Over the last week or so there have been a couple of Facebook posts suggesting it’s much better and more fulfilling to build your own bike. If you, for instance, bought one of the lovely frames from our sponsors Swift Carbon, you’d have to think about where you might take it to have all those other useful bits added. You know, the inconvenient heavy things like wheels, cranks, handlebars etc. that make the bike useful as…. well a bike.
The other alternative is to do that bit yourself. So how hard is it?
Well it so happens that earlier this year we did a hand me down exercise where my daughter inherited my wife’s old bike and so I decided to give it a bit of a clean first.
Well one thing lead to another and the clean turned into an overhaul and the overhaul turned into a replacement of corroded brakes and this in turn turned into a new groupset which required new wheels, and oh it wouldn’t be right to put the old saddle back on and before you knew it we were looking at a complete stripdown and rebuild.
Now back when I was in England, I always did the maintenance on our mountain bikes because, well, you couldn’t sneeze in Evans Cycles without it costing you $200 and even when you spent that it was never quite right so I’d accumulated quite a collection of tools and I though I must have everything.
Turns out not to be far from the truth but more later.
Now you might say a rebuild isn’t the same, but as you’ll see from the photo we did go back to the bare frame. My 11 year old son decided at this point that he wanted to be involved so it was a great chance to show him how it all works. Turns out building a bike is something an 11 year old can do with a little muscle and direction.
Now as a caveat, I will say that as it was a rebuild of a 5+ year old bike the cable routing was all external so that made things a little easier but if you are buying a new frame then you should have all the internal routing tubes and pulls (just don’t lose these I’m told!)
So the first job was dismantle, and all was going so well until we got to the Bottom Bracket. This is where my bag of tools ran out. I have 2 Shimano splined BB removal tools, but neither fitted, so this was my first unforeseen expense. $30 and a trip to Hup Leong sorted that problem and we were back in business. I was pretty impressed with how well it cleaned up with a little citrus degreaser, all credit Trek, your frame has certainly stood up to the corrosive Singapore atmosphere better than my Specialized has.
Now Evans Cycles had a knockout deal on a 105 groupset and I spent ages checking and re-checking that I could use the old 9 speed wheelset with the 10 speed 105, and convinced myself that I could. Amazingly it arrived before I finished ordering it (well 3 days from the UK actually, but it felt like it was the same day, must have been busy at work) At which point I realised that I’d clicked the wrong button and ordered the 11 speed! Aaaarrrggghhh! “Danielle, looks like you are getting a new set of wheels as well”
Back to Evans, only to find shipping is expensive for wheels, so Wiggle won this order and $200 for a set of Campagnolo wheels seemed like a bargain (later found out why there shipping is much cheaper, because they take longer than they promise! Grrrr!)
Not to sit idle waiting for wheels, Luka and me were busy. I had another shock as I realised that they had changed the size of the hollowtech bottom bracket and my very expensive used twice spanner didn’t fit, but Shimano came to my rescue as I found an adapter included in the BB box. Faster than Freddy McSpeedy in Fastland Luka had the BB inserted, only to be told to take it out again so he could learn the important lesson of greasing everything first.
Crank & Brakes went on a dream, rear derailleur was super easy (remember on a new bike you’ll need the all important hanger, one of the few truly frame specific items and then we were on to the front derailleur which was, hmmm, troublesome. The bolt wasn’t long enough to join the two ends. Now I knew it just needed stretching into place and it turns out that a bottlecage bolt is just the right size so this did the job of seating the clamp just nicely after which the original bolt could be used again.
Finally the wheels arrived and we had a good lesson in tyre and tube fitting before adding that annoying 11 speed cassette. The chain went on next and the saddle and we were ready to tackle the bit I hadn’t been looking forward to, the STI brake levers / shifter set.
Now you might think that when you buy a groupset that you’d get a handy how to fit it manual, but the manuals consist of a heap of warnings, disclaimers and an instruction to take it to a qualified mechanic to have it fitted. Piffle I hear you say and through the wonders of Youtube, there are instructions for everything. Thank you Billy McBikeMech or whatever your name was. You may be forgotten but your knowledge lives on!
With a final snip or two from the dog claw cutters, sorry I mean cable cutters, we were ready for the bartape and hey presto, Robert is your Mother’s Brother and other such sayings we have a finished bike.
So as I said, all doable by a 10 year old with:
Bottom Bracket Spanner
Multi-tool allen keys
Cassette tool (note you don’t need the chain whip to build it, just to remove it)
The only thing I wouldn’t do myself would be the headset which is just too important to not have done by a professional with the right tools in my opinion.
Happy building, send us your adventures email@example.com