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I don't want to buy a ready made bike because singlespeed or fixed gear bikes are way expensive due to their popularity.

I want to make my own bike, I haven't build a bike from scratch before. I want a light, simple bike, a fixie or a single speed, maybe a flip-flop. I am going to use it in city which practically doesn't have a single hill.

It seems that first step is to find a frame. What kind of frame should I get? How do I understand that a frame is compatible and good? Any recommendations for buying a second hand frame, what should I look for? (most common stress points to check, or similar...)

I am in europe by the way. Can you recommend any online stores or second hand website that I can find bike parts?

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@gou - In particular, you'll need to differentiate yourself from this similar question: How can I get started building a bicycle? –  Neil Fein Mar 2 '11 at 22:47
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Out of curiosity, why do you want to build a bike instead of buying a pre-built one? What parameter are you trying to optimize for: to make it as cheap as possible? As light? As portable? As reliable? Something else? Do you know what size wheels you want to end up with? And/or do you have any of its other components already in mind? –  ChrisW Mar 3 '11 at 10:30
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"I want to have control on all the parts that's why I want to build" -- Another option might be to get a pre-built bike that's nearly you want, and then swap specific parts. –  ChrisW Mar 3 '11 at 15:10
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@gou: I think people are trying to help you frame your question so that it can be answered. People have written books on "how to select bicycle parts". So by bugging you for more information we're trying to work out what, exactly, you want to know. If you're used to SO this is a bit like the "I want to write a social networking site, what should I do" questions. –  Мסž Mar 4 '11 at 1:02
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@moz, @neil-fein, So, to progress further, I don't want to buy a ready made bike because singlespeed or fixed gear bikes are way expensive due to their popularity. I am hoping that I can find a frame on the cheap side maybe as a second hand. I edited the question. –  gou Mar 4 '11 at 19:49

6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Starting with a second hand frame and scrounging second hand parts for it is definitely the way to go if youŕe trying to save money. Many cities have some kind of bicycle recycling group in them, but it can be hard to track them down. They will be able to help you a lot and will save you both money and time. Asking around bike shops and checking their notice boards or any posters they have up is the most likely way in my experience. If you have to start by collecting bikes from the rubbish dump itś going to be a long, hard process.

If you want to buy a new frame and put new parts on it that will cost more than a similar bike bought ready-made. You're buying parts one at a time retail, the assembly plant buys them by the containerload, or from a nearby factory. In Australia you can get a new fixie from a bike shop from about $400, and one that's ridable from about $600. A cheap frame by itself will cost at least $250, and a pair of wheels another $150. This is partly because people wanting to build their own are rarely after cheap stuff, and partly because no retailer sells enough parts to get the volume discounts that assemblers do. I have a friend who manufactures custom bikes, and he gets shipments of 200 wheels for less than half the wholesale price of a single wheel sourced locally (so less than 1/4 of the retail price).

I suggest sitting down and doing a rough budget based on buying parts from a single online retailer. It doesn't matter that you will miss a few of the small parts, since the total cost is likely to be alarming. And you haven't even added in the cost of reselling parts that don't fit and buying replacements.

At the very least I suggest you will need to visit a bike shop for fitting the bottom bracket (the thread-chasing tool is expensive, and you may need to try several bottom brackets to get your chain alignment correct). You may also need them to fit the headset, because again doing it properly requires a few expensive tools. The rest you can do with basic workshop tools.

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The important bit is to get a frame with horizontal dropouts as this avoids having to add a chain tensioner which I think spoils the look of a fixie - typically fixies are quite minimal in design.

Not sure how you are getting on but I have just started my own fixie project and have bought an old BSA Streamlight frame (with horizontal dropouts) as the donor bike. I am going to record my progress at http://www.howtobuildafixie.com, including adding details of places to buy parts. I have put a picture showing the dropouts at: http://www.howtobuildafixie.com/lesson-1-dropouts/ to show where they are on the bike (I had to find that out when I started).

You might be able to buy one cheaper but how do you put a price on the satisfaction of building your own.

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Here's the thing. It's going to be difficult to beat the price of a pre-manufactured bike, depending on where you live. Here in NYC, you can scrounge a complete bike worth having for maybe $100-150, then get a rear fixed wheel + cog + lockring for $50-100ish. If the cables and brake pads are trashed, you'll have to replace them, and possibly service the BB and headset.

Or you can get one of the bikesdirect bikes for $280 shipped, with cartridge everything. If you want to build a bike for the experience (I highly recommend this, btw) it's worth it, but the odds of you saving more than $100 are low.

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Building a frugal dumpster/secondhand singlespeed or fixed gear is definitely one of those tasks that has become much more difficult with their growth in popularity.

So, let's say you've found a frame that's in your relative size range. You've figured this out already by riding other bicycles and visiting bike shops and figuring out a rough range of acceptable seat tube and top tube lengths. And you obsessively carry around a metric tape measure (probably not that hard in Europe).

The first thing to check when selecting a frame is its suitability for conversion. For a fixed gear or singlespeed without chain tensioner that means it needs to have horizontal dropouts or track ends. (Expensive options like an eccentric bottom bracket or sliding dropouts would work here as well, but those are rare to find on inexpensive frames.)

The next thing to consider is completeness relative to your parts supply. A frame with fork is almost always better than a bare frame - finding compatible road forks, particularly threaded, can be annoying as there are a number of odd old sizes out there. If you've got no parts to start with, a complete bike makes a good base point. Singlespeeding a complete bike is relatively trivial - remove the chain, remove the shifters and derailleurs, and then shorten the chain and reinstall it over your preferred gear combination. As you find additional parts you like you can replace them piecemeal.

As far as damage goes, the main stress points to look at are going to be where the rear dropouts meet the chainstay and seatstay and where the seatstays meet the seat tube. But give it a quick gander at all the joints to look for any obvious cracks. You'll also want to check just behind the headtube for any sign that the bike has been in a front end collision or roof rack crash. In general, any kind of bunched-up paint is usually a sign of a bent tube and a compromised frame.

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I've heard different countries have different systems so if you buy italian frame all the other parts also have to be italian. Is it true?

The Sheldon Brown web site is often recommended as a reference: it says something about Italian sizes here (which is already concise and which I therefore don't want to summarise).

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yes, seen this also from answers to other question How can I get started building a bicycle?. Thanks –  gou Mar 4 '11 at 12:58

If you are sure that you do not want gears ever, you can get a dedicated single speed frame for pretty cheap, like this one:

Nashbar SS Frame

This type of frame is nice because you won't need to run a chain tensioner, making it simpler to maintain. From there, just search for deals on the rest of the parts. If you can, you might want to look for either a carbon or steel fork, they tend to dampen vibrations better than aluminium.

You can also surf ebay and craigslist for used stuff, or join a local biking club where someone always seems to be selling something on the cheap.

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