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  1. #1
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    LHT Complete or Frame Build-up?

    I'm about to purchase a LHT, but am wondering what people think of buying the complete bike vs just the frame and building it up. I've never built up a bike before and don't know exactly how to go about picking out components. Is there a list somewhere? Plus my mechanic skills are lacking (I know they have to improve before any long trips) so I have to keep in mind the cost of having my LBS build up the frame. Obviously with the complete bike, I would change the seat but don't know how much else I would change.

    I'm sure you guys have experience with both. Any recommendations?

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    Buy the complete, it will be cheaper that way and it has a good parts selection. If there's something in particular you don't like, you can have your bike shop swap it.
    ...

  3. #3
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paulthewall View Post
    I'm about to purchase a LHT, but am wondering what people think of buying the complete bike vs just the frame and building it up. I've never built up a bike before and don't know exactly how to go about picking out components. Is there a list somewhere? Plus my mechanic skills are lacking (I know they have to improve before any long trips) so I have to keep in mind the cost of having my LBS build up the frame. Obviously with the complete bike, I would change the seat but don't know how much else I would change.

    I'm sure you guys have experience with both. Any recommendations?
    I would go with the complete.

    BTW: Why would you obviously change the seat? My impression is that it is a nice saddle. Saddles are a personal preference thing and you may or may not like it, but I don't think that anything should be assumed. I'd recommend that you ignore the saddle hype you read here and give it a chance. If after 500 miles you hate it, swap it out. Reading here you would get the impression that a Brooks is the only way to go, but on the road while on tour they were a tiny minority by my observation.

  4. #4
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    You will probably get a better deal by buying the complete bike.I reall haven't changed much on mine except the saddle and I've added racks,fenders.

  5. #5
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    I'd build the bike up, not because there is anything wrong with the components on the complete bike, but because there would be little variations that I would prefer to see and I wouldn't have the patience to wait until the stock components failed before replacing (maybe they'll never fail). Also, not all bike shops are willing to swap out components for a reasonable cost.

    But the biggest reason for building up the bike yourself is that you'll force yourself to learn bike mechanics at least pertaining to your own bike. If you can wean yourself away from depending on an LBS, you'll save tons of money for "tune-ups" and can be more independent when touring. Of course, you'll have to invest in tools, but then again you'll only have the tools for your bike.

    I know that picking components that work best for you and learning how to properly install them may be intimidating. But it's all part of the fun.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by paulthewall View Post
    I'm about to purchase a LHT, but am wondering what people think of buying the complete bike vs just the frame and building it up. I've never built up a bike before and don't know exactly how to go about picking out components. Is there a list somewhere? Plus my mechanic skills are lacking (I know they have to improve before any long trips) so I have to keep in mind the cost of having my LBS build up the frame. Obviously with the complete bike, I would change the seat but don't know how much else I would change.

    I'm sure you guys have experience with both. Any recommendations?
    Unless you want to spend a lot of $$ I'd say go with complete. I priced several different bike frames and the cost with equipping them with even just the stock components and it ends up being far more expensive. The componentry on the LHT is pretty good and should do you well to start off. You can always upgrade components later if need be.
    08 Surly Crosscheck (Misty Mountain Grey)
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  7. #7
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    Unless you want to do something really different with your bike a custom build makes little sence. You have the advantage of buying the parts allready assembled and at a much better purchase price. Do yourself a favor and add up the cost of parts on the complete and then go and shop those same parts and see how you come out. I my case, I wanted what I considered my dream touring bike so I could justify the expense for hand made wheels, CK hubs etc. However if you want something to ride right now, buy a complete, ride it and then change what you don't like or want to improve on. You'll be money ahead and you'll be riding at the same time.
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  8. #8
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    It's true that you'll not be able to beat the price of the complete bike even if you shop aggressively (for those same components). But if the knowledge gained by building your own means no trips to the LBS, that savings should be factored in.

    And I think all would agree that the wheelset can be improved upon - even though the one spec'ed is good enough. Dyad or Mavic A719 rims (assuming 700c) and Phil Wood or White Industries (etc) hubs, for example. If you're a clyde or extremely loaded you can go to 40 or 48 holes. And that wheelset can be readily transferred to another bike, so there shouldn't be any fretting that you're putting Porshe parts on a VW.

    I have added up the cost (many times) of building my own and I have never saved money, but I got a bike that I was happier with. If money were everything, we'd buy our bikes from Goodwill.

  9. #9
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    Since you did not mention cost or time constraints, it seems lack of bike mechanical skills is your main issue in the decision.

    If so, and you really want to learn, then building bike up from frameset is the ideal opportunity to see how it all works.

    Most of the assembly is not difficult. Even derailers (despite widespread belief to the contrary) are pretty easy, really. Running housing with just the right length is deceptively difficult (tip: cut all housing at handlebar extra long, because you'll end up having to make adjustments with changes in stem/bar height).

    The most difficult part is building wheels (mostly the rear wheel), which requires a light touch and much patience, depending on your personal tolerance for runout. Most buy a wheelset and skip this step.

    I vote "frameset" and DIY. You'll never learn much besides fixing flats otherwise.

    I was shocked the other day to learn that a friend who's been riding bikes for years had never repaired a flat - he didn't even know what a patch kit was. He just buys tubes and swaps them. I'm still dumbstruck at this notion. I have a tube on my bike now with 5 patches (PR is 8).

    The DIY route will cost more. The process of selecting components generally leads one to make choices of more expensive, higher quality parts - plus you're buying them at inflated retail prices. You will most likely end up with extra parts, simply because you don't like them once they're in hand, or they don't fit well, or you simply made a mistake. Also, the actual process of picking parts to construct your bike is in itself highly educational.

    Before you start assembly, you need to treat frame for corrosion prevention. You can buy aerosols made expressly for this job (framesaver) or use boiled linseed oil from the paint aisle at walmart and paper rolled into a long, skinny funnel shape. Takes a week to dry and for stink to abate to lower level. Don't let goo accumulate in BB threads or tubing vent holes.

    You'll need to visit the Local Bike Shop to get headset pressed into headtube, and to have steerer tube cut and star nut set. Bottom bracket tools are pretty inexpensive - the rest is hex wrenches.

    Most "newbies" find this process overwhelming and simply buy a whole bike - that's why LBSs still exist in the internet era.

    If you're handy and perform your own auto and home repairs, then you can build a bike. If you take your car in for oil changes, you should definitely buy a "complete" LHT.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by paulthewall View Post
    I'm about to purchase a LHT, but am wondering what people think of buying the complete bike vs just the frame and building it up. I've never built up a bike before and don't know exactly how to go about picking out components. Is there a list somewhere? Plus my mechanic skills are lacking (I know they have to improve before any long trips) so I have to keep in mind the cost of having my LBS build up the frame. Obviously with the complete bike, I would change the seat but don't know how much else I would change.
    Given what you've said, I'm wondering why you would even consider building your own bike...

    Buying a frame and a bunch of components you know nothing about then dropping the whole lot off at your LBS sounds like a recipe for spending a lot of money and ending up with a less than ideal bicycle. You might do better to buy a complete bike, ride it, then upgrade individual components as you find a need. If you want to learn about maintenance or upgrades, it's often easier to start with a bike that's currently working than to try to build something from the ground up.
    Last edited by sstorkel; 08-06-09 at 12:16 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    It seems silly to spend a bunch of extra money to learn how to maintain or repair your bike by building it up.

    For one thing some of the difficulty of repairing a bike is getting stubborn parts off. Putting a bike together does little to help with that.

    Better to buy the complete, saving a few bucks, and then proceed to learn maintenance and repair by taking a clunker and disassembling it and reassembling it. If you were really set on learning the specifics of your particular bike you could even disassemble it and reassemble it, but I wouldn't want to do that with a brand new bike.

  12. #12
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    There really is no right or wrong, it just depends where your priorities are. I built a custom because I had time and in time I had the money. I bought the parts I wanted as I could afford them and just stock plied them away till I had everything covered. It cost me dearly looking back at the project in terms of the sum but little by little it was no financial stress and I got exactly the bike I wanted.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    It seems silly to spend a bunch of extra money to learn how to maintain or repair your bike by building it up.
    .
    Silly? A different point of view, assuredly. But not silly.

    Some people like to spend money - even more money - to get exactly what they want. Some people get pleasure out of working on their bikes and feel that it doesn't matter that it costs a bit (or a bunch) more money.

    If you put the parts on your bike, you'll know how to take them off.

    If you learn how to repair a bike using a clunker, you'll know how to repair the clunker - not necessarily your bike. If your objective is to be self-sufficient on the road, it's your bike that you'll need to repair. You'll not be a bike mechanic, but you'll know more about your bike than the guy at the bike shop, who may or may not be a mechanic.

    One can tour just fine on the LHT complete. But that's no reason to belittle those who want to make their own decisions about componentry and who love to work on their bikes.
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 08-06-09 at 02:00 PM. Reason: Added stuff to better respond to Pete's post.

  14. #14
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Silly? A different point of view, assuredly. But not silly.
    Don't put words in my mouth. I didn't say it was silly to build your own to get the parts you want. I also didn't say it was silly to do it for the pleasure of doing it.

    I only said it was silly to do it just to learn maintenance and repair. As I said, it is my opinion that it is a poor way to do that anyway. Why? Because many times the challenge of repairs is getting stubborn parts off or dealing with worn or broken things and assembling new parts doesn't do all that much to prepare you for that in my opinion.

    Given that the OP said they don't "know exactly how to go about picking out components" and also that they "have to keep in mind the cost of having my LBS build up the frame" it seems like for the OP a complete would be a much better choice.

  15. #15
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    The first rule in bike building:

    Upon completion, DON"T EVER add up the sum total of your receipts. Trust me on this, you'll enjoy your special toy even more : )

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by paulthewall View Post
    I'm about to purchase a LHT, but am wondering what people think of buying the complete bike vs just the frame and building it up. I've never built up a bike before and don't know exactly how to go about picking out components.
    Price-wise, it's not possible to beat the complete; the retail price to you of the complete bike (assembled) is less than the wholesale price to your LBS of the frame and identical components individually, plus labor to put it all together. And *then* your LBS would mark up all the parts.

    If you chose different parts for a hypothetical personalized build, how would you evaluate whether they were better (or worse) than their analogs on the complete?

    It would definitely be simplest to buy the complete and ride it until parts fall off. By then, you might be forming opinions about what kind of parts you might choose to replace them with.

    And from a purely consumer standpoint, if experience leads you to believe that you can't live with stock parts and you need to replace them before they break, well, set them aside after you replace them and then you might find that you have enough parts set aside to make a new bike, if only you had a good frame to bolt them onto...

  17. #17
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    Part of the reason the deal is so good is because Surly was discouraging dealers who were making markets in Surly frames at low prices. Dealers were willing to sell the frames for 350ish a few years back before the price stuff started. If you gross up the current offering for the stuff that was pure crap, then it probably wasn't all that far out of range to go for the frame at lower prices and build it out, but they wanted to kill that business. Which is normal retail practice, nothing sinister about making your dealers stick to suggested retail, but the frame is obviously overpriced at what the complete bike goes for.

    I think it is a good deal if you don't have a strong opinion on any of the alternative parts yourself. It's a good package, but the only component I would have wanted was the frame, and not even that these days.

  18. #18
    Crazyguyonabike
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    I would say it would be better to get the complete bike in this instance, simply because the original poster states that he has never built up a bike before, has no experience of picking out parts, and his mechanic skills are "lacking". So surely it would be better to get a reasonable pre-defined build (which the Surly LHT complete certainly is) and then learn from this what works for him and what doesn't. Then through the experience of using it and replacing parts slowly over time he'll find out what stuff he prefers. After that, *then* he'd be in a better position to build up a bike from scratch, since he'll really know what he wants.

    Similarly, people should try out and use stock bikes before going for a dream custom built frame - after you've ridden a lot of bikes, then you'll probably have a much better idea of what wheel size, frame material, geometry, fork rake & trail, top tube length, angles etc work based on what you tried before and how they worked for you.

    Learn what works for you by starting with some stock, sensible, pre-defined basics, rather than trying to jump in with customization without real world experience to inform those decisions. A lot of people seem to think that there will be "one true answer" to all these questions, but in reality it really comes down to whatever *you* prefer in a bike, and that can only be gleaned through experience.

    Neil

  19. #19
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    If you don't have the skills nor know the reason for building a bike up I'd suggest getting the complete bike then lighting five hundred dollar bills on fire.

    The reason for buying a bare frame is because you already have the components, the reason for buying a bare frame AND components at retail is because you can and the cost is not an issue. Personally I think if you're going to go for bare frame and parts you should ratchet your budget up to $4000 or so and go crazy. Or go dumpster diving and start with a free frame and build it up with free parts. Either way you'll impress folks with a creatively assembled bike or a Gucci 14spd Rohloff with custom anodizing and leather wrapped bars.

  20. #20
    Senior Member 12bar's Avatar
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    I have the skills and tools to build a bike starting with the bottle cage and it is a lot of fun. For my money the complete bike is a much better deal. That's what I did and then made the following chages
    Replaced the saddle with a Brooks,
    The bar tape went to leather,
    added wood fenders,
    Tubus stainless racks,
    Ortlieb panniers and handle bar bag,
    bottle cages and kick stand,
    and last but not least my Acorn seat bag arrived last night.

    I probably spent as much money on stuff as I did on the bike but now it is totally decked out. Did I mention how much I this bike.
    "It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for someone you love". Blazeman, Warrior Poet

    11 Giant Talon 1, 10 Masi 3VC, 08 Long Haul Trucker, 08 Felt Curbside, 99 Specialized Allez

  21. #21
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    One reason to consider the frameset and not the built-up bike is that the fork with the frameset comes with an uncut steer tube, while the bike's is cut short. For me this is a huge deal as I could not otherwise get the handlebar high enough without the uncut steerer.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hibonite View Post
    One reason to consider the frameset and not the built-up bike is that the fork with the frameset comes with an uncut steer tube, while the bike's is cut short. For me this is a huge deal as I could not otherwise get the handlebar high enough without the uncut steerer.
    Can anyone else confirm this? I think Universal Cycles quotes their complete LHT as being shipped with an uncut steerer tube. And I know my LBS mechanic said they came that way (uncut). What are you other folks seeing that have recently purchased a complete?

  23. #23
    Senior Member wb416's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by akansaskid View Post
    Can anyone else confirm this? I think Universal Cycles quotes their complete LHT as being shipped with an uncut steerer tube. And I know my LBS mechanic said they came that way (uncut). What are you other folks seeing that have recently purchased a complete?
    I just got a complete a couple of weeks ago, but I'm ignorant of steerer tube measurements or what to look for, so I'm not sure I can be of much help.
    Bob
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  24. #24
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    If it looks like a normal bike, and there aren't tons of spacers, you got cut.

  25. #25
    Senior Member wb416's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    If it looks like a normal bike, and there aren't tons of spacers, you got cut.
    I don't know if you can tell by this pic or not.
    Bob
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