In this modern world, where bikes of every type are squeezed through the industry marketing machine, there is still something to be said for building your own bike. Building your own bike is also a good distraction from the ongoing Covid 19 Pandemic, stresses of work life, or pretty much anything really. It’s also a nice, creative outlet for those not keen on knocking out Watercolours.
When I built my first road bike age 14 in the mid eighties, it was pretty much the normal thing to do. In the pre-internet days, we would source a frame from a club mate, or the classified ad’s in cycling weekly (mine was a 2nd hand £50 Vitus 979), collect some parts together for the build and get it done.
Box of Bits
Building your own bike is satisfying and gives you a greater understanding of how and why everything works. When the assembled box of parts transforms into an actual form of transport, it is a cyclist’s opportunity to give birth to their new pride and joy. A proud smile will accompany the bike as it leaves the
maternity ward garage, for the very first time.
Before the build, think about what you want to achieve in your new bike and make a parts list of components. The best thing about building your own bike is that all the options are yours to make. From simple things like your favourite brand of narrow bars & long cranks on a 56 cm frame (not standard off the shelf road bike sizing) to an outrageous colour scheme, an unusual mix of components or an 100% Italian made classic – the world is your oyster. Choices have become even wider in the last few years with tubeless tyre, wider rims, disc brakes and thru axles giving more opportunity to vary your ride.
Picture a Frame
If you are without a frame to start your build, check out our frames pages on our website. We usually have a decent range of different road framesets in stock, as well as Cyclocross, Gravel and Mountain Bike frames.
If you have any doubts in your competancy ‘on the tools’, invest in a torque wrench. Stick to manufacturer recommended torque settings and you can’t go too far wrong. If you are in doubt, consult a friend or even Youtube if you have to. Following a new build, double-check everything is tight and have a short ride.
While it is possible to let your creativity flow with your new build, there are certain parameters which need to be considered. Your frameset will dictate and influence quite a few aspects of the build. Headset type, bottom bracket type, wheel axle type and braking will all be governed by your frameset – so plan wisely for what you want to build.
Uniqueness. “I built it my way”, as Frank Sinartra might have said, had he been a bike rider… Building your own bike will give a strong bond between you and machine. I like to think if you built your bike, it is more likely to look after you, out in the wilds, when the sh*t hits the fan – a true bond of kinship. On the other hand if you just want to hand over some money, jump on a new bike and ride, that also has its plus points too…
Avoid Big Mistakes
Make sure you are happy with your riding position before cutting the excess fork steerer – Leave uncut for a while, measure twice & cut once.
Make sure your cable routing is right before cutting outer cables (Also check cable caps are in place).
Use grease! All threads need a little dab of grease so they don’t seize, seatposts too. Carbon seat post and carbon frame? – Use carbon anti-slip paste.
Once fully built, double check everything is tight and correctly fitted before having a short test ride.
Make sure you have the right tools, check out our own range of tools here.
Built to Last
The Merlin G2X GRX bike has been well-received by Merlin customers, selling (far too) quickly and gaining a lot of 5 Star reviews. As well as selling the full bike with Shimano GRX, we also sell the frameset which gives customers ‘free reign’ to build with whatever components you choose.
I built up the G2X frameset (above) with Sram Rival 1X components (Sram Red cranks). With Pro Build Chosen / Alex Draw wheels and tubeless Schwalbe G Ones, the bike always felt light / fast and agile as well as tough enough for local gravel trails and adventures further afield.
The big change for the new G2X frameset (2021 onwards) is the revised geometry compared to the previous G1X. The shorter top tube and lower head-tube should make the bike feel more comfy for me. The bike built up to the same weight as the previous model at just under 8.5 kg, pretty good for a tough aluminium hydraulic brake gravel bike.
The process of swapping framesets was pretty straight forward. The only trickier part is removing the hydraulic hoses and re-routing through the new frameset and re-connecting the hoses. Having new hose connectors on hand is a must. For sram rival I have some olive / barb connectors. Also, having some extra top-up fluid is a good idea.
Pimp Your Ride
Even if you decide against a full new bike build, there are plenty of custom options to give your bike a little extra ‘wow’ factor. Components such as saddles and bar tape are ideal for adding a little low-cost creativity to your bike.