View Full Version : Building a road bike: advice/recommendations?

07-06-2008, 11:45 PM
Short version:
I'm going to build a road bike; any suggestions on frames?

Long version:
My usual ride is a mid-70's red cruiser (named Seamus), but my new commute (up the Alameda ridge every morning) kicked Seamus' ass, and I've discovered the hard way how to kill a pair of cottered cranks. I'm working on getting him back up and running, but I'm getting tired of sinking money into my baby when it's clear he's not the right choice for daily use. In the meantime, I'm borrowing my brother's 18-speed monster mountain bike, and I can't stand the thing. It's sooooo not the bike for me (as nice as the suspension is on puddletown's crappy roads).

My goal with the new bike will be something I can ride year-round, that won't need a major trip to the shop every three months, that fits me a little better, and that doesn't cost $2,000 (I just don't have that kind of budget). The computer geek in me won't be satisfied with anything off-the-rack, so I've decided to build it myself, but I'm not sure where to get started (meaning the frame). Ultimately, I want to build a single-speed road bike (I'm thinking about a flip-flop hub so I can test the fixie waters).

Does anybody have any advice on what to look for as far as frames/parts go? I can figure out the wheels and cranks and whatnot, but I know nothing about frame manufacturers, what to look for, how to tell a good deal, etc.

07-07-2008, 12:04 AM
Hey. I've been slowly building a similar bike for three years now....it kinda just evolves with me. I did a lot of research and recently bought a racing-ish frame. I did a lot of research into different types of tubing (the steel that the frame is made out of) even though a lot of people told me not to worry about it. but I don't believe them. The heaviest part of your bike is your frame and when you ride a single speed (which i've been doing for three years) you want something light. My much more knowledgable (sp?) friends told me about columbus tubing and Reynolds, but I just bought a Nishiki Tri-A that was hand-built by a japanese dude named Kawamura and it was made out of Tange #1 steel. Now, apparently that's not as light as the Tange Prestige tubing or reynolds 631, 731 (etc--the higher the number, the lighter the steel). But the mother is LIGHT, especially compared to my first True-Temper Trek and by current clunky Schwinn Le Tour. Oh yeah, it cost 120 with the fork and a stuck seatpost, which is still being taken out. The bottom line is, it needs to fit you, and that's what everyone says. I'd venture to say that a lot of italian made brands will be lighter than other types...I'll probably be wrong with a lot of what i say but don't worry the BikeFo people will catch it.

As far as wheels go, I ride Surly hubs with Velocity Deep-V's (hugely overly popular but you don't HAVE to get them in those silly--ahem, cool- colors).My bike buddies say that though the v's are really popular with hipsters they are nonetheless economical, light, and pretty aerodynamic. The only annoying thing is that my hubs are 135mm spaced instead of the usual 126 or 130. I've never ridden Eno hubs but if you're building a single speed I think they're pretty much top notch, except for Phil Wood. Phil's are expensive and heavy though. I like Chris King hubs too. they are all more expensive than my surly's though.

Sorry for the hugely long winded reply, but there's one more thing: I have a fantasy about getting an eno single sped crank. they look awesome, and i hear the are awesome, and they are $185 minimum. But I want one.


p.s. I know a guy who could sell you a Trek 450 with Reynolds 531 tubing for 150...Its 57cm, the right size for 5'10-6'????? I almost got that but I think the Nishiki was a tad lighter.....

you can email me at shnishni@mac.com if you have more questions.


07-07-2008, 12:05 AM
just now reread the part about you figuring out wheels, cranks on your own....sorry about that

07-07-2008, 06:49 AM
Go have a fitting done. It will cost some $$ but it will save you a lot of time and hassle when it comes to selecting the frame and sized parts like the stem, crank arms and handlebars. Building a bike is not a great wat to save money either unless you can find a smoking deal on a frame...even then, you will not be able to compete with a manufacturer who pays OEM for the components. My suggestion is to find an out of the box bike which you like (and that fits you) and go about modifying/upgrading the components to suit you. For PDX weather and hills it's really hard to beat a hybrid or a cyclocross-based frame. They will allow for better brakes and a wider range of gearing without radical mods.
Otherwise look into getting any frame and having a rear wheel built with an internally-geared Shimano 8spd hub. They're sealed and have that single speed appeal.

07-17-2008, 09:07 PM
Building up a bike yourself will definitely cost you more, but you will learn a lot. Or you could test ride a lot of bikes until you find the model and size you like and then watch for one that's 1-2 years old on Craigslist or ebay. Familiarize yourself with prices, geometry, and component levels so you will recognize a good deal, and when you find one take it home and give it a thorough cleaning and tune-up yourself. The Specialized tricross is a good versatile choice, I have found that bikes with a slightly longer head tube such as the Specialized Roubaix or Serotta Fierte are much more comfortable because I'm not hunched over so much.

07-18-2008, 12:29 AM
thanks for the advice, everyone. the forums were down when I went to check back for replies, and in the meantime (apparently for ten days) I've been reading oodles of stuff online, especially the late Sheldon Brown's excellent series of articles about how to ride a bike properly.

I've also been paying more attention to my daily route, and have begrudgingly realized that it's almost nothing but hills ... so I may need to stick with the gears for the moment. I got a reasonable estimate from Sellwood Cycle on replacing Seamus' cranks entirely, so if I can get that done, I'll spend more time analyzing my ride/riding style and keep researching. I'll post again if I make any hefty decisions.

07-18-2008, 10:41 AM
You mentioned what your budget is not, but never mentioned what it is.

Earlier this year I bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker Complete (as opposed to a frame/fork build up) as a daily commuter. Pretty good components for a complete. With SS fenders, Surly rear rack and mustache bars it was $1200. Twice what I've ever spent in the past, but the planets were in alignment at just the right time, so I went for it. It's a long wheelbase, but to me, that's a good thing:D I've nothing but good things about Surly's Cross-Check.

08-13-2008, 06:03 AM
I will be doing a build up on a Surly Cross Check or Steamroller (reverse dropouts, fixie frame). I have seen several around town and spoke with one guy who loved his Cross Check.

The nice advantage is that there is plenty of clearance for large tires and fenders for the rain on either frame. Both frames cost ~$400

08-28-2008, 10:13 PM
I'm just cocky enough to assume you're all *dying* to know what I ended up doing, so here's the scoop:

My brother's ridiculous mountain bike is going back to him, after I take it in for a tune-up. I enjoyed the 18 gears when pedaling up the Alameda Ridge every morning, but I found that I was shifting--on average--about every two minutes, and that's just too much distraction.

I took Seamus (my "sweet red cruiser") down to Sellwood Cycle and got the cranks, pedals, front chainring, and bottom bracket replaced. It was worth the $150; I dropped from a ten-speed to a five-speed, but it rides smoother than it ever has (and I've been riding this bike off and on for nine years). Of course, now that the pedaling is so smooth, it amplifies how messed up my wheels are; the back wheel has a habit of not staying true, the front wheel is dented enough that braking is like hitting cobblestones, and the "deluxe" foam-padded saddle is driving me crazy. Also he needs a taller stem so my neck will stop hurting.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3142/2808123962_a761ccafbb_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrbread/2808123962/)

So I'm looking at another $300-400 over the next few months as I replace a few more parts and fix a few others, and I'm debating whether to bite the bullet and just save for a Marin. My best friend rides a Larkspur, and I kinda love his bike.

And in answer to the budget question; my budget is limitless in the long-term, but it's no more than $150/mo. So I can either make periodic upgrades to the bike I have, or ride it into the ground while I save for a new ride. Neither are perfect options.

08-29-2008, 01:08 AM
i agree with pdxgs. a cross frame will offer you lots of versatility in brakes, gearing, hub choices, etc.

and i personally would disregard most of the comments about component and frame lightness. i think that sort of thing is pretty pointless. you have strong legs? there you go...

08-31-2008, 01:38 PM

I agree 100%. I'm far more concerned with the quality of my components than the weight. Besides, shaving a few pounds off the bike wouldn't matter since I'm often carrying multiple pounds of various crap in my backpack.