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Can I Do It?/Should I Do It?

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Can I Do It?/Should I Do It?

Old 10-24-11, 02:46 PM
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Can I Do It?/Should I Do It?

As some of you might know, I'm on the hunt for a vintage Italian bike.

But as I wander through all the listings, I see alot of nice frames for sale and now I'm wondering if I should build my bike from the frame up. One problem is, I've never done this before. I am pretty good mechanically, and I think I have the skills to get it done, but I really don't know where to start or if I even should start. Also, I don't have a storage bin of parts on hand like alot of you guys, so I'd have to buy everything.

So a couple of general questions -

1- Are there any helpful books, you-tube videos, web-sites that are helpful?
2 - Where does one start when wanting to do a build-up?
3 - Are parts readily available?
4 - Is this a more cost effective way to get on a nice bike?
5 - Am I nuts to even try?

I know these are very general questions, but any advice to a possible first-timer is appreciated. And to all of you highly skilled mechanics who can build a bike blindfolded, please be nice!
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Old 10-24-11, 02:49 PM
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What size you looking for?
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Old 10-24-11, 02:50 PM
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I'll answer at least 4, It is not the most cost effective. You would be better finding a complete bike or finding a complete bike with a component group you like, take it apart and sell the frame. Good luck.
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Old 10-24-11, 02:59 PM
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1- Are there any helpful books, you-tube videos, web-sites that are helpful?

Park-Tool Site, Sheldon Brown, Even here I found most of the people are very helpful if you can keep your questions straight forward/specific and provide pics to help show what your problem/question is.

2 - Where does one start when wanting to do a build-up?

Again peruse this site and see what others have done.


3 - Are parts readily available?

Depends on how much money you want to spend.

4 - Is this a more cost effective way to get on a nice bike?

Probably not.

5 - Am I nuts to even try?

Welcome to the club, but try not to use the word nuts, it get some of the older curmudgeons scrambling around like blind squirrels.
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Old 10-24-11, 03:17 PM
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1) www.sheldonbrown.com for general info and www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help for step-by-steps

Building from nothing is typically more expensive, and a lot of work. It's not a good idea unless you have very specific desires, or want the learning experience. In those cases, building from nothing is AWESOME.

Last edited by MrEss; 10-24-11 at 03:19 PM. Reason: atmdad beat me to most of it
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Old 10-24-11, 03:20 PM
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I think that's a terrible idea from a financial perspective, especially if you want to use vintage campagnolo parts on your Italian bike. Buying all of the parts used would add up really quickly, well over the amount that it would cost to buy a complete bike. If you are going to go with a new, fully modern group (campy 10 or 11sp) then buying just a frame is a reasonable course of action. If you want to build it up yourself in an attempt to save money then that might not be a bad idea but you'd have to go cheap on the components (shimano).
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Old 10-24-11, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Old Fat Guy View Post
What size you looking for?
I'm looking for a 54"/55", but right now I'm wondering if I should buy the whole bike or just a frame.

So far, the frame build-up doesn't look to be the way to go, but we'll see.
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Old 10-24-11, 03:33 PM
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Depends on what you want.

Personally, I build all my bikes from the frame up. That way, I know what I'm getting and exactly how it was built. Plus, I hardly ever find a complete bike that is configured the way I want it.

Learning how to do it is the easy part. Acquiring the proper tools is what will bite you in the ass.
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Old 10-24-11, 03:34 PM
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great idea - might be more expensive (especially if tooling up is a part of process) - but you'll start getting to know your way around a bike - to me - you can save alot on parts but going cheap - and by cheap i dont mean rusty malfunctioning components - i mean no campy or worrying about period correctness - cruise ebay

you need a frame of course
and the appropriate bottom bracket and crank componentry
headset bars brakes shifters
wheelset
tires
tubes
tape
cables

ok - a little overwhelming sure
at first
but go for it
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Old 10-24-11, 03:36 PM
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I think it's a great idea. At the most you'll end up spending a few extra hundred on parts so long as you stay away from C-Record, and you can think of it as an exploration and learning experience. If they were teaching a course on the subject at your local community college, how would you be willing to pay? Well, think of C&V + youtube + the web as the CC. You can buy a great frame on Ebay that might need a repaint and decals for $200 or less, and then do the cosmetics yourself. If you take your time you can do a rattle can paint job and flawlessly line lugs that'll for a look that's nearly pro - there's already a great thread on the subject. For a 70's project you can buy Nuovo Record instead Super Record, save a lot of dough, and have a bike that would have been worthy of the TdF. For an 80's project you can buy 1st generation Chorus or Athena and save a lot of dough over Record, and have a bike that will actually function better and maybe be a few grams lighter. You can always mix and match from different groups opportunistically and bargains appear, and few will ever know the difference. Good luck.
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Old 10-24-11, 03:40 PM
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If you are mechanically inclined, then you should practice with a current bike. Take it apart, and the put it back together. Me personally would buy the complete bike, and attempt a rebuild in the future. There are a lot of great Italian complete bikes out there that you may find and like for about $500 if you're patient, and can devote the time to look for it. Good luck!

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Old 10-24-11, 03:51 PM
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I think it's good that you are making an immediate leap towards Italian bikes, as if you had started with the typically "more humble" French or maybe, Japanese marques, the price gap between the them is harder to bridge as anything Italian, frame and component-wise, is usually much more expensive as much more people seem to be more attracted to the Italian "exotics". I tried to do the switch towards Italian bikes late last year and the high prices for anything I looked for just put the Kabosh on the whole effort.............so far.......Maybe if it starts raining 80's Masi and Ciocc frames one day.....then I'll still have a chance to taste Italian before I die......

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Old 10-24-11, 03:52 PM
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Honestly there's nothing wrong with starting with a bare frame and putting on it what you want. It will likely be the most expensive option but you have the advantage of getting exactly what you want....as long as you can afford it. One of the nice things about building from a bare frame is that you don't have the Previous Owner's components hanging on there to influence your thoughts. Its like a blank Canvas to a degree and you can limit yourself or not limit yourself however you like.

Where to start is a great question. There's a lot of different answers.... Personally I like to start with a single piece and work around it. Maybe a specific Tire, or a Hub, or a Certain Crankset or Handlebars....or maybe a frameset.

You can go a lot of ways with it....Exact Build as pictured in the Catalog or maybe just Period Correct parts or maybe some period correct parts and some modern, or Full Modern....or a mix of different eras like a 70's frame wearing late-80's components...There's always a few things where you'll run into sizing issues and be forced to use something you didn't intend to but for the most part its up to you.

Another route to go is to decide what you want to DO on the bike and build it accordingly.

If you don't know what you want, now's a good time to go ride some other people's bikes and get some ideas.

I think most folks with a bit of self-control (there's a few of em around) would suggest that you buy a frameset and build it as cheaply as possible and ride it so you can decide if the fit is optimal and if you like the bike enough to go and spend money on a full build-up. Personally I think that's a great idea but I lack self-control.
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Old 10-24-11, 03:54 PM
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OK, the opinions are shifting from don't do it to do it!

Personally, I'm leaning towards a build-up. Winter is coming on quick, and it would be a great project for those long cold days. And this way I can spread out the costs.

I would like Campy gear, but it is not a necessity, although a quick e-bay hunt has some reasonable prices for Nuovo derailleurs or similar. Some period correct Shimano 105 or 600 would be fine or even Ofmega for something different and still cheaper. I think I will start the parts hunt and get a price range for my needs, that way I will know whether or not it is worth it.

Keep the advice coming guys, it's really appreciated!
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Old 10-24-11, 04:04 PM
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1- Are there any helpful books, you-tube videos, web-sites that are helpful?

Others have covered this pretty well. Lenard Zinn's book on road bike maintenance is also pretty good.

2 - Where does one start when wanting to do a build-up?
Start with the frame, because it dictates your bottom bracket and headset needs. It is also the most critical piece for enjoyment of your bike, both functionally and aesthetically.

Study eBay, whether or not you like to use it, as it is a good source of info about what is out there and wht the market will bear for it. Do searches through the "completed sales" section, as that will tell you what stuff actually sells for, not what somebody's pie-in-the-sky dream sales price is.

3 - Are parts readily available?
For anything after roughly 1970 that isn't Swiss or, to a lesser extent, French, yes. Older than that and things start getting harder to find. It also depends on how much you want to remain "period correct" in the componentry. If you want everything to be period-correct "just so," or exactly the way it would have been when brand-new, you will inevitably run into a part or two that is very hard to find, stupidly expensive, or both. If you just want to make it a good-performing fun to ride bike without needing it to be concours d'elegance perfect, parts are generally not hard to find. My frames range in date from 1967 to 1986, and I'm running modern 9- or 10-speed on all of them (one 9-speed Shimano, three 10-speed Campy). It's a great way to go.

4 - Is this a more cost effective way to get on a nice bike?
Actually, I think it is. There are plenty of very nice classic lugged steel frames out there for reasonable money, especially if it isn't a super-popular name. De Rosas will always come at somethng of a premium. Confentes will always go for a king's ransom. But there are others that are excellent frames that will go for much less, not because of the quality, but because of the name recognition (or lack thereof). I picked up my Ron Cooper, one the very best builders ever in Englandm, a few years ago for reasonable money - mainly because his name is not as recognized as Faliero Masi's or Ugo De Rosa'a. Go study Classic Rendezvous on the web for a good introduction to more and less well-known makers.

Caveat: If the frame needs a repaint, you will not get that money out of it. I am not saying you should not get the repaint if the frame needs it (I have and never regretted it) but assume that you will never be able to sell the frame for a price the recoups the paint job. There may be occasional exceptions to this, but they are rare.

5 - Am I nuts to even try?:twitchy:

You may be nuts, but this will not be the reason.


I know these are very general questions, but any advice to a possible first-timer is appreciated. And to all of you highly skilled mechanics who can build a bike blindfolded, please be nice!

But how can we pretend to be superior if we don't beat up the newbies?
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Old 10-24-11, 04:12 PM
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Another plus to buying a complete bike is that you can sell the original components if they're not to your liking, then get the parts you want, saving a lot of money in the process.
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Old 10-24-11, 04:13 PM
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For the record I would like to state that in my previous response in no way did I mean to imply a vote for the "No Don't Do It" category.
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Old 10-24-11, 04:36 PM
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The best, least expensive way to go is to start with a complete bike and just refurbish it. That is my opinion, of course. That said, I publish a website aimed a people new to the interest in vintage bicycle. That site is MY "TEN SPEEDS" and there is a lot there to learn and help just about anyone understand the fundamentals of vintage bicycle ownership, including how to find old bikes.

Hope it helps.
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Old 10-24-11, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by randyjawa View Post
The best, least expensive way to go is to start with a complete bike and just refurbish it. That is my opinion, of course. That said, I publish a website aimed a people new to the interest in vintage bicycle. That site is MY "TEN SPEEDS" and there is a lot there to learn and help just about anyone understand the fundamentals of vintage bicycle ownership, including how to find old bikes.

Hope it helps.
If I go the frameset route, your web-site will be of alot of help. Actually, even if I don't go this route, your site is still very helpful! You have some really good info there...
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Old 10-24-11, 05:46 PM
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First, to answer your questions:
1) others have answered sufficiently, the fact that your here means that you know how to ask questions or search
2) read, read, read! I started everything with Sheldon Brown's site. Then, someone recommended Jobst Brandt's book, which I read cover to cover on the couch to learn about wheels. Searching here. Nothing will teach as well as experience, so get something and start wrenching, even if it's a Fuji Sports 12 (cough! ahem! )
3) Yes! But it depends on your expectations, both in terms of quality, period, and price. It helps if you know someone or happen to stumble upon an estate sale with a lot of NOS Campagnolo.
4) If this is for you, which I am assuming, you will need to think about geometry and what you like. Some people see things and know what they want, but it always helps to make a list. Is this a dream bike or just one of many? What do you want in terms of speed, maneuverability, responsiveness, ability to carry weight, etc? What kind of fit do you want? There are lots of opinions on all of this. I have my own, but this is your bike and your opinion matters most.
5) To quote Yoda (ok, ok, ok, I know, it's trite): "Do or do not. There is no try."

Nuts is waking up early to finish the wheels you started the night before. Then, looking in your coffee, you realize you have a bike part bit in there that is adding extra "flavor". Pretty soon it's about 5 pm. You skipped lunch, and you're in the process of missing a dinner date because you just want to clean up the derailleur on your other bike in addition to getting your workspace back in order. ...... This was last Saturday for me.

If you aren't nuts now, you'll go nuts. We all do.

Bianchigirl had a really good quote a while back about watching Ebay ...... That will automatically drive you nuts.

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Old 10-24-11, 06:09 PM
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1. As all ready pointed out, Sheldon Brown and Park Tool.

2. Determine exactly what you want.

3. If you can wait, it will be for sale on ebay eventually.

4. No.

5. No.
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Old 10-24-11, 06:17 PM
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Build it from the frame up. Your parts will be hand-picked, installed by you, custom for you. A plus is that even though the build will cost more when it's finished, it won't seem like it because you can buy parts piece-by-piece. A derailleur one week, shifters next month, etc. It'll be like putting together practical Lego's.

Another route is buying a frame that fits and buying a complete bike with the components you want. After transferring the parts to your frame, sell the other frame to recoup some of the money. Do lots of research to make sure parts will crossover to the recipient frame.

Oh, have fun!!!
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Old 10-24-11, 07:02 PM
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Cost be damned. I'm guessing you can afford it. It's worth extra cost for the ability to say you built if from the ground up.
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Old 10-24-11, 08:29 PM
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Listen to this man!

Originally Posted by noglider View Post
Cost be damned.
Heck, I'm a little over $220 into some new wheels and a crankset on a free frameset I picked up a few weeks ago. Now if I ever get that oddball sized stem from Southpawboston i'll be ready to roll on the coolest 5-speed Schwinn LeTour this side of the Mississippi...
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Old 10-24-11, 09:14 PM
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Building it up from scratch is fine, even necessary, if you're picky about which parts you're going to have. If you're not that picky or don't really know exactly what you want, then get a complete bike. I would say most of us here are fairly picky.
If you want a fully Campagnolo-equipped bike, it will be much cheaper to get a complete bike. There are plenty of them out there.
I built up an Olmo frame with 1980's "alternative Italian" components like Galli, Ofmega, etc. I got most of the parts on Ebay. All Campagnolo copies but no Campy on this bike. They look great and perform very well, and were not that expensive.
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