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  • Building your own bike frames - anyone here ever done it?

    As an avid mountain biker and now now that I have a mill and a lathe, I'm strongly considering building my own custom bike frame. Something I've thought about for a long time, but never got around to. I'd like to - for the first time - truly build a bike that is just right for me with all the features I want and with none I don't. Just curious if any of you have actually done this and if there are any tips/advisements on how to get the best results.

  • #2
    We have an engineer for Trek as a member, but his call if he wants to be IDed.

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    • #3
      Yes.. made quite a few. I would jump in if I was you.. no rocket science involved and plenty of fun. The various framebuilding forums are a start and will read like War and Peace.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Machine View Post
        As an avid mountain biker and now now that I have a mill and a lathe, I'm strongly considering building my own custom bike frame. Something I've thought about for a long time, but never got around to. I'd like to - for the first time - truly build a bike that is just right for me with all the features I want and with none I don't. Just curious if any of you have actually done this and if there are any tips/advisements on how to get the best results.
        "Designing & Building your own frameset" by Richard Talbot is the bible for aspiring framebuilders. I bought my copy about 30 years ago, still THE reference.
        You don't need a mill or lathe to build a bike.

        Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk

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        • #5
          GCN has a Youtube video on a frame build. I thought it was pretty good.

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          • #6
            How are your welding skills?

            allan

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            • #7
              I had a student build a frame 25 to 30 years ago. It was all steel with silver brazed joints and attachments. The steel was something special and all the joints had some premade/factory reinforcements. When done it looked nicer than the factory bikes.

              The Brazing fixture was 3/4 thick steel plate with standoffs bored to fit the different sized tube.

              I don't know if they build frames like that today.

              Pete

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              • #8
                I think Easton in the USA and Reynolds in the UK may still sell custom butted tubes. I had a Collela full suspension frame, hand made in Basingstoke, UK, which used plain gauge microlite tubing.

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                • #9
                  I assume TIG is the only way to go.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by flylo View Post
                    I assume TIG is the only way to go.
                    oxy acetylene was the norm for a very long time.. either with silver and lugged construction, or fillet brazing of steel. Tig came into it's own with the popularization and development of aluminum and titanium and was also applied to steel. The beat goes on, and now composites are the latest greatest, so no welding at all.

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                    • #11
                      Everyone is assuming the OP wants to make it out of metal. TIG and Oxy will suck on carbon fiber frames

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by lakeside53 View Post
                        Everyone is assuming the OP wants to make it out of metal. TIG and Oxy will suck on carbon fiber frames
                        Works fine with UHMW rod...
                        Len

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Machine View Post
                          As an avid mountain biker and now now that I have a mill and a lathe, I'm strongly considering building my own custom bike frame. Something I've thought about for a long time, but never got around to. I'd like to - for the first time - truly build a bike that is just right for me with all the features I want and with none I don't. Just curious if any of you have actually done this and if there are any tips/advisements on how to get the best results.
                          I have, but it was for a motorized sand rail/buggy and other projects/motorized toys and only with thick wall steel pipe/SCH40. You'll probably want to build an alum frame. Thin wall chrome molly would be another choice but might be too heavy for a bicycle. I prefer to TIG weld small frames and MIG weld larger frames with many/many joints. You can notch your tube on your mill but you'll need a way to bend your tubes as well. I only worked with thick wall steel pipe/SCH40 because they are easily bent using a simple pipe benders like the HF pipe bender. Thin wall tubing needs a more advanced form bender/etc. You can probably get away with minimal bending for a bike frame though.

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                          • #14
                            Thanks everyone. I'll try and respond to a few questions/comments below. But first a little background. Initially I wanted to build an aluminum framed bike as I have been riding aluminum hardtails for over 20 years now. They're rigid but I usually run a suspension fork up front. Overall I find Al framed bikes give the best value in terms of weight, price and performance. But from what I gather, thin walled aluminum framed bikes need to be heat treated after they are welded (requiring a big oven that I don't have). The welds on them also to me look difficult to do for an amateur welder. I only have basic experience with stick welding, very little oxy/acetylene brazing experience and also some very basic Mig welding experience. I have a decent oxy/acetylene setup and a decent Hobart 140 Mig welder with an Argon tank. Sold my stick welder a while back. I do not have a Tig nor have I ever Tig welded.

                            In all my years of riding aluminum, of course I also considered Titanium. But it's typically 2-4 times more expensive for about the same weight, so I stuck with aluminum. Welding Ti is also a real specialized skill, from what I've read anyway. I never really cared for carbon fiber. Too expensive and not as durable as metal frames. I’ve used high end carbon fiber components on my bikes in the past including handlebars and seat posts with scary results. I don’t trust carbon fiber and don’t want to have to pack a torque wrench in my backpack every time I go riding.

                            So since the aluminum and Ti frames appear to be out(?) I'm thinking of building a steel frame. Most custom mountain bike frames I've seen are Tig welded. Of course custom roadie bikes are brazed with lugged construction and I'm sure that works fine for them. But a non-lugged mountain bike frame that gets hammered off-road for years...I don't know if brazing would hold up under those circumstances. I do have a Bridgeport and a lathe, so I should be able to very precisely miter and mate all the joints, which I assume is important for creating strong brazed unions. On the other hand, I am also considering buying a Tig welder and getting a bunch of junk steel bike frames and cutting them up into welding practice components. And then practice, practice, practice with the Tig until I can reliably join parts together that way. But a decent Tig welder isn't cheap, especially if you want one of the modern/smaller non-transformer units like a Miller Dynasty. So if oxy acetylene brazing is a real option, even for a non-lugged offroad bike that's going to be hammered, then I'd like to know about it.


                            "Richard Talbot is the bible for aspiring framebuilders."

                            Thanks, I'll look into it. Although I see it was printed in 1984. I'm sure much of the basics are still relevant, but quite a bit has changed since then.


                            "I think Easton in the USA and Reynolds in the UK may still sell custom butted tubes."


                            Here's a tubeset I'm thinking about trying out:

                            http://www.cycle-frames.com/bicycle-...hainstays.html


                            "GCN has a Youtube video on a frame build. I thought it was pretty good."


                            Thanks, I’ll try and find it on youtube.


                            "Yes.. made quite a few. I would jump in if I was you.. no rocket science involved and plenty of fun. The various framebuilding forums are a start and will read like War and Peace."


                            Cool, I'm pretty certain I am going to take the plunge at this point.


                            "We have an engineer for Trek as a member, but his call if he wants to be IDed."


                            That would be good to hear his perspective on homemade Aluminum frame building. I'm riding a Trek Stache right now converted to single speed. I really like the geometry and feel of the bike overall, including the whole 29+ format, but the chainstays are too flexible for my needs. Hence the decision to finally build my own frame.

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                            • #15
                              I'll stick strictly to technical aspects of building a frame. Preferences, inferences, biases, assumptions, etc etc are a whole nother kettle of fish.

                              - I wouldn't get too excited about what an engineer says about this. Has he/she built a frame? I assume you will be building a traditional double diamond frame. It will be built in your garage or the like. You will likely be using either bicycle specific tubing, or other high quality tube, like 4130, etc. The engineering has been done by the tube manufacturers. The double diamond frame has been well settled now for 100+ yrs. This is not a slight to anyone on this forum.
                              - A frame of any of the materials discussed, properly fabricated, will withstand years of abuse. Fillet brazed steel has a long long illustrious history across many fields and is very strong.
                              - Mig is not for bike frames.
                              - You are correct in that making an Al frame would be more challenging than most, if not all other materials. It will also require a higher end tig welder.
                              - Steel is an obvious choice. relatively cheap, easy to deal with, no back purge needed (like for ti), easy to make a 'safe' bike, tig, lugged or fillet brazed. Many custom builders fillet braze mtn bikes btw. Biggest downfall is you have to put a finish on it. If you learn to tig, Ti is not difficult..purging is the biggest difference, I actually find it easier to lay a bead with Ti.
                              - Forget chopping apart old frames. Regardless of joining method, cleanliness is paramount. no need to muck about with old paint, rust, etc etc. Raw tubes can had relatively cheaply. Easily cleaned, straight (ish), known composition, etc so you can focus on your welding issues, instead of having issues due to old crappy mystery tubes. Get a few feet, practice your miters on the mill, and start practicing your joining.
                              - Many tig'd steel frames are also brazed here and there.. cable stops/guides, brake mounts, dropouts, etc, so an OA torch is a good thing to have regardless. You will be dealing with flux if brazing. It smokes, makes a mess, and has to be soaked off in a large sink or tub. It's a dirty proposition... but the equipment is cheap, and it is versatile as long as you are using steel.
                              - Google bicycle frame building forum. There are a number. Everything you would want to know, and many pros contributing.
                              Last edited by softtail; 10-22-2017, 01:51 PM.

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