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Customizing

Old 03-11-11, 11:32 AM
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Customizing

6 years ago, with very little knowledge about bicycles, I was sold a sort-of road bike by a lbs for $400. Over the years, every component has been replaced to make it a comfortable and reliable ride for my non-cycling body dimensions. I'm sure I could have bought two LHTs for what's hanging on the frame now. The learning curve cost.

Was wondering what experience others have had in customizing a stock bike to fit their riding preferences. If you started over, would you be ok with a stock bike, or would you do a build out?
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Old 03-11-11, 11:59 AM
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Ive been through that same cycle (no pun inteded) over and over again, more times than you could imagine. I have built up, from the ground, 10-15 bikes. I think its always best to buy the best quality you can afford up front. Also, education as to your needs and potential use goes a long way into making the right decision.

People change, needs change and like anything else a bike is a constantly evolving machine to suits a evolving lifestyle. There are no absolutes.

Dont think of your costs as 'losing' money, everybody goes through it and it is really the only way to learn what works and what doesnt. Cost of experience!

I have a LHT with custom spec'd components. I didn't use top notch stuff, but affordable at the time and higher quality than what the LHT came with stock. Overall it cost me $500-$600 more than a stock LHT build. My plan is to eventually replace the frame with a custom spec frame down the road.

The process of researching and ordering all the components is very enjoyable, I love it more every time I do it. I would suggest getting a good frame your comfortable with, spending a couple months here on BF, setting up a spreadsheet with costs/components options and figuring out what works for your budget. It is alot of fun!
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Old 03-11-11, 12:10 PM
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Me, I'd rather buy a bike that is mostly suitable and only swap the very few things that don't suit me. My current road bike is completely stock and my touring bike has a different rear rack and the crank was swapped to get lower gearing. Other things that were changed were just replacements of worn out things like tires, brake pads, and most recently chain.

Long ago I decided that upgrading parts was just not really providing me with added enjoyment, especially for touring. The bottom line for me is that the bike, as long as it meets a minimal level of suitability to the task, has very little to do with the quality of the touring experience.
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Old 03-11-11, 12:18 PM
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I haven't done it for touring, but I did buy a used road bike; I wanted a lugged steel frame, and saw a rather attractive one used. I spent quite a bit fixing this and replacing that, and I'm still stuck with downtube shifters and heavy wheels that can't take folding tires.

Buying used to save money doesn't always work out. For every used bike that's a bargain, there's a dozen that are money pits.

To me, the only time it really makes sense is if you want to acquire wrenching skills, or if you're already a good mechanic and have the parts around.

I also did a bit of customizing for my stock touring bike, by the way. I suspect a little bit of modification is normal.
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Old 03-11-11, 12:20 PM
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As can be perhaps imagined by those who follow my postings, I feel more like nickw and very much enjoy figuring out what works best for me. Every component, from brass rather than aluminum nipples to the width of my Brooks has been thought through. The components are never, well maybe not often, the most expensive, but I like to think they reach some cost / benefit sweet spot for me. OTOH, I absolutely hate throwing anything "still good" away, so I try to make the decision right the first time. Sometimes I am successful. I'm getting better at selling my misses, which are usually the result of me trying to cheap out.
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Old 03-11-11, 01:03 PM
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I also like building bikes from the frame-up.

It helps that based on experience I can usually figure out exactly what I want before starting, and that I have the mech. skills and tools to work on pretty much anything that doesnt require machining/brazing.
I also like to look for cool used and vintage components, refurbish and use them where possible which can save a bit of money... A $25 1980's/90's MTB can supply a fair share of a touring build, even on a much nicer frame.

I cannot imagine what it would cost to double-buy a lot of expensive components, or pay someone to do the wrenching.

The added benefit of building your own is better maintenance and reliability of your bike. Problems are more likely to be noticed and identified.
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Old 03-11-11, 01:13 PM
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After riding an Off the shelf bike with component changes for fit and gear ratios,
and building exceedingly strong wheels for the purpose ,

I went to builder, work bikes, and worked with him in his shop , hands on,
and tried something very different.
It's a very 1 of a Kind bike.. rides very solid with a load in all 4 bags
and on the rear rack..

Doubt anyone would pony up the cash to make it worth selling , even stripped down, though something over 3k$ and I may be interested..
so watch for my estate sale.

Last edited by fietsbob; 03-11-11 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 03-11-11, 01:27 PM
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Building bikes is fun, but it does not save any money versus off the shelf bikes. It's just a way to understand the mechanical marvels we call bikes better and to make them "our own".
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Old 03-11-11, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by safariofthemind
Building bikes is fun, but it does not save any money versus off the shelf bikes. It's just a way to understand the mechanical marvels we call bikes better and to make them "our own".
That goes back to the OP's original point, off the shelf bike + parts not happy with = more expense than if you were to do it right from the first get go.

Another thing to point out, when I say "build your own bike", I am not necessarily saying "physically building the bike with your two hands". Although, that is how I personally do it (minus the wheels) you can plan/buy/organize the parts and have a shop do the hard work, and IMO, still constitutes as "building" a bike.
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Old 03-11-11, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by nickw
IMO, still constitutes as "building" a bike.
I have to disagree. that is "designing" a bike. Building it refers to putting it all together and getting it tuned and running smoothly. Which is what i reccomend to anyone, even those that buy a stock-spec bike.

but while you're at it, you might as well get just what you want
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Old 03-11-11, 02:41 PM
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Thanks for the reponses.

In my case, if I were to start over, knowing what I know now about myself and cycling, it'd almost certainly be a build out. Simply because to get any stock tourer dialed in to suit me would end up costing as much or more than a build out. But, I'm way on the edge of the standard fit box. Plus, I've learned too much by now about what I want/need in a touring bicycle.

Best I just stick with what I've got.
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Old 03-11-11, 02:54 PM
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You need to have an a mind meld with the product manager that filled out the spec list contract, of what goes in the Box.
they have a bottom line that is reflected on what stuff costs wholesale,
plus container freight , delivery, surface,
and leaves a margin for the shop, to sell for what people are willing to pay.
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Old 03-11-11, 04:34 PM
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I have been building up bikes for some years now. I get a huge amount of enjoyment from it, whether it is tracking down quality parts at good prices on the internet, receiving packages from the suppliers, feeling and eyeing the quality, acquiring good tools, or putting the lot together.

HOWEVER, our most recent bike acquisition was entirely off-the-shelf. It is a Santana tandem.

HOWEVER, it required a degree of customising. For example, the standard Tracer suspension seatpost is just not doing it for Machka and is being replaced by a Thudbuster. The original-fit Terry saddles were quickly removed and replaced with Brooks B17s. There is a rear rack to add. The bike comes with a CF fork, and for touring we are figuring on buying a cro-mo fork. There are fenders to go on, and maybe a 26T ring to replace the standard 30T. There is a wireless computer up front that's already on, and a wired one to be fitted to the stoker bars. There is a handlebar bag up front, and a small bag for the stoker under the captain's seat. And of course, there are lights front and rear to be fitted.

Yes, we could ride the bike bare as it was bought. But, we wouldn't be as comfortable, we wouldn't have what we need on board, and our riding would be limited to daytime only.

I am currently building up a touring bike comprising an old Shogun Alpine frame that I got for nothing and fits Machka, and a host of new components. The build will likely cost us around $900. It might work, it might not (although I think it will). Even if it doesn't because of issues with the frame, I know the components are all OK because they are similar to what has been on our previous touring and randonnee bikes, and they can be transferred to another frame.

My first touring bike was a Fuji Touring. It has become a grandma's axe. The most significant changeout early on were wheels -- the original Alex wheels broke spokes far too easly for my liking despite a number of rebuilds. Then came an MTB crankset because the standard gearing back then (and now on many so-called touring bikes) was the 30-42-53 road triple. The next most significant changeout on ANY bike I might buy complete is defnitely the saddle. Then I'd look at tyres and brake pads.

So, I come back to building my own. The real benefits are that the bike has exactly what I want on it, the parts I choose are good quality (generally Ultegra and Deore up to XT for the groupsets; Velocity, Mavic or DT Swiss for the rims; and Topeak for racks and bags), and I know intimately how to take apart and put together the bikes should anything really dramatic go wrong.

I should also say that I served my "apprenticeship" assembling bikes with cheaper or older components, and they are very serviceable.

Last edited by Rowan; 03-11-11 at 04:38 PM.
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Old 03-11-11, 11:54 PM
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My wife's new bike--last summer. Each part selected with TLC


Maiden voyage

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Old 03-12-11, 04:00 AM
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And, you know, Doug, I bet it worked perfectly from the get-go!

Nice parts picture, by the way.
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Old 03-13-11, 06:38 AM
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It depends on how much time you have, would you enjoy obtaining and assembling the parts, and do you have the mechanical aptitude to do it right.

After you answer those questions, ask yourself if you are going to go touring in locations where you have to be your own mechanic. If so then you should learn all you can about your bike whether you enjoy working on it or not.
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Old 03-13-11, 08:23 AM
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I chose a stock touring bike, the Trek 520, changed out the granny gear, the stem and the saddle, and rode it. Worked perfectly. I have no interest in wrenching, I just want to ride.

For my road bike, I had it built frame-up, picking parts with my bike shop's help. For my next road bike, I haven't decided which way to go yet, I'll buy a full bike if there's one that's close enough, but probably will get a frame and spec parts.

Either way, I generally fall into the "spend enough to get what you really want and ride it forever" camp, rather than tweaking things a lot. I've been on my road bike for 9 years now with only one change, a new handlebar with a shape I like better.
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Old 03-15-11, 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclebum
Was wondering what experience others have had in customizing a stock bike to fit their riding preferences. If you started over, would you be ok with a stock bike, or would you do a build out?
Machak, my Marinoni Ciclo, had a custom frame, and certain components of my choice. By the time he was stolen, 7 years later, I think the only original thing left on him was the frame. I changed the front fork, the wheels, the hubs, the handlebars, the saddle, the seat post, the cranks, the gears, the chain, the pedals, the cables, the front brakes ... I added fenders, and later removed one. I added racks, and later removed one.

After Machak was stolen, Rowan built a titanium bicycle for me, and a "new-to-me" touring bicycle is on its way. These are/will be completely customised.

If I'm going to spend a lot of time on a bicycle, I want it to be as comfortable as possible, and one of the beautiful things about bicycles is that things can be changed.
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