Build a Road Bike from its Frame Up! A beginners Guide!
So will it be worthwhile and cost effective to take advantage of the great deals you can get by buying only a frame or frameset? Yes, it will save you money. I address this first because most people want to know the bottom-line. You save money. Whether it is worth it or not you should be able to decide by asking yourself a few of the following questions.
But before the questions, lets take a look at how to build a bike. So you're totally stoked you have the frame/frameset that you bought on Ebay or elsewhere, Great!! You should be! Building a bike can be a greatly rewarding and educating experience.
Get used to the fact right now that your frame will have its own specific measurements from the headset, to the seatpost, to the front derailleur, the English/Italian BB (bottom bracket) threading and wheel size. You CAN NOT just go out and blindly buy things you like just by looking at them. YOU MUST consider the sizing otherwise the parts you buy will not be congruent with the frame you have! And if/when you do this, you will be relisting the items or giving them away or worse--end up causing damage to your new frame!
If you bought the frame only, you will need to buy a fork. You need to know the headtube size for the headset--is it 1" or 1 1/8"?? These are the most standard sizes. Also, is it an integrated headset you will need (hidden within the headtube)? Do you want a steel fork or one of the more advanced carbon models? Most riders prefer the carbon due to its lightness and great riding comfort. Some of the older styles are also threaded--most likely you will not want a threaded fork.
Ok, so you bought a fork already. Then, you will need a headset--integrated or not depends on your frame. Buying a frameset (frame & fork already in place) is much easier than just buying the frame--I learned this the hard way. Typically, a special tool is needed to insert the headset into place in the frame to ensure the frame is not damaged. If you are a beginner, you will need to have the local shop help you insert the headset and fork into the frame to make sure you have the right parts AND that they are placed correctly. It is easy to buy the parts and think they are the right ones--if you do not easily recognize the sizing discrepancy with any part you can damage your frame by little force--don't do it! An experienced bike mechanic will cost you a few $ to save you $$$.
You are building your bike up, so you want it to look like a bike, right?! Wheels, a stem and handlebars will do this. You must know your wheelsize--is it 650cc or 700cc?? If you do not know you MUST find out. If you bought your frame/frameset from somebody or a company then you should inquire as to all of its sizes so your build will be smoother. On a general sense, if you are a smaller individual (5'6" or less??) then you will be using the 650cc--average and taller will be on the 700cc--your frame dictates the size of your tires! Ok, so you picked the right size for your frame and now found the greatest wheels on earth for cheap! NOT SO FAST!! Take a deap breath and step way the heck back! This decision could end up dictating your entire drivetrain set up (the parts that are involved in powering you bike, cranks, derailleurs, chain, shifters). If you're a di-hard Shimano fiend and you buy a wheel set up for Campagnolo--you will be out of luck on the set up you are trying to buy--The drivetrain must be compatable from the rear cassette on the rear wheel all the way to the front shifters! Ok, so you picked a wheelset. Your rear hub needs to be fitted with the appropriate drivetrain cassette for compatability--is it Campagnolo or Shimano?? If your rear wheel comes with the set up, then that is the drivetrain you should go with--If it needs the cassette then make sure you order the rear wheel with the hub that will be compatable for the cassette you will purchase. Your wheelset comes and you need a cassette--you must order the cassette with the appropriate spacing of teeth for the type of riding you will be doing and the type of speed set up you are going to have on your drivetrain--DECIDE THIS NOW!! If you want a 10 speed and the wheelset you are looking at is set up for 8 speed, guess what?! You will need a new cassette if you want to stay with 10 speed--otherwise you are now building an 8 speed and all of your components must be congruent! On the cassette--as an example: if it has 11/25 teeth vs 11/23 then you will spin easier--The less teeth the more difficult/harder the pedal stroke. You will have to decide which group to go with depending on your selection of 8, 9 or 10 speed. Most cassettes you will be able to hand tighten for now and have the shop do the final tightening when it is time to snug up the rest of your bike.
Stem--the length will vary by individual. If you have a bike now find out the size of the stem. The length--is it 110mm?? If you go with what you use now, you'll probably be ok. The stem is an easy/cheap change out if you really need to later.
Handlebars--the more narrow they are the more race orientated you are. Go with what you will feel comfortable with riding. Go to your local bike shop and look at the size differences and/or ride some bikes with different sizes to find what you are comfortable with. You can get great bars for cheap on Ebay--most people will be looking for the whole bike and people change out their bars frequently it seems.
Your bike is now coming along quite nicely and actually looks the part.
Seat and stem--you will want a decent saddle that is not heavy and is sporty--the less grams the better and the more the pricetag. The stem MUST be the right size!! Find out what the size is for your frame! If you order the wrong size you can do damage to your frame or it just wont fit--wasted $ yet again. Carbon? Steel? Alluminum? Your choice--some of the carbons have been known to breakdown but most are not only light and sporty they work great! I went with an alluminum for my Lightspeed, however.
Brakes--Your choice--to a point. These, nowadays, are linked to your drivetrain via the shifting lever tied in to the brake system. This causes the price of the shifters to be enormous. If you go carbon shifters, as an example, you can expect to pay more than $200 just for the shifters, not including the brake calipers themselves! Some may be as low as $70. Shimano or Campy? 8 Speed or ?? Pick the model/speed/brand you need and go with it. I would stay away from the bottom-line of any brand, however. The brake calipers do not need to be the same model as your shifters but I would stay with the same brand--things always work better when you do.
Crankset--What are you running? A 2 or 3 chainring set up? Most racing bikes are 2. What is the length of the crankarm that you will need? Usually you will find from 170mm, 172.5mm and 175mm crankarm lengths.. Usually, small inseam will take the 170mm, average 172.5, etc. Then what teeth set up do you want? So many questions, but you must decide and figure out what will work for you--53/39 etc.
Bottom Bracket--Wow, how important is this invisible component! Ok, hidden not invisible. I would go with an upgrade here over many other areas--a lot of regular strain is put on the cranks--don't you want to keep a smooth revolution?! As long as the length is compatable with your crankset, you will be okay--is it 100mm?? 102mm?? Some Campy upper-end require longer than typical bottom brackets. And then, is it English Thread or Italian Thread that you need?? Your frame will dictate this, again. Most, I have found, are English Thread--but don't fall victim to ignorance--find out what you have and order your bottom bracket accordingly.
Pedals--A very personal choice and many to choose from. Clipless, of course. The lighter the better and go with ones that have knee protection via float control on the pedal. The older ones do not have this and they are not on the cutting edge. Of course, I have the older set up on mine (Campagnolo Look Style) as that is what I was used to but I will be upgrading soon!
Derailleurs--Front--is it braze-on or clip-on? If it is clip-on, what is the tube size?? Yes, another size to figure out. It MUST be the right size! When you order KNOW what it is you are buying--why throw money away. Rear--Short cage, Medium cage, or Long cage?? If you are running 3 rings on your crankset, you will need the Long cage (it also weighs more, typically). If you have 2 rings, you will be fine with a Short cage which also happens to be the lightest. You can run a Medium cage with any of your set ups on a 2 ring crankset (8 Speed, 9 Speed, 10 Speed) but why? You are adding more weight where you don't need to--unless of course you are getting the deal of your life on Ebay. Make sure your derailleurs ARE THE RIGHT SPEED for your drivetrain!! This can be critical for optimum performance.
Chain--Yes you need one. And of all the things on your bike, it takes a lot of stress regularly. So buy the BEST most expensive (usually) chain you can for your drivetrain--Again, buy the right speed chain for your drivetrain--they have different spacing depending ont the speed. So you dump $50 into only the chain--so what! It matters greatly! Do it.
So you think that's it? You've done it? Not yet!
Cables--You need shifter and brake cables--oh' how it seems to never end. You will need to buy a package set up or go to your local shop to get the cables you need. I just assume not mess with the cables as it is more work that I don't like to deal with--but be warned: If you bring a quality cableset in with your almost complete bike to be put on by the local shop you will probably pay a pretty penny. It may be more cost effective to use the shops cables and have them install it vs. bringing in a separate set up and having them install it. Call ahead before you go out and buy a cable set up for your brakes and shifters.
Last, but not least, water bottle cages. No you do not need them for the bike to finally be running but it will DRIVE YOU CRAZY by having the whole bike done yet not complete. So, if you didn't do this early on, go buy a cage or two depending on what you like--15grams or 35grams--not that huge of a deal--the cost can be though--You should be able to get two 25gram cages (carbon or not) for $30 for the pair. It just takes a little looking. Pay $100 each for them if you want, but why?
So your bike is hand tightened and needing its final professional do-up. Take it in to a quality local bike shop and ask them to tighten every single part mentioned above to racing standards. This will cost probably around $50-70 but well worth the trip. Peace of mind and professional touch to your new mean machine!
Now, the question I have for you (if you've read this far in, that is): Is it worth the time, effort, frustration, glee, and dedication that you now see that you must put into building a bike for you to build one yourself?? If you are looking for a challenge with a great reward via the payoff of hand-selecting every single part of the bike you ride then this may be for you.
If you are looking to save a few dollars and think building a bike is the easy way to do it and will happen quickly--read everything again and decide for yourself. You will save probably about 1/2 what you ordinarily would spend on a complete set up overall, but at what cost? The cost of much research, waiting, bidding, soliciting advice left and right, more research, re-selling, upgrading in the middle of building, changing drivetrain set-ups, etc.
I did it. It took me a year of living life and trying to build whenever possible. Was it worth it for me? Yes. I am very happy that I chose every single part on my bike--no excuses for me to shell out, "Stupid bike shop", etc.
GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY BUILDING.......OR NOT!!!! :)
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