Lessons Learned in Building a bike:
This isn't compatible with That
If you are thinking of getting something new other than a strap on accessory, and wondering to yourself "I wonder if this compatible with that?" the answer is: probably not. Sorry. Not to be pesimistic, but there are a million variations of every part ever made for a bicycle. I love working on bikes, but this is really my main beef with doing so. I'm not sure why each bike company feels the need to make everything different from every other company, and even different from their own components year to year. Pretty much nothing is standardized, at least that I have found. Between all the different variations of width, spacing, tube diameter, threading, bolt size, and even bolt shape, it is extremely hard to interface components with other non-matching components. So the lesson is, do a lot of research (and talk to someone who knows bikes) before buying something to make sure that it will fit.
I need tools? I have a hammer, is that good enough?
One of the things that a particularly enlightened bike shop worked once told me is that the main difference between people that can build their own bikes and the people that cant is tools. You may think, like I did, that determination, elbow grease, basic mechanical know-how and a set of alan wrenches was all you needed to build a bike from the ground up. Nope, you also need some very specialized and specific tools. This was disheartening to hear at first, until I realized I could just buy the tools I needed, and instantly become one of those people that builds bikes (some experience and educated googling helps, though).
Here are the tools you need:
- Chain tool (also called a Chain link tool) - this little guy is used to put in and take out the pins that hold your chain together. So unless you happen to buy a chain that is exactly the right size that you need, you will need this puppy to shorten or lengthen it.
- Bottom Bracket tool - This interfaces with the little notches on the inner edge of the bottom bracket and is really the only way to screw on or take off a bottom bracket. They come as either actual wrenches or as a little modified socket piece that you can put a socket wrench into.
- Bolt Spanner (also called the Crank Bolt Remover Thingy) - This is used to switch rings out on your crankset. It sits in the notches on the spinny side of the crank and can be used to hold the locking bolts in place so that you can actually tighten or loosen them, otherwise they just spin.
Those are the weird things. The rest of these you probably already have:
- A good set of alan wrenches - duh. Everything is alans dude.
- A flathead screwdriver - Ok, except for that. Two sizes, one small one for screwing stuff, and another big one for prying stuff.
- Wire cutters and pliers - for adjusting cables and cable housings.
- 1/2 in standard wrench - for the pedals. Most pedals use a 1/2". Remember that the left side is reverse threaded!
- Crescent wrench - for the headset.
- The internet, or a good bike book: YouTube has a ton of good videos that will walk you right through almost all of the steps of building a bike from the frame up.
Nice to have but not needed:
- Repair stand - its way eisier to work on a bike standing up, when you dont have to hold the bike at all.
- Torque wrench - ABSOLUTELY needed if your bike is aluminum or carbon, but otherwise just a nice to have item.
- Well-lit work area - I would say that this is a necessity, except for the number of times that I have repaired bikes trailside in the dark.