It’s true to say, there’s a certain romance surrounding building your own bike. Knowing that the bike you are riding is the result of hard work, sweat and many trials and even more errors. More through the power of perseverance, as opposed to extensive knowledge, I recently completed my single speed project. Here is what I learnt in the process, for anyone else considering the same endeavour.
Getting everything you need
The first thing I needed was a frame. I spotted a great looking Raleigh Team Ti frame circa 1979 at Cloud 9 Cycles and quickly snapped it up for £100.
Next up was the components. As opposed to buying each bit individually I took the quick route of acquiring another bike that I would then transfer the parts over from. This solved two problems. The first was not knowing what parts would be suitable. The second was the time it would take to source all these bits from various locations. I also reasoned that by selling the old frame at the end I’d be able to recover some of the cost.
After another trip to Cloud 9 Cycles I bought myself a Halo rear wheel with flip flop hub. This meant I could switch between fixed and single speed. This cost around £40.
Strip it and rebuild it
Then it was time to get my hands dirty. It took me around 3 hours to strip apart the old bike. I managed it by referring in part to my Bike Doctor app, where my memory was fuzzy, and my good old friend Google. This helped me make sure I was not turning things in the wrong direction which had the potential of causing irreversible damage to the frame.
As I lack a vice and only have a basic set of tools it took a lot of strength to remove components that hadn’t been touched in a while. This inevitably resulted in lots of swearing and alcohol drinking to calm the nerves. Both I’ve concluded, are essential components to a good bike build.
With the parts removed I went about giving them a good scrub and re-greasing them. Then it was time to mount them to the new bike.
Starting with the bottom bracket, then the cranks, pedals, handlebars and saddle. The wheels went on and then finally, after a couple of hours, the brakes. Here I realised I was in trouble. Cursing under my breath I went to bed and promised to deal with it in the morning.
The problem was the length of the bolt on the brakes was too short. This is a common problem in a build on an old frame. I wheeled my bike down to Cloud 9 Cycles and picked up a new set of brakes, levers, cables and housing. A larger hole was drilled in the front forks and I asked them to fit the front brake for me so I could ride home.
They also tightened up the bottom bracket. Which I hadn’t managed to tighten all the way. Finally, a problem was spotted with the old crank being too worn so this too had to replaced at a cost of around £10.
- £250 – initial bike (LFGSS forum)
- £100 – Raleigh frame (Cloud 9 Cycles)
- £40 – new rear wheel (freewheel) and levers (Cloud 9 Cycles)
- £60 – brakes, front brake installation and new crank (Cloud 9 Cycles)
- Made £100 by selling frame and spare fixed rear wheel.
Total spend: £350
Not bad, for a first attempt
Overall, I’m happy with how the build has gone. Admittedly my budget was around £250 as opposed to £350 and I wished I hadn’t relied on a bike shop at all but you live and you learn. The bike looks great, it rides well and weighs a lot less than I thought it would.
Building it wasn’t easy but nor was it an impossible task that should remain only in the realm of enthusiasts. There’s plenty of gaps in my knowledge but these were plugged by searching online and asking Kris at Cloud 9 Cycles.
If you’ve ever entertained the idea of building your own bike then I’d thoroughly recommend it. However, do prepare yourself for hiccups along the way.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.