Cloud208 Blog

Why building your own bicycle might be fun?

After a rather long period of my life that was dominated by public transport and cars, in recent years I have rediscovered the joy of riding a bicycle. I use it both for daily commuting, and for visits to countryside around Zagreb or family rest house on river Kupa.

When I (re)started driving a bike, it was an old faithful Rog Senior bike that was resting in my brother-in-law's basement. If you are thinking of trying to use bicycle for the first time or after the long period, I would recommend the same strategy. Do not head for the bicycle shop, it is likely that you will spend a lot of money on bike that might not be suitable for your needs, or you may even never catch up with cycling leaving you with almost new bicycle. Instead head for the basements or flee market. There is great chance some of your friends have some neglected bicycle and would be happy to lend it or sell it to you for a small price. Bring it in for service and necessary repairs, hop on it, and it will serve you very well for your beginnings. After a year of such use, you will know much better what kind of bike you need, and the money you have saved on fuel or public transport will pay for the new bike easily.

As my daily rides started to get longer and longer, combined with me being an overweight, old Rog Senior started giving signs that such use might be getting a bit too much for him. So I decided that is now time to get him replaced, and did a quick wish list:

  • road usage
  • it should be suitable for daily commute on Zagreb roads
  • it should be suitable for longer 60-100 km weekend rides
  • decent brakes
  • I would need to equip it with, lights, fenders, panniers
  • d sturdy built drive, wheels, and tyres with puncture protection to cope with might weight and glass on the streets
  • a bit of under looker so that it does not attract thieves too much
  • not to cost an arm and leg - it should be a work machine that pays for it self, not a pet.

In local shops, there are some great bikes, but I was having trouble to find one that would fit well my wishes above. Since I was in no hurry, I decided to try to build one. I bought old bicycle that I used as a frame donor, and started to collect all other necessary parts. Which gave me an opportunity to learn what are basic parts of bike, how they interact, and which parts are compatible with other parts. Bicycle is a simple machine, but when you are noob, everything is new and exciting!

As the pile of parts has reached critical mass I have started working on bike, lacing the wheels, disassembling the old bike to the bare frame, painting it, assembling the drive and derailers, connecting the chain, mounting shifters and brakes. Sometimes I worked for a few days in a row, sometimes a whole month would pass before I could return to do some more. Sometimes I had to shop for another part since I did not know I need it, or buy another one that would fit. Also along the way I had to obtain some tools specific to bicycles, like the chain tool used to break or connect the chain.

And after a little more than a half of year, my bike was ready for maiden ride. I drove it to bicycle shop so that they check if everything is in place and tightened well, and that was it! Now after 3 months of use, and more than 2500 km I must say I am very happy how it all turned out. I got a bike that suits my needs and learned something. It was fun to build something physical with my hands, not something I as programmer do quite often. On the other hand it was still simple enought to be within my very limited skills. Lastly, riding a bicycle often gives you a feeling that your are a bit more self contained, no dependency on gas, parking, rush hours. Just hop and ride. And when you do that on bike you have built by yourself, that feeling even gets stronger.

So to summarize, if you would like a cheapest bike, wait for January and shop. If you would like to have something custom tailored, with unique touch, and would like to learn something along - building one might be a fun!

Posted by rush at 14 September 2011, 10:28 pm with tags bicycle link