Have you ever wanted to build your own bike?

On a rainy day a few weeks ago I met with Alex behind the iPhone cycle hire app in The Southwark Tavern (great pub!). He was excited to show me his newest creation. He’d picked up a bike frame on Freecycle, put together various components from bike shops, other bikes, second hand and so forth and muscled them together into a single speed bike.

To top off his design he has spray painted it (if I remember correctly at around £30-£40) bright green! I took a ride on the bike across London Bridge and I was very impressed.

Building your own bike is one of those things that people become interested in after they’ve been cycling for a while. There’s definitely an appeal in knowing you were the one who chose the various components and created something from start to finish.

My “Comment Thursday” therefore this week is:

Have you built your own bike from scratch or have you ever been tempted to?


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32 Responses to Have you ever wanted to build your own bike?

  1. Rajiv, Going Going Bike 25/11/2010 at 11:28 am #

    My Brother in Law up in Oxford has built his own using the frame from his old favourite bike. It takes some time. He’s offered to do a single speed one for me from a second hand bike he picked up. Not that big fan of the frame from an aesthetic point of view but we’ve agreed from the Spring that we’ll work together on it when I come up to visit him and my sister. I look forward to it as it will teach me how to service my own bike in the future

    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:22 pm #

      Very cool! Always good to have someone to do some hand holding on a first bike build..

  2. Alex 25/11/2010 at 11:50 am #

    I’ve built a few bikes now, I started when I got into cycling and wanted to know more about how a bike actually works… Bad point is that its an addictive and expensive hobby to have, plus your friends want in when they realise you can fix their bike for the cost of a couple of beers. The knowledge and satisfaction you get when you build a bike is great though and you get a bike custom to your needs, if your proud enough of your creation you can even get decals of your name to put on the frame!

    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:23 pm #

      I guess you save a lot on the labour cost but there’s still the big problem of expensive parts. Second hand helps.

  3. Nick 25/11/2010 at 11:53 am #

    My track bike is a constant project, only a few parts of the original purchase still exist which is the frame, seat post and headset. Although I always have my eye on upgrading the frame to something more sporty and really want a King headset in green to match up the bike colour scheme!

    Always wanted to build my own frame though, saw that 14 Bike Co was selling a kit of parts but seriously don’t trust my welding skills… even looked at some rather yummy lugs on a site a few months back (can’t remember the link). But think I’ll probably stick to pre-built frames, and always have my eye on the Affinity and Bob Jackson frames.

    Of course if you want your own style but don’t have the technical know how and you have a limitless amount of cash http://custom.14bikeco.com/ this is awesome!

    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:24 pm #

      Good heads up on 14bikeco – great company!

  4. Neil 25/11/2010 at 12:01 pm #

    I’ve just taken my old 1980’s Peugot Triathlon out of storage and did a quick single speed conversion job on it by putting on a flat bar and new wheels with a single speed freewheel on the back. I’m thinking about stripping it and doing a proper job with respray, proper SS wheels and a Brooks saddle, but I’m a bit put off by how much it would cost. Not much point in respraying until spring though if I decide to do it.

    I have previously thought about buying the parts for a road bike and building one up, but soon realised that it’s a lot cheaper to pick up a complete bike on sale somewhere (Wiggle’s end of season sale was almost too good to resist).

    • Alex 25/11/2010 at 12:18 pm #

      this company do awsome resprays for around £50 I believe;


    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:24 pm #

      Agreed – buying all the parts new off a site like Wiggle seriously sets you back

  5. ReadRocket 25/11/2010 at 12:32 pm #

    I acquired the frame (BSA Reynolds 531), rear wheel and chain set from a good friend who’s (already recycled) bike was harvested one night. I got what was left. I had never really done anything bike-wise before save changing a puncture and replacing a spoke.

    Another mate helped me make a list of parts (and more importantly, the details about each one) so I could then start the scavenger hunt. I needed handlebar, brake grips, cables. saddle, lights, front wheel and tyre. Once that was identified, the fun part was searching around… used shops (Full City, Bikeworks), ebay (Brooks saddle, £30, bottom bracket and head set), gumtree (wheel),

    I booked some time with BikeWorks in Victoria Park for help in assembling the whole thing. It took about four weeks to get it to riding stage and then all summer to fine tune. It was really fun. I painted it red and had some nice chinese lettering put down the front. The cost? Under £60 get it riding, but 6 months later, I invested another £50 for two refurbished wheels and tyre (again FullCity) and so now my bike runs like new for under £110. It single speed btw, but not fixie. The new wheel set were a deal I could not refuse!

    I learned so much about single speed bike maintenance AND met amazing folk out there in the process! Keep an eye out for those frames!

    One less bike in canal and a BLAST to run around town on!

    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:26 pm #

      Liking the term harvested. I’ve always used Piranhad.
      Good effort on svavenging around for used parts. The sites and shops you mentioned I’m sure will come in handy to someone.

  6. James1986 25/11/2010 at 12:59 pm #

    I’ve built three bikes from scratch. The first, a race-machine of exquisite lines and light alloy parts in the late 1980’s; had to sell it to raise cash. The second, an all terrain mountain / touring concoction; the ‘A’ frame of which eventually corroded, through poor maintenance. And finally; a commuting beast of quality components , all names, tags and disguising marks removed so an inexperienced thief might mistake it for a wreck (as it spent it’s days, locked outside my place of work); nicked during a loan to a friend. Currently a jumbled miasma of possibilities, are going around in my head as I plan to spend the Summer cycling around Northern Scotland during Spring Summer 2011.

    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:28 pm #

      Sounds like lots of experience in bike building and great call on the removal of names and tags to put a thief off the trail. Typically that it ends up being stolen in the hands of a friend!

  7. Phil 25/11/2010 at 3:34 pm #

    I’d like to, if I had anywhere other than the pavement outside my front door to do the work.

    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:29 pm #

      Very true, a definite hindrance. Only solution is to buy a cheap bike stand and use an old sheet to cover the floor to prevent oil stains. Far from ideal but then again even working outside in this cold is far from ideal!

  8. James1986 25/11/2010 at 4:37 pm #

    What’s wrong with the Kitchen table! I know my significant other appreciates bike parts in the sugar bowl.
    No seriously, I spend a lot of money on a storage unit, just to keep my bikes and bits safe a distance from my home; but not enough space to build and maintain like I want too; since moving to London.
    I’m looking at the possibility of a renting an old garage or workshop, and offering space to hire on a day or long-term basis to other cycle-nuts (tools supplied on site). Still trying to find somewhere, and not get ripped off.

    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:30 pm #

      It’s a good idea and there’s a couple of these around London – as the previously mentioned BikeWorks. Also I’m sure if you’re spending good money in a bike shop they might be kind enough to let you use the space. I know MiCycle in Islington do this.

  9. Steve 25/11/2010 at 6:50 pm #

    I am planning to do so as a project for next year. Since I already have bikes for commuting and off road, I am tempted to build a single speed, or even fixed.

    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:54 pm #

      Good call! It will be nice to know your bike inside out!

  10. got-sole 26/11/2010 at 11:00 am #


    It would be great to get a bit more information…the overall cost of everything, how long it took to build and if he built it himself, and if so with how much skill/ mechanical knowledge he had previously.


    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:31 pm #

      Hey there! I’ll follow up with some more posts about bike builds as this seems to be something people are interested in.

  11. Laurie Canham 26/11/2010 at 3:51 pm #

    Hi Andreas & others,

    I built a bike from scratch many years ago when I was a stripling of 16 or so. Claud Butler frame (Reynold531 tubing with cut-away lugs – remember them?), alloy rims, GB headset & bars, fixed wheel, Brooks saddle, etc, etc.
    Good fun building it, and even more fun riding it. I had it for years until it got nicked from the railway station car park when I was about 40, so I had to buy a ready-made job. Works fine of course, and now I’m an old crock (65!) I need the gears.

    Definitely recommend self-build – you know exactly what you’re getting.

    • Markku Klubb 26/11/2010 at 9:57 pm #

      I always wonder why the process of assembling the mechs is called building a bike?? I have “assembled” quite a few, typically using quality 531 or Columbus tubing. Have parts bins that i borrow from, buy things on the likes of EBay, and get stuff from my local cycle shop too. A lot of fun, and over the years made me a fair bit knowledgeable. Several years ago I was gifted with a hoodie with the words “Bicycle Repairman” stencilled on the back (remember bicycle repairman from Monty Python?):


      Markku Klubb

      • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:32 pm #

        Great link to the Monty Python sketch. It’s true I guess you could call it bike assembly but bike build has a better ring to it.

      • Tom 29/11/2010 at 5:44 pm #

        Do construction workers ‘assemble’ houses, then, and only get to say they ‘build’ them if they make their own bricks? 😉

        Seriously, building a bike was a really satisfying experience, and more importantly allowed me to create a ride that matched my needs extremely closely (in this case: long-term reliability, simplicity of repair of moving parts, the ability to handle well off-road, and to carry 30-40kg of luggage without complaining – no mean feat). I learnt a lot from the process of trying different component combinations and would change very little about the finished bike. Except perhaps a stiffer bar/stem.

        I also wrote a series of blog posts about it starting here: http://tom.ride-earth.org.uk/blog/2010/04/how-to-build-the-perfect-expedition-bike-part-1/

        • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:55 pm #

          I guess if the house is a pre-fabricated build! 😛

          Thanks for the link up to your blog – I’m sure interesting reading for people building an expedition bike (the criteria you listed is something many cyclists look for)

    • Andreas 29/11/2010 at 5:33 pm #

      Hey Laurie – awesome to hear about your self-build and yes I think knowing exactly what you’re getting is a big part of the temptation as well as knowing you can repair it.

  12. Steff Davies 29/11/2010 at 5:39 pm #

    I’ve built up several bikes and also built a relaxed road frame in fillet brazed Reynolds 631 from scratch, courtesy of the excellent framebuilding course run by Dave Yates: http://www.daveyatescycles.co.uk/

    Highly recommended.

  13. Lenny 09/12/2010 at 5:47 pm #

    I am building a bike at the moment…its taking ages though as I seem to only want to buy the best parts out there…. 🙁 get there in the end

  14. Euan 10/12/2010 at 10:51 pm #

    Yes, I’m in the middle of building my wife’s bike for her cyclosportive. I’m documenting everything I’m doing, so if you’d like to check out my series of blog posts, simply go to http://easycycling.com ! I get loads out of building bikes, very rewarding!

  15. Shreds 03/04/2011 at 9:36 am #

    Built a few and have never had to rely on a bike shop for maintenance for years! How much has that saved me.

    Great thing is that you really do get exactly what you want and if you have researched it properly you will have a bike that will last decades. (tyres and tubes excepted of course).

    Problem is that like car parts, buying items individually is at a retail premium, Manufacturers get huge discounts on parts and unless you are in the trade you can never put the spec together at the price the trade can.

    Great thing is that all my bikes are bespoke, what I need, and totally individual. And knowing them inside out means they are better maintained and with quality parts, rarely ever go wrong.

    The oldest one I ride I put together in 1984! Only change has been the pedals over to clipless in 1989. Still going strong and looking good. ( unlike its owner )

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