You can assemble your own bike for a third of what it might cost in a shop. One good, cheap place to start is CycleBasket.com, and you can’t match Wiggle.co.uk for price. I also know people who have bought bikes completely from eBay.
The first thing to find is the frame. If you can’t afford a handbuilt one, you’ll need to find out what frame size you are. Pop into a bike shop and ask them to measure you up. I’m a 54, for instance, which means that the length of my seat-tube is 54cm. Once you’ve worked it out, go frame-hunting. It’ll take a bit of footwork, and a bit of clickwork. It might take you to a jumble sale, a secondhand bike shop, or a club website, but eventually you’ll find a really nice old steel frame that comes with a pair of forks.
The next thing to buy is the groupset, probably from a shop. It’ll include the cranks (what the pedals attach to), the derailleurs (which you use to change the gear), the cassette (the set of cogs on the back wheel) and the chain.
Now look for your wheels. Either buy the wheel hubs, rims and spokes separately, and put them together. Or, if it’s you’re first bike, it’s probably best just to buy secondhand wheels. Check the rim isn’t cracked.
Next you need a headset, handlebars and the stem that fixes the bars to the frame. The headset fits between the fork and the frame, and you might buy it new. The handlebars depend on the size of your hands, and your shoulder width.
The last thing is the seatpost and saddle. The saddle is massively important, and you’ll probably bring it from your existing bike. Otherwise you’ll get a sore arse.
Robert Penn, author of It’s All About The Bike (Penguin)
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