Building a bike

Hand-built Condor Fratello

There are several reasons why you might want to build your own bike. I wanted to learn how it all fits together and I wanted to be able to choose all the parts. My aim was for an elegant looking, swift steel frame bike and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

The first step was going to Condor cycles in London and getting fitted for a frame. I chose the Fratello frame as it is a nice compromise between speed and comfort. The frame took 5 months to get delivered (partly due to their factory in Italy being closed for staff holiday in August, and partly as the first time the frame was ready it had been painted the wrong colour). If buying again I would either stick to a standard colour or shop elsewhere – Mercian was also on the wish list.

For the wheels I went to London Bike Kitchen and did a short course in wheel building. Highly recommended, I came away from the course with everything I needed to know. I ordered two classic-profile H-Plus Son TB14 rims, Ultegra hubs, spokes and laced up the wheels – 32H on the front and 36H on the rear.

I opted for the Ultegra chainset (the 11 speed was just being released and looked like good value for money).  I chose 50/34 up front with 175mm cranks, and 11/28 on the rear with a short derailleur.

Shimano have a lot of really useful installation guides available on their website which are a great help:

Due to the frame dimensions I had to sell the standard road bike brakes that came with the groupset (I got a very good price on eBay) and picked up some cheaper long-drop brakes. It’s a shame that Shimano don’t do long drop brakes in Ultegra 6800 – the difference in quality when comparing the two sets side by side is quite distinct. Having said that, the Shimano R650s do a great job.

I purchased a lightskin seatpost for £20, which was a bit of a bargain. I have a lightskin seat post on my other bike and think it is superb.

Handlebar tape and seat are Brooks, and I’ve fitted PDW ‘full metal fender’ mudguards.

It’s a beautiful bike to ride – quick, smooth and silent – much élan. Now I’m just deciding what to build next…


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