Bike projects - a how to

So, after my recent experience trying a 3t Strada (which I’ve decided against, for various reasons) I have decided that I would like to build myself an aero bike. Why? 1 - I’d like an aero bike :grin: 2 - doing it bit by bit will help with budgeting and 3 - I’d actually like to build my own bike.

Now here is the problem: my mechanical skills are limited. I’m fine adjusting derailleurs, routine fettling etc, but I’ll be honest: things like hydraulic discs are totally out of my comfort zone. I’m reasonably generally ‘handy’ but have never routinely done anything but basic maintenance on my bikes.

So, 3 questions: 1 - realistically, how hard is a self-build, 2 - what’s a basic essential list of tools and 3 - what are the best learning resources? I assume youtube, but some decent links, and something with a systematic guide, would be very handy.

Thanks in advance.

Here is my take on skills needed to wrench on your own bike…the majority of guys in shops aren’t smarter or have any special skills that you don’t. But they have had time to be trained or simply and more experience than you. Experience is the best teacher. (And yes, there are some wonderfully skilled bike mechanics out there…those guys aren’t the ones I am talking about).

So if the interest is there, and you are not in a rush to get to the finished project, and you have a fair amount of patience to learn the necessary processes, you can do it…and you will be better off for it when the bike needs to be maintained.

You Tube has more videos than you’ll ever need to learn the steps for any project. Park Tools is usually a good first-stop, but there are plenty of others.

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Building a bike from the bare components can be a great experience, but does require some specialist tools and knowledge - nothing particularly complex but just that sort of thing that experience makes easy. Bearing presses and bottom bracket tools can be expensive and using them wrong is a very quick way to trash a frame. Dealing with internal cable routing (assuming you will have to do this if building up an aero bike) can also drive you mad if you don’t have an internal routing kit.
If you have a friendly bike shop or bike co-op in your area then it’s probably worth seeing if you can work with them to build the bike - pay for their time and expertise to teach you how to do things right and so that you can use their tools.

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I’ve done 2 frame swaps and a groupset upgrade just checking youtube videos. The only thing I didn’t do myself was the hydraulic brake installation. I don’t have the tools required and it would make a big mess on my apartment, but the main reason is pure laziness. If you take the time and get the kit I’m sure it can be done.
Make sure you have the right tools, torque wrench, bottom bracket items (assuming your frame will have a press fit BB), etc. The main frustration for me was finding out I didn’t have the right tool and had to stop working to go buy one. Don’t be tempted to bodge/improvise, it can go wrong, personal experience here.
Like others said, be patient and take your time.

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Most jobs on a bike are pretty easy, especially if you get a threaded BB and can either borrow of buy a internal cabling tool.

Bleeding brakes is prob the most difficult bit, which I tend to get the shop to do since any other failure won’t be a risk but brakes are so I’d rather not test it.

Go slow, use the right kit and don’t be afraid to stop and ask for help. Stripping a bolt on a stem is one thing, cutting a steerer tube too short is a whole other thing. If in doubt, stop watch a Park Tools video again, have a brew and then attempt it. It’s not a rush job, enjoy the learning process.

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Thanks all. Job 1 is to find a good 2nd hand aero frame, and then probably look to get hold of a used groupset.

Tbh I might bail on the brakes for precisely the reason @firemunki gives.

I’d love to keep the whole thing under 2k, though I doubt that’s realistic tbh.

Re: doing the brakes (or any job, really). No reason not to give it a try…worst case scenario is you botch it up and take it to a shop…which you we’re gonna do anyway.

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Why did you decide against the Strada?

1x11 was just a bit gappy for me, and a 50/36 is fine when fresh/riding aggressively, but up some of the steeper inclines round here it’s just a bit grindy (or will be, towards the end of a longer ride). The seatpost moving down slightly also annoyed me.

I know both of those problems are solvable, but they turned me against what would have been an impulse buy (it’s in the other thread, but TLDR a friend decided to get rid of his and offered me first refusal)

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I reckon it would be doable under a couple 2k assuming you’ve got a few months to keep eye out for deals.

First of all: Totally go for it! That sounds like a lot of fun and if you are into tinkering around you will learn a lot of new skills that can come handy when on the road and safe money by minimizing your need for a LBS mechanic in the future.

Regarding tools. I started with a basic cycling tool box with something like 20+ pieces and a torque wrench. That gets you pretty far and doesn’t break the bank. Since then I got tools when needed. Most of the time I ended up getting park tool stuff. The quality is just really good. If you want to safe some money maybe you can borrow very specific tools or for things like a press-fit bottom bracket installation you could also get some things done by the LBS. Doesn’t take anything away from your achievement!

A couple of general remarks out of my personal experience:

  • Pretty much everything can be done with time and a couple of youtube videos (and the right tools)
  • Sometimes we learn the ‘hard way’. I’m certain I’m not alone with that… sometimes stuff breaks / bends / is cut too short when we try it the first time. It’s part of the game :upside_down_face:
  • Building a bike up from scratch might not be cheaper than getting a complete build (looking at your number 2 reason for the project).
    I was at a point where I wanted to cannibalize my road bike and build up a gravel bike. In the end, I ran the numbers and it just didn’t make sense. My problem: For gravel, I wanted hydraulic disc brakes (and 1x). My road bike had rim brakes with quick release. So besides a new frame I would have needed new wheels, new levers, all the cables, lines, cassette, crank… just didn’t make sense compared to the cheap prices of a complete build since the likes of Canyon, etc get different prices for the OEM parts. Additionally, SRAM and Shimano restricted their international shipments - it would have been hard for me to get OK priced components (if at all) to where I live.
    I guess it’s about what you want on your aero bike. I’m a sucker for the newest tech (disc brakes, GRX groupset, tubeless, hidden cables etc). If you are fine with for example rim brakes nothing is stopping you from getting some decently priced used parts for the build. (Edit: A good bargain might be made by getting a used Canyon Aeroroad (frame or complete build) when the new model gets released)
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A few things: first of all, you will not save money building the bike yourself — unless you have access to the necessary tools and/or a stock of old parts.

You will need a few basic tools, especially if at any point carbon is involved. You need at least a bike stand, one, better two torque wrenches (to cover the range that you need), tools to install the bottom bracket (e. g. a bearing press and a removal tool if the frame has a pressfit BB), but also things like a chain whip, a cassette tool and cable cutters are a must.

IMHO unless you have access to these tools, building a bike yourself will not be more economical. However, hobbies don’t need to be economical, so if you want to do it for fun, I say go for it!

Also, disc brakes are dead easy to deal with. I learnt to bleed disc brakes this year, and all it took was a youtube video. It took me 15 minutes to bleed two MTB disc brakes. I reckon I would need a few minutes longer on my road bike, which I’d spend peeling back the hoods and finding the right screws. (Things are more exposed and obvious on a mountain bike.)

Well, I think as far as pricing goes, the used Strada is as cheap as you are going to get. I reckon you will have to pay a fair bit more all things considered.

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This will be @RecoveryRide soon:

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And probably missing a finger :rofl:

Plenty of good information available here. Have been doing self builds for years, 10+ full builds.
I was lucky and did my first one with someone else. Would highly recomend trying to find a friend who has done it before and work through it with them.

Things to consider;

  • Standards change - I’ve done rim brake, mechanical disc brake, hydraulic disc brake, fixed gear, different iterations of shimano/SRAM and they all required different tools to buy and methods to learn.
  • it’s often cheaper to buy a whole bike and then change the things you want. Though you can also wait for good sales and second hand components.
  • when learning and following videos - try and picture what is happening mechanically, understand what you are doing and what it changes - it’s easy to follow a video and not understand what is happening.

The big upsides;

  • you can become more self sufficient. This weekend alone I was there to fix 2 issues that would have been show stoppers for the people involved.
  • it does becomes economicaly viable in the long run That ~£$150 spent on half decent tools and a bike stand pays for itself very quickly.

Resources

  • GCN videos are generally good
  • for SRAM and Shimano, the manuals are actually very good - especially when working with the hydraulics
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Think it’s a fairly short step from working on the bikes you already have to building one from scratch - if you’ve changed a BB, you an also fit a new one.

I’d try not to stray too far from what you’ve got though. For example, if you’re a shimano guy, stick with shimano. Make things exchangable with your existing bike, for example find a frame with the same BB. That’ll keep the build process familiar.

Don’t worry about hydraulic brakes, they are easy to fit, and you’d want to get a bleed kit anyway if you have a bike with hydraulic brakes. Bleeding brakes is pretty straight forward, just need to follow a couple of steps.

Oh and speccying a bike a finding all the parts you want for a budget is great fun. But I agree with the others, you’re unlikely to save any money compared to buying a complete build.

No, I agree that the overall spend will doubtless be more than a good deal in a sale, though the ability spend money piecemeal will increase affordability at this precise period in time.

My biggest reason, though (by far), is because I think I’ll enjoy it hugely and I think the level of mechanical competency it’ll give me in the long run will be really valuable.

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That’s a great reason right there. You’ll have to get some tools at one point anyway. A bike stand is great to clean your bike. Knowing how to and having the tools to change a chain or cassette is going to make everything a lot cheaper.

One lesson I have learnt is that getting the right tool can save sooooo much time. I once lost the rear derailleur cable in the frame (which has internal cable routing). I tried for an hour-and-a-half, and then I took the bike to a bike shop around the corner. With the right tool, the whole thing took one or two minutes. And there are tasks I honestly wouldn’t want to do without the proper tool.

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If you’re quite handy mechanically definitely go for it. If it’s anything I’ve found don’t try and make/bodge your own tools or short cut things, the right presses, cutters etc will make the job much simpler. There’s loads of great tricks out there for fishing cables through and videos on YouTube on how to setup various components.

I always built my own bikes from frame sets, most recently building a Madone SLR and a Speed Concept. If you take your time and read the instructions it’s all pretty clear.

Obviously the guys in the shops are more experienced and they’re doing it day in day out so they’re bound to be more skilled. It all comes down to why you want to do it. For me it’s about knowing how it all works so if anything ever happens I can diagnose it myself. Saying that there is times when I have to go in to the local bike shop with my tail between my legs asking for help :grinning:

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I haven’t done full builds but I have acquired enough tools and knowledge to do so if I needed to.

That said, my only piece of advice (which I don’t see given more often) is to get the instruction manuals for your groupset. Specifically the ones regarding installation.

General approaches to doing bike stuff can be found on youtube but if your groupset manufacturer has a different way of doing things, it can go south really quickly. This holds doubly true if you use a manufacturer like campag which has specific instructions for each step in the build process. Deviate and you’re gonna have a bad time.

That said, I’ve found learning bike maintenance to be a fun, if not frustrating, experience. I’d say doing a full build is a good idea so long as you take the view that this is a skill building experience and that you shouldn’t feel bad in going to a LBS for help if you can’t do it by yourself. Doing your own bike work is a really great way to enjoy this hobby as well.