Table of Contents
1 Building a Bike: Advantages
Stock bikes today are much better than they were 10-15 years ago. Nowadays, you can choose from a variety of styles and higher-quality bikes available on the market. In the early 2000s, many people benefited significantly from custom geometry, but now there are many more options to choose from.
And many cyclists prefer custom bikes built from the frame up even if they need to spend additional time and sometimes money. So today, various brands like Trek and Specialized offer several framesets for precisely that purpose.
Why? It is the only way to have everything under the control of what happens with your bike. Besides, making a bike from scratch will improve your understanding of the industry, knowledge of the mechanics, and your confidence in yourself.
Others need a particular bike suitable for their specific riding style. It could be lower gearing or a dynamo hub light. Popular brands don’t usually offer a set of options like that in one unit.
Finally, you will have the chance to build something truly unique, whether it concerns a special bar tape or an additional layer of custom paint.
2 Building a Bike: Drawbacks
Undoubtedly, there are also some drawbacks. For example, building your bike can be more expensive than stock units. That’s especially true if you’re making a bike with mid-range parts. But, on the other hand, there’s no need to equip your bicycle only with high-end components, so savvy parts-hunting can save you money.
The second drawback is that you may need the patience to pull all the parts together and follow a more complex assembly scheme. But it is crucial to be 100% sure everything is compatible, especially if you’re doing some things for the first time.
To help you manage this tricky business, we’ve prepared a guide on how to build the custom bike of your dreams.
3 Tip 1: How and Where to Start
The frame is the starting point of making a custom bike, and here you need to decide to buy either a new or a used one. New spares offer you total control like you know everything about a part you have. Most manufacturers provide a frame or a frame-and-fork option in their online stores.
Used frames are perfect for saving a bit of cash for other parts. When buying a used frame here is essential to check the frame for signs of corrosion, damage, or previous repairs; make sure the frame is not bent, rusted, or broken in any way.
Pay much attention to the material of the frame. When dealing with steel, bending is more likely to be the case. Aluminum and carbon fiber frames usually have more catastrophic damages that you can easily detect with the naked eye. If it is possible, also check the bottom bracket threads, so they have not been stripped or damaged as well. Although you can fix this type of thing, it will add unnecessary costs to the project. The second step is to choose what kind of bike you want to create and buy the necessary parts accordingly. If you don’t know how to find something your size, judging against your previous cycles may be good advice.
First of all, here you need to decide on what kind of fork you want. It should match the type of bike you are building. It can be a road bike, BMX, mountain, or something in between. Then, before choosing your fork, take into account the frame material. Carbon fiber is lightweight and durable. Aluminum is lightweight but stiff. Steel is much heavier and suppler than the other two but is cheaper at the same time. It is suitable for touring, fat tire mountain bikes, and family heirloom road bikes. It is going to outlast you.
The most important thing about the stem is its size and compatibility. It’s necessary to get a detail that fits around the steer tube. Here you need to fit it down over the steer tube and then tighten it securely into place. Moreover, make sure you have a stem that will also fit the size of the handlebars you will use.
There are three types of brakes, and each has its advantages and drawbacks. Although not super popular, hub brakes can be fun, but you will most likely use rim brakes or disc brakes. Disc brakes have significantly more stopping power; however, they are more expensive. On the other hand, rim brakes are the easiest to work on and replace.
Wheels and Tires
The essential parts of any wheel are a hub, rim, spokes, and nipples. The quality of the hubs will impact the weight of your wheel and how well it will roll. Inside the component, you can see a set of bearings sitting over the axle — the better the bearings, the better the wheel rolls. Most brands offer low, mid, and high-quality sets. Please take into account the fact that every company has separate names for their different parts. Look for something you like.
You can find a lot of info on the Internet about this step. However, everything is crystal clear. First of all, pay attention to the correct size of the seat compatible with the seat tube on the frame. Then decide on the proper material. Carbon, steel, or aluminum are the three primary materials, but there are others.
4 Tip 2: Building It Up
People who regularly make bikes from scratch cite contact points as a specific reason for doing so: they can mount a particular saddle they love, a perfect handlebar fitting them right, or a stem longer or shorter than what comes on stock bikes in their size.
Previously, cyclists would obsessively mix and match drivetrain parts. Nowadays, that’s not advisable anymore due to compatibility issues, nor is it necessary. The solution is just to stick with one component brand. Various common brands offer a broad range of parts for any riding style and terrain.
Due to the widespread online stores, you can almost always find parts for less money than offline shops charge. But, on the other hand, it may be a bit more time-consuming, so considering where you want to spend your time is vital in this case. If you’re restoring a vintage bike, eBay and Amazon, for instance, are the best marketplaces for old parts, but it will require your patience.
The most unpleasant problem you’ll face while building a bike yourself is compatibility — less between the parts themselves if you stick to one brand and more with the frame. There are at least ten different bottom bracket “standards” currently on the market, for instance. It would become helpful if you made sure the wheelset you pick is available with the proper freehub. People often don’t understand that you can’t mix wheels because there’s different axle spacing involved.
5 Tip 3: Tools
Once you’ve got all the parts together, you’ve got to fix them together. Doing it at the shop is the best and most reliable way of getting a proper, expert build. But, of course, some people prefer assembling their bikes themselves, mainly for further experience and better knowledge of their machines.
Before you start, have a proper assessment of the tools you may need. Modern, high-end bikes can boast fantastic technologies, but they’re not the easiest to work on.
Even if you are confident enough in your capabilities, you may want to have a shop manage specific work like frame prep: most home engineers don’t have a suitable set of tools for chasing bottom bracket threads or facing shells. And talking about tools, be ready to buy a few specialized ones.
Since some of the tools you will use not so often, the best solution is to delegate a part of the frame preparations to a shop. But also consider the fact that several specific tools you will have to engage more often, like bottom bracket cup tools and a good torque wrench.
Besides, before you dive into the world of mechanics, look through some how-to guides and read all kinds of manuals thoroughly. Don’t rely on some previous experience in adjusting separate parts or the general understanding of the operating principle of mechanical devices.
The best resources are usually how-to videos. On YouTube, you may find it helpful watching tech channels with an extensive range of detailed instructions.
6 Tip 4: The Final Result
Be ready for frustration and dissatisfaction. As with any home improvement project, expect again-and-again trips to the shop to get the parts you forgot or missed. Don’t be in a hurry. Move on to a new stage gradually and double-check any action you’re not confident in; it’s far better to take your time and do it properly than to risk destroying the project.
Creating a bike from the frame up isn’t the same as buying a complete, ready-to-ride bike. It’s a time-consuming and complicated process rather than entertainment. But it’s the thing that DIY enthusiasts say is worth it, and not because they save money. Instead, they get a unique customized bike that 100% fits them and their riding needs or habits. In addition, they get a bike that truly reflects them in a way that no stock bike can.
Of course, it also adds some magic to a process when a bunch of separate details, brakes, wheels, and frame ‘become’ a proper bike, and you take a spin down the driveway. That’s the moment the bike gets its soul.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can upgrade your regular bike to all-electric, read our next article going into detail about it.