In the May issue of Full Sus the Stirlings got the ball rolling with talking you through the ins and outs of custom speccing your dream bike. This issue they move into the nitty gritty of component choices.
And now the real fun begins, picking and choosing all your favourite bits while making a few mistakes along the way. In order of importance this is what you need to look out for.
Suspension: After picking the frame, the next big decision and a worthwhile place to blow some budget is on the suspension. Most of the time the frame will come standard with a rear shock, but if you get a choice, buy the best option offered. For the front suspension fork, do your research and buy the brand, model and travel length that you feel will best compliment the frame’s geometry and your riding intentions.
Tyres: Why are tyres so important? you must be asking. They don’t cost much compared to the rest of the build and they are easy to replace and change. Both are true which makes getting this decision wrong not a disaster. But it does not make the tyre choice any less significant. Of course tubeless is a no brainer, but the right choice of tyre brand and model – strength, width, weight, compound and tread pattern – will make a significant difference to your speed and confidence. Once you get the tyre choice right, it is just as important to get your running pressures spot on too.
Wheels: Building custom wheels is more fun but sometimes more expensive than buying off the shelf wheels and there are a lot of factors to take into account when building up the perfect set of wheels. Do your research and choose from the multitude of brands, rim widths, rim materials and hub options to suit your riding preferences and desires. Then find a professional wheel builder, to check that you have all the correct and compatible parts, and to do the wheel assemblies. Two important pieces of advice: Insist on only brass nipples and make sure that your chosen wheel builder uses a tension meter to ensure your hoops are correctly and evenly tensioned.
Brakes: Good brakes are a necessity; great brakes are a game changer and often a life saver too! You want brakes that are powerful and reliable. They should offer good modulation and limited fade and overheating. They should be comfortable and integrate neatly on your handle bar and as a bonus it should be easy to find replacement pads.
Dropper Post: If you are building a trail or Enduro bike, a dropper post is a must. If you are building a marathon racer a dropper post is still worth considering! Most of the dropper posts out there are pretty good and certainly better than nothing, but generally the more expensive ones are also the better ones in terms of having a smooth action, good reliability and lower weight. One piece of advice: Buy the dropper post brand new in South Africa as all droppers have a higher than normal risk of needing the odd warranty claim.
Saddle, Grips and Pedals: These are the three things on your custom build where you should have a personal favourite. You can’t read how suitable a saddle is for your bum or how comfortable a set of grips are. You should go into the build knowing what your preferred saddle, grips and pedals are even if that means keeping them off your old bike.
Groupset: The groupset choice is a big place to save or spend money. The truth is that all the 10 and 11 speed groupsets today, regardless of price, are excellent and will shift your gears precisely and efficiently. Choose 1×10 (with an expander) or 2×10 if you are looking to save a bit of moola. Or go for 1×11 or 2×11 if you have some extra bucks to blow. Another piece of advice: The choice between SRAM and Shimano is a personal one but in general SRAM are the leaders of the 1x systems and Shimano are regarded as the leaders of the 2x groupsets.
Cockpit: For the handlebar and stem choices have a look at how much budget you have left. Choose a stem and handlebar that suites your physical size, riding style, brand preferences, and desired sweep and rise. Stems between 50mm and 90mm and handlebars wider than 700mm are the standard today.
The Extras: Finally, don’t forget these often overlooked bits. Attention to the small details is what separates the good builds from the great builds. Neat cable routing, the correct bottle cage, an effective chainstay protector and a front mudguard are all musts on my bike. And while the bike is still new and has no rub marks or scratches, make sure to apply protective stickers and cable rubbers in clever areas to keep the frame looking pristine.
And, finally, if you are going to get loads of advice from your local bike shop, buy what parts they can supply from your LBS – if you take a wrong and often expensive turn, your LBS will bail you out!
If you missed the last issue or simply want to recap on the Stirlings’ advice scan this QR Code to read Your Dream Machine – Part I.