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In thinking about building a road bike from scratch, what should I consider when choosing a frame?

I'll be building from all new components and plan on just doing day rides of a few hours a piece, but perhaps few days touring. I'm not really interested in racing at all—that's what cars are for :-)

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What kind of riding do you plan on doing? Other criteria for this bike? –  darkcanuck Sep 6 '10 at 22:23
    
Do you have any existing components you wish to reuse? –  Jack M. Sep 6 '10 at 22:48
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I put together a bike from parts bought on eBay as well as locally, and it was very successful. I was lucky enough to get a frame that fit me well; however, as it was a 1998 aluminum road racing frame (Cannondale CAAD 3), it is really, really stiff. For riding just an hour or two that doesn't really matter so much, but longer rides are fatiguing due to the construction and materials. Recently I rented a high-dollar Specialized Roubaix, and couldn't believe how much smoother the ride was.

Materials

  • Aluminum: stiffest there is
  • Titanium: reportedly a nice ride, but very pricey
  • Steel: high-dollar frames will be very nice, forgiving; cheap steel frames will feel like you are riding on plumbing pipe, dead and heavy
  • Carbon: expensive, although coming down in price; smooth ride yet agile feeling
  • Aluminum with Carbon fork and/or stays: more carbon means more forgiving, smoother ride, more $$$

Geometry

  • Road race bikes: stiffer geometry, more responsive, more fatigue; definitely the most common on the market
  • Touring bikes: more relaxed seat & head tube angles, longer wheelbase, room for fenders, eyelets for mounting racks; harder to find
  • Triathon/Time Trial bikes: DO NOT GET unless you truly plan to do a tri- very upright geometry based on leaning forward onto TT bars, harder riding (unless you spend lot$ on carbon components)

Depending on how much you plan to spend, it may be worth it to pay about $60 to get a professional bike fitting. The right fitter will find out about you, your goals, and your flexibilty to come up with the right shape for you. If you have spent a lot of your recent years at a desk you may not have the flexibility to lean as much as the average frame wants you to do. Also, different brands may fit you better or worse. When Lemond bikes first came out, they seemed to fit people best who had longer torsos or lots of flexibility.

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I should add that to help with the stiffness of my bike I added carbon handlebars and seatpost. Don't really know if it helps since I had them from day one. –  Jay Sep 18 '10 at 4:54
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You should consider your goals, short and long term, prior to acquiring a frame. Are you planning on racing? And if so is it stage racing, crit racing etc.. Or perhaps you are looking at building from 1 or 2 hour rides to centuries etc.. You really want to make sure that you know what you are planning on doing (again, short and long term) so that you can choose a suitable geometry and frame material for your activities.

You should know the exact dimensions you are going to need to get the perfect fit. Road cycling is all about having a great fit and it doesn't matter if you bike is the lightest or most expensive ... if it doesn't fit then it isn't good for you. This can trickle on down to the components as well (set back seatpost, stem length and so on).

So, in my mind, those are the two most important things to consider and typically I would go about it by planning out my goals and then choosing the geometry to meet those goals. Once you have the geometry (head tube angle, seat tube angle, wheelbase etc...) chosen based on goals you can fill in the rest based on getting the fit dialed.

Really, from there, it is just a matter of how much you do or don't want to spend. Haha.

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