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Start with the Frame: Why you should consider building your own bike

By Bruce Lin


Cycling is an addiction and, for those of us who nerd out on gear, sometimes we can just be too picky. Maybe you've experienced this. You look at complete bikes and all you can see is the changes you want to make. You have a bin full of unused parts in your garage, and a bank account bled dry from upgrades. Or a complete bike is just too expensive and you need to spread the cost out over a longer period of time. 

If this is you, then maybe you're curious about building up your own Frame. They’re a fraction of the cost of a complete bike. You could purchase a frame, scratch that new bike itch, and then pick and choose your components to slowly (or quickly) assemble your new bike into the perfect machine. Building a bike up from a bare frame can be one of the most rewarding things a cycling enthusiast can experience.

It allows you to have complete, creative control over your bike. If you don’t like the drivetrain, the wheels, or anything else, it doesn’t matter. If you want to spend your money on a particular component and save somewhere else you can. When you pick the parts, the cranks will be the right length, the wheels will be race ready, and every little piece will be just how you want it to be. There’s no waste or excess. Just pure component joy. So what’s stopping you? 


The conventional wisdom has been that it costs less to buy a bike complete compared to building one up from a frame. This is for the most part true. Bike manufacturers have deals with component manufacturers, and they buy in quantities that allow them to keep prices lowers. This means, for example, it cost less to purchase the same crank on a complete bike than separately.

With the growth and maturation of the used cycling marketplace, however, this isn’t always true. The frugal, patient, and tenacious buyers are often rewarded with builds that come out close to what an equivalent complete would have cost. With the deals available for lightly used frames and components, there are times where building up a frame can actually be the cheaper option.

It also becomes possible to take good quality components that you already own on your current frame and transfer them over to a different frame. Switching just the frame is, in a way, the easiest way to get on a new bike without breaking the bank. This is the preferred method of many of our own employees. I personally have a high-end SRAM drivetrain that’s now breathed life into 4 different mountain bike frames, and will likely continue to do so for a couple more years.

Playing this game changes the bike buying equation. Because frames are cheaper than completes, this becomes an easy avenue for trying different platforms, fits, and brands. With helpful tools like Sell // Trade, that make it easy to get money for your old frame or components, it gets even easier to start mixing and matching to get what you really want. 

If you intend to assemble your bike yourself, then a part of the cost is going to go into the tools necessary to complete the task. This can sometimes be a significant part of the cost of building up a frame. There are always methods to improvise certain tools and borrow others, but a truly self-sufficient and devoted cyclist should have a solid collection of tools anyway. Good tools will last you through the entire lifespan of your cycling career.

Mechanical Know How

More than anything, the technical difficulty involved with building up a frame is what stops many cyclists from attempting their own builds. Buying a complete is easier. But building a bike is really not that hard! It just takes patience and perseverance.  We live in an age of information, and there’s no reason that any buyer with just a sliver of mechanical aptitude shouldn’t be able to figure out how to put together a bike. 

YouTube is now one of the best tools available to learn what goes into building a bike. There are countless Vloggers now who record and stream the complete process of assembling their own builds so you can watch along and learn. With our Ride Guides, who are cycling component experts, it easy to figure what’s compatible with what, and all the things you’ll need to get any frame rolling. If you have questions about bottom brackets, headsets, hub standards, or anything, you can call, email, or chat us and we'll get you the answers.

It builds your knowledge and brings you a greater understanding and appreciation of how bikes actually work. Most significantly, it can deepen the connection you have with your machine. Building a bike up is an accomplishment. Every bike I’ve ever built up on my own from a bare frame has had a special place in my heart, and each has been an experience that I'll never forget.

If you're curious about building a bike up from a frame, there's no better time to start than now!

Find the parts and build your perfect bike:

Browse our Frames

Browse our Components

Browse our Wheels


  • Well, I learned to work on bikes decades ago at a local little bike shop in the town I lived in, and it was there that I got confident-enough to build up a bike – a triathlon bike. Back then (and apparently not now?) they used 650c wheels instead of 700c, but all the other components from the road bike I had transferred over just fine. Oh, although I DID have to go to aero-bars instead of just sticking with the drops I had. I ended up with a VERY fast, relative lightweight bike that I never raced, but got lots of friendly compliments about on the rides I took it on.

    Devin Barlow on

  • I got a 2012 new 26" Trek EX9 frame as a warranty replacement for a 2004 Fuel 90 SL Disc. The seatpost was the only thing that transferred to the new frame so I out to build a light weight and rowdy custom bike. With careful shopping for used parts such as a DT Swiss wheelset and Xfusion Velvet fork and select new parts like the XT drive train I built a supper sweet bike. I converted my brand new XT cogset to a wide ratio with OneUp parts and also did the OneUp modification to the derailleur. The used XT crankset got a Race Face wide narrow treatment. Braking was handled with used Avid Elixirs. An Ergon saddle, Bontrager grips and bars and 50 mm Race Face stem and Continental Mtn. King tires round out a 26 pound package that climbs as well as it descends. Great bike but I’m looking to buy or build a 29er now.

    Bruce Sowell on

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