For a long time I have wanted to build my own bike. I wanted to do it for several reasons: To prove to myself that I could do it, to ride a bike which I had built, to learn how to build a bike so that I could repair/service my other bikes, and so that I could ride a bike that I had built to my own specifications with parts I had found.
So if that was too much of an overload for you, I wanted to do it for several reasons. However I was initially at a stall, I admit it was quite a big one, I knew nothing about building bikes, getting parts or even servicing bikes. The only thing on my side was a brief understanding of how a bike works and the parts involved in that. I did not have a lot of money to do my ‘project’ with so I set out with a total maximum budget of £200 to buy all the parts and have it in a cycle-able condition.
The next step was to decide what to buy for my measly budget. What type of bike did I want? For a while I had been captivated by single-speed bikes, I loved the idea of them and how customisable they could be, mainly how cool they looked. It would give me the opportunity to make this bike my own. I loved watching films such as ‘Line of Sight’, about cycle couriers, all this added to my single-speed obsession. I was keen to do this, so decided that I would build a single-speed ‘track styled’ bike. This would mean I also would not have to buy any gears, so that would help keep cost down.
Budget and style of bike sorted; next was the big one, components. With such a small budget I had pretty much ruled out carbon frames or any new frames for that matter. I had always wanted a steel framed bike because apparently they give the best ride. Therefore I began the task of finding a second-hand steel frame. This took the longest, literally months before I found a suitable one. I knew what I was looking for, frame size (58cm), wheel compatibility (700C), colour (Any normal colour), horizontal dropouts, and I had a price (£50 was about what I was aiming for). I trawled eBay and Gumtree until eventually I found the bike that I was looking for, for a price I wanted to pay. It cost me £35 with £15 shipping, bang on what I wanted. I now owned a Raleigh Equipe. It even came complete with chain, full 10 speed Sachs Huret gears, saddle, handlebars, and wheels. Not too bad if you ask me. It was all there, although not all of it was in usable condition.
Right from the off I knew what wheels I wanted, yes they would be the most expensive, more than the bike, however I thought that they were the most important. I decided to go for a pair of ‘No Logo’ wheels with deep rims and a flip-flop rear hub. This means I can have either a fixed gear or a single-speed set up. They look badass, really awesome. I was so excited for these and couldn’t wait to put them on the bike. The current brakes I decided would be in great condition once I gave them a good service –I still didn’t really know how to do this. I bought a new chain which was £6, a new seat for £10, and a new seat post for £5. These taking my total spend to £156.
I decided I had enough components now that I could start building up my bike. However before I could do that I had to take everything off the frame and give each part a good clean. This was a slow process and took up a whole afternoon. It was worth it though. I now had a whole bike ready to be built. Finally the build could begin.
To understand how to do all of this I consulted a few great videos on YouTube, trust me they are amazing. I now feel hugely competent at doing anything bike related. First I put back on the bottom bracket and cranks. I have decided to keep the previous cranks for now; I may update them at a later stage. I then put back on the handlebars and brakes. After that were the wheels, then it was time for the seat and seat post. Then it was time to put on my chain. I decided to go for the smaller chain ring because it is pretty hilly where I live and it also lined up straighter with the single-speed sprocket, meaning it is less likely my chain will fall off. I got the chain the correct size. Then using the horizontal dropouts on my frame I was able to pull the rear wheel backwards causing the chain to be pulled tight, I still left a little bit of play in it, a few inches up and down. The bike was now ride-able and finished.
I have since purchased paint so that I can spray my bike black which I plan to do at a later date. However for now I am pleased with what I have achieved. A great vintage framed bike, which I have salvaged and made ride-able for just £156. I am now planning on selling the group set, seat post and wheels that came with the bike so I can get some money back. I feel I have proven that yes it is possible to build a bike, cheaply and starting with little knowledge on how to do it. The internet proved to be an invaluable tool. Overall I have found it an utterly rewarding experience; it was great fun over Easter putting my bike together. I can now ride something that I have sourced, serviced and built. If you have any questions on building your own bike please ask. I am by no means an expert but will try and point you in the right direction.