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Building first bike.(22 posts)

Building first bike.bad mojo
Sep 25, 2001 6:23 AM
I was thinking aobut building my first bike. I know in the long run this bike would cost more than a pre built bike but I would like to learn how to do it. What should I look for in a frame? Also what about mail order since you cant try the bike how would you go about fitting? Would i just ask for the stand over height, since length can be adjusted via seat and handlebar stem? What componets would be good for the budget minded person? I was thinking shimano 105 and ultregra components. How much would I bo looking at spending on components alone. Thanks for hte help and any other advice is welcome.
re: Building first bike.mackgoo
Sep 25, 2001 6:36 AM
I wouldn't necesarily say it would cost you more to build. I know the first bike I did I came out ahead. Check out this place for components some times the page freaks out hit the stop button on your browser. Also check E bay they have good deals on components also. There is an excellent Ti Bianchi frame here at RBR for 1000$ maybe less if it is still available. You could probably build that up with good components for about 2K total, of course if you went with the Bianchi you would need Campy. Daytona would be a good start, actually Chorus is relatively cheap and the word is It's really Record with out the carbon. Can't really comment on the frame sizing. This is definately a way to go.
watch out on forks!!alex the engineer
Sep 25, 2001 7:05 AM
Make sure that the fork you buy will give you adequate trail for your headtube angle! Most frame builders say that trail should be about 55cm. Make sure that the fork has enough offset to give you this! Low trail will result in some very spooky high-speed dynamics.
55 CM???nm
Sep 25, 2001 7:16 AM
Sep 25, 2001 8:03 AM
by the nature of the original post, he won't know what a headtube angle is, let alone trail. Your reply does not answer the question and is wrong to boot: 55cm of trail?
electrical engineer?C-40
Sep 25, 2001 8:40 AM
I hate to be critical, but as a fellow engineer (mechanical), I must say that your advice often shows your lack of knowledge when it comes to geometry and other things mechanical. 55mm (not cm)is a pretty small trail, which definitely falls into the fast steering category. My Colango C-40 for example, has 67mm of trail.
Sep 25, 2001 8:48 AM
Kind of vexing to be getting into mechanical debates with non-mechanical types. For them to pass off bogus technical advice just makes matters worse. I don't pretend to design circuits, and Ii don't see what gives them the basis to muck up the mechanical things.
no, mechanical.alex the engineer
Sep 25, 2001 9:42 AM
And my membership in the ASME is valid, I assure you. Unfortunately, I posted without checking (a common fault here, I notice), and somehow wrote centimeters, when I meant millimeters. Mea culpa.
The 55mm number is meant to be a general minimum, not an exact value, and greater values of trail should (within reason) add to high-speed stability, although possibly at the detriment of low-speed stability.
My specilisation is in the thermo-dynamics end of the mechanicl continuum, not in the field of vehicle dynamic(although I DID study vehicle dynamics at the university, and did quite well in that course). If you were to go through the archives, you may find the equation I once posted for people to calculate the trail of their bike, as well as another posting where I explained in "layman's" terms what trail was and was not. Within the realm of cycling, there is a lot of non-standard and even counter-standard terminology used, which some velo-snobs latch onto for the purpose of poking holes in my explanations.
I am not involved in the bike industry, nor have I been since the summer that I worked at a bike shop (1977) during high school. For some, this may be problematic, but at least I'm not a shill for any particular manufacturer. I play no favorites, I just try to add some clarity to questions which people have. In this case, I didn't do too well. Forgive me. I lay prostrate at your feet.
no, mechanical.grzy
Sep 25, 2001 2:19 PM
Hmmm, we had lots of bright thermo/heat transfer types at Cornell that didn't know which end of a screw driver to use. I guess we're picking on some of your dubious suggestions in the world of bikes - which is all that matters here.
give him a breakdigger
Sep 26, 2001 7:22 AM
just because you are an engineer does not mean you are smart... he proves that. there are dummies in all professions.
Sep 26, 2001 8:55 AM
Hey, I LIKE that response. Pretty cleaver choice of words - am I getting slammed or is he? ;-)
re: Building first bike.cogsworth
Sep 25, 2001 7:53 AM
I'm building-up my first bike now and I'd recommend it highly.
Mine is turning out to be a little more expensive than pre-built, but I am emphasizing getting what I want more than economy, and I didn't have any tools when I started. Buy a book such as "Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance." It has a section on fitting and it will tell you what tools you should buy, and what you should consider having your LBS do for you. You can do a lot of damage to your frame and parts if you don't have the right tools. You sound like a tinkerer, and I recommend Campy for tinkerers since you can replace each individual part and rebuild instead of replace.

Good Luck
re: Building first bike.grzy
Sep 25, 2001 8:52 AM
>"I recommend Campy for tinkerers since you can replace each individual part and rebuild instead of replace."

For when you break them? Ain't nothing wrong with Shimano and it's a whole lot more economical to purchase and the service life is quite long if you stick with the upper end. I have yet to break one single part on my bikes or anyone elses. On top of that don't forget all the special Campy tools like $55 chain tool - such a deal.
re: Building first bike.landshark
Sep 25, 2001 11:40 AM
First of all, building your own bike is a great experience, and I would highly recommend it. However, if you've never built a bike before, there are a couple of things to consider: First, do you have the tools? At a minimum, you'll need a complete set of hex wrenches, bottom bracket tool, cable/housing cutters, chain tool, crankarm wrench, high-quality grease, regular tools like cresent wrenches and screwdrivers, etc, and great instructions. Also, it doesn't help to have a work stand (altough a trainer works well in a pinch).

These tools cost money, but if you get good ones (Park), you'll have them forever.

Also, from my own (humble) experience, here are a few tips for you to remember (actually, you should chant them like a mantra):

Always read the instructions (twice).
If you get frustrated -- Walk away.
If you don't know how a derailleur works, twisting the screws around for hours will only wear them out -- you still won't know how to tune your bicycle -- ask instead.
Always know which way you need to turn something to loosen it/tighten it BEFORE you turn it(there are plenty of reverse threads too!)
If it doesn't thread in buttery smooth, you're doing it wrong-- so stop immediately!


PS You should definetely have a mechanic install your headset (or even the entire fork). Screwing that up can kill you or ruin your frame.
One more rule.grzy
Sep 25, 2001 2:16 PM
Don't ever force it - always use a bigger hammer. ;-)

I shudder to think of someone building up their first quality bike with zip experience and zero tools. Uhh, what does this thing do again? Opps!

It CAN be done, but it's always a huge source of laughs at the LBS when mangled bike & parts are dropped off with them to fix. I honestly don't know how they keep a straight face while filling out the forms...I could never do it. Yuppies without a clue and more money than brains.
First rule...ouch
Sep 25, 2001 10:47 PM
If you can't fix it with a hammer and crescent wrench get a bigger hammer.
Good advice. I just did it (and, Grzy, this yuppie didbill
Sep 26, 2001 7:41 AM
just fine -- very slowly and painfully, but fine).
BTW, I certainly saved no money, but I knew that going in.
The only thing that I would add is to read the directions two-three times first, before picking up a tool, turning the little mysterious part around in your hand, comparing to the diagram. Then start installing. Then stop. Read the directions again. then proceed, a little at a time, stopping, reading, stopping, reading, etc. When you get around to adjusting, proceed as before. Re-read the instructions. Adjust a little. Stop. Read. Adjust. Etc. Make sure that you know what you're doing each little increment. Even if you're doing it wrong, if you've only done it a little before you realize it, you can re-group and start over before you hurt anything.
Read at each stage until each little mangled dangling participle or aberrant prepositional phrase written by someone unfamiliar with your language (be it Italian or Japanese) has some meaning, because it's easy to overlook the instructions that don't seem to make sense if you otherwise think you're getting it. Chances are, you're not getting it, and they do have meaning.
Dopey to read a dozen times? Sure, but who cares? No one can see you in the privacy of your own basement. Time-consuming as hell, but it'll work, and now you'll have a read on the way it all works if something ever goes wrong. I lost only marginally more sweat building the bike than I do on a typical 20 miler, but I'll say this, I've lost no sweat to poorly installed or adjusted parts since (with the possible exception of the headset, which I actually DID NOT install).
OK if you want to take 2 weeks to build.nm
Sep 26, 2001 7:50 AM
That's about right. And it was (okay). nmbill
Sep 26, 2001 10:00 AM
Good advice. I just did it (and, Grzy, this yuppie didgrzy
Sep 26, 2001 8:52 AM
Hey, I look at it as a form of therapy. Sometimes therapy can be good and sometimes not. Just think that one should have a good handle on walking before they try running. Some folks get the hang of it quickly and others should take the bus.
re: Building first bike.nee Spoke Wrench
Sep 25, 2001 2:55 PM
Make sure all of your drive train parts match.
re: Building first bike.fredfal
Sep 25, 2001 8:50 PM
Landshark gave good advice. I just finished building my first full bike (just about two hours ago, in fact). I have a bunch of years fixing my own and my friends' bikes, so that's about my experience. I didn't have any major problems slapping the whole thing together. I had my LBS do the headset/fork and the bottom bracket. I'd suggest you do the same, as these parts are kinda tricky and require special tools that you'll never use again (especially if you get a Chris King headset - you'll have it installed and will never think about again the rest of your life - except to think maybe "gee, that's a great headset'). The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful. I didn't use the Zinn book, but I often refrenced the instructions that came with the individual components.

Start with the frame size. You can figure this out using the Zinn book (I hear) or by using's frame sizer. It's pretty easy. Once you know what size frame to get, look on the internet for something in your size that you like. I got a good deal on a LS Ultimate at in their blowout section. They have LS and Cologno mostly. Once you decide on a frame and buy it, check out the manufacturer's web site and get a good look at the frame geometry. At the LS site, it tells you exactly what kind of fork to use (well, it says what one comes with a built-up bike, so get one with the same rake as that). I'm sure other manufacturers have similar pages.

You may want to go to your LBS and get fit by their smart guy (if they do that and have a "Fit Kit"). This will run about $30 and will keep you from ordering the wrong size stem and cranks. You'll need to have your frame already and bring it with you for this to work properly.

For components, I understand that you can get some pretty crazy deals if you buy from overseas. I got most of my stuff from labicletta and If you use, join their team performance for $20/year. This gives you a 10% credit on your next purchase, so if you spend $100 this week, you get $10 off when you order next week. Plus, you get 2-day shipping for something like $5 regardless of how big your order is. Anyway, that's about it.

If it has threads, grease it.
If you go with Ti, use Finish Line's Ti-Prep - it'll keep your Ti parts from bonding to your Al parts.

Hope this helps.