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  1. #1
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    Am I a Good Candidate for Building My Own XC Hardtail?

    Please tell me if this sounds like a plan, or am I getting in over my head? When I suggest this idea to the local LBS, they of course tell me that it'll never work, "Buy our bikes instead." I need some unbiased input...

    Some backgroud first... Awhile back I picked up a used Specialized Hardrock 29er Sport, and since then I've ridden A LOT more. Right now I'm averaging 60 miles a week of XC style riding with 1400 miles on the odometer. Speed-wise, based on Strava data, I'm typically in the top 25% of public segments.

    Since the Hardrock isn't even designated by Specialized as a "mountain bike" (it's listed as "recreational" now) I do believe that I'm pushing it harder than it was intended to be ridden. Hence, I'm researching and demo'ing other bikes. The problem is, I can't afford even my "low end" choice at $1800 (Specialized Carve Expert). Yes, I'm saving up, but I'm looking at yet another pay cut after the election, and at this rate it may take a couple of years to get the cash in hand. I'm on a strict "no credit card diet," so that isn't an option either.

    All that being the case, I'm considering researching components, purchasing one by one, putting them on my Hardrock until I've accumulated my list of "must-have components," and then purchasing a quality frame and swapping all the upgraded parts onto the new frame. It will probably still take a couple of years, but at least I'll be improving upon what I own in the meanwhile, and I'll eventually end up with a custom bike.

    More on me: this is the same thing I do with my firearms. Although I'm not a trained gunsmith, I am a competitive shooter. I own rifles that I've custom built off of stock rifles, and I've done the same for multiple friends to the point that sheriff deputies are approaching me to build their rifles. My point in saying this is that while I've never worked in a bike shop, I do have a mechanical inclination, and if given good instruction book(s) to reference--on top of actual user experience--I can go a long way with it.

    Opinions? Go for it or just save up for something from the LBS or hope for the best on Craig's List???

    Also, does anybody have a book or two they could recommend? (I found Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance on Amazon, but I suspect there may be more appropriate titles out there.)

  2. #2
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    Usually that will not work, as parts that fits one frame, will not fit another.

    Lately that has been particular true, as "standards" are changing almost every year, for one component or another.


    Magura

  3. #3
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    The main dilemna with with building a bike piece by piece is that it will cost you a lot more money this way. You can, however, cut cost by buying used on eBay or using the classifieds here on mtbr.com

  4. #4
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    Hard rock is a mountain bike, it's just a bit heavy. You should not have any problems at all upgrading parts one by one. You do need to build up the tool to be able to do that.

    Most job can be done with a Y(4-5-6), but some jobs like crankset and bb requires a specific tool, cassette is another one. If you are doing this a piece at a time it's not too bad. You do realize that it would probably end up more expensive than buying another bike right? Get a decent bikestand to start.


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  5. #5
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    Yeah, I realize it would cost more in the end (same with custom building rifles) but I'm figuring that the payoff is a better bike when all is said and done due to my properly researching each part and getting the best of each component. This is rather than purchasing a pre-built "kit" from an LBS and essentially getting stuck with what a particular manufacturer happens to score a good deal on that particular year to boost their profit margin, or using what they make in-house-- again, purely for their profit margin rather than because it's the best choice throughout the marketplace. In researching bikes, I generally find that if I find a bike with the forks I want, it won't have the derailleurs I want, or the brakes I want, etc., etc., so if I buy a whole bike, I'll get something close to what I want though not exactly what I want. Such is life.

    I have found, though, that by being patient and keeping a sharp eye out for lightly used or closeout deals, some great parts can be found for prices that can actually bring a build in under cost.

    Admittedly, I'm making some gross generalizations here, but based on my my experience with custom building guns, I figure that ultimately corporations are corporations whether they're in the business of bikes or guns or widget X, and profits will always come first.

    Based on what Magura says, though, it's all a bit of a moot point if I won't be able to transfer parts from one frame to the other once it's fitted. If that's the case, I'll just save up and support whichever LBS gives me the best deal.

  6. #6
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    It's how I get my bike nowadays, I'd buy the frame and build it up with the components I want, buy it once and buy it right.

    Since the bike you have now is pretty modern you should not have compatibility issue except for some possible components like press in bottom bracket, tapered fork and bolt on front derailleur.

    I'd add when buying a wheelset it'd be a good idea to get one that would allow you to change the front/rear axel format, especially the front.

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  7. #7
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    The Hardrock is a bonafide mtb frame. Upgrading in the fashion you describe is much more expensive. "Research" is a bit shallow compared to expereince. Any part which is specific to Head tube and seat tube may not transfer to another frame. Frankly, I will do this much better than you will, and cheaper.

    That said, this is exactly how I learned. Education has a cost. Have fun.
    Last edited by Berkeley Mike; 11-22-2012 at 10:08 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Cranks, rear dr, casette, chain, stem, handlebar, shifters, brakes seat all this can be transferred over to new build. depending on new frame fork and front dr. yes u will have bits u want. Fun and experience is like mastercard-priceless

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  9. #9
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    The problem is that you are going to lock yourself in to what you currently have but it is a fun experience and you will end up with a bike built the way you want it. The next few months are some of the best months for sales.
    Killing it with close inspection.

  10. #10
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    If you are willing to be patient you can usually save right around 50% if you are willing to buy used and OE parts. The nicer the part the lower that percentage or the longer you have to wait.

    You will have to spend alot of time educating yourself about what will fit what frame, etc. If you have no issues with your current bike I would buy a new frame that you know you want and then buy parts that you want specific to that frame. Fork, crank and seatpost and axles on wheels have the most standards to be aware of. Like Berkley Mike said get busy its a great although occasionally frustrating process. In the end you will know alot more about bikes than when you started.

  11. #11
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    I can say with 100% that your best "deal" is either a complete used bike on craigslist, or buying something on sale now as we go into winter season. I built my own bike and without a doubt, you spend more...took me over a year. Although very happy with the bike, I ended up going over budget when you find deals that are 'too good to pass up' so you buy bits here and there until you add it up and you've spent over $1500. Used bikes go for basically 50% os MSRP so that's your best bet. Also, I looked up that Specialized and it looks OK, but there are plenty of options just as good but cheaper. Chainlove has been listing a BMC TE29 for $1200 if you can catch it and it's just as good. Buy, that, sell your old bike for $150 and I guarantee you will not find a better financial deal buying parts and upgrading slowly.

  12. #12
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    I agree with the above two posters. You have to be patience and shop for great deals. Sometime I bought things before I even need them but they were great deals.

    Like I said earlier it won't be cheaper, tools alone would cost you $200-300 already and that's cheap route. Bike stand would be the biggest chunk of your budget.


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  13. #13
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    Double post.

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    Last edited by mimi1885; 11-05-2012 at 09:16 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkrispies View Post
    Since the Hardrock isn't even designated by Specialized as a "mountain bike" (it's listed as "recreational" now) I do believe that I'm pushing it harder than it was intended to be ridden.
    I believe it is designated as recreation because of their fork selection. I cannot access the Specialized website right now to see what fork is on there but I am sure that is why. Could also be the rims but I am more than confident the frame is good to go.
    Killing it with close inspection.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by FireLikeIYA View Post
    I believe it is designated as recreation because of their fork selection. I cannot access the Specialized website right now to see what fork is on there but I am sure that is why. Could also be the rims but I am more than confident the frame is good to go.
    Certainly the fork is an issue (it's an SR Suntour spring actuated piece of... y'know) and probably the wheels too. The bike weighs in at a hefty 35 lbs.

    I figured the primary benefit of getting a newer bike or building on a different frame would be better frame geometry and weight savings. (I've tried finding the weight of this frame, but nobody has this info or wants to relinquish it... including Specialized when I email them.)

    For those reading this, would it be worthwhile to stick with this frame and build on it? It seems to be strong as heck, but I've always assumed that it was a bit on the cheap side of design and I'd be better served with something more "race oriented".

    (edit to add: I recently picked up a bike stand for cheap at a garage sale and already own a lot of tools, though other than a double ended pedal wrench not a lot of bike-specific stuff.)

  16. #16
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    I don't see anything really wrong with your plan. You do run the risk of buying parts for the Hardrock that will not fit your next bike but if you buy the parts used, they are good quality, and you don't beat on them, then you can probably sell them for close to what you bought them for.

    Yes, buying a used complete bike is probably the cheapest route, but I know how hard it is to wait patiently while the money accumulates and I never really trust a bike that I haven't built myself. I really wanted to try a 29er bike but I'm also in a tight financial situation. I chose to buy it and build it a piece at a time because I could see it come together bit by bit. I researched the heck out of each part, waited patiently for a steal, then pounced on it. I got some deals that were so ridiculously good that I ended up finishing the bike under budget and months before I thought I would actually have the money. Of course the first thing I bought was the frame so I knew each part would fit, but again, if you buy something like a used Thomson seat post for say $50 and it doesn't fit your next frame you can easily sell it or trade it.

  17. #17
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    I don't know about all of you but in two years I can put quite a hurting on pretty much any part of a bike which means that if it were me, I would have a pile of beat parts to transfer over to my new frame. This is beside the problem of making sure that parts are able to transfer over to a new (undecided) frame.

    It's not as fun but have you considered buying a frame and buying parts for it one at a time? Only put enough money into your Hardrock to keep it running and spend the extra money on parts for your new bike. Eventually you'll have enough good parts that it would make sense to take a few parts off the Hardrock to fill in the new frame.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  18. #18
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    Your idea isnt original, its been suggested and tried many many times previously.

    No matter how much research youll do, it will always cost you MORE than if you simply bought a higher end model to begin with.

    As for your mechanical abilities. Only you can make the decision if youre qualified enough to fix a bike. While I have no formal training on working on bikes, I was formerly a technician at a dealership. I knew my own abilities and didnt need a forum to tell me if I had that ability or not.

    Since not all bicycle components fit each other, building up your current Hardrock will probably leave you with parts that wont fit your newer frame. No to mention many "standards" change every few years.

    Also dont forget to factor in a few hundred in bicycle specific tools.

  19. #19
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    I did what zebrahum suggested. I bought my 29er frame, fork, wheels and other frame specific parts over a period of a few months while I continued to ride my old 26" bike. Now I'm going to move my old drivetrain parts from the 26 to the 29er so I can start riding it. Over the next few months I'll buy new drivetrain parts for the 29er and put the old parts back on the 26. This method has some advantages besides just getting a new bike rolling faster since it allows me to try out my current gearing to see if I want to make some changes before buying new cranks and cassette.

  20. #20
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    Look for a used higher end bike, a few years old isn't going to be a bad bike at all. You can get a bike with deore components and a much better fork than the XCM you have now, for less than it would cost you to get a fork or a new lightweight handlebar/stem/seatpost combination if you are patient. good lightweight pedals cost $150 but thats 1/3 of a (hardtail) bike that would be loads lighter and higher end than your current bike.

  21. #21
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkrispies View Post
    Please tell me if this sounds like a plan, or am I getting in over my head? When I suggest this idea to the local LBS, they of course tell me that it'll never work, "Buy our bikes instead." I need some unbiased input...

    Some backgroud first... Awhile back I picked up a used Specialized Hardrock 29er Sport, and since then I've ridden A LOT more. Right now I'm averaging 60 miles a week of XC style riding with 1400 miles on the odometer. Speed-wise, based on Strava data, I'm typically in the top 25% of public segments.

    Since the Hardrock isn't even designated by Specialized as a "mountain bike" (it's listed as "recreational" now) I do believe that I'm pushing it harder than it was intended to be ridden. Hence, I'm researching and demo'ing other bikes. The problem is, I can't afford even my "low end" choice at $1800 (Specialized Carve Expert). Yes, I'm saving up, but I'm looking at yet another pay cut after the election, and at this rate it may take a couple of years to get the cash in hand. I'm on a strict "no credit card diet," so that isn't an option either.

    All that being the case, I'm considering researching components, purchasing one by one, putting them on my Hardrock until I've accumulated my list of "must-have components," and then purchasing a quality frame and swapping all the upgraded parts onto the new frame. It will probably still take a couple of years, but at least I'll be improving upon what I own in the meanwhile, and I'll eventually end up with a custom bike.

    More on me: this is the same thing I do with my firearms. Although I'm not a trained gunsmith, I am a competitive shooter. I own rifles that I've custom built off of stock rifles, and I've done the same for multiple friends to the point that sheriff deputies are approaching me to build their rifles. My point in saying this is that while I've never worked in a bike shop, I do have a mechanical inclination, and if given good instruction book(s) to reference--on top of actual user experience--I can go a long way with it.

    Opinions? Go for it or just save up for something from the LBS or hope for the best on Craig's List???

    Also, does anybody have a book or two they could recommend? (I found Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance on Amazon, but I suspect there may be more appropriate titles out there.)
    Take a look at the hardtail chinese carbon frames. There are huge threads, but supposedly the FR201 is a good frame. You might be able to convert many of your parts over to the new frame, then begin swapping parts out. Im about to do this with a 2000 full suspension bike, swapped to a hard tail.

    Fork is probably the most expensive thing to swap and has the most impact.

    Wheels/tires are also huge - you can actually build your own chinese carbon wheels (350 for rims, 50 for spokes, then maybe 300 for hubs depending on what you want). I got a used chris king hub ($390 new) for $90.

  23. #23
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    Thanks for all the replies, folks! I am thinking more along the lines of what folks are saying-- keep an eye out for a good used bike/frame and slowly build on that while continuing to ride (ie, wear out) my current bike. I do appreciate all the input and welcome any more info that comes my way.

  24. #24
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    i would consider bikes direct on your budget and while I know you said you are on a no credit card diet, pay pal offers Bill Me Later and they are having a deal where you get 6 months interest free and no payments. since bikes direct accepts paypal for payment you can essentially finance your bike for free for the next 6 months. even if you don't love the frame, just take off the components and sell off the frame and you will be in good shape.

  25. #25
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    Thanks again for all the replies. fyi, I'm actually going with the advice from the last poster and a few others. I just got a surprise end-of-the-year check from work, plus I've been able to sell a few odds and ends and did well at the poker table. One of the local sporting good shops is running a promotion for no interest for a year, plus 10% off on the first purchase, which added up to a deal that I couldn't pass up even with my no credit card rule. Between the incoming check and my savings, I'll have the total paid off before the interest hits. Long story short, I've got a kick-@$$ Speed Goat headed my way. Best, J

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