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  1. #1
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    Building a tri bike from the ground up?

    Hey guys. I've been lurking for the forums for a few weeks now. I've dug up tons of excellent info in the forums and wanted to thank you all for that.

    But there is one topic I haven't been able to find a lot of info on......building your own tri bike. As a mechanical engineer, I enjoy taking apart (read destroying) mechanical objects of all sorts. However, I haven't found many DIY posts. Also, i haven't found much info that would point a newbie in the right direction regarding what types of frame/components to look for/compare.

    So I've got 2 questions:
    • Where can I find decent DIY posts/manuals/walkthroughs on tri bike building?
    • What are some good sources that compare/contrast frames and components? Maybe something that could guide a newb's parts list during his first bike build?


    I'm 6'2" and 190 lbs if that helps at all. Thanks for the help, it's greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Senior Member 12bar's Avatar
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    Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bike Maintenance is a good book to start with.
    "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

  3. #3
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    I am currently trying to to convert a road bike into a "tri" bike. You can find a lot of information on these forums or the bikesportmichigan website seems to be the most complete. If you are trying to a build a frame and need geometries then you can get those from bike manufacturer's websites. But if you have a bike now and would like to make it in a tri bike there are a couple ways to do this. From what I have gathered you may or may not need the following it depends on how well your bike will adjust to the new geometry:
    1. Aero bars (adjustable or fixed)
    2. Fast forward or zero degree offset seat post
    3. Handlebar stem
    4. Saddle
    5. Aero bar brake levers and gear shifts

    For fitting the bike the best reference I could find was the "F.I.S.T." system. Google it and read the 12 articles and it will lead you through how to fit yourself. And if you don't understand just go to a bike shop and pay a $100 for a fit plus they will tell what to buy.

  4. #4
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    Do the same post at www.slowtwitch.com forum

  5. #5
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    Custom building your very own tri bike opens up so many good possibilities. If you get your geometry sorted out from your research, you can build a frame that will bring out the best potential from your God-given physique. Obviously you need to already understand the basic fundamentals of frame design before you attempt a tri-bike design. I've only had one opportunity to build a tri-bike (for my wife) around six years ago and for whatever it's worth, here's a few tips I've learnt along the way:

    1) Learn the correct tri riding position and what your body is capable of achieving. It is different from road cycling posture - and from everyone elses for that matter. Mind you, I built the bike back in the day when drafting was illegal. I've heard that all changed now...

    2) Start from a current bike frame, lean against a wall and place your body in what you consider to be the desired or ideal tri position (cranks at 12 and 6 o'clock), and have someone take a photo side-on, right side. Make a scaled 2D drawing of it in a computer, or find a way to scale the photo up 100% and trace it onto a large sheet of paper. This is your starting point.

    3) When you are contemplating various geometry and technical advice from your research, you can try it out on paper first and evaluate it's relevance and effect to your posture.

    4) In as much as you are focused on engineering or aerodynamic or ergonomic aspects of your design, don't neglect the "legal" aspects. No point spending all that time and effort in building a tri-bike that may be deemed illegal by race officials... especially keep an eye out for the new rulings about the exact placement and limits of where the bars should be in relation to the front axle or wheel tip, and whatever else new you can find, etc, etc.

    5) And as in the case of my wife, she couldn't make the transition to the ideal tri-position in one go, as it was too disorienting for her at first, and it affected her balance and confidence at speed. So we eased her into it by setting the tri-bars high at first and lowered it gradually over a 6 month period. By then her confidence grew and she wound that bike up like a pro, and stayed relaxed and comfortable in what I still think is a bizarre position for extended periods of time. She'd won a few races and medals on it too (in her age group). It certainly helped in her poorest discipline - the cycling stage (still is - she hates cycling ).

    None of this is dogma of course, I'm just sharing how I did things at the time. Glean from it what's helpful and ignore what doesn't apply for your situation. The bike is just hanging in the garage now, my wife no longer does triathlon and I think in some events the bike is now illegal. We had a great deal of fun though... good memories.

    I hope your project goes well and please post some photos of your creation when the time comes.

    .

  6. #6
    triathlete? roadie? MTB? caelric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pocko View Post
    Mind you, I built the bike back in the day when drafting was illegal. I've heard that all changed now...
    Drafting is still illegal in ALMOST all triathlons, with the exception of a few olympic distance tris, that have a seperate pro race where drafting is legal only for the pros. The long (Iron) distance tris are still exclusively draft illegal, and most of the others are as well, except for, as a I mentioned, the pro category in a few races.

    Us age groupers are still completely draft illegal.

    Of course, one thing to mention is that there is a fair amount of cheating going on, depending on how strictly the officials monitor and assess penalties for drafting. But you still have to look at yourself in the mirror next day.
    Go Fast By Any Means, my triathlon/motor sports blog

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    I'm going to assume that you know the basics of fit and that you've researched frames that would be appropriate for you. I'm certainly not a fit expert, and the advice given by Pocko, above, certainly seems pretty good. If you're still mystified about proper fit, do as others have suggested and read up on it at Slowtwitch or pay a F.I.S.T.-certified fitter to help you.

    At any rate, I have done this, and I know next-to-nothing about bikes. I second the recommendation of Zinn's book, although I would also supplement his triathlon book with his Art of Road Bike Maintenance. Between the two, I had a very good idea of where to go.

    In addition, the Park Tools web site has some good tutorials on how to install and perform basic maintenance on components.

    Keep in mind that - while building a bike is great experience and will teach you a lot about how to be your own mechanic - you're not going to end up saving money.

    I built my bike with a new frame, used wheels and a combination of cheap-but-new and used components. It cost me about the same as buying a new bike with the same quality of components.

    And that's before buying all the specialized tools you're going to need. I got away without some things, like a torque wrench, but you're going to need a bottom bracket tool, a chain tool, pedal wrench and probably some other things I'm forgetting.

    That said, I learned a lot about how everything on my bike works and I now have most of the skills necessary to perform basic maintenance and repairs. In the long run, that will probably save me some cash.

    It's actually a lot easier than I thought, and as a mechanical engineer, you should have little difficulty.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Bell View Post
    Keep in mind that - while building a bike is great experience and will teach you a lot about how to be your own mechanic - you're not going to end up saving money...
    Excellent point E-Bell and it should be well noted. Although building your own bike sounds like it should all end up cheaper and save some money, in reality it's quite the opposite. Buying or sourcing one part at a time at retail prices is a killer. It would help if you have some industry contacts where you could get parts wholesale or discounted. Buying a second hand bike with all the components you need (or like) is always another good option, and then you can hack away at that.

    The most expensive component on my wife's tri-bike is the saddle, believe it or not! At the time, there was only "one" tri saddle, from memory it was a Selle Italia unit with a extra long and fat nose. Every other saddle we tried gave her grief and groin pain on events with long cycle sections. Seeing as the saddle wasn't available in our country, we had to order it from the USA and pay the freight. I have no memory of the cost, my subconscious had erased it from my mind because of the financial trauma. Hypnosis might bring it back, but...

    I thought I saw (on a quick glance) an almost near identical saddle from a 2008 Velo catalogue just recently. I would expect that to be a cheaper alternative for today's triathletes.

    Cheers!

    .

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by caelric View Post
    Drafting is still illegal in ALMOST all triathlons, with the exception of a few olympic distance tris, that have a seperate pro race where drafting is legal only for the pros. The long (Iron) distance tris are still exclusively draft illegal, and most of the others are as well, except for, as a I mentioned, the pro category in a few races.

    Us age groupers are still completely draft illegal...
    Great! Good! I for one am not a fan of the draft legal format. Personally I think this format places certain triathletes in a disadvantage, those whose strength lie in the cycling stage, where they would normally be able to recoup the time lost from their two other weaker disciplines.

    Furthermore in draft-legal events, somehow the intensity is lost when watching a "cycle tour" placed in the middle of what should've been a "pedal to the metal" match of all three disciplines. The day I saw bunched-up cyclists using the cycle stage to conserve their energy for the up and coming run, was when I lost interest in watching tri. To see an irate cyclist in the lead wave and demand the other cyclist to pass him was just too weird. Also, time and again should an outstanding cyclist break out of the pack, the following group of drafting riders would just pull the exhausted leader back in no time. The injustice is just too excruciating to watch. I'm talking about the olympic style draft-legal format from a personal and also a spectator's view point. It is not my intention to belittle the efforts of cyclists who ride in bunch formations as this is a difficult and outstanding feat in itself. I am just sharing a different perspective.

    I'm sure there are valid and legitimate reasons why the draft legal format was introduced. All I'm saying is that I'd rather watch a true TT cycle section in events having the draft-illegal format. PLUS... tri-bikes are the most awesome looking bikes to gawk at!!


    .

  10. #10
    triathlete? roadie? MTB? caelric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pocko View Post
    To see an irate cyclist in the lead wave and demand the other cyclist to pass him was just too weird..
    What you saw there was one guy getting upset that a bunch of cheaters were drafting off him. Unfortunately, even in the draft illegal events, there are cheaters, and many will get away with it, as there are just not enough course marshalls to enforce it.
    Go Fast By Any Means, my triathlon/motor sports blog

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by caelric View Post
    What you saw there was one guy getting upset that a bunch of cheaters were drafting off him. Unfortunately, even in the draft illegal events, there are cheaters, and many will get away with it, as there are just not enough course marshalls to enforce it.
    It sounds like one too many triathletes had drafted off you caelric, and gotten away with it!

    By the way, where's mech IFR? We're putting a good spread for him here, and still no show from him... maybe he's too busy in the garage making a cyclo-aerofoil of some sort... that or he got locked-in at a pub somewhere...


  12. #12
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    I definitely think building from the ground up is advisable. I tried from the handlebars down and failed dismally

  13. #13
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    ^

  14. #14
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    Here's a trip down memory lane... below is a pic of the Tri-bike I made for my wife, back in the glory days of the "plastic fantastics!" Well, actually this was back in 2003 when they were just beginning to disappear. Love'm or hate'm, the flying wings of old did play a unique part in the history of Triathlon.

    I believe a rule was introduced at some point where a Tri-bike must now have a structural "triangle" (Top tube, Down tube, Seat tube). I would have to assume that my wife's bike would be illegal nowadays... judging on what the latest Cervelos look like... and that SoftRide is no longer.

    Not that it matters, my wife has retired from Tri so the bike is a nostalgia piece for us.
    .


  15. #15
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    ... and here's some close-ups of the cable routing (all internal).

    1) Everything up front goes into the top "blow-hole" (brake/shifter cables, cyclo-computer wires).
    2) Rear brake cable comes out the left side as horizontal as possible.
    3) Rear derailleur cable exits from the right seat stay.
    4) Front derailleur outer cable stays inside the fuselage, just the inner cable hooks out onto the derailleur.

    .

  16. #16
    triathlete? roadie? MTB? caelric's Avatar
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    That is a sweet bike, and a beautiful build!
    Go Fast By Any Means, my triathlon/motor sports blog

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pocko View Post
    I believe a rule was introduced at some point where a Tri-bike must now have a structural "triangle" (Top tube, Down tube, Seat tube). I would have to assume that my wife's bike would be illegal nowadays... judging on what the latest Cervelos look like... and that SoftRide is no longer.
    Not illegal for tri's only under UCI road rules. More gone due to the market share being greater meeting these UCI rules and have a market open to all cyclists keen on the aero advantage rather than just the triathlete market.

    Nice work on the frame!

  18. #18
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    ^ ^^ Cheers guys...

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    Wow, that's an incredible frame. Your wife must be special.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Bell View Post
    Wow, that's an incredible frame. Your wife must be special.
    Thank you E-bell... and yes, she's really special!

    Special in so many ways, but in this instance I really admired her courage in overcoming her fear of cycling. She's never been comfortable with speed (even in a car), and cycling just frightens her. That was part of the reason why I built her that bike, because when we tried out a "road bike" she just found it too scarey. Her old tri-bike was a converted MTB hardtail with 1" road tires and a tri-bar. You'll notice her carbon bike uses 650c wheels which closely resembles the scale and "feel" of her old bike.

    She participated mostly in olympic or international distance triathlons (1.5k swim/40k cycle/10k run). She trained so hard on that bike (it had a positive psychological effect on her). By the time she got over the mental hurdle of the bike section, she was off and was getting consistent podium finishes in her age group. I think her best cycle time was 40km in 1 hour 15mins, enough to get her gold in one year. It may not be all that fast by pro standards, but if you understood where she started from, that cycle time was just unreal. I'm so proud of her!

    .
    Quote Originally Posted by dminor View Post
    Like clever mice, if there is a any crevice to exploit, a chain will find room to jump and derail; you can count on it.

  21. #21
    Lanky G-Raf
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    I spent about 5 months getting the parts together, and I recently built it up.



    Frame: Leader 720TT 63cm Aluminum
    Fork: Off-brand Scott Carbon
    Wheels: Mavick Aksium
    Cranks: SRAM Rival 180mm 53/39
    Front derailleur: Shimano 105 FD 5600
    Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra 6600
    Aerobars: Profile T1
    Shifters: Shimano Dura-ace 10 spd
    Casette: Shimano 105 10spd 12-23
    Break calipers Shimano 105
    Pedals: Cheap shimano
    Saddle: Fizik

    All for a little over $1100

    Let me know what you think.
    Triton Cycling, UC San Diego (grad student)

    UC Irvine class of 2008
    Formerly of Anteater Cycling. Zot Zot Zot.

  22. #22
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    Tell us more about the frame, I've been away from Tri for a while and never heard of "Leader" before. The geometry sticks out straight away and it looks good (low BB height, short chain stay length, steep seat tube angle... it's all there).

    That's a really good price for a custom-build!!... and oh!... yeah, I love black & white too!!

    Out of interest, what is the wheelbase on your bike?

    .

  23. #23
    Lanky G-Raf
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    The bike's overall weight is 21.74 lbs without water bottles

    I have only ridden it about 70 miles so far, but I can tell that the frame is VERY stiff. I like it. I'm a big guy and I can throw down some serious torque. When I'm on the trainer with my road bike (2003 Giant TCR0 61cm) and really cranking I can see it flex back and forth a few millimeters. When I put this thing on the trainer I see no flex at all. It feels as if every part of my stroke is translated to the road.

    The welds for the chain stays were so large that I had to do some sanding down of the plastic mount on the bottom of the bottom bracket that you use to run the shifting cables through. Also, it doesn't come with a seat clamp. But, for $140 it is a lot of bang for the buck. I'm happy with it.

    The wheelbase is 1.045 meters.
    Triton Cycling, UC San Diego (grad student)

    UC Irvine class of 2008
    Formerly of Anteater Cycling. Zot Zot Zot.

  24. #24
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    I, too, built up a Leader, but I spent a little more cash - $250 for the LD-730TT. I just liked the more aero look of the seat tube.



    As you can see, I also put an off-brand Scott fork on there. Specifically, an old Flyte that I found on the Slowtwitch classifieds.

    I didn't have any problems with the welds on mine. It's a great frame for the price, nice and stiff.

    If you search these and the Slowtwitch forums you'll find lots of opinions on the Leader frames, most of them positive.

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