Before you take the plunge and spend time and money on building your own bike, you should at least know why you’re doing it. By that I mean sitting down and think of all the upsides and downsides of building a bike. Let me start that list off for you.
PROS! There are a number reasons why you would want to build up your own carbon bike. For example:
- Economics. It’s cheaper and more economical to buy an unbranded carbon frame and wheels. Buying a carbon bicycle from your local bike shop (“LBS”) maybe 30% to 50% more expensive than building your own. Don’t blame the LBS, they have bills to pay, and their profit margin is slim. And your very own carbon masterpiece will likely to be lighter than a name brand bike. Note though, that savings are not as noticeable unless you go all out with both carbon frame and wheels.
- More control over components. If you buy a bike at your LBS, sometimes you’d get components that you don’t really want. Sometimes you end up paying to much for components that you don’t need (e.g. paying for an Shimano Ultegra groupset when you only need a 105), and other times you might get components that you need to upgrade and end up paying even more. (e.g. “Why did the company cut corners and give me these crappy brakes?”)
- The cool factor. The two carbon bikes that I built have always been a conversation piece during group training rides, races and charity events. Even on the subway after those rides I’d get comments from passers by. If you don’t want to be the centre of attention, there are frames that are a bit more…understated, but you can’t deny a black carbon bike is very cool.
CONS! At the same time, there also reasons why you would not want to buy a carbon bike frame online. This isn’t an exhausted list; they’re just my opinions. (And if you have suggestions of your own, please let me know!)
- Warranty. If your frame or you wheels fail, it’s often difficult to get a replacement. Most vendors are in China; often it is next to impossible—or at least time consuming—to prove that your frame is damaged. Even if you can get replacements, at most you’ll only have a two-year warranty on the frame. In contrast, if you bought a Specialized (or a Trek, Cervélo, Felt, Scott, or any of the big brand name bikes) from your LBS, you can be certain to get a much longer warranty. And if your frame fails they might even upgrade it to a newer model. That said, there are lots of discussions from people who bought brand name frames that failed, only to be told that they had caused the damage and refused a warranty replacement.
- Customer service. Chinese venders of carbon bike frames and wheels are not generally known for their courteous customer service. Part of the problem the language barrier. Google translate helps a lot in getting the message arcross but something is always lost in translation. Also, there are different acceptable standards of customer service in different countries. So, you have to be very patient in order to have your questions answered. That said, the profit margin for selling a bike frame on eBay is fairly small, so vendors tend to try very hard to keep you happy.
- Quality control. While in most cases, there are no issues with quality control, can never be very certain that the bike that you bought on eBay is built to the same quality as a Cervélo. This has been, and continues to be, an issue for a lot of products from China. The general feeling is that a eBay frame is almost as good as a brand-name frame in terms of reliability, but you never know.
- Tech savvy. You need to have a fair bit of knowledge of bicycle components and frames. Otherwise, you may be stuck with buying the wrong parts. This is one thing the hopefully this website tutorial can help you with.
- Manual labour. Once you have the parts, you still have to build it up yourself. After building up a dozen bikes, it only takes 2-3 hours to put the components together. But the first time I built a bike, it took me and a friend an entire work day. It’s great if you have time and the tools, and the upshot is that you gain so much knowledge about the inner workings of bikes that you may never have to pay someone to tune up your bike again.