If you’re in the market for a new bike but haven’t found the perfect model yet, then perhaps you should consider building a bike from scratch.
But if you’re not that clued up on the anatomy of a bike, learning how to build a bike from a bunch of parts can be a daunting task.
And with all the available choices of different bikes that you can buy fully assembled, you might be wondering if it’s actually worth bike building yourself.
So what’s the benefit of building a bike yourself? And what do you need to buy to build a bike from scratch?
In this guide, we’ll provide all the answers to these questions and more. We’ll be covering:
- 3 Top Reasons Why You Should Build A Bike Yourself
- What Tools Do You Need To Build A Bike?
- Choosing Your Parts
- How To Build A Bike
Ready to make your bike-building dream a reality?
Let’s get building!
3 Top Reasons Why You Should Build A Bike Yourself
There are actually a huge number of advantages to building a bike, and the process is extremely rewarding.
Once it’s finished, it could be a completely unique combination of parts that makes you the owner of a one-of-a-kind bike!
Here are a few of the most compelling reasons to build your next bike from scratch:
#1. You Can Make Your Bike Suit your riding style
When you’re building your bike, you can fully personalize the build to suit you.
You can combine any components with any frame, wheels, saddle, pedals, tires, handlebars, and so on – provided they’re compatible. This amount of freedom on your new bike is something you just can’t find when buying a complete bike off the shelf.
One of the major advantages here is that you can make the bike perfectly suited to your riding style.
Let’s say you’re planning on building a road bike, but you like doing extremely steep climbs and lots of endurance rides. You’re going to want something that’s comfortable, with a very large gear range, that can still hit high speeds when needed.
You could build your bike with an endurance road-geometry frame and your favorite saddle to maximize comfort; you could get some nice, low gear ratios by choosing a sub-compact chainset; and you could even whack a GRX rear derailleur on there to allow for up to 42-teeth sprockets at the back, extending your gear range even further.
However, you could get some carbon deep-section aero wheels and narrower handlebars for aerodynamic purposes, allowing you to hit blistering speeds on your descents.
This combination of requirements is something that would be very difficult to satisfy when buying a fully built bike, but you can easily achieve this combination by building the bike yourself!
#2. You can choose the aesthetics
Another advantage of mixing and matching all of your parts is that you can choose the aesthetics of your bike.
Although aesthetics are a secondary factor when buying a bike second-hand, for example, if you’re building the bike, you have complete control over this aspect!
Now, of course, a large part of this is the frame itself.
You can choose any frame you want when building a bike, but in addition to that, all the detailing such as saddle color, bar tape, seatpost, rims, tires, and groupset can be chosen to match or compliment your frame perfectly.
#3. You will learn all about your bike
The process of building a bike up from individual parts will force you to learn its entire anatomy and exactly how all the parts interact and fit together.
This is invaluable knowledge for any avid rider, as it will help you to gain further insight into what can go wrong and how to fix it when it does.
Next time you have a mechanical issue with your bike, perhaps instead of taking it down to your local bike shop, you’ll be able to work out the issue yourself and fix it with your newfound knowledge of its mechanics.
This can save you quite a lot of money in the future since bike maintenance and servicing are not free at a bike shop!
What Tools Do you need To Build A Bike?
Now, you’re of course going to need quite a few tools to build up a bike from scratch.
Perhaps you already have these for standard bike maintenance, but if not, you can buy them or try and borrow them from a friend.
Failing this, you can often find bike charity workshops that allow you to use their tools to build your bike for a small nominal fee or donation.
A few of the tools you will need are:
- Bike stand
- Allen keys
- Cassette tool
- Bottom bracket tool (compatible with your bottom bracket)
- Chain-breaking tool (for quick link or a pin system)
- Cable cutters
- Rubber mallet
- Insulation Tape
- Chain Lubricant
- Torque wrench
Choosing your parts
The most important part of building a bike is finding the right parts for you.
Finding good deals on your bike parts can also be difficult, but there are a number of tips and tricks that will save you your hard-earned cash. If you’re buying used parts on eBay, for example, there is a definite technique to getting a good deal.
Check out our article on How To Buy A Bike to learn the tricks of the trade!
Before buying your parts, make sure they’re all compatible with one another. Usually, you can find compatibility charts from each manufacturer online: here is an example for Shimano components.
Here are the typical parts you’ll need for your bike:
This is going to determine a lot about your bike.
First things first, make sure you get the right sized frame for you. If you see a used frame you love that’s a great deal but the size isn’t quite right – it’s not a great deal.
Work out what style of frame you want. Besides the obvious questions – are you building a mountain bike or road bike, for example – think about frame geometry and other characteristics you’re looking for.
Think about what material you want your frame to be. It generally depends on your budget and riding style, but can be difficult to decide. Check out our guide to choosing the right frame material for you!
Finally, the aesthetics. Make sure you choose a frame you actually like the look of and will come to love, rather than just what’s cheapest.
This is an incredibly important part of the bike.
If you’re attempting to buy each component separately, check out our article on every part of a drivetrain. One important concern here is to get your gearing right – make sure it’s going to suit your riding.
Brakes are part of the groupset, and have a huge bearing on the feel of the bike over a ride. The choice here is rim brakes or disc brakes; mechanical or hydraulic.
Often, you’ll buy the brakes together with the drivetrain as part of a full groupset.
#4. Wheelset, Tires, and Tubes
These are parts that are often neglected by off-the-shelf manufacturers to cut costs, but are actually where you can save plenty of Watts by upgrading.
So it’s worth splashing out a little on a good set of wheels.
The rim profile often has a large bearing on aerodynamics, so do your research. If you’re building a fast aero bike, you’ll likely need to spend a bit more on some deep-section rims.
The tires are actually one of the best bang-for-your-buck upgrades. If you get some good-quality race tires, it’s going to save you a large amount of energy when you’re riding your bike, for a relatively small cost.
The tire width also plays a role, and this will largely depend on the surface you intend on shredding on your new steed.
There is a great choice of clipless pedals; SPD, SPD-SL, Speedplay, or Look all come with different advantages for different disciplines. For mountain bikers, it might be worth considering flat pedals.
If you’re serious about training, then a power meter might be a good thing to invest in.
Check out our article Types Of Bike Pedals: Every Type Explained to find out more!
The bars you choose have a huge bearing on your riding position, and thus your comfort and speed.
Make sure you choose bars that suit your practice.
If you’re building an aero road bike, for example, you’re going to want some pretty narrow bars.
If you’re building a gravel bike, some nice, wide, flared bars will go a long way to improving your handling.
If it’s a mountain bike or hybrid, you’ll want some wide flat bars.
This is a completely personal choice, and if you haven’t found the one you agree with yet, it may take a few tries.
It’s worth trying as many saddles as possible to ensure your comfort on the bike.
#8. Seatpost, Stem, And Headset
Some of the smaller parts on the bike, but can actually play a large role in its handling and fit, particularly stem length.
From an aesthetic viewpoint, it’s good to match these in color and material.
#9. Gear And Brake Cables
This isn’t a part to save money on.
Make sure you get your cables, both inner and outer, from a reputable brand. This is because they are often coated with special compounds that will improve the responsiveness of your braking and shifting, as well as extend the lifetime of the cabling.
#10. Bar Tape
Although a relatively inexpensive part, you can drastically change the aesthetics of a bike by choosing a different bar tape.
It’s down to preference in terms of material, too. Some prefer a more foam or corky feel, and others prefer a rubbery tacky feel.
This might include a head unit, saddle bag, bike packing bags, bottle cages, bottles, or lights, for example.
How To Build A bike
Now you’ve sourced your equipment and parts, the last step is to build it up! There are a few key tips to follow to ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible:
- Put your bike on a stand – This will make the whole process immeasurably easier, ensuring that you don’t damage any parts by leaning the bike on them or have to keep lifting the back wheel up to tune the bike.
- Grease all the threads and bearings – This is very important to make sure that your parts don’t seize in place. Greasing the bearings will mean that all the moving parts move nice and smoothly without any additional friction.
- Tighten sensibly – Make sure you don’t over-tighten your parts. If you have access to a torque wrench, then follow the recommended torque written on the part.
- Put it together in a sensible order – This might sound obvious, but there are some things you just have to do before doing others. For example, you can’t tune your gears before you fit the chain or wheelset, you can’t attach the brakes before the forks, and you can’t attach the chainset before the bottom bracket.
Follow these steps, and everything should go as smoothly as your new shifting.
If you’re unsure how to fit an individual part, consult the infinite wisdom of Youtube, or seek advice from a bike-building veteran or mechanic.
And of course – have fun with it!