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Self-built vs Complete Build

Old 06-16-20, 08:56 AM
  #1  
mattscq
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Self-built vs Complete Build

Hey,
,
Possibly an obvious question but also something I've been wondering. Why does it seem like complete builds from manufacturers, spec-for-spec, always seem to be that much cheaper? Almost sometimes to the point of making sense to just buy the entire bike and swap the frames.

I'm just casually (thinking about) a gravel bike and the dream setup would be 1x Force AXS with a 10-50 Eagle cassette. The groupset components alone are $2100-2400ish to buy alone and that's before frame, wheels/rotors, handlebars, saddle, seatpost etc. Swing on over to Lauf or 3T or Canyon and you can buy a bike with that for $4500-$5000. I would imagine that even with a low end frame, low end wheels, that will quickly add up to $2000.

Is this just because bike manufacturers get heavy volume discounts on parts? Regardless of the case, what is the case for building it up from scratch from a cost perspective?
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Old 06-16-20, 09:13 AM
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Volume discounts, also economies of scale. (Sound similar but are slightly different.)
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Old 06-16-20, 10:16 AM
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When you buy the parts you are paying a distributor's markup and then a retailer's markup on that. And the markup on complete bikes has traditionally been significantly less than the markup on parts. That explains almost all of the difference in price. Some manufacturers get a better price than distributors.
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Old 06-16-20, 10:49 AM
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Yes and yes. When I bought my Niner RDO 4 star build on clearance for $2900, I figured the cost of the Ultegra Group, Stan's Wheels, tires, etc... would run more than that if I tried to build it up myself. It was like getting the carbon frame/fork for free.
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Old 06-16-20, 10:50 AM
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I built up a nearly full carbon tubeless 11 speed gravel bike for $1300, it can be done but you will have to put a bit of effort into it.
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Old 06-16-20, 12:12 PM
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My Ritchey undoubtedly cost more to build up from a frame than it would have cost to just buy something off the rack. But nothing off the rack would have had every single component exactly as I wanted it, down to the saddle and bar tape.

Also, at least in my mind, dropping $3k on a bike in an afternoon... that stings. Spending the same money spread out over 2 years, you barely notice it. It's like 4 bucks a day.

There are also the deals that can be had through a combination of patience and smart shopping. My most recent power meter purchase was a Rotor InPower 3D+, which arrived at my door for $280. No full bike is going to come with that without adding a sizeable chunk to the purchase price.
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Old 06-16-20, 12:38 PM
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While full builds are almost always cheaper than buying everything individually at full retail(except for AllCity as has been documented), I have noticed that a lot of people almost immediately change out a bunch of components after buying their road or gravel bike. This is especially true for gravel bikes.

When this is done, yes the castoff components can be sold on ebay to recoup some $, but I dont think the full costs to get the bike to how they actually want is tracked and added up.

Often times shorty after purchase, I see multiple of the following...
- new wheels purchased for $400-1200
- new shifting to go from 2x to 1x or vice versa for $400-700
- cable disc to hydraulic for $400-600
- new tires for $50-100
- new tape for $15-40
- new saddle for $40-140
- new pedals for $30-100

A very common sight is new tires, saddle, and pedals. That alone is an extra $250 or so. Examples where new higher end wheels are immediately bought make me scratch my head for why the bike was bought fully built, but everyone is different and has different approaches to cycling.
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Old 06-16-20, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
While full builds are almost always cheaper than buying everything individually at full retail(except for AllCity as has been documented), I have noticed that a lot of people almost immediately change out a bunch of components after buying their road or gravel bike. This is especially true for gravel bikes.

When this is done, yes the castoff components can be sold on ebay to recoup some $, but I dont think the full costs to get the bike to how they actually want is tracked and added up.

Often times shorty after purchase, I see multiple of the following...
- new wheels purchased for $400-1200
- new shifting to go from 2x to 1x or vice versa for $400-700
- cable disc to hydraulic for $400-600
- new tires for $50-100
- new tape for $15-40
- new saddle for $40-140
- new pedals for $30-100

A very common sight is new tires, saddle, and pedals. That alone is an extra $250 or so. Examples where new higher end wheels are immediately bought make me scratch my head for why the bike was bought fully built, but everyone is different and has different approaches to cycling.
People customize bikes all the time, and swapping out pedals, seats and wheels doesn't seem that crazy but I don't think many are swapping mechanical for hydro brakes, or changing 2x to 1x drivetrains on brand new bikes unless there's something very special about the rest of the bike that they want. If you want hydro discs, wouldn't you just buy the next model up that already has it installed rather than dropping $500 on a $1500 bike to make it hydro? On the other hand, if you are buying a $15k bike it's probably not a deal breaker to spend an extra $500-$1000 to get the exact groupset or gearing you want.

I do agree with your overall point though, that these discussions often overlook the cost of many items needed to complete a bike build. There's a lot more that goes into a custom build than just the frame, wheelset and groupset. The cost of handlebars, wrap, bottle cages, stem, seatpost, saddle and tires is not insignificant.
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Old 06-16-20, 01:53 PM
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I will never buy an off the shelf bike again unless its 75% off. Most of the time I end up changing so much crap that it adds up.

For example my new Kona Libre DL build cost me $2400. Everything was done piecemeal but that includes 2 dt swiss wheelsets with grx 800 and a nice dropper post. There's no way I could have gotten that off the shelf at that price. Self built can't be beat when you buy stuff with patience and on sale.
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Old 06-16-20, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la View Post
People customize bikes all the time, and swapping out pedals, seats and wheels doesn't seem that crazy but I don't think many are swapping mechanical for hydro brakes, or changing 2x to 1x drivetrains on brand new bikes unless there's something very special about the rest of the bike that they want.t.
I read sometimes of folks buying a Cannondale Topstone Sora, which is about $500 cheaper (sometimes more than that) than a 105 version, than swapping to assorted 11 spd stuff., hydro brakes, etc.... If you're finding components on sale, might pay off. It's the same frame so is sometimes worth it.
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Old 06-16-20, 11:21 PM
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The place that is the biggest savings for a complete is wheels. Nobody really looks too hard at the quality of wheels on a bike so they cut corners there. But very few people use wheels like that on a bike they build from components. And they also use cheap chains on a lot of bikes. I went in to my LBS and they had a big pile of chains they had taken off of new bikes because they didn't like the way they shifted. Low-end KMC, IIRC
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Old 06-16-20, 11:27 PM
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My Cervelo came with garbage Mavic wheels and tires-- I'm talking a set you can pick up on eBay new for $200-- because they know buyers are just going to put their own wheels on anyway. I wish it hadn't even come with rims at all, and just trimmed a little off the pricetag.
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Old 06-16-20, 11:43 PM
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Right now I'm looking at a Canyon Grail CF SLX 8.0. They have one my size in the outlet but it's still $4400 USD which is a lot, but looking at the specs:

SRAM Force 1x with Eagle X01 RD and 10-50T cassette and DT Swiss GRC1400—those parts alone would already cost more than the bike—even the bike at full price is "only" $5k. The wheels alone are half that.
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Old 06-17-20, 05:10 AM
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Originally Posted by mattscq View Post
Hey,
,
Possibly an obvious question but also something I've been wondering. Why does it seem like complete builds from manufacturers, spec-for-spec, always seem to be that much cheaper? Almost sometimes to the point of making sense to just buy the entire bike and swap the frames.

I'm just casually (thinking about) a gravel bike and the dream setup would be 1x Force AXS with a 10-50 Eagle cassette. The groupset components alone are $2100-2400ish to buy alone and that's before frame, wheels/rotors, handlebars, saddle, seatpost etc. Swing on over to Lauf or 3T or Canyon and you can buy a bike with that for $4500-$5000. I would imagine that even with a low end frame, low end wheels, that will quickly add up to $2000.

Is this just because bike manufacturers get heavy volume discounts on parts? Regardless of the case, what is the case for building it up from scratch from a cost perspective?
indeed.

self build is more a labor of love and desire for personalization. big pain in butt and time and cost.
but fun if u have skill and tools.
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Old 06-17-20, 06:35 AM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by mattscq View Post
Regardless of the case, what is the case for building it up from scratch from a cost perspective?
So its fun, and you get to pick what you want; many bikes are only available as framesets so you have no choice.

A lot of the really high end personalized bikes are owned by shop employees. A lot of us are former employees who still get industry discounts, so there are more options regarding pricing.
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Old 06-17-20, 11:59 AM
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Pricing is: truck/container load vs cartons , vs each quantity...
With Taiwan being a Hub of both component manufacturing and bike assembly for export , under various brands,
the components are shipped locally without all the packaging of parts sold as individual items..
a savings in their cost & packaging waste reduction.



what is the case for building it up from scratch from a cost perspective?
You pay more but the parts pick is your personal preferences..

In the 80's while working in a bike shop I got some cool components on Manufacturer close outs..






..

Last edited by fietsbob; 06-17-20 at 12:04 PM.
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Old 06-17-20, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
I read sometimes of folks buying a Cannondale Topstone Sora, which is about $500 cheaper (sometimes more than that) than a 105 version, than swapping to assorted 11 spd stuff., hydro brakes, etc.... If you're finding components on sale, might pay off. It's the same frame so is sometimes worth it.
I guess it depends on the desired outcome and what parts you have available. If the desired end result is a 105 hydro equipped Topstone, I can't imagine there would be any savings by buying a Sora model, buying a 105 groupset, DIYing the work, and selling off the Sora stuff on Ebay. This also ignores that the 105 also has slightly nicer wheels, stem and seat post.

On the other hand, if someone is looking for a solid alloy frameset to do a full custom gravel build project, buying a Sora Topstone for $1250 and tearing off the components might be a good starting point.
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Old 06-17-20, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
My Cervelo came with garbage Mavic wheels and tires-- I'm talking a set you can pick up on eBay new for $200-- because they know buyers are just going to put their own wheels on anyway. I wish it hadn't even come with rims at all, and just trimmed a little off the pricetag.
I'm always surprised at how bad some OEM wheelsets are, even on nicer bikes.
I would've loved to have had the option to spec upgraded wheels on my SuperX, or just supply my own set like you have to do with pedals.
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Old 06-17-20, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by mattscq View Post
Right now I'm looking at a Canyon Grail CF SLX 8.0. They have one my size in the outlet but it's still $4400 USD which is a lot, but looking at the specs:

SRAM Force 1x with Eagle X01 RD and 10-50T cassette and DT Swiss GRC1400—those parts alone would already cost more than the bike—even the bike at full price is "only" $5k. The wheels alone are half that.
Even more crazy pricing from Canyon:
Inflite CF SL 8.0 $3200. Was recently on-sale for $2900.
This bike has SRAM Force 1x groupset and Reynolds AR41 carbon wheels with Schwalbe X-One tires. You'd be hard pressed to buy those items alone for $2900.

I debated buying one and parting everything out on Craigslist, and just keeping the wheels.
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Old 06-26-20, 09:39 AM
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I bought a $2200 list frame for 1200 last fall, thinking I would end up saving money on the complete build. I scrounged and bargain hunted components and bought a few things used off EBay and ended up with what would be a $5k list price bike, about 3500 in it.

Worth it? Yeah but you have to scrounge. I bought the drivetrain on a promotional thing from Backcountry, 20% off a first time purchase for new customers which helped a bunch, saved 200 on that alone.
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Old 06-27-20, 02:36 AM
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If you pay full retail on the frame and parts you aren't going to be able to match complete builds. My experience is taking my time and shopping sales, I can match similar complete builds on current models and often last year models while ending up with a better spec'd set up. Most complete build wheelset's are not up to the standard I would want long term in any of my bikes so add that into the cost of a complete build and the actual price can go up really quick by a substantial amount.
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Old 06-28-20, 07:47 AM
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I think most stock bikes, even rather nice ones, come with crap wheels.

Your $500 wheels on a $5000 bike are often the reason it didn't cost more.

In the $1500-2000 range, nearly everything is sub-par. Wheels, seatpost, stem, handlebar, and a cassette for flat roads.

If I ever buy a complete bike new, it'll be a motobecane parts bike.
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Old 06-28-20, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
In the $1500-2000 range, nearly everything is sub-par. Wheels, seatpost, stem, handlebar, and a cassette for flat roads.
I'm on board with wheels often being underwhelming in this price range- either overly heavy or poorly machine built(typically just overly heavy).
I dont understand the dislike for stems, bars, and seatposts in this range. Its a stem...they are like 20-50g different between high end and low end. Same with bars...50g is the difference between budget and expensive options.
The design of gravel bars on 1k-2k bike is usually similar to more expensive bars, they just weigh a fraction more.

The Cannondale Topstone Sora for example has flared bars, thru axles, a 46/30 crank with 11-34 cassette, and completely safe and usable stem and seatpost. Its tough to fault that spec at $1250 when you add in thru axles and a full carbon fork.
There are plenty more bikes with similar cockpit and drivetrain specs.
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Old 06-28-20, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
The place that is the biggest savings for a complete is wheels. Nobody really looks too hard at the quality of wheels on a bike so they cut corners there. But very few people use wheels like that on a bike they build from components. And they also use cheap chains on a lot of bikes. I went in to my LBS and they had a big pile of chains they had taken off of new bikes because they didn't like the way they shifted. Low-end KMC, IIRC
Funny you mention cheap chains, I just pulled the stock cheapie chain from my Topstone and replaced it with an ultegra chain. Wow I was not expecting such an improvement in shifting! I had been feeling a little put off with the bikes shifting since I bought it about 2,100 miles ago. Now it's great.

My LBS was good enough to let me swap saddles before purchase, They were going to give me $20 store credit to something else, but ended up just swapping a Fabric "demo" saddle that was what I wanted. My LBS also setup my bike tubeless for free, which was super nice.

I'm sure bike manufacturers hit a price point with all of their house brand finishing kit, and bulk cable/housing. That stuff adds up quick.
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Old 06-28-20, 07:47 PM
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I think the reasons for the complete bikes costing less has been well covered here.

Sure you can build a bike for less than a new one retail, but if you put that much time and work into looking at complete bikes, you will still come out cheaper.

But, as has also been pointed out, if you are particular about certain parts and end up buying stuff to replace what the complete bike came with... then the complete bike becomes less attractive.

Last edited by Kapusta; 06-29-20 at 06:53 AM.
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