Monday, December 17, 2012

Frameset or Complete Bike?

In the comments of the previous post, a reader pointed out that the comparatively low MSRP of the frameset I described was not such a bargain, considering the likely cost of the complete build. Depending on the context, I both agree and disagree. So I'll take this opportunity to discuss the benefits, as I see them, of buying a frameset and building it up yourself vs buying a complete bicycle.

Purchasing a complete bike

When a manufacturer releases a bicycle model as a complete build, the price of the bike bundles together a number of things: the frame and fork, the components and accessories, and the labor involved in assembly. The price of the bike will be significantly lower than if you were to pay for all of these things individually. Assuming that you are happy with the components included in the stock build, this makes the bike a great deal compared to buying a frameset only and starting from scratch. You save money on components, you save money on labor, and on top of that you get the immediate gratification of having a ready to ride bicycle straight away.

But keep in mind that the more changes you make, the less of a great deal it will be - especially if you cannot do the work yourself and will need to pay extra for labor. Give particular consideration to whether you are happy with the stock drivetrain and shifting system. Changing this on a stock build can be costly. If the stock bike comes with 700C wheels and you want 650B, a conversion could be pricey. If you want dynamo lighting and the bike does not already have it, you will need to rebuild the front wheel with a dynamo hub, or replace it. If the stem length and handlebar width are wrong for you, you will need new ones. At some point, it might be more cost-effective to start from scratch.

Purchasing a frameset

When a bicycle model is available as a frameset only, it is an opportunity to assemble the bike according to your needs from the start. You can choose the exact gearing you want, your preferred model of levers and brakes, the correct stem length and handlebar width, and a comfortable saddle. You can integrate dynamo lighting into the build from the get-go. In the event the frame is compatible with more than one wheel size, you can choose the wheel size that suits you, instead of executing an aftermarket conversion. Going the frameset-only route is an especially great deal for those who are DIY tinkerers (or live with one) and can do the work without the help of a bike shop, and for those who already have a bunch of components lying around waiting for a frame.

But before buying a frameset, it is a good idea to make sure the bike you want really is different from an available stock build. Oftentimes novice buyers cannot distinguish between what's a big deal to change and what isn't. For example, if a bike is missing fenders and racks, you can add them without making changes to the existing build, thereby still enjoying the savings of starting with a complete bike. Also, if it's a matter of stem length and seat post setback, some bike shops are willing to swap those at no extra cost. Finally, the stock models are usually set up generically - with plain handlebar tape, plastic pedals and unsightly reflectors. While this does not look as nice as a custom build, you can easily and inexpensively personalise the bike without needing to start from scratch.

One thing to add, is that a direct cost comparison between framesets and complete builds is not always possible. While some manufacturers offer both options, others offer only one or the other. The make and model you choose in the first place might depend on which you prefer. For heavy-duty city bikes, there are now plenty of complete stock models available that require few if any aftermarket alterations. Ditto for standard roadbikes. As for 650B mixtes, and other non-mainstream specimens, not so much.

60 comments:

  1. If one needs different handlebars, stems, and perhaps saddles your LBS will, almost w/o exception, happily exchange them at no cost in order to make the fit comfortable. Also, minor adjustments are free for as long as you own the bike (at least at my LBS) and that alone is worth a great deal.

    Over the years I've put plenty of bikes together from scratch and there's usually some hiccup along the way and constant tinkering, which in my case was fine but could be frustrating for others. Since you show a Surly in post, I'll add that I bought a complete build Cross Check and have really enjoyed the component group which came on the bike. Being kinda a snob, I thought I'd change and upgrade many of the components but after three years I couldn't be happier with the performance and compatibility of the group. Doing the kind of research involved in making changes, especially to the drive train, is confusing and may only lead to frustrations rather than improved performance....of course YMMV.

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  2. Great article and something I'm thinking about as I lust after a Ti frame. A couple of other considerations:

    Unless planning to sell the old bike, it's quite possible to strip good components off of a frame and reinstall them on the new one. So, the savings could multiply.

    For whatever reason i find it easier to work on a bike I built up myself than one where someone else installed the components.

    and then there's the thrill of riding a bike you built up from the frame, not to mention bragging rights. of course, not quite as cool as building the frame yourself...

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  3. I am in a bit of a quandry myself (one of my own making mind you) regarding this whole debate. Currently, I am saving for a replacement for my aging Kona Jake the Snake cyclocross bike which gets used as a long distance road bike, general ride around bike, and a gravel trail bike. Saving will be a long process.

    I want another cyclocross bike. This I know.

    But next time, I would like to treat myself to something special. I am thinking of the top end Specialized Crux (carbon fiber with SRAM Red stuff) or a custom build from a local high end frame builder (carbon fiber/titanium mix - very sexy.)

    Both options have significant merit from my point of view. It comes down, to my way to looking at it, to this: do I want the "something special" that comes from a boutique bicycle where I can specify exactly what I want, or would I be just as pleased with a (very nice yet pretty rare) off the shelf machine?

    The answer is either machine would make me very very happy. But I am leaning towards the boutique bike because this machine would be a special purchase.

    On the other hand, my ride around and lock them up machines are strictly business - cheap cheap base bikes, usually Konas, that I Frankenstein and make look less than apealing to thieves. They are utilitarian machines that get their "soul" from how they ride, not how they look.

    But my high end machines? Those are different, and should be.

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  4. As the reader of the previous post whose comment you reference, let me commend you on a reasonably sound weighing of the pros & cons of "custom" assembled bikes. Had I not been bourbon-addled at the time I would not have objected to your use of the term "value" (after all, a Ferrari might be a good value, compared to a Maserati)but simply suggested that you indicate, by some means, that custom assembled bikes (frame you want with components you select) are really quite expensive. You usually finesse discussions of price, but listing only the price of the frame seemed to me slightly misleading and certainly unhelpful to someone considering this type of bicycle. As the very happy owner of a custom-assembled bike, I speak from experience: knowing exactly what you want can be a very expensive business indeed.

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    1. But was it artisanal bourbon?

      One problem with listing the price of a complete build on a bike like the Soma BV is that there isn't really a typical build, so naming an arbitrary value may be more misleading than letting the reader spec it out for themselves. Dynamo hubs, lights and wheelsets and components can differ in cost enormously; it is really a matter of what direction you want to take it. Another layer to this, is that when I am describing someone's personal bike (as opposed to a demo model sent to me by the manufacturer, or test ridden at a bike shop), I do not necessarily want to list the price and the exact build. I do list MSRP where I think it's helpful and where the info is provided by the manufacturer or bike shop.

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  5. These kind of checklists are all well and good but the biggest difference is the ability to test ride a stock bike. No matter how much you've heard or whose opinions you trust, the bike you piece together isn't going to be exactly how you envisioned it to ride. How the components interact is huge.

    If Bekka were to say drop $2k on a bike, I'd hope a quick fit was included. Somehow that bike doesn't look set up for her.

    Aesthetically, I'm not a fan of a threadless stem's diameter with the fine lines of that frame and standard diameter seat post. Something you'd get in a stock set up is how it's going to look, so a quill might be the thing that tips the balance.

    I saw a Civia 3sp. mixte for well under $400 the other day. The difference between this and the Soma in manufacturing quality is very small. The difference in ride quality and perceived efficiency might be huge though.

    And, let's face it, less expensive bikes are often times just placeholders for the budding bike geek.

    P.S. I will make a predication that BF's bike will not look like this one year from now.

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    1. Test riding stock bikes, yes. Also, just to add another level of complexity to this: Some bike shops assemble "suggested builds" for frameset-only models. These do not offer the same savings as a stock build from manufacturer, but make test rides possible.

      Maybe this wasn't so clear, but the Soma Buena Vista as pictured in the previous post was not set up for the owner as far as saddle & bar height; the test ride report was from my point of view. B has it with bars & saddle about level (she is shorter than me). I'll post pictures of this, as well as rack & chainguard, eventually.

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  6. Hey now, I think my unsightly reflectors are pretty groovy. ;)

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  7. Some excellent points being made here, but I think there is another that gets left out--and that is pride of craftspersonship.

    By that I mean that, while it's true that purchasing a frameset and parts is more a jigsaw puzzle than it is a woodcarving, there is something to be said for having put everything together yourself (or with a little assistance).

    When I was a ham radio hobbyist, there was a distinction made between true amateurs, on the one hand, and appliance operators, on the other. I think that's a little too invidious a distinction, but in many things I've done, I've seen people afraid to work on the things they own--be they radios, guitars, computers, or bicycles--and I feel badly for those people, who could, with a little effort, discover new competencies.

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  8. Hello Velouria
    Your post is very topical for me, right now I’m building a Yuba Mundo Cargo bike, having bought the frameset. I am setting up a bicycle repair business in the spring and I am going to use the cargo bike as a mobile repair workshop.

    The build which is nearing completion has so far worked about the same cost as buying the complete bike and getting it shipped to Ireland from the UK or Germany, about 1150 euros. I had some of the components already and I’ve done all the building myself. If I had to buy all the components and pay someone to build it the cost would be a lot higher, probably closer to 1500 euros.

    I have a breakdown of the costs of the build on my blog at
    http://irishbackwoods.blogspot.ie/2012/12/building-cargo-bike.html

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  9. Really, though, it depends what you are trying for. I find there to be so many wonderful variants on race, cyclocross and mountain bikes that it is really just a matter of being honest with myself about intended use, price point and posture. Aficionados are forever upgrading, so if there is money to be saved, I just buy last year's model for half off on craigslist.

    On the other hand, I spent a good month test riding randonneuse bikes and finally gave up.
    Bar end shifters, seven speed cogs, triples, odd sized wheels built by hobbits to be ridden by giants weighing 15 stone across boulder fields, square taper bottom brackets and nutted skewers for gawd's sakes: as if Tullio Campagnolo had not frozen for my sins on the Croce D'Aune.

    Enough. I bought a classic frame and a modern groupset on ebay, threw on a spare set of wheels and had a local artist put together the other odd bits to make a hillside commuter just for my tastes and needs. Did I save money? probably not. But I got a slightly heavy bike that rides exactly as I want.

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  10. I'm currently building-up a bike from a Rawland rSogn frameset. Aside from the actual work involved putting everything on the frame and building the wheels, it's taking a lot of time researching which components I want – not to mention obsessing over gear rations with the on-line gear calculator. There’s also time spent trying to find where these parts are available and who has the best price. Mind you, it’s a very enjoyable process -- I love working on my bikes, I’m learning new things, and I’ll wind-up with something that I’ll be (hopefully) very satisfied with -- but still, it’s time consuming, and the end result will wind-up being much more expensive than an off-shelf bike.

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  11. One trick to building up your own bike is to avoid, um, er, odd combinations of parts. For example, you show the robin's egg blue Surly Cross-check. That reminds me of something I am still wondering about the one built up for your partner. It all started with a pair of truely huge road tires, 50mm Schwalbes. Did you ever measure and report the resulting bottom bracket height. From the figures I can gather it may be as high as 12", old fashion mountain bike altitude. Curiously, I have read that modern cyclocross bikes do not even have the raised bb heights they used to - finding it no longer necessary now that we do not ride with toe-clips dragging below the pedal.

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    1. You are right about his bike. The XCheck frame already has a shallowish BB drop of 66mm. Add the crazy-fat tires, and the BB is quite high off the ground (I will measure and get back with the exact figure). I would not enjoy riding such a bike, but he seems to like it. His Pashley's BB is higher still.

      I've read several product descriptions of modern CX bikes that explain why they do not have overly high BBs, but I do not entirely understand it.

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    2. ...and his Pashley's is nearly 13"

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    3. I find myself more interested in MDI's rides these days...please update!

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    4. I think it's mostly to/from work + errands at the moment.

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    5. I think anon means bikes, which haven't changed in a while. Brompton in the summer and Pashley in the winter.

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    6. Thank you, MDI. Sounds simple.

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    7. 11.5", thank you MDI. That's not too bad, less than I feared. Maybe nothing to someone as tall as I suspect you are.
      While I have followed the trend to larger section tires on my old bikes, I have become quite aware of the effect on bb height. My 25 year old Gitane touring bike originally had a bb of barely over 10". Now, riding on fat 35mm Paselas it is up around 10 3/8" or 10 7/16". For comparison with your modern cross bike, my mid-eighties Andre Bertin cross bike was 11" on its original tubular cross tires. Now with 30mm Paselas (labelled 32), it is about 11 1/4".
      Surprisingly for a commuter bike, and like your Pashley, my 1965 MkI Moulton has a 12" high bb. Of course, with front and rear suspension, that may come down a bit with a rider's weight on the bike. Still, in stop and go riding, its a long reach to the ground at the frequent stops.

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  12. It can be tricky. I bought a surly lht, it was mostly stock, but the lbs made a tonne of changes without even asking so it ended up being very expensive, could have gotten a rivendell had the bike not been purchased through a government incentive program and had buy at specific shops. The build never worked for me and I recently sold the bike as a complete bike fenders and all so someone could ride it without having to spend another dime.
    We generally don't have alot of money, so my husband will search for a second hand bike, even though I've been telling him to find a great frame and go from there. He's worked as a bike mechanic, has the tools, but is less enthusiastic than I am about fiddling with bikes. Inevitably there are many problems with craigslist finds and has to replace/upgrade many parts of a bike he was told is in great condition, 'ready to ride'. Ha! He bought a touring bike last year that was just too small and required many upgrades which cost about a thousand! I told him not to buy it but he didn't listen. So, he has to sell it, but cannot recoup the costs. He did have success in buying a beautiful higher end vintage road bike that will need new wheels one day, but also found a crappy road bike for winter and poured money into it only to discover it has a terrible ride quality. He does have a beautiful 60's randonneur that has sat half finished for 2 years because he made a fatal error in the last rebuild, crashed when the rear derailleur jammed from putting together the wrong parts. That can happen too, not knowing what goes with what, putting incompatable parts together and having accidents or headaches. He recently bought a second hand bianchi tourer that functions well enough as is, but is trying to build a 650b bike but that's costing quite alot because he has to get new wheels, tires, new brakes and levers, still doesn't know for sure if the frame has clearance for wide enough tires or if he will even like 650b. Keep in mind that in Canada, bike stuff costs a great deal more than you'd care to imagine, so we have to shop online to find deals which adds to headaches and waiting time to work on a bike.
    Thing is, we've had many bikes over the years. New boring bikes, mountain bikes, modern aluminium bso road bikes, 'hybrids', etc, and though they did their job, but not high quality or the kind of bikes we'd like. Blogs and the like make it even more difficult when we see people having no trouble at all finding and buying wonder bikes that we can only dream of.
    My husband wants lugged steel bikes with straight top tube, traditional lightweight tubing, but cannot afford what is available new. He wishes he could afford a new custom or semi custom complete bike like the Map cycles randonneur and not have to worry about measuring for brake reach, chain line mumbo jumbo and other potential mistakes.
    I have 2 fine lovely lugged steel frames waiting to be built. One was given to me, one I paid too much for. Both could use a repaint and restoration if I had the money. I've been accumulating parts a la ebay and recently scored a decent shimano dynamo hub for peanuts which is great because I cannot even afford the lower end ones new! It will take time, but will work better in the end instead of having to outlay all the money at once.

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  13. I guess I fall into a sort of middle category with respect to some of my bikes: I've bought them from companies (Rivendell, Bike Friday, Seven) that themselves are directly responsible for the frames, but then had them built up -- for the Riv and the BF by Riv and BF and for the Seven by my LBS.

    In each case, I found that thinking through what I wanted, and discussing it with the folks at the three frame-providers, was both tremendous fun and very valuable. Riv and BF and 7 all have some components they highly recommend and their experience with those components is very valuable. I was able to get a sense of what I wanted that would work, what I wanted that wouldn't work, and what the tradeoffs of idiosyncratic preferences would be.

    But as one of the previous posters mentioned, there *is* a risk of noncompatibility when you pick everything yourself from scratch. Luckily for me, my LBSes are terrific shops, and have managed to solve the problems I've caused myself over the years: e.g., a front axle and a bottom bracket that didn't quite work with the suspension fork and cranks I chose (even though Seven estimated the bottom bracket size before I ordered the bb). I imagine a stock Tikit or a stock Riv mixte would have cost a bit less (in the former case quite a bit less) than what I chose, but the choosing was fun, having a bike that's really *mine* is fun, and each time you do this you learn something that will inform the next bike you do. And I feel I contribute something back to frame makers by giving them new ideas they can use with other customers. E.g., I was the first person to ask for a J-Tek bar end shifter for the Shimano IGH on a Tikit, and it's performed flawlessly for three years now and I actually got a shout out in the Riv Reader for introducing Velcro zip ties to GP.

    Plus, if you care about artisanal work, doing the bike from scratch allows you to support more local experts and producers -- e.g., for my Seven, I went out of the way to get as much USA-made stuff for the bike as possible -- Rich at Rivendell-built White Industries hubs, Paul thumbies and brake levers, an Acorn bag, etc.

    Happy holidays and thanks, Velouria, for being one of my favorite blogs.

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    1. The risk of incompatibility is scary, but it needn't be that bad. Between places like this, iBOB, Sheldon Brown's pages, and a good LBS, it's generally possible to plan out in advance what will work together. And to make things work together when they otherwise won't. Of course, today I prefer friction shifting, so that particular compatibility issue is a non-issue for me (though I've run STI and Ergo setups in the past).

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  14. what percent of bikes on the market are offered as frames only?

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    1. If you mean in addition to complete builds, I think the majority of modern roadbikes offer this option. The majority of city bikes do not.

      If you mean as framesets only without the option of a complete build, then probably just fringe small-batch brands, such as Rivendell, Soma, Rawland and the like.

      It's not quite that cut and dry, but that's the gist of it. Unless I'm wrong.

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    2. can you tell me what modern road bikes you are referring to? the shops around here seem to only sell complete bikes.

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    3. If you're serious, it would help to know the context of the kind of bike you are looking for. A wide variety of roadbikes - from Surly and Salsa to Trek and Specialized - are available as framesets.

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  15. Have you ever read those cooking blogs where the writer provides "10 Delicious Haggis Recipes to make for $3.00 or less", and there's always the tiresome Jerk who has to complain about how "It costs $38.69 to buy all the ingredients for this CRAP! I can eat like a KING for $38.69 at Chili's!"
    Why do those guys even read those blogs? They don't want to do any cooking, they just want to eat(and whine). Building bikes is a bit like that. If you don't have any patience or imagination and just throw money at it, it's going to sting no matter how you pay for it.

    I used to know a young single mom who discovered bikes when she fell in love with a Vitus in our shop window. She had to settle for a used mid-grade Fuji that she up-graded gradually with parts she got from people she got to know(mostly middle aged men) on the wed. night ride. We used to joke about her "Vitus" but it only took about a year to gradually transform into a progressively nicer bike until the day she showed up with all those nice second-hand parts on a brand new genuine disposable French Vitus. It wasn't free but it was a bargain. I sold her some Campy G.S. brakes and always felt shabby for not just giving them to her. I hope she moved on to something even nicer before the seatstays broke.

    Spindizzy

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    1. "Have you ever read those cooking blogs...

      Stop right there; answer is no.

      Cooking blogs! I mean, come on.

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    2. "Get most of your meals at Chili's then?"(he responded viciously in the nicest possible way)...

      Spindizzy

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    3. (scrapes the remains of the Vermont-made creme fraiche from the dinner plate and feeds to the cat) yeah, something like that!

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    4. What is creme fraiche exactly? I keep meaning to try it.

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    5. It's basically just a high fat type of sour cream that tastes slightly buttery. Works nicely for cooking mushrooms - great flavour.

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    6. "I hope she moved on to something even nicer before the seatstays broke."

      Just curious how many Vitus seatstays you have broken. I suspect some of those reports are due to people cramming 130 wheels into 126 spaced rears, not a great idea with a bonded frame. Many others are likely due to people repeating stories they heard with no direct experience. (The more common reports of problems with Vitii are a separation of the seat bridge, or the chainstays becoming loose in the bb shell.) Still waiting for my Vitus to break.

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    7. I am sad to report that I have never owned or ridden a Vitus more than a few hundred yards at a time due to my, uh, robust construction. Around here the conventional wisdom never recommended them for 185 pound 6'2" sprinters.

      Of all the many Vitii in my orbit probably 30% had some sort of failure in the rear triangle area. Some of it was definitely the sort of unfortunate accident that happens when you combine a superlight race bike with a rider who really isn't a good steward of such a device, but there were also stays that cracked right below the bridge on the drive side and like you say, chainstays creaking in the BB.

      Having said all that, I am a fan and would love to give one to my daughter. But like a lot of life's magical things they sometimes tend toward the ephemeral.

      Spindizzy

      P.S. Creme fraiche, sooo delicioussss..

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  16. As a guy with a lot of parts in the basement and some tastes that diverge from the lbs-complete-bike-mainstream, (but not so much from the bike-nerd-online-guy mainstream, aside from a cruiser fixation), I haven't found it worthwhile to buy completes. The last new complete I bought was a Hero Jet Gold roadster, from a grocery store, for $125.

    Some of this can be chalked up to things that are certainly MY problem: I despise brifters, dislike most mtb indexed shifters, and I'm finding more and more that i don't much like shifting on the trail anyway. I have a soft spot for "alt" handlebar set ups. I'm a pretty straightforward fit, and typical stock setups suit my proportions fine, but I'm picky about other stuff.

    But, as a guy who used to work in a shop, I still feel that completes aren't really such a great value, even for "normal" ppl. Completes tend to have rubbish wheels, except at high pricepoints. You don't have to have any kind of esoteric preferences to know that sucky wheels suck, and that wheel upgrades are expensive. (Even the wheelsets on high-end bikes tend to be a bad idea for heavier folks...if that's a consideration.) Too often, the tires are low-quality, and may also be a poor choice for the customer in terms of tread characteristics, flat-resistance, and overall fatness. Saddles are an incredibly personal thing; chances are, you won't get on with the stock one. Pedals often aren't included, but that's a good thing. (Only a factor on low-end bikes with included pedals that are made out of resin-type plastic.) Maybe things have changed, but the last time I checked, most completes under $2grand were crippled by horrendous brakes. Gruesome low-end tektros ruled the day. (Have you ever tried to tune Tektro Io brakes? Maddeningly crappy brakes. On bikes costing more than $600. Sad.)

    The truth is, by the time you upgrade/replace/swap out parts to make the bike how ya wanted it, any savings are tossed out the window. Things were even worse BITD, like late 90s/early 00's, when almost every road bike came complete with a TRIPLE, which is kind of gross and a potentially costly upgrade. But even now, when I look at new completes, and I factor in a wheelset, new tires, possibly a brake upgrade, some pedals, a different saddle, different cockpit components, and suitably luddite shifters, the price pretty much doubles in a hurry.

    For me? Framesets, all the way. Preferably used ones, or low-production weird stuff. For most ppl, the complete probably makes more practical sense, but it absolutely doesn't represent a better value. (Especially if you have to pay shop labor...)
    -rob

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    1. Rob - You make a lot of good points. Pretty much what drove me to the magical kingdom of customs.

      BTW - I think I meet the bike-nerd-online-guy definition or come close anyway. Definitely share the Cruiser fixation with you. In fact so much so a few years back I took a '60s vintage Typhoon frame, fork and chain case kitted it out with modern parts (many from Harris) at a cost I'm sure was well over $2k. Wound up giving it to a relative who commutes with it as it was just too heavy to lug up three flights of stairs when I got home after a long commute.

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    2. Rob, I think I could ride with you. Sensible observations there, many miss the sensible aspect.

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  17. For 85 percent of the bike buying public, complete bikes! For the other 15 percent...oh my, enjoy your experience:)

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  18. It's hard enough to get a stock bike that's correctly assembled. Not all of us are lucky enough to live next to Harris and RSC.

    I'm maybe a little prejudiced because I work on a lot of yardsale and CL bikes. Those are almost guaranteed to have been wrong since day one. They're for sale because they always were unrideable or almost so. Still, I work with friends who've paid retail and been back to the store 3 and 4 times and the bike still isn't right. And I can't always help. A worst case would be the time I helped draft a letter to the manufacturer, the mfr then paid Store B to repair/rebuild the brand new bike from Store A and the charges for rebuild were greater than the retail price of the bike. Another time the sales rep came out to the customer's house, confirmed the new bike was as badly assembled as the letter said, and gave the finally happy owner an identical new but working bike. As middleman, I got the bad bike and was astonished at how little of it could be used for anything.

    Very few owners of such lemons ever get full resolution of their problem. The bike just sits in the garage for a decade or three and gets sold cheap.

    That's for a stock bike. Ask for a full custom rig and who knows what happens. If you aren't able to do the work yourself how would you even know what to ask for? How would you be able to inspect the finished work?

    If little things like chainline, stack height, brake reach, wheel dishing, axle spacing are even mildly perplexing you want to stay stock. And pray you get a good stock. I still see $10,000 rigs with QRs used as wingnuts. You know that bike has at least a dozen other problems.

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    1. Yeah, I would never buy a complete bike from a shop where the steerer was pre-cut and/or swapping out a stem (for no additional cost) to adjust reach wasn't an option.
      ~Tim

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  19. I agree with 12:02. Unless you've been riding a while and know something about equipment and how to fit a bike--or have access to someone who does (i.e., a good mechanic and a good shop), don't do custom.

    On the other hand, if you have been riding and know what you like--and can't find what you like in a stock frame and bike--go for a custom build. I have custom bikes because I have a relatively short torso. When I bought stock bikes, I would end up with a top tube that was too long, which made me use a short stem. Or I would get a smaller frame (shorter seat tube) to get the shorter top tube, and would have to use an absurdly long seat post.

    Plus--as anyone, including Velouria, who has seen me and my bikes knows--my bikes are combinations of new- and old-school parts and accessories. I hate the "gruppo" mentality; there are things from various designs and manufacturers that I like.

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    1. I also avoid complete bikes, and although I don't hate the gruppo mentality (I see that a lot of group-specific components work best together), I don't generally build up my bikes with just one group in mind. My current winter project will consist of primarily one group, but will have glaring substitutions (and I mean GLARING). For instance, most of the drivetrain will be mixed Dura Ace 7800/7900, but the drivetrain will be driven by a 40 year old crankset. The front hub will be German, the rear American, the crankset French, the BB American, and the remaining drivetrain Japanese. But the shifters, rear derailleur, chain and cassette are really all optimized to work together as a group, so that's where I'm not mixing pieces.

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    2. I used to love the group mentality( campy ). But now I am really trying combinations of different manufacturers to reach my goals. I use Campy shifters, hubs, and cassettes. The rest is a mix. While I have many bikes, my go to is my Riv Roadeo with Nitto, Shimano, and Campy.If I had to buy all the parts and the frame new, I would probably be in the bike about $4500-5000, but I wouldn't be happy with any other builds and in 3 years, I have 20,000 enjoyable miles on this bike. To each his own, but if you ride a lot and you don't race, comfort, fit, and the rest are very important factors in the overall enjoyment of one's cycling experiense.
      Don

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  20. My best 3 fitting bikes are frame and fork builds. With stock bikes I always need to change out handlebars and/or stems and I'm not always happy with all of the components. On the average I spend $100-200 more to fit most stock bikes that I've tried. I spent a lot of money and sold a lot of bikes to figure out what I needed. but if you have a longer reach, stock may be the way to go.

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  21. I think this question has little to do with value, or money saved or not saved, but is more about a person's level of involvement with cycling plus their comfort with tinkering. Hard core racers, rec riders, and commuters comfortable with their mechanical skills will be drawn to a frameset-only purchase at some point. Most others will make do with complete bikes, or have them customized by the LBS, or """curated""" by a veloceleb.

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  22. Personally, I enjoy very much building up a frame from scratch -- it's like a blank canvas. I realize that it generally costs more this way, and I've made a few mistakes along the way with the handful of bikes I've built up in regards to buying stuff that I ended up not wanting or that didn't play well with the other components. But, in general, I can identify the parts I want and then shop for the best price I can find which keeps overall costs to a minimum and leaves me with the bike I want.
    ~Tim

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  23. Just caught this thread. It shows just how much cycling has changed over the years, as in the UK it used to be the case a cyclist bought a frame and built the bike up themselves. Certainly in the 1950s it was cheaper to buy a hand made custom frame, or off the peg frame, because a complete bicycle attracted purchase tax which a frameset didn't. It was how cyclists learned a bit about bicycle mechanics, by building it up with the help, if required, of friends.

    Some of the above posts rightly point out the modern problem of compatibility which is only really an issue with index derailleur gear systems. I can concur with the experience of the above post of Q/Rs being used as wingnuts. One of many 'howlers' committed by the inexperienced or simply inept. If you have a good LBS, use them, but be accept they will probably not be able to compete on price with big internet retailers, however they should have expert knowledge and great service, so your bike build will be usable and safe.

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    1. I can concur with using a good LBS. I have one, but some don't. I use them when needed, but have friends who do everything themselves.
      This is only a part of the spectrum.

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  24. "As for 650B mixtes, and other non-mainstream specimens, not so much."

    For now...

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    1. So Evan, what's the time frame? I dying to hear some more about the randoneur frame.

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    2. Evan, are you saying Soma plans to offer complete builds soon?

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  25. There is no doubt that you can get a better bike for your needs by buying a frame and building it up yourself or having a shop do it for you. I did it using a Surly Cross check frame. I wanted several major changes from the stock model - a triple, Shimano STI or Campy Ergo shifters rather than the bar end shifters, seat and pedals to match my other bike, and a stem (and overall fit) that was the best I could get from a stock frame. I also got a great set of tires for road use rather than the knobbies that came on the stock build. The cost was high compared to the stock build but I have the bike I want. I think that means I am agreeing with Velouria here.

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  26. I have a friend that has an Rsogn Norvindien( sorry if I misspelled). He has built it with a mix of Sram and lots of other brands. The bike is a dream bike. The group thing is for the "Racers".

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    1. I think that would be my Rawland Don's talking about! It's an eclectic build but it works nicely for me. I think the only complete bike I've bought for myself since 1991 was a recumbent, and even on that I built some nicer wheels and swapped out the handlebars.

      It helps to be comfortable turning one's own wrenches. Even all of the wheels I ride save one set I built myself.

      Bill

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  27. Only one of my bikes was bought "off-the-shelf" (and at less than a quarter of the original price), and it's the one I ride the least. And for that matter, I've swapped out the saddle and the cranks. It's also the only one whose wheels I didn't build myself.
    For any bike I planned on using intensively, like a daily commuter, brevet bike, touring bike, etc, I'd definitely build it up from a frame. I have specific preferences and I'd rather have to find a couple of work-arounds than give up certain things. And I'd rather build my own wheels, regardless. But on the other hand, in the case of folding bikes or cargo bikes that have more specific requirements, may not be available as just a frame, and maybe don't get ridden to the point where I'd care about micromanaging my crank length, q-factor, whatever, it certainly makes more sense to just buy the complete bike.

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    1. Once you get used to getting what you really want it's hard to go back to someone else's idea of a bicycle. It would be great to have the skill, tools, and space to put a bike and wheels together.

      What us q-factor?

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  28. The availability of bare frames is useful, and potentially a more easily justifiable slip of the credit card, for those compulsives who accidentally find themselves with three or four or five or six (who's counting?) bikes' worth of parts and wheels ( *coff* *silver* *coff* *campy* *coff*) carefuly misered away in case of an internatonal bicycle parts shortage.

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  29. And then for this newbie, it's a matter of the frame that draws me every time I see it. I just want to squirrel it away until I know more in order to do. It justice.

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