Custom Bike Build Experience, Guide, and Help Solicitation
Hey guys. I got this idea from computer building forums - I've decided to documentmy custom building experience here, if no one minds. I'm not doing this so people can gawk at whatever I end up building but rather so a) people can learn from the experience who want to do the same, and b) I can solicit some input from the community. Hope you all enjoy and I hope the end product is something worthwhile. Thanks!
There's a sticky where this was done in the "Tooltime" forum. Bikerbob did this in 2007. Although, all the once embedded photos are now click-links.
He did a great job with it. Big shoes to fill with this....good luck!
rOCktoberfest 2015 pt I here
rOCktoberfest 2015 pt II here
Awesome, thank you! I'll check that out.
Yes, this is a bit ambitious. It'll probably be similar just with the new formats. Hopefully it'll be fun either way. Whoever wants to follow, enjoy. If not, no biggie!
Intro - Part 1
Attempting to build a custom bike from the ground up is a very involved task. When I first began the process of planning, I had no idea how many factors, details, and specifics I would have to account for. I'm only a few weeks into this researching process, however, and I'm starting to take in most of these items, although for many of the options, I still don’t fully understand their impact and role. That will become apparent as I work through this.
The reason I wanted to document this experience is because I realized that so many of the guides for building a custom mountain bike are just terribly insufficient. There are various reasons for this including assumptions of what people will choose and how limited they will keep their selection, how rapidly things have changed over the past few years since these guides were written, and that they were written either by inexperienced builders or builders who really didn’t accurately account for the actual thought process and required considerations that must be met when building a bike. This became clear to me almost immediately, and every item I look at, something new popups up to confirm this.
As a teenager I always wanted to build a car, although the sheer complexity of it so quickly deterred me that it was never a realistic desire. A bike, on the other hand, is significantly less involved, however it shares many similar considerations due to them both being types of vehicles and both being subjected to the same laws of physics. This guide-to-be won't be complicated - I am not a engineer so don't expect detailed discussions of how certain frame geometries or wheel layouts impact different aspects of your ride, but feel free to provide your knowledge and input about that as it relates to this build and in even in general.
I haven't ridden seriously in almost twenty years, so as ambitious as this is, it will inevitably fall short in many regards. My decision to make this a forum post, however, allows for the input of the community, and in fact, I am soliciting that. There is much I do not know about mountain bikes and biking, but I love both and really want to get back into it. It is the closest thing I can imagine that brings back the phenomenon of discovery as a child where everything is new, novel, and mind-tingling. Travelling through woods you have never been before and witnessing the Earth in all its beauty is simply a breath-taking experience. This is my reason for wanting to get back to biking. And although I am confident that I have the coordination, biking skills, and ease at which I could become extremely conditioned, I really don't have much of a desire to compete. And thus, I'm not looking to become a professional, rather I am looking to have fun.
What follows will be that - my attempt at having fun designing and building a bike that will be fun to ride. Most people argue that buying a bike is the cheaper route to go. And although this is true in some ways, it is incorrect in others. Let me explain. As for being correct, the assumption here is that buying parts individually will be more costly than buying them together from a bike manufacturer because the manufacturer receives deep discounts on parts by buying in bulk. All things equal, this makes sense, and although I pride myself on getting rock bottom deals, I really wont challenge that assumption. I'd imagine if you really put in a lot of effort, you'll land somewhere within a 10% price difference, in one direction or another - nothing significant enough to break the bank. But not everything is equal. Enter the Chiner.
Frame Material - Part 2
I've decided I want to build a bike off a carbon fiber frame, and the reality with this is that carbon fiber frames directly from China or so significantly cheaper than those coming from manufacturers in the US that it throws the whole equation out of whack. Again, I don't have a ton of experience doing this, but I can't imagine finding a carbon fiber framed mountain bike cheaper than building one where you import the frame yourself, all other things equal. Perhaps someone can challenge this assumption. I understand why some people are against using Chinese frames directly from the warehouse, but I am not, and I will proceed that way.
As for the notion that building a custom bike is cheaper than buying a prefabbed one, that can also be incorrect, despite what I've mentioned above regarding the cost savings of going with a Chiner frame. The reality is, at least for me, this is much more expensive. The main reason is because I'm not going to cut corners. I'm going to want to buy quality components down to the individual spokes, tires and bolts. Bike companies find ways to cut corners in order to cut costs. I don’t intend on doing that so I expect this to be a build likely much more expensive than I want to spend, but we'll see how that works out. Moreover, this is extremely time consuming, and this is a major concern for me. Do I really want to invest in learning how to design and put together a bike? I've decided I do, although we'll see if I regret that by the end. One reason is I have trouble paying someone $80 to "tune up" my bike when I know I could learn to do the same things myself. There are enough YouTube videos out there to help you perform open heart surgery (although I surely wouldn't want a surgeon who learned simply from YouTube). I'm quite confident there are a sufficient amount to teach you how to tune up a mountain bike. Is it the same as learning in person? Surely no, but I'm working on a bike, not a human. I might mess it up and maybe I'll break things, but such is life. It'll only help me learn. And that's the other reason I want to do this - I simply want to learn how a bike works, what everything does, and why certain things do things differently than other things.
So in the end, I'm hoping this will be fun and worthwhile and I ask and encourage the community to provide me with feedback as I go through this experience. My desire is that in the end, what will remain is a guide that anyone can follow to build a custom bike, regardless of why they want to. I'm very wordy, so at some point I will attempt to summarize everything in a flow chart or outline so it will be more useful in the future.
Last edited by josephjosephson; 08-19-2015 at 03:45 PM.
Bike Type - Part 3
I'm going to move fast here in the beginning because I've already settled on some of these initial decisions.
The first decision that is usually made when deciding on a bike is whether or not you want a full suspension bike or a hard tail. If you want to go Fat Bike or some specialty route, than this might not be the first question you ask, but for me, it was. I really wanted to try out a full-suspension bike. I've never even ridden one. Last time I bought a mountain bike Trek had just come out with their Y-bikes, a carbon fiber, full suspension Y shaped bike, starting at about 1k and going up to about 3k, if I remember correctly. The models were a Y 11, 22, and 33, I believe. I ended up with an 830 for somewhere close to $400. Over twenty years later, it's still kicking. My mom now rides it regularly on the road. She just replaced the knobby Big Kahuna tires for something more road friendly about a year or two ago. Over twenty years. Granted it doesn't have 50,000 miles on it, but still, I find that impressive. I hope this bike will last me half as long.
So as much as I wanted to go full suspension, the cost and the complete impracticality forced me to decline. I live in the Chicago area. Honestly I can get by with a crossover bike, and probably would be better suited with that, or even just a road bike…but really, I hate riding roads, and paved trails are only so fun. This bike will probably end up spending more time on pavement than dirt, but that doesn’t bother me. I love mountain bikes, and I do plan on taking this out on the trails, even if it's overkill for what I'll be doing, even if I won't get my money's worth in the foreseeable future.
So the first decision has been made - hard tail. Next decision, wheel size. WTH….
I knew 29ers were out, and I wanted to try one, so I did, at some local shop. Boy do they feel weird. The frame was a little big for me, and 18" which was my normal 26" size that had previously felt perfect, but I felt like I was in the bike and not on the bike. I got used to it after a bit though and it felt almost normal, as many people mention will happen with 29ers. So much of what I have read has compelled me to go 29", plus I want to do build something that rides differently than my old Trek 830 did, significantly if possible. Riding through trails probably won't provide me with the same magical experience that it did when I was 13 so I'm going to need something else that is novel. 29" will do.
But what is this, 27.5"?! Best of both worlds? Not too strange or uncomfortable, but still kick butt? After a lot of reading and watching videos, I decided against it. I'm going to go all out. 29er it is.
29+ ?! Huh? What the heck is this now? I'm sure most of you all experienced that too when you read about this new breed of bikes - mid fats, plus sizes, half-fatties, or whatever you want to call them. Is this the same things as the 27.5" idea - best of both worlds, between a regular mountain bike and a fat bike (have you, I began learning about fat bikes through researching this new bike size, although I first spotted these weird creatures during the X-Games a few years ago, but I digress…) which ends up also being the worst of both? I won't say it's not, but I got a totally different feeling from this than from the 27.5's. And while fat bikes looked fun from all I read and watched, they ultimately seemed like biking around with floaties as wheels with a couple of dumbbells attached, or so I gather from reading and watching. Sluggish to get moving and not very nimble, they didn't attract me, but the 29+, this looks cool. It seems like they're getting rave reviews, and that these might actually be true competitors in some fields of biking, and even if not, they're still going to be blast to ride. They already are.
I bought into some of the marketing hype surrounding the new Trek Stache's running 29+ wheels. They talked about how other 29+ bikes were sluggish like early 29ers (or maybe even fatties) and how current frame geometry made these 29+ bikes perform underwhelming in addition to interesting challenges that I would have not imagined unless I was putting a bike together already and realized, oh crap, this doesn't fit. The take home here was Trek *seemed* to have hit the nail on the head, at least according to the reviews. The wheels spin very similar to regular 29" wheels because they have reduced the tread on the tires (surely that has a consequence, but I'll deal with it, at least until I'm 10 miles deep into the woods with a blow out that I can't repair…), but they have more traction. Every review I read of people who rode the Stache loved it. They hated the idea going in, but really enjoyed the ride coming out. Man, if only I could afford one of them, or just the frame, or better yet get a Chiner frame like that…oh snap, you've got to be kidding me: WCB-M-078 27.5+/ 29 /29+-workswellbikes. That’s the same frame, in carbon fiber! Over the past couple of weeks this page has been updated multiple times. At this point, it shows all the options very clearly.
With that, this is now what I need to consider, which size and which bottom bracket to go with.
As far as sizes go, 17.5" is the clear winner for me at 5'8". 18" was perfect for a 26" and many recommend going down a little bit in size for a 29". The one I rode, a Specialized did feel a tad bit big at 18". I know I should really ride one before making a decision, but I'm pretty confident this is the size I need. I'm going to try to get to a shop the sells the new Trek Stache and check out one, but most shops in the Chicago area focus on road bikes, but we'll see. In the absence of that, 17.5" is going to be my choice.
Next is the bottom bracket where the crank attaches. This frame has four options: BB92 (92MM), BB30 (73MM), PF30 (73MM), or BSA (73MM)
I've yet to research these different sizes and formats, so if anyone has some input feel free to provide it. From what I gather though some are threaded and some are not. Non-threaded is a newer to the mountain biking scene and *might* become standard and I would prefer for this bike to be more future resistant to changes (as nothing is future proof), but I've seen mention of cracking bottom brackets on carbon frames because of over tightening on non-threaded designs. I need to research bottom brackets and how they interact with cranks in terms of standards and compatibility. Additionally, I need to work from the other direction and see what formats and sizing the drivetrain I want will come in. I'm looking at a SRAM GX 1x11 drivetrain. I'm limited to a 1 ring crankset on this frame, which I'm fine with. SRAM seems like the way to go for those right now and the GX looks like it is in my price range and has gotten pretty strong reviews, from what I've seen. Personally I'm not worried about a pound or two. I need a reason to cut that weight from my stomach anyway. Both of the available GX cranksets use BB30 from what I gather. So with that said, I'm probably looking at the BB30 version of this frame. Feel free to provide input.
Done. So there it is. This is frame to go with. It's $510 on Ebay, $484.50 on sale at this time of this posting.. I have $500 in Ebay gift cards that I paid $425 for. Pretty awesome. So there it is folks - a Stache frame in carbon fiber. 29+, 17.5", BB30 (I think). Bring it on. This is exciting…
Full Carbon 27 5 29 29er thru Axle MTB Frame 27 5ER Plus 29er Plus MTB Frame | eBay
I haven't pulled the trigger on anything yet, and while I'm a bit anxious, I'm realizing that a decision at one point in the design process can cascade across the rest of the bike. I found that out when I wanted to add a Julie Rock Shox fork to a Trek 830 about 20 years ago and they weren't compatible. Now I see that compatibility is the name of the game when building a bike. It's insane the amount of options and formats you have to take into consideration. And so the journey has begun…
Subscribed.... Looking for a winter project....
Takeoffs are optional....Landing is mandatory
Needs more pics. Fewer words. I have a headache (not from reading this post, though), and am not interested in reading a bunch.
+1 Here Here. Pics dude!
Originally Posted by Harold
"Lock S-Foils in attack position"
Good call. Thanks for stopping by. Sorry so wordy.
So I found what seems to be a sick deal with much of what I was looking for: Carbon fiber, 29+, raised chainstay, SRAM X1 groupset. Check it out:
2016 CARBON 29+ BIKE
2016 carbon 29+ bike - Shenzhen ICAN Sports Equipment Co., Ltd.
29+ FRAME 2016 MOUNTAIN BIKE
29+ frame 2016 mountain bike - Shenzhen ICAN Sports Equipment Co., Ltd.
I got quoted $480 for the frame, $120 for the fork (which I would probably pass on), and $2190 for the whole bike (see the site details for parts; I would have to google some of these and maybe consider swapping some pieces, but it includes carbon ribs among other pieces).
See attached pics. I'd probably scrap the logos if possible also. Seems to beat the ebay prices of the other one I was looking at. Also, looks like this frame design is starting to get around the Chinese factories, although I'm a little worried about spending $2k for something from a company I've never heard of half way around the world. Finally, I was hoping for BB30 over PF30. I read a bit about them, and it sounded like PF was to give more room for error for frame manufacturers (double-edged sword there), and subsequently lead to a lot of creaking while peddling for people. Thoughts?
Last edited by josephjosephson; 08-27-2015 at 04:53 PM.
For comparison, this is the other frame I was looking at (see ebay url at the bottom of my second post). It's also available here:
WCB-M-078 27.5+/ 29 /29+-workswellbikes
$510 now, $485 when on sale, which might not happen again for a bit.
Interestingly with the elevated chainstays on those bikes, they are both belt drive compatible though to tension the system, it looks like an eccentric hub would be your only option.
Yes, that is true. I haven't been following biking for a while, but did notice those to hit the market a few years ago.....seems like they really haven't caught on though, and certainly didn't dethrone regular gear and chain setups.
On another note, the fully elevated change stay worries me a little bit (versus the Trek/workswell setup that has just one bar of the rear triangle raised). Does anyone think this could compromise the strength? It just seems to be that having at least one of those bars being connected to the bottom where the crank is would be a bit stronger, but perhaps my concerns are unwarranted.
On a final note, I'm going to break down the price of the full bike from ICAN Sports. The price seems a bit too good. The same bike is for sale on Ebay for a $1100 more:
29 Carbon Mountain Bike 17 inch SRAM x1 Groupset 50mm Wide Wheelset | eBay
Ok, so I guess the price is legit (see attached pic). I know some of the pieces aren't top of the line, but still, not bad for $2190. At this point I think I'd rather them assemble it than me go through the process of buying everything individually and assembling it (sounds like the project might be getting scrapped...).
I've asked if they can safely ship the bike without the fork so I can put on my own suspension fork (the Manitou Magnum 34 Pro might be the only officially 29+ compatible one to go with right now, but that can be decided later). Shipping will probably run somewhere around $300, minus the $120 for removing the fork, plus $820 for the Manitou it puts the whole shabang at about $3200. Dang how'd that go from 2k to 3k :| ....
There's nothing wrong with elevated chainstays in theory. They look a little funny, but they actually address a couple of issues on many bikes. With clutch derailleurs, chain slap isn't much of a problem anymore, but back in the days pre-clutch, there were a number of manufacturers playing with elevated chainstays. Some of those old frames have been given new life with belt drive systems.
I think the biggest thing holding belt drive systems back is that it limits you to either a singlespeed, or some sort of internal gearing (either an internal gear hub or a gearbox), and there is some efficiency loss with those internal systems. You also need a way to simply tension the belt. Eccentric bottom bracket shells and sliding/swinging dropouts are the most common.
Regarding the build, if it was me, I'd sacrifice drivetrain bits for better brakes. I'd bump down to a 10spd drivetrain and get some SRAM Guide or Shimano SLX brakes.
Thanks for the feedback btw. After some thinking about all of it and looking at the frames again, I prefer the workswell one over the ican due to the different dropout positions for the rear wheel. I wasn't too thrilled with the hubs either on the wheels that ican was providing, so in retrospect, maybe I will go back to building this. Really it's just the wheels that worry me as the rest seems straight forward enough and less of an art.
I've been looking at Lefty forks lately due in part to the lack of 29+ compatible options. I'd like to go with the Supermax but it's uber expensive. I found what looks like a good deal on Ebay for one, but the guy doesn't know the year or any history of the fork so it scares me a bit:
Cannondale Lefty Super Max Carbon Supermax 29er Fork | eBay
It has a 4.5" space between the clamps, or about 114mm. The 18.5" ican frame says 115mm for the head tube. I assume these numbers are fairly standard and this has to be the right one, correct?
The main decisions I need to make first are a) frame, b) rims (and wheels), and c) suspension. I'm thinking about offset rims but I'm not sure how that'll match up with the Lefty, hence I want to decide on the suspension before the wheels (plus it obviously affects the front hub).
Thanks for everyone's help!
I haven't updated this in a week so figured I would, even if anyone isn't reading. Ebay had a targeted 5x Ebay Bucks promo going on this weekend (that's 10% cash back), so I took advantage and basically went a little bonkers. I wish I had been more prepared, but so be it. Here's what I ordered so far:
Workswell 29+, 17", BB30
Speedcarbon 29er 50mmx25mm, 32H, offset, hookless, beadless, tubeless (2x)
Cannondale Lefty Supermax 29er, 130mm, 4.5"
SRAM XX1 Carbon Type 2.1
SRAM XX1 Trigger Shifter
SRAM XX1 XG-1199 10-42 Cassette 11 Speed
SRAM XX1 PC-XX1 Chain 11 Speed
AVID Guide RSC 4-Piston Disc Brake with Rotors (180/160)
I took the advice on the brakes, but when a bit overtop with some of the components. I got a good deal on the XX1's and just pulled the trigger. I'm at about $1550 right now, with $180 in ebay bucks, and $17.25 AMX cashback (bought some ebay giftcards from a supermarket).
This is what I have left and what I'm thinking:
Tires: MAXXIS CHRONICLE 29X3.00 EXO TR FOLDING MTB TYRE - about $56 out of Australia, not sure how they're so much cheaper: Maxxis Chronicle 29x3 00 Exo TR Folding MTB Tyre | eBay
Front Hub: Either a Cannondale or DT Swiss Hub for the Lefty (need to research more; concerns over Boost 110/3.0" Tire compatibility?)
Rear Hub: DT Swiss Boost 148
Spokes: no clue yet
Nipples: something brass (per some forums due to issues with alum nipples + carbon rims)
Crank/Chainring/Bottom Bracket: I wanted to just round out the set and go XX1, but maybe it really isn't the best option. I'd like to find a 2015 version in BB30 at a good price so I don't need adapters. I'm not sure if the Q Factor will be an issue on this frame. I live in Illinois so I'm sure 32T is fine for climbing, but in case I move at some point over the next year or two, maybe 30T would be worth it. I'm not sure how much on the top end I'd be giving up and how that translates into real world speed.
Handlebars: was thinking riser, carbon, from my frame manuf (Workswell). They only go up to 700mm with a 6% rise angle? Not entirely sure how they're measuring things. I'm 5'7 and feel like 700mm should be plenty as I'm not exactly throwing this hardtail down mountains. 680mm might even work.
Stem: was thinking the same as above, carbon from Workswell. I know there is a strong argument for going aluminum so I need to research this a bit more. I've seen an Enve carbon get a great review and I'm wondering if one of these Chinese copies is the same. I'm not sure about the length yet due to a) the handlebar length, and b) the frame size being on the small end of what fits me. I'm likely going to order on the cheap from China so if it doesn't feel right, I'll resell and get something else.
Seatpost: was thinking the same as above, carbon from Workswell. I don't need a drop post nor want to spend the money on one now. I'm not sure if I need a larger offset than what they offer due again to the frame running toward the smaller end of what fits me.
Saddle: I can't imagine using a carbon saddle; my butt is going to be sitting on this. How bout leather?
Pedals: flat, but not sure what yet
Grips: not sure yet. Saw some rubber SRAM ones that look decent
Misc: BB adapter/converter (if needed), spacers for stem (if needed), adapter for the Lefty, tape/sealant for the tires, frame guard/helicopter tape, chainstay guard, light (winter days can be short in Chicago). Am I missing anything?
That 180mm is for rotor size.
Originally Posted by josephjosephson
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ah ok, true, ty. and I think the rubber ring is probably for setting the sag (never done it before)
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Grips. Stuff starting to come in slowly
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Components and tires came in. still need to pick out a crank and BB. also decided to go with project 321 hubs (supermax front, 148x12 rear). they have a boost 148 rear hub coming out in about a week built off of an industry 9 hub. I'm also ordering the tapered supermax adapter from them. there is some concern that the frame headtube + the adapter may be too big for the supermax clamps, but we'll see (it will be close)
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Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk
Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk
Basically what I'm planning on doing. Subbed!
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