Monday, 1 September 2014

Build the next bike yourself.

When I was in graduate school, I took up fly fishing.  I liked it quite a bit and it felt like something I would do for a long time and keep for life as a hobby.  So, I went to a fly shop in Portland and bought everything I thought I needed to build a 4 weight fly rod.  After learning a lot about fly rod building, I finally used that rod to actually catch a nice rainbow trout in a beautiful mountain stream on a perfect day.  It was the best fish I've caught so far.  The rod is terrible compared to some Sage and Orvis rods I've used, but I built that sucker from scratch, and it caught some fish too.

How many of you have built a bike from the ground up?

I've tooled around with a plethora of replacement parts for all of my most loved bikes - always trying to get just the right feel, size or even weight.  I have only built one bike so far from nothing to complete.  My cyclocross ride is an Ibis Hakkalugi non-disc version.

Ibis Hakkalugi - cyclocross season is coming!

I was selling bikes at my favorite LBS when I decided to build the Hakkalugi.  The frame was a good deal because I got the employee discount.  I used the SRAM Rival components, 3T stem, Dedacciai handlebar, Easton seatpost, TRP brakes, old Easton clincher wheels.  Nothing exceptional, but a lot of fun to ride.

There's something to be said for riding a bike that you built with parts you chose from the beginning. I know every part, every adjustment, and every small detail of why the bike rides the way it does or feels the way it does.  I take full responsibility if something is out of alignment or not working the way I want it to.  That being said, I love riding this bike.  It fits perfectly and feels like a million bucks.  It handles the way I want it to.  The brakes are smooth and powerful.  The reach on the bar / stem is exactly where I want it.  The gearing is crisp and accurate.  The only problem is the rider, never as strong as he should be...

I learned a fair amount about a few things. Mainly to do with brakes (short pull mini brakes to go with road levers - the first set of cantilevers were also pretty weak, making the Ibis "hand-job" unsatisfying).  Also, SRAM Rival is a huge step down from Force in my mind - not even close. Force to Red = small step.  Thick bar tape is also nice for the 'cross bike.  Seems to absorb some of the vibrations over roots, rocks and holes as you cruise over everything as fast as you can.

I also learned that your LBS is your best friend some times.  In my case, the shop I had been working at, went broke just a month after I had left (pretty sure it wasn't my fault).  I was taking my sweet time building the bike and needed advice on certain things, as well as a few tools to make sure things were installed correctly.  I ended up going to another shop and getting the help I needed.

In the end, it was both rewarding and educational to build this bike.  This won't be the last one I build, and I'm sure the next one will be even better.  I have learned which parts feel the best to me and have the fit characteristics that suit me best.  I really like SRAM components (yes loud, but exact), 3T, Ritchey, and some of Specialized's parts.  The next build will be a road bike.  Probably aero, probably OEM Carbon, and maybe painted with a name sake that is related to this blog. Although, the aforementioned theft of my mountain bike may change some of these things.

I encourage everyone who has any interest in bikes to build your own.  You will learn a ton about the mechanics of your bike and know how to fix it when necessary.  You can customize things just the way you want them.  You can source out parts from different suppliers to save money.  You can be proud of the bike you build and probably enjoy riding it more.  If you do it just right, you may be able to land that special trout as well!

Let me see your builds.  Any advice for people building their own bikes?

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