Friday, June 19, 2009

All Itch, No Scratch - Bike Building Purgatory

The itch is back. The bike-building itch. It has been four or five months since I finished with the last one. I currently own two bikes I built up myself (excluding the frames and wheels), my winter MTB commuter and my summer fixed gear commuter, which is partially composed of parts from my first (now de-commissioned) experiment in bike building. Having been a mostly urban rider all my life, I am finally hearing the call of the highways and the countryside. While I can go a very long way on my fixed bike, I want to try some distances and hills that would likely kill me on a fixed gear. So it's time to build a geared touring bike. I'm thinking something suitable for reasonably fast light loaded touring would suit me best at this time. Now that I've been bitten by the bike-building bug, I won't even consider just buying a complete bike... Eewww.

I didn't know I had such an expressive visage! No wonder people seem to know what I'm thinking all the time. Darn it! I knew I should have been an actor! Curse you, influencers of my youth, curse you! Ah well, back on topic...

I am not a wealthy person. I can't build or buy the bikes I want at will. I need to save up, obtain bargain parts as they present themselves, and be patient. I wouldn't change that if I could, though. The satisfaction of getting something just right over a long time is what I love about doing it myself. Something I've learned from my previous builds is not to buy ebay or other parts that should or could work... I collected more than I needed, wasting money and time along the way. I will have to overcome laziness and something of a pack-rat mentality and re-sell that stuff some time.

This time around, I will determine precisely what I want and know which parts will be compatible before spending a penny. I find that I am not content to cobble together a decent bike from truly inexpensive bits and pieces. None of my bikes would ever be considered high-end, but the more I do this the pickier I become. My last build, the fixed commuter, was the first that left me truly happy and without a single regret. I wouldn't change a thing on that bike.

The trouble is that while I save money and do my research, I see stuff that would be great, but I can't pull the trigger and start. Instead I view and re-view stuff, starting with frames. Once I have a frame (or old bike to strip down) that meets my requirements, whether found online or around town, everything will be easier. I can't just pick and buy one right now though; and what if the perfect thing is waiting at a yard sale this weekend? How will I feel about a snap purchase then? Of course, much of my component shopping will be driven by frame choice. So, here I am, looking at anything and everything, pondering all kinds of decisions, many of which have ramifications for the others. I'm left in bike building purgatory, obsessing and thinking in circles about how to proceed.

This is how it will be until I feel truly ready to go, and who knows how long that will be? I can now look forward to weeks or even months of indecision and anguish. The single worst symptom of this illness is that I will love every minute of it.

Don't ever build a bike unless you are prepared to build many more.

PS - Click Here to jump forward in time to see the frame I eventually found!


cafiend said...

Surly Cross Check frame: the perfect platform for a go-anywhere light tourer. Long dropouts, d9ouble eyelets. Also: use barcons with friction option for ultimate versatility.

For absolute ultimate travel capability, scrape up the coin for the Traveler's Check frame. But that gets into another whole realm of accessories like cases and whatnot.

RANTWICK said...

Hey Cafiend,

The cross check is very much in contention, although they are harder to get and/or more expensive here in Canada, like most QBP items.

I was already planning on the barcons too... I like friction shifters anyway, and as you say they free up my choices for deraileurs.

Dogfart said...

Hey Rantwick

Save some time and money!

Go to Canadian Tire and you can pick up yourself a great bike for $99.00. Lots of colours to choose from and they look really solid.

I like the flygin bike parts animation.


RANTWICK said...

Dogfart, my friend. You will not get a rise out of me that way, no sir.

Thank you for the compliment on the animation, though.

CarFree Stupidity said...

Great post. I'm working on my first build, and certainly learning a lot about what not to do... like trusting people on Ebay to know what dimensions they are talking about. But its a fun and rewarding experience.

Found my frame n fork at a community supported bike shop for nothing, just a few volunteer hrs, have anything like that your way?

Any advice for a newb bike builder?

RANTWICK said...

London has no community bike co-op like that as far as I know, but I can't say I've tried hard to find one. I know that there is at least one in Toronto, the nearest big city.

Advice. Hmmm. Grease is good. Use it on just about everything, including any bolt threads. Don't let your mistakes get you down... you learn a lot from them. Also, having a bike shop pro give it a once-over when you are finished is probably a good idea.

In my case they spotted a stupid mistake on my first build that made a real difference to achieving a good fit... I had the underpinnings of the seat attached backwards.

Cafiend, a frequent visitor here and author of the blog Citizen Rider has a really good assembly checklist here.

Thanks for stopping in, and let me know how it goes if you feel like it!

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