Why do people choose to build their own bikes?

With so many bikes available with a whole range of builds ranging from budget to very expensive, you’d think there would be something available off the shelf to suit any rider. But there are still plenty of cyclists who want to build their own bikes and, according to Dom Mason at Mason Cycles in Sussex, that number is growing.

“Recently, because components are so hard to find these days, we’ve seen an increase in sales of framesets,” says Mason. “It really makes sense to invest in a new quality frameset, especially if it has modern features and is adaptable and versatile, and then build it using your existing components. “

This despite the fact that Mason Cycles offers a wide range of complete versions and, as a small brand, offers a lot of flexibility to meet the demands of every rider.

The winter hack

Riders will often have a drawer full of components like cranksets and saddles that they’ve traded in for upgrades over the years or kept from older bikes that they’ve retired. It’s a good source of free parts to build a new bike, and it’s a popular way to specify a “winter hack” bike that you can fit with fenders, preventing wear and tear on your best bike. summer.

An alloy or steel frame for winter construction is a relatively inexpensive purchase. Ribble’s frames, for example, start at £ 599 for the Endurance AL disc.

The good news is that most frame-only purchases include a carbon fork and headset bearings, so you have the basics of a bike out of the box and, if there’s a bottom bracket threaded, you can bolt most components together with an inexpensive set of tools that a mechanically inclined cyclist is likely to already have. This means you don’t need an expensive bearing press, tapping tools, or other specialty shop tools. A torque wrench or preset torque wrenches will help make sure the bolts are properly tightened.

Starting with the components you have on hand is a good approach to get your new bike running, even if you plan to upgrade it at a later date.

“We have seen many clients do this with very good results. Our frames are always designed with easy-to-find components, such as 68mm BSA bottom brackets and 27.2mm seatposts, ”says Mason.

Bicycle frames with non-standard features such as aero seatposts or bar / stem combinations with internal cable routing will usually have the option of purchasing them as part of the package as well, as they will have a specific design for fit into the frame. All Chapter2 frames, for example, come with a fork, bar / stem and seat post and some even come with bottom bracket bearings.

A close up of a 'dream build' top cap mounted on a Chapter2 bike

(Image credit: chapter 2)

Take and choose

If you are looking for a specific build for your new bike, your choices may be limited in store. If you want a Campagnolo drivetrain to match your Italian frame, for example, this immediately limits the number of bikes available, so researching your components and building your own bike may be the best option to get the specs you want.

“A lot of our customers are very experienced riders, have tried many combinations of frames and groups and know exactly what they want,” Mason points out. “So they like to build the bike themselves to their exact specifications, or have it built by their favorite store, which they maybe have been using for many years.”

Chapter2 co-founder Michael Pryde backed up this sentiment, saying Chapter2 customers know exactly what they want and that he regularly receives detailed spreadsheets with the breakdown of components for each part, including their weight.

If you want to customize your bike with components from niche brands, building it yourself may be the only option. Favorites include Chris King helmets, while ultra-light rim brakes and other components like THM and Cane Creek paired with wheels from brands like Lightweight can lead to a very light, moot build.

Specialty builds like hill climb bikes and time trials will also usually be custom spec rather than standard. In the case of cyclocross bikes, since most cyclocross frames now double as gravel bikes, a race specification will often require custom build.

Mason has found that in some cases his customers spend a few months researching and assembling their perfect building kit from new components.

“Many riders love the process of finding each component, around the world, and then building the bike themselves,” he says.

A Chapter2 frame surrounded by components to build a bike

(Image credit: chapter 2)

Different dimensions

Self-build is also a good option for riders who don’t adapt well to a standard setup. If you are particularly tall or your body dimensions are outside the normal range, an stock build may just not be right for you and you may need to seek out a frame from a specialist builder. Some brands will build you a unique frame in a non-stock size:

Condor Cycles in the UK, for example, will build the majority of its custom-sized framesets for £ 250. It will also add features like fender and rack mounts or change the frame’s bottom bracket standard for the same price. This ability to select the exact standards and specifications you want, as well as the uniqueness of your frame, is also a major appeal of a fully custom frame construction.

Self-build can also be cheaper than swapping out the bottom bracket on a bike purchased complete, if you want to use cranks that are longer or shorter than a standard specification. If you want a non-standard crank length, it might also be worth considering a fully bespoke frame to make sure you have the right handling characteristics and ground clearance for safe turns.

A Shimano Dura-Ace crankset mounted on a Chapter2 bike

(Image credit: chapter 2)

Understanding your bike

Self-build also helps you better understand how your bike works.

“It’s a great way to get to know all parts of the bike intimately, to know exactly what tools to carry, and to fully understand how to tune and repair if you run into issues on a long, remote adventure,” says Mason.

“Apart from all of that, there is something almost indescribable about the feel of that first ride on a bike you have found all the parts for and built entirely yourself! I would really recommend the whole process, especially in these crazy times for the cycling industry and the world as a whole, ”he concludes.

A fully built Chapter2 bike stands in front of a mechanics workbench

(Image credit: chapter 2)


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Wiley C. Thompson