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Build a bike or buy one complete?

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Recently, a good friend came to me with a question:

Dude, we went to the bike shops in ftw and it totally made me want another bike. I love this fixed gear Trek I saw but I’m not thrilled about Trek and really unsure about no gears. I kinda want to build one, too, but I’ve never done that so it makes me nervous, too. what do you think?

The ratio of Cost, Time, Overall Quality

Overall when trying to choose between building or buying a bike, it depends on how much you want to spend, how nice of a bike you want, how long you want to work on it, and if you want it to be new or used.

When buying a new bike that is complete and built in the shop you are essentially paying for the components (wheels, derailleurs, shifters, brakes, cranks, etc.) and getting the frame for free. Its really the best value. Building your own from new parts of the same group set will always cost more. On top of the cost of the frame and parts, you would have to buy tools (unless you have a community bike shop with tools free for everyone to use like yellow bike here in austin). If you take your time and buy used parts off of craigslist, waiting for that next part you need to pop up for a good price, you can build up a bike fairly cheaply, but it really takes some time.

Building

For new frames to build a bike on, I would choose either the Surly Crosscheck, the Masi CXR (nice black color), or the Surly Travelers Check (my dream bike).

Being able to build and work on your bike is really handy for obvious reasons. You can find all you need to know about building, maintaining, and repairing your bike at the Park Tool website.

Commuter bike 3

My commuter bike came about as follows:

A friend heard of a bianchi that some guy was trying to get rid of. It needed some work and was no ride-able. I met with the guy, checked the bike out to make sure it fit me, and paid $60 for the frame, fork, wheels, seatpost, seat, front ultegra derailleur, handbars, brakes and levers, and crankset. It was missing the rear cassette, rear derailleur, and chain. I went home and put on a singlespeed tensioner i had lying around, a cog, chain, and suddenly, I had a working bike and road it to the bar that night. Over time, I found replacement parts for it, such as a new crankset and handlebars, but when my roommate found 9 speed ultegra “brifters” for $80 (they are usually 3x that amount) I knew the bike was going to gears. We soon found an old xt rear derailleur and i bought a 9 speed mountain cassette to make a great commuter bike.

It took 2 years to get to that point, though. A really long time.

Bianchi Veloce Reparto Corse

In the meantime, though, I had a other bikes to ride, like my 2001 Bianchi Veloce that I bought off of Craiglist for $500 and a fixed gear I put together with a frame i found for $40. Both of these bikes came about over a long period of time as well. I had to keep a really close eye on craigslist everyday until I found the right size bike at the right price.

Building a fixed gear or single speed is how I got into this whole bike building thing in the first place. Its cheaper and easier than building a geared bike, so, if you really just want to build a bike, starting singlespeed / fixed is a good way to introduce yourself to the process. Gears and being able to coast are great things, although I love my fixed gear and used it solely for a while, I am glad that I have other bikes to choose from. It really depends on how you want to use the bike. If you want a geared bike and want to build it, its really not that much harder, but it will end up costing you more if you use new parts because groupsets are pretty expensive.

For example, the Bianchi D2 Crono Tri Alum / Ultegra costs $3199. If we were to build it from scratch with the same parts it would look like this:

Bianchi 2009 Crono Alu Frameset – $2300

Shimano Ultegra SL 6600-G Groupset – $1095

Mavic Cosmic Elite Wheelset 09 – $499

The above parts already cost $695 more than the complete bike and that is without the cables, tires, tubes, seat post, seat, handlebars, bar tape, and headset that one would need to complete it.

Buy

Here are a few bikes I would suggest to someone that is looking for that one do everything bike that would be ridden everyday (and can also be ridden across the country):

These are all cyclo-cross bikes that can be ridden on road and on some mountain bike trails. They have rack mounts so you could attach panniers if you so desired and have space for fenders if you are riding through the rain.

If you are going to buy a complete bike, you need to test ride them at least a mile. Test ride a bunch of them including bikes that are out of your price range so you can feel the differences and have better feel for value. Figure out what size you need, and test ride some more. oh, and remember, you can always get a new seat, so don’t let that ruin an otherwise great bike.

Good luck! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to get a hold of me.

Author: mimi

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