Build-a-Bike: The Chronicles of Archetype – X, building a road bike from the frame up…
And so it was in early 2013, I began researching and mining information on “open mold”
carbon bicycle frames direct from China. For those not in the know, this is a growing and
future trend. Why? For one, the frames are much less costly and two, most of the
manufacturers are making frames for the big-bike companies out of the same factories.
So, after months and months of scouring through forums, youtube reviews and ebay feedback, I felt I had enough data to take the next step. Thanks to my very generous and long-time best friend, most of the build cost would be covered. Mainly because he could not believe one could build up a carbon fiber bike cheaply and two, because he wanted to see what type of bike you could build for less than 2k…
So, let’s go back to October of 2013, this is when I had first ordered the R-002 carbon road frame from UIS-Zhongwei Composites in Shenzhen. Cost of T-700 carbon frame and fork? $360 USD. Now fast-forward to over 5 months later, the build has finally come together- though fraught with many teething problems. From incorrect sizes being sent to blemished parts, then defective and even some broken pieces that had to be sent back for return/replacement…the project has been very trying and revealing indeed.
As I mentioned earlier, this project would entail building the bicycle up from the
carbon fibre frame and fork. I procured all of the ancillary parts via ebay and Amazon.
From the 38mm x 23mm Ekay Composite wheelset, to the Ultegra 6700 drivetrain down to the anodized bolts. Since I had never assembled a bicycle before, I knew there would be some stumbling blocks along the way. Well, stumbling blocks is an understatement. Most of the build went okay, attaching the brake calipers, the derailleurs, the crank and the bars were straight forward. But as the build progressed, things became more difficult.
Routing the cables was a chore, due to the bottom cable guide being, well a piece of
crap. First discovered that the internal nut that the bolt threads into was broken.
So, out came the crankset…more disassembly. After about a half hour of trying to jam
a small screwdriver to ‘hold’ the nut in place while trying to tighten the bolt was a royal
pain in the ass. Some thread locker applied and it seemed to hold, but it’s broken.
Which sucks, because it is absolutely a QC issue. I will say, for all the positive aspects
of the frame and the cost, UIS’s QC is lacking in several areas.
So back went the crankset. Then I discovered that the front derailleur cable was binding
in the plastic cable guide! Un-fucking believable. After several attempts, no dice.
The shifter would not budge. So, out came the fucking crankset AGAIN! Oh man…
was I aggravated. I had to file the guide opening in order to get the cable to slide back
and forth. The whole debacle with the bolt and the nut were rehashed…then back went
the crankset one more time.
The last bits of the build were down to adjusting and dialing in the derailleurs. The
front went fairly easy, but the rear was a different story. My friend and I wound up
working on it most of the day last Saturday, at the end of the day, we figured out that
the derailleur hanger was just slightly ‘out’ of alignment. The good news was that there
was a spare hanger that was included with the frame. So after swapping it out, it was
back to adjusting…between setting the High and Low settings, the B tension and the
barrel adjuster, it proved quite a task to get the shifting right. Finally then, on last Sunday morning the bike was nearly complete. All that was left to do was to apply the graphics that I had made up by bikenames.com. Total cost for the bike as pictured was $1,748.00 and weighing in at 16.92 lbs. That works out to an amazingly low figure of $103 per pound (cpp)
I still have not yet ridden the bike beyond a block yet. I’m hoping to get a shakedown run
in soon, to be able to dial the bike in. There’s getting the saddle position just right, the fore/aft and the tilt. Then the aligning the shifters-brake hoods on the handlebars and some other small details that really make a huge difference when riding. I’ll follow up with an unveiling video and an official test ride report.