Buy a Bike vs Build a Bike Thoughts and first words

Buy a Bike vs Build a Bike / CX + MTB Bike Builds

All of these bikes were built Frame-Up.

Bicycle Selection Knowledge before Buying a Bike, or Building a Bike.

This page has Video's from experts on bike selection as well as 6 different Custom Frame-Up Builds

Not everyone is ready to build their own bike. Not every one has the skills, the tools, or the space to build a bike.  I was in that same situation many years ago. Loved bike riding, never took one apart. I started as a road cyclist in the 80's. Got my first MTB in the early 90's.  In the late 90's I was in the market for a new road bike, and I got a Bianchi Strada. 

With the large selection of bikes at Belmont Wheelworks, they only had one road cycle (Strada touring bike) with a flat handlebar. I bought it and instantly loved it. As a mountain biker, a road bike with a flat bar felt perfect.  No hunching over, and now I can carry a backpack. Can not carry anything on your back with Drop-bars. Never felt comfortable on drop bars, always feels like it is an unsafe riding position. Problem is, almost no one makes quality cross bikes with flat bars.  Hybrid bikes have flat bars, but they also have a 9 pound front fork that does nothing. So, in the mid 2000's I started to build my own bikes to have the components I want, and the fit I like. All of the bikes shown in the above photo were built Frame-Up.

There are many benefits to building your own bikes. All of my bikes use the same components. I can keep a couple spare items in stock and they can be used for any of my bikes.  All of my bikes have these same common components: Avid BB7 brakes, SRAM twist shifters, SRAM front/rear derailleurs, 9 Speed Chains, cassettes, and cranksets. SPD pedals, seats, bar-ends, brake levers, 100mm QR fronts, 135 QR rears (most bikes), tubeless rims / tires, and SRAM hubs. I have never had a SRAM free-hub failure.  Lots of other hubs have failed on me.

CX Bikes / Flat Bars vs Drop Bars: 

Drop Bars or Drop Down handle bars are on all modern road bikes. They put the cyclist into a more aerodynamic position on the bicycle which helps greatly with speed.  When your speed is over 18 mph wind resistance becomes an increasing issue. So road racers, long distance speed cycling, and general road cyclist can ride in the best position for max cycling efficiency.


Lets speak Truth here: Maybe 5% of the cycling population can ride above 18-20mph for the duration of the ride. The rest of us are in the 12 - 16 MPH category on the Road.  4 hours in the saddle and that average drops.  Even on a solid road bike, only a few times was my riding average above 18 mph.

CX riding average speed is 8 - 14 MPH on trails. 

So why the Drop-Bars?  You gain aerodynamic nothingness...

For the type of riding I have done in the last 30 years, when I am riding over 18 mph it is counted in minutes not hours. So, I am a person that would not benefit from having drop bars.  To me they are really uncomfortable, and I also think it increases rider fatigue when on the trails. Because the riders weight is shifted forward over the front wheel, it makes it hard to avoid obstacles, do small jumps. Braking is also affected because all your weight shifts even more forward for braking which causes the front wheel to squirm and wonder under your weight.

Flat Bars are on all mountain bikes for one main reason. Steering control.  Drop down bars have very poor steering and handling control.  Ever try to apply brakes on drop bars while on a bumpy trail?  You can almost break your wrist trying.

Flat bars give you strong braking control, steady steering control, and puts your body into a more up-right position which allows for better hill climbing, better trail vision, and better braking control.

All of my cross bikes have flat bars. I will never travel over 20 mph for extended times on the CX bikes, and I like the up-right riding position. When I say all my bikes, I have 4 CX bikes and 4 mountain bikes. I have a smaller group which are my regular riders. Each of my bikes have a specialty application. Each bike has a special time of year to ride, type of weather to conquer, or a special type of terrain to traverse.  Similar riding positions also make for a seamless transition from bike to bike.  I could be on 3 different bikes in one week during peak riding season.

 About the Following Mountain Bike Selection Video:

This is a really great video about the thoughts behind selecting your Mountain Bike.  Even though this video is 27.5+ specific, it is really a great thought analysis for what kind of riding you do, and what kind of bike you will need to make it happen.  

The thoughts described in this video apply to all bicycle selection. Just the size of the tires change.  I have tried to describe in words through various web page articles what this narrator does very well in this 11 minute video.

I agree with everything talked about in this video. Especially FAT BIKE comments and his Sidewall Comments on the Plus Tires and Fattie tires.  I have had most of my sidewall slices on the 27.5 Plus tires for exactly the same reasons. I also agree with the overall general conclusions of this Video. Fat Bikes and Plus-Bikes are for a special group of riders. Riders still learning the trails and how the bikes work. Wider Tires and these bigger bikes (tires) basically one-up your ability level because the bikes are more capable. However there is a cost,  if you carefully listen this narrator is telling advanced riders to stay away from these big tire bikes for lack of performance in speed, race, and endurance ride conditions. This narrator clearly but quietly states he does not prefer these bikes.

The Schwalbe Nobby Nic's are featured in this video and they think they solved the Sidewall issue for 3.0 tires, we will see.  See this link:  <3.0 Nobby Nic> tire review. 

Also below is a great video about Frame Geometry. Well narrated and easy to understand. Explained in detail is the (2) most important measurements you need to know for a great frame fit.

Selection thoughts for Plus Bikes / Fatties / FS Bike / HardTails

This is a really great video about the thoughts behind selecting your Mountain Bike.  Even though this video is 27.5+ specific, it is really a great thought analysis for what kind of riding you do, and what kind of bike you will need to make it happen.    

This video features the Nobby Nics, which I have just installed on my 27.5+ and have recently wrote a quick tire review.  <3.0 Nobby Nic Link>

Video: Carbon Flex Fork vs Fox

An honest comparison between new and current Trail Forks.

Everything you need to know about Bicycle Geometry

20 Minute Video, everything you need to know and what is really important when making your assembled bicycle or bare frame selection.

Bike Frame Builds


29" Titanium Cyclo-Cross Bike - Habanero (Frame $1100):

 Purpose: Long Mid-Summer Road Rides

WTB Exposure 34c Road Tires, 

100mm qr / 135mm qr

50/36/26 Triple Ring - 12/34 Cassette

Disk BB7 - SRAM shifting components

Flat Handlebars - X-Force Carbon fork

Frame = 3.0 pounds

23 Pounds fully loaded

Birthday 2005 / >8,000 miles since

Bike Usage: Long road rides with 40 - 100 mile range. Very fast, confident, and comfortable on the road. Disk Brakes and road hugging traction.

Will take you and your bike-packing gear across country. Has properly located equipment holes for the rear racks.


29" Titanium Hard Tail Mountain Bike - Habanero (Frame $1100):

 Purpose: Advanced Level Mountain Biking:

AKA: Lynn Woods / Harold Parker / Kingdom Trails

WTB 2.3" Werewolf (front) -  100mm qr

WTB 2.25 Trail Boss (rear) 135mm qr

46/34/22 Triple Ring - 12/36 Cassette

Disk BB7 - SRAM shifting components

Flat Handlebars - dropper post - 

120mm travel MTB

28 Pounds fully loaded

Frame = 3.5 pounds (Extra Thick Tube version)

Birthday 2006 / >5,000 miles. Most of those miles were at Lynn Woods, and the steer tube broke. As a Titanium Frame bike, it lasted twice as many miles as any other sacrificed bike at the alter of Lynn Woods. 

Habanero Frames replaced it for free with a special order Thicker Tube Frame, rebuilt it in 2016, > 1500 miles since

Bike Usage: Tarzan MTB Rides >40 miles super technical / extended duration Rides.  Best bottom bracket clearance of all my bikes. Advanced Level Rock gardens, fast MTB downhills,  and super twisty trails with marginal traction moments.  This is my best Mountain Bike.


27.5" Plus - Carbon Mountain Bike - Framed (Yellow Frame $900):

 Purpose: Advanced Rock Trails, 

down-hilling and any time traction is going to be limited (including wet/mud).

Schwalbe Nobby Nic's 3.0 front and rear.

36/24 Double Ring - 12/42 cassette

110mm x 15mm / 142mm x 12mm

Disk BB7 - SRAM shifting components 

Flat Handlebars - dropper post - 

140mm travel MTB

29 Pounds fully loaded

Frame = 3.0 pounds

Birthday 2015 / <1000 miles since

Bike Usage: Kingdom Trails, down hill parks, or the "technical-stuff" at Lynn Woods.  Advanced Level Rock gardens, fast MTB down-hilling, technical climbing when traction is limited, mud season, snow season, and super twisty wet trails with marginal traction moments.  This bike has better traction in wet/muddy conditions  because of the Nobby Nic's tires. Other 3.0 tiresI have tried never worked well in muddy / wet conditions. Typically fatter tire bikes don't like wet roots, have traction or over-steer issues.

CON: Unsatisfactory Bottom Bracket height even with 140mm fork. Also MAX rear tire width is 3.11", wider than that you will have frame rubbing.


29" Carbon Cyclo-Cross Bike - NASHBAR (Black Frame $400):

 Purpose: Road / Trails 

Long Distance Advanced Level Cyclo-Cross:

MAXIS 40c Rambler trail rated tires.

100mm qr / 135mm qr

48/34/24 Triple Ring - 12/36 cassette

Disk BB7 - SRAM shifting components

Flat Handlebars - SPD cleats - 

Fully Rigid - Exotic Carbon Fork

24 Pounds fully loaded

Frame = 2.9 Pounds

Birthday 2015 / >3000 miles since

Bike Usage: Any gravel trail or bike path. Single tracks, twisty technical trails... short of technical rock trails, or muddy wet trails.  Steering around larger obstacles is easy and fun.  This bike is very fast on the trails. This bike is meant to come off of the trails and transition to a fast road bike for extended duration trail / road riding. 

Swap on a pair of 40c Maxis Ravagers and this bike becomes a very formidable fully rigid mountain bike.  The climbing ability of this bike is off the scale. 

This bike accelerates up technical dirt hill climbs, where suspension bikes do not.


29" Carbon Fully Rigid Mountain Bike - Amazon (Orange Frame $325):

Purpose: Advanced Trails, 

Advanced Level Cyclo-Cross:

WTB 2.3" Werewolf (front) - 100mm qr

WTB 2.25 Trail Boss (rear) 135mm qr

46/34/22 Triple Ring - 12/36 cassette

Disk BB7 - SRAM shifting components

Flat Handlebars - SPD cleats -  

Fully Rigid-Exotic Carbon Fork 

25 Pounds fully loaded

Frame = 2.3 pounds

Birthday 2018 / <1000 miles since

Bike Usage: Any gravel trail or bike path. Single tracks, twisty technical trails good for technical rock trails (except rock drops), good for muddy wet trails and climbs everything better than any other bike on the trails.  This bike is faster on the twisty singletrack than any other riders you are with.  Perfect for long distance technical Cyclo-Cross rides, and mountain bike rides, 

with limited road riding.  Very tough bike.

This bike kills it at Willowdale. BUMPS are Tons of fun...


29" Carbon Hard-Tail Mountain Bike - Amazon June 2019 Build (Red Frame $330):

 Purpose: Advanced Trails, Advanced Level Mountain Biking / Rock Gardens / 

Extra Technical Rides
WTB 2.3" Breakout (front) - 15mm x 110mm

WTB 2.25 Trail Boss (rear) 12mm x 142mm
42/32/22 Triple Ring - 12/36 cassette
Disk BB7 - SRAM shifting components
Riser Handlebars - SPD cleats -  140mm Manitou
Dropper / 28 Pounds fully loaded
Frame = 2.3 pounds
Birthday 2019 / <100 miles since
Bike Usage: Lynn Woods / Harold Parker / Kingdom Trails Single tracks, twisty technical trails, down-hilling,  best for technical rock trails, good for muddy wet trails.
This bike is the fastest set of wheels I have ever taken on the Technicals  in Lynn Woods.  

The 140mm fork,  low pressure soft sidewall tires, and a plush cushy seat with 1-inch travel makes the entire ride feel like you are on a full suspension.  This bike climbs everything very easily, the fully rigid axles create a stiffness that is really noticeable.

(See this Bike Build and Wheel Build video's below)

$400 NASHBAR Carbon Frame Build (2015)


$400 / 2.9 Pounds / 18 Inch / MTB Frame

First, there is no buyers remorse, this Frame Rocks.  It just needed some love.  The first few hundred miles of use, I only went on rough trails a few times. 

But when I did, the back rotor would be rubbing the pads by the end of the ride.  After a few times of this, I figured out the Axle Skewer slipped.      

The Rear Axle alignment would change when on very rugged trails. The QR Axle Skewers were not holding tight enough to the frame. The reason is because the Metal Alloy could not bite into the carbon Drop-Out.


Carbon Material is Harder than you may think...

The Carbon Fiber is so strong, the Metal Alloy Axle Skewer could not bite into the Carbon material.     

Took my Dremel Tool and carved out a QR bolt seat on both the Cassette Side and the Brake Side Axle Drop-Outs.

Shown: Carbon Drop-Out after 1000 Miles of Use. Still no sign of the Axle Skewer biting into the Carbon. Just tooling marks from the Dremel. Note: The Derailleur Hanger has plenty of Teeth Marks from the Axle Skewer.


All Better Now...

Does not look Pretty, but sure did the job.  The Axle stays in alignment even on the hardest trail rides since the modification. While the Derailleur  Hanger did not have an Axle - Skewer Slip Issue... I already had the Dremel I could not resist.

Currently with over 3200 miles on this frame. It is SOLID. Very happy with this frame, but it did need it's minor adjustments.

Fully Rigid Mountain Bike (Carbon Build)

Why a Fully Rigid?

In the 2010's I became interested in riding a Fully Rigid Mountain Bike. My main squeeze on the trails has always been my 29er TI-Hardtail.  Never liked a Full Suspension bike, they never climb for me as well as a Hardtail. I also like how the bumps make the ride exciting. With the exception of fat-bikes, I do not know anyone that rides a Fully Rigid MTB.  Very few MFG's make them besides Surly.

Had a Fully Rigid Surly Karate Monkey from 2011 to 2015. Never could get that bike to move for me. It was slow, and heavy. I think the main reason it was slow was because it had bad geometry. 

The Surly KM was the first bike to be called a 29er.

Then starting in 2014, I was riding a Fully Rigid Fattie. I liked the connection to the trails without any suspension. Yikes, the tires were so heavy, and wicked bouncy. I tried many tires and rims to get the weight down, and quash the bounce.  I never liked the speed or the feel of a Fattie and in snow it is worse. 

As I said when they came out, Fat Bikes are just a passing Fad. 

I converted my Fat Bike to an E-Bike, and now I like it again.

(See the E-Bike Page)

When I started riding that Fattie,  I was also getting hooked on the speed of Cyclo-Cross bikes on the trails.  CX bikes have some trail restrictions because of the narrow tires. I wanted a fast fully rigid bike that can zoom down the rugged Single-tracks we have here in New England.  CX bikes do very well here, but there are times where I need to back off in corners on rougher terrain.  I knew the problem I was seeking to solve was in the tires. They are just not wide enough for some trail conditions.

This is why I wanted a Fully Rigid MTB.  I liked the Rigid Fattie  trail connection, but it was too slow and heavy (35 pounds). The CX bike is super light (11 pounds lighter) and the trail speed is much, much faster, but there are cautionary moments with the thin tires. 

Needed something from both worlds. 

 A typical 120mm front suspension fork weighs ~4.9 pounds.

Using a well built 1.1 pound Rigid Carbon Fork. I shed 3.8 pounds of weight off the front-end  

 Lost 2 pounds off the alloy frame via use of a Carbon Frame. Instead of Fattie Tires that weigh 7 pounds (fr) and 8 pounds (rr), these 2.3 MTB tubless are 4.5 pounds (fr) and 5.5 pound (rr).

A 2.5 pound difference each tire..  

Total ~11 pounds weight saved

Without any suspension, I put a lot of trust for the traction and trail tracking ability into the tires. As I state many times throughout this website, Tires make or break your bike. Tire selection is the most  important consideration on a Fully Rigid MTB.  

Finished Product:

This bike turned out to be a very capable trail machine. Very happy with this type of bike for trail riding. I use this bike very often. It is now my first bike of choice for the CX 39 Mile Boston to Salem Ride. I will use this fully rigid MTB bike  in place of my CX bike when I feel the trails will be tricky. 

Initially I intended to make this bike a Single-Speed. (even shown in the photos) Like so many of the other bikes I own, most of them also started out as Single-Speeds.  For over 2 weeks I was playing with the front chain-ring (1x sys) to find the right gear for me. Went as high as a 46 Crank Gear, and this bike with these 2.3" MTB tires did a constant 19mph on the road. But with a 12x36t on the back, could not climb much.

Tried a 32 Crank Gear on the front, and climbing was great, not the super steep stuff, but it was very slow on the road. Barely past 13mph. With a 36t front ring, I found a great balance of high end road speed and good climbing ability.  

The Final Configuration: 

After messing around with Fixed gear, and a 2x system, went to a 3x system and totally love this bike now. It will climb the steepest of hills and maintain a pace of 20 mph on the road or the trail. 

Just to make clear... This bike climbs EVERYTHING.

Front: 22/34/46t 

Rear: 12/36t

If a MTB Bike is fast on the road, it usually means it will be fast on Hard-Packed trails.  This Bike is VERY FAST.  This bike ripped up a constant 18.5mph on a 3 mile straight dirt trail that I know very well. It also tracks twisty single-tracks like it is on rails. 

To answer the initial question... Why a Fully Rigid? Because they are fast, fast, fast. The feel of a fully rigid is also a great experience. There is a learning curve to get the rhythm  down. Once you learn to glide the over the bumps instead of riding on them, you will really be impressed.

Can almost promise if you get a Fully Rigid, it will become your favorite bike too. Having a MTB that weighs in under <25 pounds is a bonus you can feel, and these bikes accelerate quickly.


Frame: Carbon 2.3 Pounds 18inch MTB

Fork: Exotic 29er Rigid Carbon Fork / Alloy Crown (I do not trust Carbon Crowns)

Rims: WTB KOM 29i 29er (weighs same as carbon) 

WTB Weirwolf 2.5 Tubeless (front)

WTB Trail Boss 2.3 Tubeless (rear)

12x36t x 22/34/46t w/SRAM 1:1 long-cage

BB7 Brake-Set


Building The Red Barron / $330 Carbon Frame

Most of the basics and cautions while building your own bike, Frame-Up...!

See the Wheel Building Video below for the building of the Wheelset for this bike below.

Tubeless Wheel Building Video

Basics of Wheel Building. For any folks that want to dip into building your own wheel. 


Front:  29" WTB KOM i29 Rim / WTB Breakout 2.3 /  SRAM 15x110 Hub / 4.0 pounds with 180mm rotor.

Rear:  29" WTB KOM i29 Rim / WTB Breakout 2.3 /  SRAM 12x142 Hub / 12-36 cassette

With no screw-ups, it takes about an hour to build a wheel. Screw-ups happen often. Forgot to show the cross-lacing.  Spokes are very flexible, you will need to gently weave and bend the last 16 spokes to get them in.

Frame Broke (Video)

All bikes break.  This video shows the sudden failures of aluminum and carbon-fiber frames.  Check your frames frequently for any signs of cracks or damage.

Never use a Carbon Crown Fork.