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  1. #1
    Clyde on a mission!
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    Building your own vs store bought, pros and cons.

    Hi.

    In another thread a fellow member were considering whether to build his own bike or buy one already built. I joined the thread rather late, so he had already made up his mind, so rather than post something after the fact in his thread I decided to create a more general thread instead.

    This is my personal experience with building my own bikes, feel free to disagree or add whatever I left out.

    First of, I'm a pretty handy guy, I've been wrenching on cars as a hobby for 20 odd years and a couple of years ago I spent a summer as an intern in a bike shop. Bikes are pretty straight forward to wrench on, as long as you're not all thumbs you should be fine.

    I love being able to fix my own bike, it's awesome. Slightly less awesome is that bike parts isn't really standardized so odds are that you'll need a bunch of tools for basically the same job. For example, changing the rear cog on my Kona Unit needs a chain whip and a special tool for removing the lock ring. Now admitted, it is possible to remove the lock ring with a pipe wrench or a hammer and chisel but that gets old pretty fast. My Surly Steamroller uses a completely different system with a freewheel and naturally a Shimano freewheel isn't removed with the same tool as a Sturmey Archer freewheel. And when I build a new rear wheel for my Unit with a Hope Hub it was yet again a different tool that was needed for changing the rear cog. So now I have 4 different tools for changing a rear cog.

    Let me make clear that by no means do I want to discourage anyone, building your own bike is awesome, I just want to prepare you for the ever growing collection of tools in your toolbox. It's kinda like when you first got into mountain biking, first year was expensive because you needed a bike, a helmet, tubes, pump, shorts, gloves, shirt, then it got colder and you needed long sleeves and long pants, then you needed a jacket for winter and some rain gear and so on.. Second year was much better because you already had most of what you needed from the first year and only needed to add a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Same with tools, in the beginning you need many, later you only need to add a few once in a while.

    Price wise it rarely ever makes sense to build your own bike, at least not if you use new parts. When you're on your 8th build you probably have a shed full of old parts and can build a bike very cheap, but the first couple of bikes are going to set you back. If you add up what parts you need for a new bike it almost always ends up 25-50% more expensive compared to buying a preassembled bike. The main reason is, that when Surly put together 10.000 Steamrollers they get a better discount on parts compared to when I need parts for 1 Steamroller. On the other hand, I don't need to replace the factory parts I didn't like when building my own, so a little bit is "saved" there..

    Another pro when buying a factory bike is that you can probably get to test ride it before purchase and maybe get the dealer to swap a few parts for a better fit for free. When you build your own you won't always hit home on the first try - I went through a couple of stems and a couple of handlebars before I felt properly at home on my Steamroller, not to mention a number of cogs and chain rings before I got my gearing dialed in to my liking.

    So building your own bike is more expensive, you need a bunch of tools and you'll probably end up with a stash of surplus parts that didn't quite fit the way you imagined.

    However, building your own bike is a great experience, you end up with a bike that's exactly like YOU like it, you learn how to fix your own bike and you don't need to pay more or less sloppy mechanics to do a more or less proper job for you. And you get to buy cool new tools.

    ...and now for the shortcut, if you feel like building your own bike is the way to go, I recommend joining the local bike club - with luck they will have a lot of the tools you need, they will have a parts bin with parts to either buy cheap or just try out for size and reach before buying your own and they will most likely have people willing to help and teach you how to do stuff. Or you can wait for me to build a complete tool setup and then swing by with a six pack..

  2. #2
    > /dev/null 2&>1
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    You laid it out pretty well. I have built roughly half my bikes from the ground up and I prefer that if possible.

    I think its a misnomer that buying part by part is always more expensive. It can actually be cheaper, but with extreme patience to scope out the best deals. The strategy is: Buy frames in the Fall sales before they're gone, then, parts after Christmas when they are dirt cheap before people start getting their tax returns.

    Also if you are willing to buy older tech, you can get dirt-cheap parts (i.e. 2x10 drivetrains, older open-box stuff). For example, after new year Jenson often has a gigantic parts sale, with a mish mash of spare parts at 70% off left over from their bike builds from last season, none of it is boxed but its all perfectly legit.

    And, if you routinely build your bikes, you often have parts hanging around waiting to be put on that new frame anyways.

    If you do this you can build for 50% off the complete bike cost.

    Plus, I think its fun to build, and you take pride in the final product knowing its all yours.

    Yes you'll need the tools, but this will pay off in the long run. The tool is sometimes cheaper than the labor for even one time. Even expensive tools like a truing stand pay for themselves in 5-6 trips to the mechanic.

  3. #3
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    I agree I always build my own and it takes 6 months or so to finds the parts I want at the price I want to meet my budget. I get a mix of sale priced parts, new take offs and good used parts. I love to build my own and spec the bike exactly as I want. Curbs my upgraditis.
    Niner Jet 9 Carbon
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  4. #4
    Wanna ride bikes?
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    good summary, you just left out the part where you order the wrong part/size the first time around. or you break something because you did it wrong or used the wrong tool because you were too cheap to buy the right tool the first time. or you assemble something wrong and have to take it apart 2-3 times before it's all ok (which is great for learning and testing your patience, but brutal on your beer supply).

    that's really only the first one. but i agree with the value of learning, getting the parts spec you want, satisfaction of knowing how your bike works inside and out. etc. i also like sourcing the parts, opening and assembling each component. i even like trying different components while your getting it dialed in.

    tools can get expensive in a hurry, mostly the really nice fancy ones which i love the most and are only good for one thing that you'll probably only need to do once every other year, but i can cover 90% of my repairs/work with a reasonable investment in the basics.

    after learning a lot in the last couple years i also like being able to help my friends with repairs and giving advice on upgrades etc. i try to share the stuff i've learned and teach them what i'm doing to fix their problem instead of just doing it.
    Rigid SS 29er
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    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  5. #5
    psycho cyclo addict
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    I have a good bit of wrenching experience and knowledge about bike fit so my approach is the opposite. I purchase used bikes far more often than building from the ground up (in the past 10 years: bought 7 used (4 were single speeds), 2 new and built 2 for my wife and I). One of the new bikes I sold within a couple of months after finding a much better 1 year old build for a ridiculously low price.

    Main reasons:

    • Abundant choices with an excellent mix of quality components that I prefer
    • The cost is somewhere between 1/4th to 1/3rd the cost of a new bike
    • Labor cost to build it is significantly reduced (swap a few components in hours vs complete build over days)
    【ツ】 eDub 【ツ】

  6. #6
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    I can't buy a complete bike anymore - that takes all the fun out of it. But building bikes has become much less appealing due to the constantly shifting standards. For quite a few years it was easy to swap parts from one bike to another; now it's not. Single speeds are a lot easier, but you still run into a few issues. For instance, I am currently using wheels on my Honzo that used to be on a Niner WFO and before that they were on a RIP9 (running spacers and a single cog now). Now we've got three different rear hubs to deal with: 135, 142, and 148. Aargh.

    Edub is right - buying used is the best way to go if your highest priority is cost. Especially if you ride a medium frame and have normal bike preferences (like full suspension and big brand names). Trying to find a nice used small brand single speed is much harder.

  7. #7
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    Rarely can I buy a factory built bike that is built the way I want it. If I want the Fox 34 fork, I need to buy the frame that doesn't have the color I like. If I want the XT brakes, I don't get the XX1 drive train. If I want good wheels I have to buy the full z00t carbon XTR build and that one doesn't have the fork I want. There is a time and a place for both approaches and neither is ALWAYS the right approach.

  8. #8
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    Disagree on the original premise that building a bike makes less sense price-wise. In my experience buying complete is usually an exercise of making sacrifices in build quality between the various components and in most cases the complete bike ends up much higher than the original price due to upgrading. Manufacturers rarely have the combination of rims/hubs/drivetrain/cockpit etc that I would spec on a bike and so I end up upgrading one or more of these later anyway and this is usually wheels/hubs which are one of the pricier areas.

    As others have mentioned, sourcing "used" but in many cases take-offs or out of packaging from the bay or elsewhere like the classifieds on MTBR saves signifcantly. One of the largest savings I found was learning to build wheelsets with an investment in a good quality truing stand probably paid for itself after building about 3 wheels. Same with other tools, rather than looking at the cost I look at it as labor $ saved in the long run.

    Case in point, found my SM ROS9 farme on the bay hardly used for about half of new(hard to tell if what ever built up). I had already been scouring the usual clearance sales, bay, classifieds for build parts the year prior accumulating what I needed knowing I wanted to replace my GT Peace 9R SS. By the time I got the frame, I built the whole thing up with Pike fork (a bombproof build) for much, much less than a Niner 2 star SS Sir9 build on their website which has a rigid carbon fork(MSRPs are pretty close on bare frames SIR9 $100 more).

  9. #9
    mtbr member
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    Building from the ground up is the only way to ensure your bike has a soul...

    Buy a complete bike and the devil wins.

  10. #10
    mtbr member
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    This ^^^^

    Amen brother!
    If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains,
    you're lucky enough.

  11. #11
    > /dev/null 2&>1
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    True. Soul rider.

  12. #12
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    Thank you for everyone's incite. I am looking to rebuild my father's old Roadmaster Smokey Point. Any further advise would be greatly appreciated. The bike i am rebuilding was an 18 spd. But i recently purchased a Shimano deore xt rear derailleur to replace the beat up one thats on the bike currently. Should that work ok and what other parts should i look for to accompany it? Front derailleur, brakes, etc? Forgive me if this is not the right thread for these questions. I am new to this. And can anyone recommend where a good source for tools.

    Thanks
    Last edited by GBMountainbk; 07-23-2016 at 10:28 AM.

  13. #13
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by GBMountainbk View Post
    Thank you for everyone's incite. I am looking to rebuild my father's old Roadmaster Smokey Point. Any further advise would be greatly appreciated. The bike i am rebuilding was an 18 spd. But i recently purchased a Shimano deore xt rear derailleur to replace the beat up one thats on the bike currently. Should that work ok and what other parts should i look for to accompany it? Front derailleur, brakes, etc? Forgive me if this is not the right thread for these questions. I am new to this. And can anyone recommend where a good source for tools.

    Thanks
    If the Roadmaster is what I think it is, that XT derailleur is worth more than the bike. Beat up or not, try to not put any money into it. Fix it, get it going and ride.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  14. #14
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    Spent $30 on the derailleur (was that a good deal?). I understand not putting too much money into the bike. Have to build from the frame, fork, and handlebars. And replace everything else. When i got bike from my dad over a year ago. The cassette was missing, the rear & front derailleur was beat up and missing pieces, and i am assuming the brakes and gear shifters need replacing as well. Oh and i guess all cabling too.

    I see the Mountain bikes you all are riding on here and know this roadmaster isn't on the level. This is sort of a project for me and just want to see what i can make of it.

    Goal is to Strip it of its paint rebuild it and rebrand it(so to speak).

    Making this sort of a starting point.

    With this Derailleur, what are my options with regard to cassette replacement, and # of gears?

    All help and advice appreciated.

    Thanks

    https://goo.gl/photos/gxN6BvKmM7bRtFd49

  15. #15
    > /dev/null 2&>1
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    Photo link broken

  16. #16
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    Try this one. If this doesn't work I am not sure why.

    https://goo.gl/photos/2YnEvU3brrdqYfPb7

  17. #17
    > /dev/null 2&>1
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    OK I see it.

    Please trust tk1971 and me on this. Don't try to put an XT derailleur on that thing. It won't work with the shifter. Don't buy a new shifter. You didn't show the rear wheel but it's probably an old screw on freewheel. Don't spend a penny on that thing. It's not a productive use of your time or money or pride. If you want a project and some pride of DIY, buy an old mostly working bike and replace the chain and pads.

  18. #18
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    School Me

    why does this frame suck. trying to learn.

  19. #19
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    You can't put a XT rear derailleur on that frame. The frame doesn't have a derailleur hanger. Most mountain bike rear derailleurs except for the very cheapest can only be mounted on derailleur hangers.

    I'm not sure, but I think your frame's bottom bracket shell is for a one piece crank. There are no nice one piece cranks and no cross-compatibility with other bottom bracket types.

    That bike uses a threaded headset. That probably makes the head tube the wrong size for almost all modern forks.

    That level of frame is made out of "hi-ten" steel. While actually sort of nice by the standards of, say, the heavy equipment industry, it likely weighs about two, maybe three good quality frames. Yet it'll be easier to break - awesome!

    I once accepted a similar bike from an acquaintance thinking it couldn't be that bad and I was just going to ride it around town anyway. I was wrong. The thing is that they don't fit in with the system of bike standards that are present on bikes meant to be maintainable. (Incidentally your brakes aren't cross-compatible with any modern mountain bike brake.) What that means is that if you can find parts to begin with, it's the same crappy thing you just broke and want to get away from.

    Sent from my E5803 using Tapatalk
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  20. #20
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    Why isn't this thread in the General section?

    I like building bikes. Whether or not it's expensive depends. If you build with all new parts it can be, usually is really. I tend to have a lot of parts kicking around but you're not comparing like with like. Buying a complete used bike is cheaper again so no matter how you look at it building is typically more expensive.

    But it's a nice feeling. Bikes are such magical things it's nice to see one brought to life! And it's kinda nice knowing there isn't another exactly like it.

  21. #21
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    I've built 3 of my single speeds from the frame up and converted the 4th. I bought my F29 and swapped it over from Shimano to SRAM and now to single speed. I've yet to build a road bike but at some point I will buy a titanium frame and build that up. Who knows when that will happen though. Building bikes is definitely fun.
    Kona Big Unit SS
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  22. #22
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    I will echo what was mentioned above about buying things during the off season. I built my fixed 29er last year and got the majority of the parts during Black Friday sales. I ended up saving a ton of money due to open box items and blowouts on smaller parts.


    With that being said, I probably won't ever buy a complete bike off a showroom floor ever again. I am way too picky about parts and need to be able to hand pick everything that goes on my bikes. I have purchased 3-4 pretty expensive bikes off the floor and always end up spending a ton of money upgrading parts that I am not satisfied with. When you have been riding enough to become particular, it's worth it to build your own stuff.

  23. #23
    Clyde on a mission!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Pig View Post
    Why isn't this thread in the General section?
    Because I'm a single speed guy and only read this section.

    I really like all the response this thread has gotten, so why not follow up with a segment about tools you would rather not be without and odd tips and tricks when building your own bike?

    My first recommendation is simple thing like this P661 Storage Chains - Storage - English - Lifu Bicycle Co., Ltd. - two bits of chain with some rubberized hooks at the end. I have a couple of hooks in the ceiling of my basement and when I need to work on my bike I use the storage chains to hang my bike from the ceiling at a comfortable work height.
    Yes, I know, you can get professional work stands that'll do all sorts of nice things, but a set of storage chains is dead simple, cheap and does the trick. Use a couple of straps through the frame if you bike hasn't got a saddle of handlebar yet. It makes such a difference to get the bike off the floor and being able to stand up and work on it.

    In case the link goes dead, here's a picture of my Unit hanging from a set of storage chains http://ugidelig.com/konaunit.jpg which makes it easy to work on the bike.

    Secondly you're going to need a chain tool / chain splitter if you don't already have one. This being the single speed forum means that you might have a wider 1/8" chain than those running gears 3/32" - the very cheap chain splitters might not always work with the wider chains, it's worth checking out before buying.

    A decent set of combination wrenches is a must in my book too. I prefer the ones with one end open and the other end boxed. Smallest one a 6 (metric) for bleeding brakes and biggest one a 15 for undoing pedals. I don't like adjustable wrenches, they tend to round stuff, but I still have one big one for stuff like tightening my headset or working the tool that removes my bottom bracket.

    A socket wrench set is cool too. One of the small ones that goes from 6 to 13 is fine.

    A bit set with some hex and torx bits is great too, especially if they can be used with your socket wrench set.

    A hex key set is nice to have too, all though you can do without if you have the hex bits and a socket wrench.

    A small torque wrench, you can get one for around 50-60 dollars that does 3-15 Nm - which is a perfect torque range for working on bikes. Make sure it works with your bits and socket set.

    Use the torque wrench anywhere two or more bolts are sharing a workload. If your pedal arm is secured with two parallel bolts and you tighten them by feel, you can be pretty certain that before long one of them has worked itself lose while the other is left to do the job. Torquing them equal means they both stay put. Doesn't matter much if they get 7 or 9 Nm as long as they get the same. The single bolt fastening the brake grip to the handle bars is fine being tightened by feel, but the 4 bolts holding the handle bars to the stem I would definitely torque equally.

    The above will get you a long way when it comes to tinkering with bikes, then comes all the special tools, like previously mentioned tools for removing lock rings, that special adapter tool for removing a bottom bracket and so on.

    Once again, feel free to comment and add to the list..

  24. #24
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    Just saw this thread, good topic! I'm another one of those picky riders that will never buy an off the shelf complete bike again. The last time I bought a complete bike was 1994! I've gone through at least 10 bikes/frames since then and source and build them myself. As others have said, it's not always more expensive. It's hard to build up a super modern 11 (or 12!) speed FS bike for cheaper than a complete build, but for anything else it can be done cheaper with a little time and research. Building up a singlespeed from scratch with all new parts can be done cheaper than buying a complete build. Not to mention the fact that you are cherry picking each and every component to meet your needs.

    As for tools, if you already have a collection of general tools, a lot of them can be used for bike wrenching as well.

    I think the most important bike specific tools are a chainwhip and cassette removal tool, a bottom bracket tool (There are a number of different standards, make sure you get the one that works for bikes BB), a chain breaker, and a quality cable cutter.

    Building up your own bike is very satisfying and results in a one of a kind bike to suit your needs. It also gives you a more intimate knowledge of all of the parts on the bike, making repairs and maintenance easier.

    The only thing I haven't done yet is build my own wheels. I did lace the last set myself and just had the LBS tension and true them, so I'm getting there!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikeny View Post
    The only thing I haven't done yet is build my own wheels. I did lace the last set myself and just had the LBS tension and true them, so I'm getting there!
    Go for it. Download the Rodger Musson book, take your time and it's hard to go wrong. And if you do, just back off and start again.

  26. #26
    SS Pusher Man
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    I purchased 1 factory built SS.....a turd brown Monocog back in 2007/2008. After 2 weeks, I had already replaced most of the parts.

    SS's in general usually end up being buit from the frame up. Sure there are some that are offered at completes, but it seems most of us go the frameset direction.

    I know that other than my '08 GF Paragon, I have not purchased a complete bike since then. I am not necessarily picky....I just don't want my bikes to look like everyone else's.

    Knowing how to do it all, makes the building of the bikes so much more enjoyable.
    I resolve to constantly assert my honest opinion on anything and everything - whether it is requested or not.
    Bucky the Cat

  27. #27
    Snowflake
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    I bought my Monocog for $200 of craigslist. The PO changed the rim brakes to BB7s and did a few small changes. I did some gearing changes, bought carbon bars, shorter stem, grips, tires, etc. I eventually sold it for $200 after putting it back how I got it. Now I have the bars on another bike and a more parts in the bin. Win win!

    I think buying new complete vs building is a case by case deal. It all depends on what's available to you at the time, especially with a SS that doesn't have a lot of parts.

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