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Build Your Own Bike?(33 posts)

Build Your Own Bike?Jeff Rage
Jun 11, 2003 2:19 PM
Has anyone here built their own bike from scrath? How hard was it? Someone is selling a used frame/fork that would be perfect for me, but I'm not sure if I could build it up. I do most of my own repairs/upgrades, but have never taken apart the cranks, changed a cassette on a wheel, and a few other things. Do you think I could do it? What tools what I need? (By the way, I would buy a wheelset that's already assembled.)

The reason I'm even considering this is that a new bike is really out of my price range, and I haven't found any used road bikes that can fit me. (I have searched the classifieds here and looked at ebay and local shops.)
re: Build Your Own Bike?uksrfr
Jun 11, 2003 2:24 PM
I just did the same thing, but I only put the bike partly together, ie. brakes, derealiers, levers, etc... Then I took it to the local bike shop to finish it up, cost about $100 extra, but the peace of mind was way worth it going down that 1st hill knowing someone who knew what they were doing did the hard stuff. I still saved about $1,500 on the deal so it was way worth it...
not hard at all....funknuggets
Jun 11, 2003 2:32 PM
Lots of online resources to help you with building your bike. Should be easily done, with the most difficult thing being... I guess the bottom bracket and headset??? But Your LBS would likely put those in for next to nothing. I think you should do it simply for the experience. In addition, I think if you have never done it before, get a good set of cable cutters... and get extra cable as you are likely going to screw some up. No offense meant to you, but trying to thread a frayed out cable through cable housing is a daunting task.

There are plenty of online resources, and a lot of insanely knowledgeable people here and on the components board that could help answer your questions about putting it together. Buying a complete bike is often easier and you often get more bang for your buck. But, if you have patience and the ability to get a few good deals, you might, in the end save a few bucks.

It is a good cycling experience, but remember, if you roll out on your first group ride on your bike and repeatedly drop your chain or the brakes continually rub, or you cant shift right... then the honus is on you. Character building to say the least.

Best of luck,
HeadsetJeff Rage
Jun 11, 2003 4:57 PM
A couple of you mentioned the headset. I've replaced the forks on my Mtn. Bike, which involved working with the headset. Is it differnt on a road bike? What's hard about it?
Park Tool School would helppitt83
Jun 11, 2003 3:32 PM
It was a worthy $75 to take the class. It's an excellent overview of sub-systems and assembly / adjustment techniques. You won't be a pro when you're done with 4 classes, but you'll know which tools are important and which are "luxuries". You'll learn good basics and probably have the confidence to build up a frame. Not magic and lots of fun; I've built 2 now and am looking to convert an Al hardtail with new componentry to Ti frame (if the budget allows).

Lots of fun.
re: Build Your Own Bike?Mr Wolfe
Jun 11, 2003 3:32 PM
I absolutely agree with the others. Build your own. It's the only way to truly have pride in your ride. You will learn alot (the different parts, how it all fits together, the lingo, etc), it builds a sense of satifaction, makes maintenace tasks easier, can save you a sh*t load of dough. I build up all my rides and am very hesitant to let other wrenches touch them (but that's just me). The motto I follow, "If you want it done right, do it yourself".

One word of caution though. Be sure you are buying from a reputable source.

My 2 cents worth
I did it as a rank (!) novice....cory
Jun 11, 2003 4:13 PM
Here's another vote to build. I first did it probably 20 years ago when a dealer warranteed a broken frame, but didn't include labor--I was strapped for cash but had tools, and just swapped things over one at a time. Done several others since.
Expect to spend a little time on adjustment after you're done (I always have trouble with canti brakes), but it's not really difficult. You might have a shop install the bottom bracket, or at least the fixed cup, because it takes special tools, and maybe the headset, though you can improvise there. A good book, like Zinn's, will really help.
The dissenting voice (of reason)russw19
Jun 11, 2003 4:17 PM
How good is your tool box? That is the number one factor in why I would tell people who don't know better to take it to the shop and be done with it. My shop would charge you like a full overhaul (around 80 bux) but we would do the job right. Chase and face the bottom bracket (I 100% guarantee you don't have the tools to do this,) chase and face the headtube (same thing about the tools.) Pack fresh new grease in your hubs, headset and bottom bracket where non-sealed bearings allow. Many hubs, BB's, and headsets don't have an adequet amount of grease from the factory... we make sure they do. Adjust your hubs, make sure your cassette is tightened to torque specs, true your wheel (laterally and for round) and adjust your BB and headset properly. Those are what most people have problems with. Derailleurs and brakes, chains taping bars... all that is easy. The big problem for most is the lack of the proper tools.

Someone mentioned cable cutters, but you really need those and SIS housing cutters for shift housing if you want to do this right. You will need a bottom bracket tool, headset press (yes, you can make your own, but you risk not having it aligned properly) a cassette tool, possibly a chain whip, chain tool (even if you use SRAM links, you still need to cut your chain to correct length first) a fourth hand tool for holding cables is a bonus, 4,5,6 mm allen wrenches, screwdrivers, box ended wrenches... pedal wrench or a narrow 15mm wrench, truing stand and spoke wrenches to do your wheels...

Anyways, not to be the voice of doom and gloom, but there are a bunch of tools you need, on top of knowing how to use them. But the tools are the limiting factor for most people.

Otherwise, have fun!

The dissenting voice (of doom)Jeff Rage
Jun 11, 2003 5:03 PM
Where's your bike shop at? (Go ahead, give yourself a plug.) I used to ride BMX when I younger and did everything myself. So, I guess I try not to take things to the shop. But %80 doesn't sound too bad.

I'm triyng to keep the total cost below $800.
The dissenting voice (of doom)russw19
Jun 11, 2003 5:49 PM
Jeff, I have never posted the name of the shop I work at here. I frequently post here and I try to give good, honest, and sound advice here, but I have never done so to drum up free publicity for a shop I work at on weekends for fun. So the shop I work at is not at all relevent to the thread.

And I am not trying to be the voice of doom for you either. I am just trying to let you know two things. One is that building a road bike from scratch and working on a BMX bike is not quite the same thing. The one similarity is that most of us who did our own stuff on out BMX bikes as kids still didn't have the proper tools to really work on them. Changing flats and tightening the chain is one thing, but overhauling the bottom bracket is another. Also most modern road bikes have very specialized tools that change every 5 years. That's why there are so many dang tools hanging on the repair wall at your local shop.

The other thing I was trying to make you aware of is the amount of tools needed to really do the job right. And most of them are not common household tools. Sure, most of us have screwdrivers and even some metric box wrenches. But how many people, other than a dedicated handful of use who have been cyclists for a few years now, really have a Shimano bottom bracket tool? Or an ISIS BB Tool? Or a Campy BB tool if you use their stuff. Or even better, how many of us have all of the above so that it doesn't matter what we pick, we have the right tools for the job?

I always tell people that it is 100% imperative to have a bike's bottom bracket and headtube faced and chased. That involves tools that cost most shops upwards of $2000. So it's not the kind of thing you and I would have around the house. You need to make sure when you install your headset that it goes in with the top and bottom cups parallel to each other. Shops have a nice heavy duty press for this, but you can make one for home use for about 5 to 8 bux. (But there you are already 10% of the way to paying a shop to do it right...) You need cable cutters, but sharp diagonal pliers will work on the cables, but the housing is another story. You really need SIS housing cutters to cut shift housing. ($15). You need a cassette lockring tool and a good sized adustable wrench to tighten down a cassette. You need a good tube of grease if you don't have it. A pedal wrench (again, like in the past post, you can get by with a narrow 15mm wrench, but it must be narrow) a chain tool, allen wrenches, cone wrenches, spoke wrench. If you know your frame is dished and your brakes are set correctly (doubtful if you are just building it up) then you need to have either a really good self-centering truing stand, or a cheap one and a dishing tool.

All I am saying is that it all adds up and fast. It's easy to get in over your head. The problem there is that if you half built a bike and then realized you needed to take it to the shop to have it finished, you may get charged more than if you brought it in to have them work on it in the first place. As a shop employee, if that happened to me, I have to assume everything you did was wrong for liability issues. I then have to undo everything you did, just to make sure that it was right. Otherwise, when I send the bike out the door, I am responsible (in my own head if nothing else) for stuff you did even if I didn't touch it.

You can see where this is going.

I am all about people learning how to work on their own stuff. It makes stuff last much longer if you know how to take care of it. But I wouldn't really suggest this is where you start, unless you have knowledgable help, that's all.

Again, this is all just my opinion, and I am only offering it up to help you, not to disuade you or insult your wrenching skills. So don't take it that way, and realize I am only trying to help you enjoy your new bike to the fullest.


The dissenting voice (of doom)Jeff Rage
Jun 11, 2003 6:18 PM
No offense taken. You have been real informative. It seems hard to imagine that any shop near me would asemble a bike for $80. Of course, I haven't checked.

A did little more than that to my BMX. I used to take everything apart (except the wheels). I would clean everything, grease anything that needed it, and put it back together. But I realize that there's much more to a modern road bike.

Based on what you've told me, I am not confident that I could do it myself. Maybe most of it, but not all of it.

Thanks for the info!
supporting your choicemoschika
Jun 11, 2003 8:07 PM
i recently have begun to work on my own bikes. every paycheck i buy another tool i need to complete some project. now a few months later i have quite a collection and i know what they are for. i recently took apart a vintage road bike. took apart everything that i could except for the headset cups.

cleaned everything, greased everything and put it back together. somethings definitely require specialized tools, some are cheaper then others. i learned a lot by doing this. i can't build a wheel yet, nor replace a headset. but that's about it. most, but not everything else was fairly easy to do.

if i were you i may want to have the shop do the headset and maybe the bb. i found the bb much easier to do then i thought. but then it's a matter of hanging everything else on the bike. you're already getting pre-built wheels.

but there is also something nice about just dropping off your stuff and picking it up all ready to roll. so i can support whatever choice you make.
supporting your choiceJeff Rage
Jun 11, 2003 8:43 PM
I think that if I decide to do it, it looks like having the LBS do the bottom braket and headset would be the best choice.

The challenge will be keeping in my budget. I may be able to get a decent frame for next to nothing. Then, I'll need to find deals on the rest of the parts.
Here's another thought to add....russw19
Jun 12, 2003 10:51 AM
Offer them $80 to do it. Instead of asking them "how much do you charge?" try "will you do it all for $80? That's all I got." You never know. The bike industry is slow right now for most shops. Sales are flat across the country and a lot of people buy mailorder. It's a fact of life for most shops. If they are not overloaded with repairs, many would surely take your $80 to build your bike. But make sure you tell them that you want the bottom bracket and headset chased and faced. It's a big deal.. if they don't do that, I really wouldn't give them more than $50 to do it.

Your other route is to make friends with someone who has most of the tools you need and pay them a case of beer and a pizza and do it together.

And I am not above a bribe myself once in a while. If you came in and told me you just needed the bottom bracket and headset installed properly and had like 10 bux and a case of Newcastle... I would surely set you up right.

A lot of how well you talk to people and how reasonable the offer you give them is will determine if this works or not, but I often have fixed bikes for free for a customer that brought the shop beer or lunch. I rebuilt a wheel for a guy once on my own time who detailed my car for me. Your LBS is a business, but the guys inside it are still human... give the barter system a try if you have anything to offer.

By the way, I am in Gainesville, Florida.. if you are near here, I would gladly work on your bike for you. You just gotta buy the beer and food.

$800 is Reasonable...funknuggets
Jun 12, 2003 6:32 AM
Depends what you already have, but I built a Mega-Alu Fondriest up with Mavic Open Pros, and a Mix of Ultegra (f and r derail and bb) and 105 (brakes, cranks, and shifters) complete for a hair under $800, I guess more when you throw in bar tape and waterbottle cages. But I shopped for parts on that sucker for months and just got really good deals. So, also depends on your timeframe.

It isnt the lighest in the world, but looks and rides fantastic and gets me where I need to go (lickety split if need be).

Lickety Split!kg1
Jun 12, 2003 9:25 AM
Lickety split -- I haven't heard that phrase for a long, long time, but it sure does make me smile. Just guessing but either you are a very careful listener, or over 40 (or both).


never been called THAT before....sheeshefunknuggets
Jun 12, 2003 11:28 AM
Well, only 31... and I guess that makes me a good listener... or just from a rural part of Mid Missouri where they say funny things like that. People from Alabama are the ones that crack me up...

You'd build it, chased and faced, for $80? Great price...cory
Jun 11, 2003 9:03 PM
The shops around here quoted close to $200 when I built my Atlantis last year. I would have done it anyway, but that was just for the experience. If I had it to do over, and could get it done right for 80 bucks, I'd leap on it.
You'd build it, chased and faced, for $80? Great price...Jeff Rage
Jun 11, 2003 9:49 PM
Yeah, and they sound like go out of their way for service. We need more shops like that!
re: Build Your Own Bike?utxjohne
Jun 11, 2003 5:50 PM
I just built a bike for my wife. It's not as hard as it looks. It will be a learning experience and you will make mistakes the first time. Probably not a bad idea to have the lbs give it a once over.
re: Build Your Own Bike?russw19
Jun 11, 2003 5:55 PM
Just out of curiousity, did you build a bike that was somewhat "pre-built" like having the bottom bracket and headset already installed and the cable housing cut to correct length, or a bike that was completely naked. Bare frame and fork and all parts in the boxes?

I am only asking because the difference is almost night and day.

doing it right now . . .bm
Jun 11, 2003 9:36 PM
going through all the details right now to build my first. and i search the internet about 3 times daily for deals too.
i'm learning a lot and thankfully it's going to be a really great setup . . . kind of a unique combination of parts (ultegra, 105 and truvative)

and if i ever decide to sell it i be i'd make a few hundred $.

if you'd like to know more details, just ask
Sure, go ahead! (nm)Jeff Rage
Jun 11, 2003 9:46 PM
ok . . .bm
Jun 12, 2003 11:08 AM
still in the midst of actually putting things together. so far just have parts in boxes. it's kind of a unique combo of components, but it's all quality stuff and i know i'll enjoy it.

bought a 1999 52 caad3 on ebay for $130 . . . great price to start out with! . . . not a scratch!

ultegra right sti - $59
105 downtube shifters - $18
ricthey wcs anatomic handlebars - $40
105 front derail - $20
slr brake cable and housing - $9
derail cables (F and R) - about $3
chain - $12 (in hot deals section)
bontrager race post - $22
(not too heavy, not too light . . . but good price)

truvativ crankset and bottom bracket - about $100
luckily, the truvativ distributers are here in town. and i got a great deal through a racing club

rear ultegra - $32 (including $40 sale price and %20 off !!)

brakes and levers:
i'm still waiting on these from USPS. i got a dura ace lever and brake set here on roadbikereview for about $120

going to use the training wheels on my other bike, and build up some wheels later.

i've got a couple laying around that i'm going to use temporarily.

either the used Looks on my other bike, or new package of speedplay X2s

i've invested in a set of cone wrenches, pedal wrenches, cable cutters, wire stretchers (4th hand) . . . i may need some bottom bracket tools later. but i think i might just have the LBS check it with a torque wrench.

deda bar tape - $13

little details:
i still have to get short housing lengths for derailer housing, and downtube stops for my right sti. i've got lubes and grease for the headset and gears.

now that's schools over, i'm reading all kinds of stuff online and in repair manuals. if i have any further questions, i'll just post them here.

total price:
i'm all about finding the best deals and saving money . . . so that if i ever need to sell it i won't lose too much $.
I used a combination effortbigrider
Jun 12, 2003 4:01 AM
I wanted to build up my own bike for the fun of it and decided to do it all except the headset replacement. The right tools ( and I believe you need them ) cost chunks of change so I took the frame to the shop and they took out the old headset and put in a new one. I did the rest. The rest of the tools are really not that expensive, if you don't go top of the line. I didn't chase the bb threads but cleaned them well.

Bottom line, people take their cars to Jiffy Lube all the time and nothing is easier than changing car oil. If you want to buy the tools you can learn easily how to do the easy stuff. Most of the Jiffy Luber's are not going to bother doing the work themselves on their bikes.
I used a combination effortutxjohne
Jun 12, 2003 5:47 AM
I did more of my own work. I bot the cane creek headset from the frame manufaturer so they put the cups in. I had almost all the tools and only need to add a few to my collection. I ordered all the parts seperately from about 3 different places always shopping for the best deal. eg. I was able to get an ultegra cassette and chain for less than 105 in one case. I did but a pair of used wheels which were very untrue so for 40 I think the lbs trued them. I would do it on my own I just dont have room for a truing stand in my apt. I did everything else. All in all it was probably a wash as far as costs, but it sure was cool when my wife rode up to our group and everyone spent 15 mins saying. "I can't believe you built that yourself"
Just built my beater for < $300c722061
Jun 12, 2003 7:17 AM
I just bought a steel DiamondBack steel frame for $20. I repainted it and built up with Exage component I collected cheaply from ebay over time. I build my own wheelset to my liking. All for less than $300 and the bike weights less than 21Lbs. Provided I have all necessary tools.

There are a few things you need to consider,

1. Tool: I go with Performance Spin Doctor tool box ~ $100 + some hand made tools.
2. Lubes / Oil ~ $20
3. Reference manual - free if you go to
4. Work stand (Optional): some where between ~ $100 to $300
5. You can hire your LBS to put in headset and BB for a little money.
6. Your bike frame and component cost.

If you are a gear head, do it because it is fun. Otherwise, leave it to expert at you LBS.
Sounds niceJeff Rage
Jun 12, 2003 8:16 AM
Wow! It seems like the components and wheels would run at least $500. What level of components did you use?
1" headset ok?Jeff Rage
Jun 12, 2003 8:55 AM
The fork in the set is Cro-Mo, so Maybe someday I would upgrade it to carbon. The headset is a 1". Do they still make aftermarket forks in the 1" diameter?
1" headset ok?russw19
Jun 12, 2003 11:04 AM
Sure, plenty of people still make nice 1" forks. As far as stems go, 1' quill stems are getting hard to find these days, so it will only get worse, but if you use threadless, then you have no worries. Most companies that make a 1 1/8th stem also include a shim to use it on a 1 inch fork. You can't even tell the difference when you look at them. I have a 1 inch fork in my Pinarello, but use a Deda Newton stem with the shim... works fine.

As for good carbon forks in 1 inch...
Reynolds makes the Ouzo forks in 1 inch
Kestrel makes a REALLY nice version if the EMS with a Ti steerer tube in one inch for like $225. Unbelievably nice riding fork, and that's a very fair price.
Stella Azzura makes a carbon fork that is about 315 grams in a one inch.
Time forks still come one inch...

So the fork shouldn't be a problem for like the next two years at least. Also, there are quite a few companies that have enough pull that are not going to a larger size headtube. Right now Colnago is still only making frames with a one inch headtube... so until they change, you will still have options.

1" headset ok?Jeff Rage
Jun 12, 2003 2:07 PM
Didn't see this post before the auction was over. Didn't matter, as I didn't win. I'm not sure what the odds are that I'll find another used frame to fit me, so I don't know that I'll be building a bike anytime soon. I can't seem to find used complete bikes that fit me, either. (Got either for sale at your shop?)

I may just have to bite the bullet and get a new one.
After all of this ... lost the auctionJeff Rage
Jun 12, 2003 9:58 AM
The price jumped up too high. Oh, well. Hey, keep this thread going, though, there's some good info here.

Thanks for everyone's input!

Anyone got a 44cm or smaller frame/bike they wanna sell? :D)
it's all about toolsDougSloan
Jun 12, 2003 10:06 AM
This isn't rocket science, but it does help a great deal to have the right tools. Most things are pretty straightforward, and there are plenty of resources online and here to get help. Just allow plenty of time, and don't stay up Friday night finishing and expect to have a good long group ride on the bike Saturday. You'll need some debugging rides.