maybe, Can it carry more? Maybe, Does it have bling factor? well yes, Was it worth it? For me it was but financially it makes no sence for only a Maybe.

    Just sayin
    Last edited by Dave Nault; 07-28-09 at 12:02 PM.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Very much doubt you could build a bike cheaper than buying it. Work out the complete costs, and don't forget stuff like tools or mechanics fees, cables, bar tape, tyres, inner tubes etc (they all add up).

    Unless you have the tools and expertise as well as some major spare parts hanging around (e.g. one or more of wheels, derailleurs, brakes, shifters, etc) it's almost a guaranteed certainty it will cost you more. E.g. look at this cold hard unforgiving list, using a Nashbar frame with a coupon:

    frame: $120
    front/rear derailleurs: $70
    brakes and pads: $40
    wheelset: $150
    tyres and inner tubes: $50
    handlebars: $30
    stem: $20
    tape: $10
    cables and housing: $30
    seatpost: $30
    saddle: $30
    crankset: $50
    bottom bracket: $30
    chain: $30
    cassette: $30
    headset: $30
    shifters/brake levers: $100

    total: $860

    Don't forget you'd also need the cost of any tools (would be nice to have a bike stand too, trust me) you don't have, or the cost of a mechanic -that could easily add over a hundred dollars or more right there. Keep in mind I think a pre-built Surly LHT comes with a rack and fenders too -another cost that hasn't been added in. And those prices above are pretty bargain basement prices -sure you could get the odd component cheaper than what I listed, but don't forget you'll also have to add in shipping costs and time as well. Figure as well that some of the prices above won't be getting you great components either (e.g. brakeset and pads at $40 or a crankset at $50) or if you choose a Brooks saddle, add another $50-$60 to the price right there. It's really very, very difficult to buy all the components and a frame and end up with a price that's cheaper than a pre-built.

    I'd say buy a complete bike. Having said that, I have built my tourer -but I do have all my own tools and workstand, build my own wheels, etc. Plus the frame I wanted was only going to be affordable as a frame (shipped from the UK, if it was a complete bike, it would have been very expensive!). Another aspect of building your own bike is that it does give a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and you do know precisely what mechancking went on with it.

  7. #7
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    It soon adds up eh?

    I think I'll be looking to go down the complete route, I would really love the idea of a project, but I havent got a ton of money to throw around and certainly not the expertise to put it all together without help...

    If I was starting from scratch it would totally make sense to go with the best components, Thanks for putting that list together, I wanted to get a feel for an average cost of bare bits, but I think the shipping and tools would kill me.

    I think i'll put the project bike on the back-burner, I'd still like to do it, but maybe when i'm a bike or two in and have a collection of tools/spares to start from.....

    Thanks for the suggestions

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    weirdo
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    A complete USED bike is the cheapest way to go by a long shot. If you decide to assemble your own, you`ll likely need a lot of special purpose tools (mostly not very expensive), but a set of "allen" wrenches and a chain tool will take care of probably 90% of your repair and parts swapping adventures for a long time.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Hi,

    To answer you question about a cross bike. I have toured extensively(including a 3650 mile cross country trip) on a Bianchi Volpe. It works well for me. I'm not sure that I wouldn't have gone to a LHT if they were selling complete bikes. I didn't want to do a buildup for all of the above reasons.



    Things you might want to consider when looking at a cyclocross bike for a tourer: 1)if your feet are on the large size you might encounter heel strike on the rear panniers (shorter chainstay- I did not ahve any problems with size 10); 2) not much , if any, cheaper than a "real" touring bike; 3) geometry might be a little less comfortable for long tours; depending on your size in relation to frame size you may not have much adjsutment in bar height in relation to saddle height (more upright position vs. stretched out); 4) While cross bike have relatively low gears, I still changed out cranks and cassette for even lower gearing; 5) most cross bikes come with STI shifters instead of bar-end's, which I prefer.

    After vacilating for the last six months about trading to a LHT, I decided to keep the Bianchi. It is set up pretty nice and has been well tested.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  10. #10
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    P.S. "Vascillating has 2 ll's! One other factor: the rear drop out spacing on most cross bikes is 130mm and come with 32 spoke wheels which are OK. Most touring bikes have 135 mm rear dropouts, with mountain bike hubs and 36 spoke wheels. The wider hub and more spoke is supposed to make a stronger wheel. Here again I tour completely self supported and have had very little trouble with the lighter wheels.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    I also second rodar y rodar; a complete used bike at a reasonable used price is going to give you the very best bang for the buck.

    Another option is to find a used 80's/90's mtb with a long wheelbase and relaxed geometry with a good condition drivechain (gearing should be more than adequate for you once fully loaded) -these things do exist on craigslist (and see the thread about these too on this forum). You can get them for $100 or less if you are patient. Then invest a bit more for fenders, touring tyres and racks and possibly bar ends or trekking bars and you can have a surprizingly nice tourer, just without the panache of a purpose built bicycle tourer. Well within $800 CAD too.

    I personally love the old Trek 950s and 970s and I think they are great for this.




    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    A complete USED bike is the cheapest way to go by a long shot. If you decide to assemble your own, you`ll likely need a lot of special purpose tools (mostly not very expensive), but a set of "allen" wrenches and a chain tool will take care of probably 90% of your repair and parts swapping adventures for a long time.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonsey02 View Post
    If I was starting from scratch it would totally make sense to go with the best components, Thanks for putting that list together, I wanted to get a feel for an average cost of bare bits, but I think the shipping and tools would kill me.
    Shipping might kill you, but you honestly don't need that many tools. You'll need a way to cut cables and housing (e.g. Park CN-10, ~$30). Most parts bolt on with 4, 5, or 6mm Allen wrenches or a screwdriver. A cassette lock ring tool (e.g. Park FR-5, ~$8) is useful as is a chain tool (Park CT-5, ~$15). Tire levers and a floor pump are required, but you probably own those already. A repair stand makes the whole process a lot easier, but isn't strictly required.

    For stuff that requires specialty tools, you can usually get help from your LBS for not a lot of money. Mine will install a fork for around $25 (install crown race, cut steerer to length, install star nut, press headset cups into frame, assemble and torque everything to spec). Bottom bracket installation is $10-15. Frame prep (ream seat tube, face head tube, face and chase bottom bracket shell) is the only thing that costs real money ($60 or $75), but the last three frames I've purchased had been adequately prepped at the factory and didn't need this service.

    Most components ship with pretty decent instructions these days, which makes installation and tuning easier. If you need additional help, Sheldon Brown and Park Tool usually have the answer.

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    A lot of the value of building your own bike goes out of the project if you have to ask the question. Buy a well set-up bike and then start substituting parts as you gain experience with alternatives you feel you need as you get some experience. If you are in Toronto, you should visit the Urbane Peddler, they will build you the bike you want and allow you to substitute parts, or use existing components you may own.

    I know from personal experience that it is possible to build your own bike and get some things badly wrong. I have been wrenching on bikes for 40 years, but I never had a bike with cantis and drops. So when I bought a touring bike from UP, one of the parts I decided to fill from my own stock, after extensive research, was the brakes. What a disaster, I went through quite a few tours changing brakes in and out and gradually getting something that worked on the fork in question. Just bad luck, but even substituting bling components didn't solve my problem until I finally figured it out. Good learning experience in a number of regards.

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    Senior Member sonatageek's Avatar
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    The Windsor Tourist might not be a bad choice. It is the same as the Fuji Touring model that I bought a few months back and I like it a lot. Mine was a left over '08 and I did have a few problem with the wheels (they were warranty replaced) but over all it is a very solid and comfortable ride. I paid a little less than what the Windsor costs. Seems like a good value.

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    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Well I'd love to know more details about that.

    I had a folding bike with 20' wheels with v-brakes that had brakes that would squeal painfully at the front. Swapped out the v-brakes, still squealed. Cleaned rims.... still squealed. Changed brake pads to Koolstop salmons... still squealed.... I was beginning to think it was the rims as they were a cheap wheelset.

    I was almost at the end of my tether until I decided to use a fork brace -voila! Mind you, will still squeal under really heavy braking but it's vastly improved.

    I know different brake levers can pull different lengths -but sometimes that seemingly insignificant 1-2mm difference really is the difference between marginal and really good braking (though this tends to be for short pull brake levers).


    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    A lot of the value of building your own bike goes out of the project if you have to ask the question. Buy a well set-up bike and then start substituting parts as you gain experience with alternatives you feel you need as you get some experience. If you are in Toronto, you should visit the Urbane Peddler, they will build you the bike you want and allow you to substitute parts, or use existing components you may own.

    I know from personal experience that it is possible to build your own bike and get some things badly wrong. I have been wrenching on bikes for 40 years, but I never had a bike with cantis and drops. So when I bought a touring bike from UP, one of the parts I decided to fill from my own stock, after extensive research, was the brakes. What a disaster, I went through quite a few tours changing brakes in and out and gradually getting something that worked on the fork in question. Just bad luck, but even substituting bling components didn't solve my problem until I finally figured it out. Good learning experience in a number of regards.

  16. #16
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I built an LHT up from a frame. I didn't keep careful track, but I'd guess I spent about half again as much as the complete would have cost, and that doesn't include the cost of all the tools I bought.

    The positives for doing it was that I had fun, learned a lot, and ended up with a lot of tools I'll hopefully use again in the future.

    The negatives were the cost and the fact that it took quite awhile. If you don't have another bike to ride in the meantime you might get impatient.

    I think the only way to make a build-up from a frame economical is if you have a ton of suitable parts already. I know people with a bike with nice components will often buy a new frame and move the components over to the new frame, then sell the old frame on Ebay. (I've bought a couple of them.)

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    Thanks everyone, some great advice..

    Unfortunately I'm very much starting from scratch...no tools, no stockpile of spares etc.

    I had a bunch of tools in the UK but moved to canada a few years back, and my garage full of stuff was pretty much left behind, so I think money-wise at this stage its a easy decision.

    I'd definitely rather buy new, than used. For no other reason than I fancy a new bike.


    The Windsor looks to be a good bike for the money, I'm assuming it would be worth upgrading the wheels or atleast spokes, as Ive read of a few problems with breaking/bending etc.

    Another bike ive noticed to be of good value is the Aurora, not read too much about this, but a warranty on the frame and a good price certainly make it tempting.

    One of the things I'm struggling with in all this is the naming and quality of the components, eg. models of brakes/cranksets/derailleur etc

    Im really clueless as to the differences between qualities, I really dont know my deore's from my tiagra's. Is there a thread that deals with the 'perfect' set of components on a touring bike or are there any particular things I should be looking for?

    I'm sure Im splitting hairs, I'm riding a crappy mountain bike full time so i'm sure anything better will feel awesome, but I guess i want the best I can afford, with as little a chance of stuff breaking along the way...

    Thanks again everyone, this is a really valuable resource to all the newbies like me, the help is really appreciated.

    Cheers

  18. #18
    weirdo
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    A wheel upgrade to a budget bike wouldn`t be a bad idea. Respoking a wheel is also possible, but IMO if you`re going to buy new spokes you may as well go the extrra step and get nice rims while you`re at it. And if you`re going to get new spokes and rims....

    Do a search on the Aurora if it interests you- it stars in a thread now and then. Nice bike, especially if you want a part time tourer and part time roadie.

    Perfect? There`s a can of worms for ya!

    Basic Shimano component level scheme (bottom to top):
    Road- Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura Ace
    Mountain- Alivio, Deore, LX (now called SLX, I think), XT, XTR
    There are a few components that don`t fit into those "levels", but you aren`t likely to run into them on a factroy spec. Pretty much ANY component labeled with the levels listed above should do you fine. In many cases, the "higher" levels aren`t going to be stronger (and maybe even less robust), just lighter, prettier and smoother. You might also run into Sram, Tektro, Sugino, etc. These other mfgs put out some plenty good stuff also, but it isn`t so easily broken down in a nice "ladder" format like the Shimano levels.
    Last edited by rodar y rodar; 07-29-09 at 03:31 PM.

  19. #19
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    I remember when I was a kid the Shimano stuff was in a 'ladder' format, I was assuming they had changed, but thanks for the beakdown, I had no idea what order they were in!

    Ive been looking around at bikes, and because my tour is starting from the UK, and its where i'm from so shipping, getting things picked up isnt an issue, thought i'd look into a few dealers there..

    Anyone heard of the 'Ridgeback Panorama' It seems to have a fairly desirable set of components, and comes fully 'loaded' with front back rack, bottle cages etc. It is more expensive at 999pounds but i'd be buying two (so could haggle..hopefully) and I have an english credit card still so shouldnt get too badly crucified by the exchange rate.

    http://www.ridgeback.co.uk/index.php...show_bike=TRUE

    The only issue would be buying sight unseen, and bringing a decent saddle with me.

    It would also save me from travelling overseas with the bikes twice, could be a good option for me, unless any of you see a glaring fault with choosing this bike...again wheels could be an issue???

    Thanks again

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    Heres a pic, hope this works

  21. #21
    Senior Member m_yates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonsey02 View Post
    Thanks everyone, some great advice..

    Unfortunately I'm very much starting from scratch...no tools, no stockpile of spares etc.

    I had a bunch of tools in the UK but moved to canada a few years back, and my garage full of stuff was pretty much left behind, so I think money-wise at this stage its a easy decision.

    I'd definitely rather buy new, than used. For no other reason than I fancy a new bike.


    The Windsor looks to be a good bike for the money, I'm assuming it would be worth upgrading the wheels or atleast spokes, as Ive read of a few problems with breaking/bending etc.

    Another bike ive noticed to be of good value is the Aurora, not read too much about this, but a warranty on the frame and a good price certainly make it tempting.

    One of the things I'm struggling with in all this is the naming and quality of the components, eg. models of brakes/cranksets/derailleur etc

    Im really clueless as to the differences between qualities, I really dont know my deore's from my tiagra's. Is there a thread that deals with the 'perfect' set of components on a touring bike or are there any particular things I should be looking for?

    I'm sure Im splitting hairs, I'm riding a crappy mountain bike full time so i'm sure anything better will feel awesome, but I guess i want the best I can afford, with as little a chance of stuff breaking along the way...

    Thanks again everyone, this is a really valuable resource to all the newbies like me, the help is really appreciated.

    Cheers
    The Windsor Tourist is a very good deal. I have somewhere around 3500 miles on my 2008 Windsor Tourist. Most of those miles are commuting with rear panniers not carrying much weight, but I have taken a couple of short weekend fully loaded tours. The wheels aren't a problem, but I did break one spoke this year. After 2500 miles, I repacked the hubs and replaced two pitted cones. The front hub dustcap design is poor, but I think this might have been fixed (Fuji had a recall related to this).

    My advice would be to just by the bike and ride it. Replace stuff when it breaks. To be safe, you should get it checked out by a bike mechanic first, but I wouldn't start by assuming new wheels are needed on day 1.

    The stock tires and brake pads don't last that long, but you should easily get 1000 miles out of them, maybe more depending on your weight and how hilly your ride is. I now use Schwalbe Marathon tires and Koolstop brake pads that last longer. But, I would just ride the bike with the stock stuff until something breaks or wears out.

    Building a bike up from scratch really isn't cheaper, the components cost way more individually purchased than when sold with a bike. In fact, the components on the Windsor Tourist probably would cost as much as the whole bike is purchased individually new. In fact, if you learn bike mechanic skills, you could sell any components you don't like as new on ebay, then set up the bike exactly as you want it. If I had it to do all over again, here is what I'd do (since I like bar end shifters, but this is all personal choice):

    1. Buy a Windsor Toursist

    2. Sell the Tiagra STI levers, pedals, handlebars, stem, and saddle as new on ebay.

    3. Buy bar end shifters, tektro brake levers, nitto technomic stem, nitto noodle handlebars, Brooks B-17 saddle, and MKS touring platform pedals. I'd buy as much of that as possible on ebay using the paypal money accumulated by selling off components.

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