Full bike and upgrade, or custom build?

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  • Full bike and upgrade, or custom build?
  • You only need moderate technical ability to put a bike together and not a huge toolkit – and it’s fun speccing and building it. Get lbs to press your headset etc if you like, but read and learn about the rest. Will be invaluable experience for the future too.

    It amazes me some of the stuff mates pay the lbs to do


    If it is a very good deal I’d probably buy the whole bike, then sell and upgrade as I see fit.
    If not it’s very good fun to build a custom built bike up from the frame though, and I’d recommend doing it yourself, as it will be far more satisfying and you’ll learn some mechanical stuff while you are at it.

    I personally buy all my stuff second hand and custom build my bikes, I do end up with a slightly shorter lifetime between servicing/replacing on some of my components, but it is easily worth it.

    For example, my current bike I built for £1900, it’s probably worth around £5000 new, however the bearings are knackered and I’ve only had the frame since April.

    Always worth buying new brakes and drive-chain though in past experience.

    Premier Icon ratherbeintobago

    It’s probably not a bad deal apart from the wheels; I’m quite capable of bending 24 spoke 26er wheels, never mind 29er ones, so would want something a bit more robust.

    Conscious it will look embarrassing if I get to the point of rolling chassis (which I can probably manage, TBF) then have to get the LBS to sort out indexing/hose shortening (one of which I know I can’t do after many hours of swearing, and one of which I’m not messing with).

    Premier Icon ratherbeintobago

    Hypothetical situation: is it better to buy a full bike and get the LBS to upgrade the bits you don’t want, or get the same frame and build it?

    Have in mind a 2014 El Mar, but not keen on the 24 spoke wheels as provided, nor the OEM spec Fox fork, mainly. What does the hive mind advise, given I have no mechanical ability and would be looking to get the LBS to build it?

    I’ve got an El mariachi SS

    It’s actually been fine, I wondered about the wheels (mine are the 32spoke) but the stans rims have been fine and I’ve given them a bit of a pasting, including crashing hard enough to push the front wheel out of the dropouts and they’re still wobble free. Quite fancy the bolt through fork now I’ve seen it!

    Although I do prefer custom building, it’s usually cheaper in the long run, especially wear and tear stuff, and stuff that’s likely to break, like hubs, BB’s, headsets, stuff that wears out quickly so you end up having to buy it again anyway.

    Premier Icon ratherbeintobago

    Quite fancy the bolt through fork now I’ve seen it!

    The preview catalogue suggests it’ll be available in steel and carbon, with a tapered steerer. Someone was going to post up the components catalogue on MTBR after Eurobike, but it’s not happened yet.

    Difficulty here is that I’d be going for the same drivetrain anyway, and finishing kit can be upgraded over time.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith

    There is no single answer…

    You will struggle to get the prices paid by bike companies for the OEM kit.

    Get a spreadsheet (boring I know) and list every component on the built bike, then list out all the bits you want to change. Either google the list and come up with the cost or ask the LBS. You can do the same for the build from frame only.

    I did this comparing build kit vs what I really wanted. Everything on my bike was chosen for what it was (coincidentally some of it was also available from my LBS as instock/needing shifted before the 2014 stuff arrived)

    Premier Icon ratherbeintobago

    I shall go and have a think; on reflection overnight, the only things I’d be really unhappy with are the wheels, but it would hinge on whether the LBS is willing to swap them out (having had that happen at other LBS) for the price difference or whether I’d have to do it.


    With a full bike you always get some parts you are not happy with, headset, bottom bracket, hubs, rims etc but as stated the price is much cheaper than a custom build.

    For example the planet x cyclo cross frame and fork is £599 or £999 for a full build with shimano 105. You could not source a full bike build at that quality for £400.

    However, there are lots on it I wouldnt want so I would strip it before I use it and sell them on singletrack and use the money to fund the bits I wanted. Its more hassle but ultimately, you will save money.

    Its pretty easy to swop parts yourself if you have the tools. If you get stuck, just Google it and find a video or post on here for help.

    MTB Rob

    If it just one or two parts prob worth getting the full bike.
    BUT depend on how custom you want to go when building a custom bike, you can choose a colour scheme (BB, Hubs, headset spacers, seat clamp, cables etc) that does not cost any extra than a non colour part, and it make the bike look loads better IMO.

    Also, As above look at cost of a frame, and cost of bottom level full bike with basic kit, strip the bike sell parts, or even put it on a old frame/bike to sell or use as a winter bike.

    On the lack of maintenance front, look into doing a bike maintenance course, I do some set courses and also can custom them a bit to want the customer wants, and I have done a few “bike build” courses, where we used the customer bike/parts etc, it does cost a bit more than just me charging to just building up the bike, but then the customer is also learning how to do it and how to maintain the bike in future. I sure a good LBS would help with this. (might have to pre book in advance)

    Also if you chat/talk to the LBS and get ALL parts through them, I am sure the “build” cost would be less than
    “here’s all the parts I got cheap online, I hope they all fit and the right standards to fit the bike, please build”
    Plus they have to make sure the parts are the right standard and maybe help with choice of kit to suit you and your type of riding.

    Also by getting the parts from a good LBS it will save you a lot of time and effort if something goes wrong with any parts.

    All my MTB’s'(3) a Cross bike are custom build, struggle to get any of them at the spec they are as cheap as it cost.
    So spec and build your own.

    Premier Icon mattjg

    DIY and learn as you go.

    Break the dependency on the LBS, use them when you want to not because you have to.

    Trust me on this one.

    (Also opens up the possibility of buying second hand frames, knowing you can build the bike you want).

    Premier Icon ratherbeintobago

    It appears the UK importer is only bringing in the frame this year, which alters the decision-making process a bit.

    Building bikes is fun if you know what you’re doing but is a huge pain in the arse if you don’t. Get the frame and the parts you want, fit what you can then get your lbs to finish it and tune it up would be my advice.

    I like messing about with old bikes, swapping parts and tinkering but would prefer to buy complete if buying new. Think it’s the little child at christmas still in me, wheeling it out of the shop and all that.

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