Modern-day bicycles come in all sizes, functions, and designs. Rough terrains, concrete roads, street exhibitions, and even for sheer comfort. They got you covered. If you are that certain person who loves speed and bicycle mechanics, a road bike would be perfect for you.
Unlike most bicycle types, road bikes are light bicycles intended to get you as far and as fast as possible. It is mainly designed to run on paved roads. This is especially true for those models used for competitive cycling.
Road bikes are pretty much available in your local shops. Though all of them share similar functions, their prices may widely vary. You can buy a road bike for as low as $300. But there are also ridiculously expensive models that’ll easily reach up to $10,000. More expensive models are rightly considered as top-of-the-line road bikes. Cheaper road bikes are usually riddled with problems such as excessive weight, lack of speed, corrosion of frames, brakes that don’t brake, and the overall bad riding experience.
If you want to save some money but also would like to have a quality road bike, you have another option. Build one. Is it difficult? Yes, especially if you don’t have any knowledge of basic bicycle mechanics. Is it worth it? Definitely. When done correctly, a personally made road bike will last for years under proper care. They are utilitarian machines but also fun to customize and run around. It is something that you’d enjoy and be proud of.
This article will serve as your walkthrough in building a road bike.
Sportive and Racers
Road bikes can be classified into two types: the sportive road bikes and the road race bikes (also called racers). To build one, you need to know the difference between these types.
If you’ve watched a cycling competition on TV, you probably observed that their bikes are designed to have a better aerodynamic position. Riders lean very low while the distance of the bottom from the pedal is far enough to optimize leg power. Bikes are with a low front end, drop handlebars, and long reach – so that riders can lean down and “rest” on the handlebars. These are racers, known speed machines among bikers.
Racers may be difficult to control or just plain uncomfortable due to its mechanical design. For this reason, a more casual road bike may be more suitable for cycling beginners. That is the reason why sportive road bikes became more popular for the past years.
Sportive Road Bike
A sportive road bike offers the rider a relatively upward-position while considering good aerodynamic design. Most of the time, its handlebars are positioned relatively closer to the seat. In this way, the rider will feel less fatigue after miles of cycling. That is also the reason why people call this “endurance-focused bikes”. At top speed, sportive road bike can’t go faster than racers simply because of their difference on the maximization of aerodynamics.
How to Build a Road Bike?
Building one gives you control over what’s happening in your bike. You can manage and choose the parts that you want, how things will look, and how expensive it will be. All are essential components when making a road bike. At the same time, all are very important as they constitute to the overall mechanics of your ride. Most of these parts are readily available in your local bike shops.
Get all the essential parts.
This includes frame, fork, headset, stem, handlebars, brake levers, shifters, front and rear brakes, wheels, tires, seat post, and saddle.
At the center of every bicycle is the frame. You can buy brand new or used frame (note: when buying used parts, make sure that they are not rusted, broken, or bent in any way). When choosing a frame, get something that suits your size. If you’re not sure what size is good for you, you can always ask the shop for assistance. Having an ideal bike frame in mind will greatly help you because the frame will likely determine your other accessories and parts.
Today, the most wanted frame materials are carbon fiber or aluminum. Since they are light and strong, both fit the speed-oriented design of road bike without sacrificing durability. Steel, on the other hand, is the most popular metal frame. It is heavier and suppler than the other two. But in contrast, it is much cheaper and more accessible.
Though cheap, hi-grade steel frame is a great alternative for carbon fiber and aluminum (if you can’t get one). Not to mention that it is easier to fix because of people’s familiarity with it. For such reason, we consider steel frame as a good option for casual road bikers. They are the more versatile and the more affordable option for the public.
Just like the frame, it’d be helpful if you have an idea of what fork suits your need. In this project, you only need to consider a fork for the road bike. The most important standard for when choosing is the spacing in between the fork and the vertical clearance that it will offer to your desired wheel. You also need to find a fork that is compatible with your headset. Bike fork comes in carbon fiber, aluminum, and steel.
This is technically a set of bearings and races that links the fork and the frame. The linking of these parts enables the turning of the wheels. Modern headsets are mostly sealed. They look sharper and more compact. However, they are harder to work on and re-grease because of its design.
This part connects the handlebars to the steerer tube of the fork. Compatibility is very important for this part. Handlebar needs to fit the size of the stem. Though their sizing is critical, it is fortunate that there is plenty of handlebar type and stem type in the market.
Handlebars, Shifters, and Brake Levers
Many bikers heavily invest on the handlebar. Visually, this is one of the most striking parts of a bike. Experientially, it determines the entire interaction of the rider and the bike. For road bikes, try to look for drop bars (as they are the traditional handlebar for racers). Remember that the design of your handlebar will determine the positioning of your shifters and brake levers. Thus, you can also be creative and decide what type of handlebar fits you the most.
Rim breaks are one of the more popular types used for racers. Compared to hub brakes and disc brakes, rim brakes are easy to install and replace. They also come in many models that will likely be compatible with your wheel and fork. If you have extra budget, try to check for hydraulic disc brakes for its stopping power and self-adjusting feature.
Wheels and Tires
For your tire and wheel, road bikes are usually equipped with thinner tires. This is done to eliminate as much surface area in contact with the road. By doing so, the bike runs faster and farther with every single pedal rotation. Look for excellent quality wheel and tire set as they are the thing that travails the ground. It’d be favorable if you can find a lightweight wheelset for overall better performance.
Seat Post and Saddle
Seat posts come in carbon fiber, steel, and alloy. Steel is probably the most common among the three. But alloy can be an excellent alternative that presents the brightest quality of carbon and steel (mainly because alloy posts are light, strong, and relatively inexpensive). The frame’s seat tube should accommodate the seat post of your choice.
Regarding the saddle, get something that you’re comfortable using after miles of pedaling. This is important since the saddle bears the most of rider’s weight. Narrow and sleek designs ensure minimal friction for optimal pedaling. But you can always try for a wider seat for comfort (just in case efficiency is not your game).
Gearings and Crankset
Different users will need different gears for their bike. For this part, you’ll need some professional advice to ensure the compatibility of your gear system to the overall bike mechanics.
Working On The Build
After the hard work of collecting the components, you now face the task of assembling them. If it is your first time, things will probably get muddled. Because of the existing intricacies linked to the mechanic, especially on the cranks and the gearing system, you will most likely need a detailed guide that offers the fundamentals.
I highly encourage you to purchase Lennard Zinn’s book titled Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance. Even though it is known as the best maintenance guide in the market, the book also walks you through the composition and construction of road bicycle so that you’ll understand the right order of things.
Assuming that all components are complete and compatible, the assembly period may not really take that long (with the proper guidance). If you think that this work is simply out of your comfort zone, you can also opt to pay a local professional to assemble the parts.
And voila, you now have a customized road bike. This feat is something to be proud of. Enjoy the fruits of your effort and get your first mileage!