Over a year ago I started on a dream of mine to build my own custom mountain bike from the ground up. I had sourced a carbon hardtail frame (after getting approval for my home’s minister for fun and finance – I know, a confused portfolio and one I continue to fall afoul of), and over the course of 9 months sourced every single part from all over the world for half price or better. This project was my custom Trek Elite XC 9.8 – and it got stolen! The NSW Police caught the drug addicted thief and my insurance company came to the party and replaced it with my wonderful BMC Fourstroke FS02 – which is better than its engine (me). But it is such a good bike that I don’t want to ride it to work, or even get it scratched for that matter (I know what some of you are thinking – it is a mountain bike for crying out loud, it is going to get PLENTY scratched).

More importantly, I want to build something again that I can say is by my hands. I had plenty of assistance from my LBS on my last build, but this time I’m determined to build this one as much as is feasible by myself. I had recently acquired a copy of “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance”, which is practically the bible for fixing MTBs.

Zinn_Art_Mountain_Bike_Maintenance

But this book is so gorgeously detailed that it goes beyond maintenance and will be my guide to my new project. My new project being a custom build hardtail MTB. Time to build something!

The New Project

So I searched high and low for a frame, and found one. This is the base for the new project. I don’t have the skills (yet) to fabricate a frame from scratch, and even if I did I would probably want to fabricate a cyclocross / tourer. In all practicality I was not going to find an affordable carbon fibre hardtail frame like my last beloved. eBay was the source of my find, and it was a good one – even though it was from a couple of years ago. I grabbed a BMC Team Elite TE03 hardtail alloy frame from 2008 from a seller in Singapore. It probably “fell off the back of a boat” on the way from Taiwan to Europe, but they don’t sell these babies anymore. She is a looker with silver / white / dark red scheme. For an aluminium alloy the frame is reasonably light at 1.6kg, but definitely heavier than the old Trek hardtail. Here is the start of the project, the naked frame:

New_Build_01

 

I was a bit nervous acquiring the frame online from a seller in Singapore, as this was a few hundred dollars of investment. But the bloke who sold them had a 100% record and the frame came shipped in immaculate condition.

The build has effectively commenced with the first component installation being the headset bearings (an FSA headset that the eBay seller provided with the frame). I had to get my LBS to press it in using the specialist tool that costs about $600 to purchase, and therefore not practical for a one build owner to ever buy. I could have used the old wood block and mallet trick, but to be honest I don’t have vice that can lock in the frame while I bashed the bearings in. But this is probably the last component that I intend to get assistance with. I might need rescuing with the black art of cabling, but I will give it a go first.

The high level spec for the bike will be a 26″ alloy MTB hardtail fitted for urban and gravel trail type riding. I will detail the specification as the build comes along.

The whole mantra for the bike is going to be the best for the cheapest. I already have the forks, wheels, brake discs, and rear cassette. I have acquired 75% of the other components, and looking for the sales on the online sites to finish procurement of the components. Most importantly I now have the tools to undertake the assembly with the prize being a Park Tool torque wrench (the best tool a man could own).

I don’t just want to be a dumb consumer. I want to know how to build something and then do it. I don’t get this fulfillment from my day job. More importantly, looking at the way my son has taken to ‘building’ things, I want to show my boy that there are skills that shouldn’t be lost – even if he is growing up in a disposable consumer society. By the time the new build is finished I will have hit S-1 in the stable (if you don’t know what I am referring to then look up the Velominati Rule  #12).