Been thinking about building a bike for a little while now and wanted to get some advise from some experts here. I realize I might not save a crazy amount at the end of the day and need some extra equipment but would be a fun project.
What are your goals in going this route vs buying complete?
Do you do all your own maintenence now? I’d start there. Break down and check all the major parts of your bike now using youtube/parktools. Accumulate knowledge and figure out what tools you’ll need and what parts of the build/maintenence you don’t want to do like pressing bearings checking hanger alignment etc. Then decide if you actually like working on bikes. Its very time consuming and things are constantly needing work if you have multiple bikes.
Unless you have a source of particularly inexpensive parts (or some other uncommon situation), it’s generally cheaper to buy a complete bike than to assemble one.
This is great fun, but maybe consider you’re lbs for bits which need the most expensive tools like bottom brackets.
As above, rarely cheaper than a complete bike, but you can use second hand groupsets and the like to make it cheaper, and its way more fun of tinkering is your thing
Yesterday my frame arrived for a gravel bike build, I’ve accumulated the tools I need over the years (I think I have them all) and I have done enough on my other bikes.
In terms of skills, youtube videos are great, there are loads available and watching how its done and the tricks to doing some things are invaluable.
In terms of cost, either buy 2nd hand, use bits that you have or start scouring the sales that are already on and will probably increase for the next few months.
I got my frame in a clearance at nearly half price but groupsets can be really expensive buying separately from a bike, then again some absolute steals come up on sale from time to time.
There are also loads of small parts you need, from headsets, bottom brackets, seat post clamps, cables, in-line cable adjusters, stem spacers etc etc
With me getting a bargain on the frame, using spare parts I have and looking around for sale components I should end up with a decently spec’d bike for less than the equivalent retail, but if I had to buy all the parts and tools I’d be closer to breaking even at best.
I’d say go for it. It’s very satisfying and gives you the confidence of knowing how every part of your bike works. Most of it is relatively straightforward if you have the right tools and do your research - plenty of videos and guidance online. You might want to identify the bits that aren’t so straightforward and/or which require a specialist or expensive tool that you’re unlikely to use again, and consider whether you have a friend or LBS who could help you out. Headset and bottom bracket installation are probably the main 2 to consider getting help with as they’re a bit of a one-off thing that you shouldn’t have to do again for a long time so maybe not worth buying tools for. Assuming you’re not going to be building your own wheels then most of the rest of the bike can be sorted out with a set of Allen keys, a good set of cable and housing cutters, a chain whip, a lockring tool and maybe a chain tool (you don’t need this if you buy a chain with a Powerlink). Definitely worth getting a torque wrench if you have a carbon frame, gives you peace of mind and I know quite a few people who have caused damage over-tightening carbon parts.
Would say that if you’re going for a pretty vanilla build with new parts then you’re not going to save any money and will likely lose quite a bit (especially taking into account the investment in tools). I.e. there is no point buying a list price frameset and building it up with new Shimano, SRAM or Campag components. The bike manufacturers get such a big discount on groupsets that you’re highly unlikely to find any deals that get you close. Particularly with the online retailers like Canyon out there. If you have some parts lying around and can pick things up secondhand or on discount it can be worth doing. I did this with my first TT bike, I picked up a bargain used frame from eBay and I think everything on that bike apart from the cables was either secondhand, discounted by 30% or more, or already sitting in my garage. Other way that makes it worthwhile is if you really want a more custom build with components that don’t normally feature on stock manufacturer bikes. Though even here it’s worth talking to your LBS who may be happy to swap parts out and only charge you the difference. Or maybe worth checking what price you can get by swapping out those components yourself and selling off what you don’t need.
Like many things in life, success at being a home mechanic is determined through natural inclination, general organizational ability, patience, and practice.
I learned to wrench as a teenager, as did a number of my peers. We cut our teeth on much cheaper bikes and made plenty of mistakes. When I was 14, I effed around one of my hubs and reinstalled the bearing cones backwards. Took it to a shop and denied doing it… “I have no idea how that happened. It must’ve flipped itself!”
Building an entire bike as a first foray into home wrenching might be biting off more than you can chew. If this is a road bike, the benefits might not be apparent either, since you don’t have nearly as much choice in component selection as with an MTB, especially if this is an aero frameset that includes fork, stem, and seatpost. Also, I know the exact number of times I’ve bled my hydraulic disc brakes on my road bikes… zero (after the initial setup). Quite a contrast to my MTB brakes, which in some cases are bled multiple times per season. It would totally not be worth it to buy a bleed kit for my road bikes if that’s all I rode.
That said, I strongly encourage learning how to work on your bikes, maybe starting with smaller doses, like installing a power meter or replacing drivetrain components. I haven’t brought a bike into a shop for servicing since 1996. It’s more of a hassle than it’s worth.
As for cost, complete bikes always cost less than custom builds due to the heavy OEM discounts that frame manufacturers get from component suppliers. This is especially true with the direct-to-consumer brands like Canyon. Price out a Canyon Aeroad vs. a Specialized Venge built up from a frameset.
Building my own bike is something that I eventually want to try also. I’m slowly accumulating the knowledge and tools. At the moment, cabling is what scares me the most for some reason.
At least if you screw up cabling it’s relatively inexpensive to sort out! Assuming you just did something dumb like cutting the housing too short (or cutting the housing while the cable is still in there, I can’t be the only person to have done that…), as opposed to something dumb like forgetting to attach the brake cable to the brake calipers and not finding out until you come to the first hairpin on a steep descent.
It’s cutting steerer tubes that always scares me, that’s a fairly irreversible mistake if you cut it too short. And there’s certainly no way I would ever have bought one of those bikes like some of the Scott Plasmas where the seatpost is actually part of the frame and needs cutting to size.
Thanks everyone for the responses. I do most of the maintenance on my road bike now and have most of the tools. I don’t have to bottom bracket tools but with that I just have my lbs do that. More than likely if I were to build one it would be a mtn bike. My motivation was just to take on a fun project knowing I can use this knowledge for future.
It’s cheaper to buy as covered above, but more fun to build. Go for it.
Tips: there is almost never a need to use significant force on a wrench for a bike. If you are turning a wench hard stop and think. Exception is seized or corroded parts in very limited circumstances.
Measure ten times and cut once.
Building wheels is really fun.
There is nothing magical about wrenching on your bike but definitely take your time and then double and triple check all critical fasteners. When I learned in a shop that was the key lesson and we always had a second person double check the key bolts before calling it done.
Don’t use a cheap torque wrench. It doesn’t have to be super expensive either. Shimano, Pedro’s, Effito Mariposa, are all great. $7 for a 3-pak on Amazon is a great way to break your collar bone or impale yourself on a seat post.
Don’t loosen bolts with a torque wrench (unless the MFG says you can). It’s a great way to ruin your tool and lose teeth.
Use the correct grease + assembly paste. And, anti-seize is not the same thing as grease and assembly paste.
Make sure to use the correct lock-tite. Red is not the color you want to use. (I made this mistake years ago).
The blue lock-tite that comes on bolts is special — not the same as you buy from Home Depot. It’s designed to “turn on” with compression (i.e. when you torque things down). You need to re-apply lock-tite if you loosen those bolts and re-torque them.
Park Tools, while ubiquitous, are not necessarily the best tools to buy. Cheap tools (a la Amazon) can absolutely ruin parts. Seriously, I have a friend with a Kogel bottom bracket in his drawer that got effed up because he used a cheap tool. . . . expensive mistake to save $30 on a tool.
Finally, when you torque something down to spec. Mark it. Depending on your memory is a great way to lose teeth — I have literally seen this happen in front of me.
Hah. And I was JUST about to start talking about torches and jigs.
Glad I read the thread first.
Thanks and makes sense. My Trek emonda needed a new bb and it was a press fit so I had the lbs do that. The other version as you mentioned is pretty straight forward as you mentioned.
I cut my daughters seat post with a pipe cutter I had laying around and worked fine but took a little elbow grease to get it done. Had to cut it twice as I went long initially to make sure but it worked fine.
This was my first and only bike build. Looked and waited patiently for a used bike frame on ebay. Wanted an S-Works, but didn’t want to pay that huge price tag that comes with a new frameset or new bike. This 2014 SL4 S-Works was $800 delivered to my door.
Bought a Sram red group set on sale on the web. Came with BB as part of the group. Had to have the BB put on at the LBS. Everything else was done at home. Ican wheelset that had good reviews on YouTube. Bought a few tools that I will now own forever and come in handy when doing maintenance work.
This what my bike looks like after the build. A very light 14lbs
Overall experience was very satisfying and I wouldn’t hesitate in building another bike.
Now THAT would be ambitious!
Gee Milner Dream Build Collection. This series is so satisfying to watch and it captures the sounds of each build in a way that also satisfies. Doesn’t teach you how to build it up, but rather shows the process with tons of frames and wheels.
Having built up my last two bikes (fat bike and full suspension MTB) I have to say that while it’s somewhat intimidating it’s not actually that difficult, mostly it’s a case of getting the alignment right and using the correct grease, assembly paste, etc. However I’m going to suggest something slightly different.
If you’ve a winter hack bike, strip it down and rebuild it. That way you’ll know what tools you need when rebuilding apart from the build specific tools like cable cutters. Take lots of pictures as you are doing it, no cost these days with digital cameras or camera phones, then you have an idea of what to do when rebuilding.
An alternative would be a cheap bike from ebay or a local second hand/used store that you aren’t too worried about wrecking.