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  1. #1
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Building a bike up -Is it worth it? Your choice....

    Well I did it. It could certainly be considered to be a foolhardy financial move, but nevertheless, I did it.

    From this:

    to this:

    Originally I found an old Specialized Hard Rock frame in a junk yard (hidden away in the back of a car trunk -a frame with a crankset, rear and front derailleur, brakes and nothing else. Of course, I had to have it for $4.

    And of course, my first financial mistake was to start "decorating" it with more appropriate components. Fast forward and my $4 junk bike soon became my commuter bike and a backup tourer (I toured the Yorkshire Dales in the UK in 2008 with it).

    But the frame really was an offence to my eyes; it was an absolutely horrible anaemic green to torquoise blue fade -an accident of the early 1990's I would guess. Try as I might, I could not really love this bike until this crime of colour taste had been fully prosecuted.

    So fast forward to this christmas just passed, and my parents in law had given me some money. I have to say rather unusually for me, I decided to spend the money on something I wanted rather than really needed. and for as long as I could recall, while browsing in the local bikes section of craigslist (after all, one might get a perfectly good bike frame for $4, right?) I would see an advert for Scott of Long Beach Custom Fabrications, situated about 35 miles away from me. After a quick email with Scott just after Christmas, I was quoted a price of $96 to strip and powder coat the frame. I was in!

    My hands worked feverishly and the bike was stripped down that evening, and dropped off the very next day. In just less than 2 weeks, Scott called me back to say the frame was ready -I'd chosen gloss black to give a toned down utilitarian look. I drove down after work one week day and picked it up. I have to say I'm very impressed; the frame really does look brand spanking new -I love it.



    Very often I read on this message board about people asking if building a bike is a viable option -let this post serve as a cautionary tale about this! As nice as my "new" frame looks, cold logic exposes the full account of my financial foolhardiness:

    frame: $4 + $96 = $100
    tyres: $38
    inner tubes =$10
    cables = $15
    wheelset= $150
    brakeset = $30
    fenders = $20
    brakepads = $11
    front rack = $10
    front pannier racks = $26
    rear rack = $20
    bottom bracket = $30
    crankset = $35
    chain = $30
    front derailleur = $30
    rear derailleur = $30
    rear cassette = $30
    handlebars = $20
    brake levers = $5
    gearshifters = $15
    seat post = $18
    wheel/seatpost skewers = $20
    bottle cages = $10
    stem = $30
    quill adaptor = $20
    spacers = $5
    saddle = $100
    grips = $10
    pedals = $35

    total = $903

    So, yes, hardly a bargain! Now admittedly I did have some spare parts (and I built the wheelset myself) so in some way I could say it did not cost me that much -probably closer to $500-$600 spaced out over 3-4 years. But still, it's still not economical -and had I not got the parts or paid for a bike mechanics services, it might well have cost more than a $1,000!

    The positive side? I have a "new" bike that makes a perfect commuter and secondary touring bike, and I have the pride knowing that I built it up. For me, the pleasure its given me and knowing I have a "one of a kind" makes up the downside financially.

    Would I recommend anyone to do this? From an objective viewpoint, definitely not -the costs are so close to a new touring bike such as the pre-built LHT. But if you love bikes, have the mechanical knowledge and spare parts, the thought of creating a one of a kind bike with your own sweat equity can be very appealing.

    Kudos to Scott of Long Beach Custom Fabrication of Plymouth, MA, he was a pleasure to deal with.
    Last edited by Nigeyy; 01-24-10 at 06:33 PM.

  2. #2
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Sometimes the costs don't matter... You have something you built and enjoy. Thanks for sharing.
    Save 15% on your first order at Hammer Nutrition!!

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  3. #3
    Senior Member CNY James's Avatar
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    i built my own this winter along a similar platform. it as my first build. a lot of people told me not to bother, the money etc and I respected their advice. I was able to complete my build around $500. Sure nothing was top top shelf and I do still have some things to buy, a new saddle and racks in particular but I am happy that I had the experience, I learned a lot, and I got my bike exactly the way I wanted it. I was able to save some money on frame refinishing, I liked my base color and I used Nu Finish Scratch Doctor to clean it up. I also used my old derailers.

    I like your bike, it came out great.

  4. #4
    Senior Member mojopt's Avatar
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    What is the worth of personal satisfaction?

    Here is a bike I assembled. I am currently in the process of converting the cockpit with ergo bars and Shimano brifters.

    It may end up costing more than a stock bike but I don't care. Not only is this bike my daily rider but also my hobby.

    As you know, most moderately priced bikes will have some good components and skimp on others to keep the cost down. If you assemble it yourself you have the option of where you put your money.

    I've got a mix of DA, Ultegra, and 105. All bought used at reasonable prices. It also gives me a good deal of pride knowing it is "one of a kind" built with my own two hands.

    Best regards,

    Mike

  5. #5
    hello roadfix's Avatar
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    Usually, additional cost is not a factor for those who enjoy and love to build.

    In my case, I already had over 90% of used parts and components laying around so it made more sense for me to just buy the frameset only. That's exactly what I did when I built up my Surly LHT five years ago.

    .cinelli.olympic.surly.long.haul.trucker.kona.ku.surly.steamroller.
    .litespeed.classic.litespeed.firenze.bianchi.pista.dean.colonel.plus.more.

  6. #6
    Senior Member emarg0ed's Avatar
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    Now that I've built up two bikes I can't see having a bike any other way. Building it up to my exact specifications and wishes is amazing, plus building it myself is the best feeling of all (short of riding it, of course!).

    I've built one bike w/ leftover parts lying around my workshop, and one w/ mostly new parts. The second one was obviously more expensive but to me it's worth the extra cost.

  7. #7
    Gouge Away kaliayev's Avatar
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    Agree with you guys that the only way to go is building your own. It might cost a little more, or not, but you get the bike you want!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Nice bike -are those Paul's Thumbies there?

    Quote Originally Posted by mojopt View Post
    Here is a bike I assembled. I am currently in the process of converting the cockpit with ergo bars and Shimano brifters.

    It may end up costing more than a stock bike but I don't care. Not only is this bike my daily rider but also my hobby.

    As you know, most moderately priced bikes will have some good components and skimp on others to keep the cost down. If you assemble it yourself you have the option of where you put your money.

    I've got a mix of DA, Ultegra, and 105. All bought used at reasonable prices. It also gives me a good deal of pride knowing it is "one of a kind" built with my own two hands.

    Best regards,

    Mike

  9. #9
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I personally have no interest in building up my bikes. I'd rather let a seasoned pro do it, I also don't need anything so special that a shop can't do it.

    It's also worth noting that for the bottom-line reasons you noted, it's rarely worth it to buy a used bike and fix it up. I mean, you went from a $4 frame to a $900 investment!

    Of course, if you enjoy it and it improves your wrenching skills, it's clearly worth it and money shouldn't figure much into your evaluation of its validity as a project.

  10. #10
    Senior Member iforgotmename's Avatar
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    Very nice...I built my own also. You are not alone in your financial stupidity

  11. #11
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    The two bikes that I built up myself are mine, there are no bikes quite like them anywhere, and everything on them is just what I wanted. I probably could have saved a fair bit by getting an off the rack commuter bike, but where do I find a bike with mustache bars, a Brooks B-17, a decent (Shimano 3N-71) hub dynamo, studded tires and fenders? Besides, I haven't seen a lugged steel MTB frame in a bike shop in years. The tourer has a custom frame and I've swapped parts and made upgrades over the years. Between components that you can't buy any more (TA Zephyr triple crankset, Tange Super Roller headset with tapered roller bearings) and just plain unusual parts (Nitto Randonneur handlebars, 26" wheels on a 58cm frame), I'm very confident that there isn't another bike like mine anywhere.

  12. #12
    hello roadfix's Avatar
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    But, since we're talking about touring bikes, you should at least have some wrenching skills before venturing out into the middle of nowhere......
    .cinelli.olympic.surly.long.haul.trucker.kona.ku.surly.steamroller.
    .litespeed.classic.litespeed.firenze.bianchi.pista.dean.colonel.plus.more.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Jtgyk's Avatar
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    I started out my build with the goal of building my tourer for around $400....and could have with the parts I had on hand.
    But as I was building I started thinking "Deore DX would be good" and "New wheels would be great" and "I really don't NEED a new honey colored B17 but it sure would look good".

    I stopped keeping track after I crossed the $600 mark, but I estimate that I wound up around $800 + and still had some used components.
    If I'd just bought a new bike, I could have bought a new Randonee on special from REI for less than $850.
    I have to say, though, that I'm very happy with my build and like the ride so much that I'm culling my bikes down to the tourer and a back-up commuter.
    That, and I know EXACTLY how my bike functions now and have confidence that I could fix what might go wrong with it.





    Last edited by Jtgyk; 01-24-10 at 09:09 PM.
    Hey, I'm just this GUY...you know?
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  14. #14
    Senior Member clasher's Avatar
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    Beautiful bike!

    I think building up a bike can be very rewarding. I have an old hybrid frame I'm hoping to add some braze-ons to, and get it powdercoated one day. If you have good luck finding deals on used components and bikes you can save a few bucks. I think it's great to put an older bike back into service too instead of just buying a new one... it's a shame to make bicycles into something disposable.

  15. #15
    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    at the present time, I have 8 bikes and two were purchased as complete bikes. I find it fun to chose the components and scour for deals and assemble it. When it is finally completed, I have a bike that I wanted. My problem is that I always look for the dream frame. Also when I am searching for components it seems that I gain quite a bit of knowledge on the newer components.
    I don't do vintage, I bought them new, rode them, kept them. Now they are just old bikes
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustercrb/sets/72157623483647522/

  16. #16
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    That's an incredibly important point to note -and one I want to stress to anyone thinking of the building up a bike route. I got a frame for next to nothing, and if you look at the prices I quote for components, I also think I shopped very wisely. Even then, the costs really just do not make sense.

    In terms of costs, the best way to build a bike up is without a doubt if you have some components already (fortunately I did, but again, I reckon over 3-4 years I invested $400-$600 in it). And even if you do have components already, usually it means you had to purchase them in the first place anyway.

    Straying slightly from topic, if you want to convert an old mtb to a tourer, it is feasible cost wise but only if you keep the original drive chain and most of the original components. Once you start that rocky road to upgrading and adding on parts, well.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    I personally have no interest in building up my bikes. I'd rather let a seasoned pro do it, I also don't need anything so special that a shop can't do it.

    It's also worth noting that for the bottom-line reasons you noted, it's rarely worth it to buy a used bike and fix it up. I mean, you went from a $4 frame to a $900 investment!

    Of course, if you enjoy it and it improves your wrenching skills, it's clearly worth it and money shouldn't figure much into your evaluation of its validity as a project.

  17. #17
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I've built up four bikes. It's more expensive than buying a complete, but it's lots of fun, and quite rewarding. One advantage is that you don't have to come up with all the money at once. You can buy a derailleur this month, a crankset next month, etc. Eventually you'll have a complete bike, and it won't seem quite so much like you've overspent (if you're good at rationalizing, of course.) At the moment I don't have a worthy project going, and I miss it.

  18. #18
    Senior Member bobframe's Avatar
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    I think your financial analysis misses the point...

    In addition to a nice bike, you also bought and recieved a comprehensive training program in what your bike is made of, how all those pieces fit together and are properly adjusted.

    Don't know what the value of the last piece is but it may prove to be invaluable at some point on your next big adventure.

    I think you got a very good deal!!!

  19. #19
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    those bikes aren't that heavy, gf has a hard rock and it's lighter than my Surly.

  20. #20
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    I've been considering building one for my wife. That you got the frame powdercoated for under $100 is encouraging. Since I have access to wholesale parts, I figure I can put together a decent bike for around $500, if I can just find the right frame to start with. I'm being kind of picky about that, so I don't know if/when I'll get to this project.

    And really, how does your $900 bike compare to a comparably priced new bike? As long as the frame is not damaged in any way, I'd say you probably came out just fine. Plus it's a lot easier to get a $900 bike in small installments than as one big lump sum cost.
    Last edited by neil; 01-25-10 at 10:01 AM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member oldride's Avatar
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    Another thing that might be considered is resale value. An older rebuilt bike is unlikely to have as high of a resale value as a newer name brand bike that may have cost the same as a rebuild. I converted a mid 90s MTB to a tourer but only did minimal upgrades so as to not have much invested (and lost) when I sell the bike. But building a bike is fun, just not the most cost effective way.

  22. #22
    Senior Member ZiP0082's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaliayev View Post
    Agree with you guys that the only way to go is building your own. It might cost a little more, or not, but you get the bike you want!
    +1. I'm working on a touring build currently and it's a lot of fun to source used & new parts

  23. #23
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    At best the 903 is really 630, since the powder coating clearly doesn't count. That's a luxury (good for you), when you get an LHT complete, you don't get custom PC. The saddle, is also something you don't get on a $900 bike, and there are some items like the the racks, fenders that are accessories and add up to another 70. For 630 you did save money. The only thing I can't tell from the list and prices is whether you got good stuff, and really got what you wanted. Getting pressed into buying the "wrong" stuff because they are inside the budget is no better than because they are in the package. Possibly the reason all custom bikes seem to have a CK headset on them is that it sets the tone of excess, so that one doesn't compromise, even on any of the stuff that might make a difference.

  24. #24
    Wanderlust burtonridr's Avatar
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    Whats wrong with the teal blue

    Before ($40)



    After: (about $150 later, salvaged racks and upgrades from other bikes for free)



    It works AWESOME for commuting, I can wait to tour with it.

    BTW I envy the black powder coat job, it looks so nice
    -Early 90's(maybe late 80's?) specialized hardrock, touring setup
    -2000 specialized stump jumper, trail fun

    **Bike Saddle - The Biggest Pain In Your Butt (would really love your comments, ratings and reviews on Brooks Touring saddles and other saddles) :)

  25. #25
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Just want to say that is one nice looking bike! I love the colour -I debated long and hard before opting for that gloss black. But that colour green is really gorgeous. I've always been partial to a nice deep luscious green.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jtgyk View Post
    I started out my build with the goal of building my tourer for around $400....and could have with the parts I had on hand.
    But as I was building I started thinking "Deore DX would be good" and "New wheels would be great" and "I really don't NEED a new honey colored B17 but it sure would look good".

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