Introducing... CRANKENSTEIN: Building a Cyclocross Bike

Here's my latest project! I am so thrilled to have just finished it after a couple of months of acquiring parts from all corners of the internet and working on it whenever I had a chance (occasionally). My goal was to have a light, fast, functional, and reliable bike for racing cyclocross (new!), light offroad/gravel touring, and hopefully the Oregon Outback (infophotos) or something similar in the future. Another goal was to keep the cost as low as possible because a) bicycle pricing is weird and it actually costs less to buy a whole bike assembled than buying all of the parts separately, b) there is a sea of perfectly good used parts very available to me through The Bikery (co-op where I volunteer), craigslist, ebay, and other local shops, c) it adds another dimension to the challenge, and d) it would be no fun and I wouldn't learn much by just buying a brand-new bike that actually works. Knobby tires, integrated shifting, and aluminum/carbon materials are all relatively new to me as most of my projects tend to be vintage steel road bikes, so this was an awesome opportunity for me to dip into new areas, expand the bike-knowledge parts of my brain (though they may be taking over other parts...), and keep my hobby fresh.

The entire project cost about $460, although it is a little difficult to add it up exactly because I was pulling parts off of my other bikes or from the depths of my garage, didn't use all parts from a few bulk purchases, and often had to ditch some that just didn't fit. For instance, a lot of it came off of a Raleigh Team Technium road bike with Shimano 105 components that I bought on Craigslist for $90, almost entirely dismantled, and re-sold the frame, fork, and bars for $40, easily resulting in 50 dollars' worth of bike to me. Anyway, I kept a detailed spreadsheet outlining my purchases.

framenashbar aluminum cx frame (NB-XFA)nashbar$107.00
fork2010/11 bontrager satellite plusebay$73.00
headsetritchey wcs logic cross w/ cable hangerebay$50.00
headset spacer1 1/8" x 1" aluminum2020 cycle$6.00
barssalsa cowbellCL-2batch purchase of parts for $80
stemritchey, 100mm, 110degCL-2
seat postritcheyCL-2$80.00
wheelsetmavic cxp22, deore hubsCL-2135mm spacing on rear hub :(
wheelsetmavic open sport w/ shimano 105 hubsbasement / commuter$0.00
cranksetShimano 105 - 175mmCL - Raleigh$0.00
bottom bracketShimano octalinkCL - Raleigh$0.00
pedalsShimano SPDCL - Raleigh$0.00
chainringsunmarked 46T, 39T2020 cycle$20.00Look good, feel good, but have no idea what they are
front derShimano 105CL - Raleigh$0.00
front der clamp31.8mmCL - Raleigh$0.00had to re-bend
rear derShimano 105CL - Raleigh$0.00
brakesTektro cr720amazon$48.00new!
briftersShimano Sora - 2 x 8 spdCL-1$0.00
seat post clampNashbarNashbar$5.60
saddleSelle San Marco ConcorCL - Raleigh$0.00
cables + housingbulk - bikerybikery$15.00
rear cable hangerorigin 8 "seat binder" + microadjuster2020 cyclecable bend too tight. paid $5.
rear cable hangersurlyelliott bay cycles$6.00
bar tapegeneric - corkebay$8.00
cassette9 spd, removed 14t gear -> 8spdCL-1$0.00ratio: 12 13 15 17 19 21 23 25
tiresMaxxis mud wrestler - 700x33c clincherbikery$12.00
tubes4x Meetlocks 700x28-35Camazon$23.002 extras
chainKMC 8/9spdbikery$8.00
bottle cagePerformance bikebikery$1.00
TOTAL $462.60
Here's an abridged, graphic representation of the build process!

Parts in Craigslist order #1 (cost: 2 6-packs of beer). Ended up only using the brifters and cassette. Bottom bracket wasn't wide enough, had to use a different crankset with the other BB because it was Octalink instead of square taper, Ritchey seatpost was nicer, etc...

Frame, fork, parts

Very fresh

Installing the headset

Headset install

Headset, fork, stem, bars installed

Bringing the Raleigh to the slaughter

Raleigh BB removal (octalink!)

Not one, but TWO bikes in a car2go

BB, crankset, chainrings. pedals installed

Seat, front brake (later replaced), levers, wheelset from Craigslist #2 (later replaced), spare chain (running as single speed just to get to the shop and back)

Rear brake cable hanger that didn't work out (note the awful angle of the cable). Hanger was too short, seatpost collar is notched on the wrong side from where the cable is routed on the frame.

Rear brake cable hanger that DID work out! Sooo long, so nice. Steel, made by Surly.

The Great Wheelset Swap Day - swapped wheelsets, cassettes, and tires among 3 bikes. Commuter wheelset (on creme bike, left) gets CX tires for new bike, other wheelset (standing) is too wide for any of my bikes but I used its cassette (below), and wheel on the right gets a new cassette, "new" tire, and goes on the commuter.

Cassette cleaning, removing one cog to make it an 8-speed instead of 9.

9th cog replaced by spacer (left)

Wheelset, cleaned up, with tires!

SECOND brakeset that did not work out. Trying to find proper replacement springs and their housing is impossible.

NEW front brake. Third time's a charm, right? The first 2 sets I tried were vintage and missing parts (difficult to find replacements), so I figured it was some sort of a sign and that if I should spend a little extra for any functionality, being able to stop reliably is somewhat important.

New rear brake

Looking like a bike! Still single speed to get to the shop.

Derailleurs installed

Front der - had to bend the derailleur clamp very carefully with a vice to fit because the Raleigh had a slightly ovalized seat tube.

Rear der

All cables run, new brakes

Bar tape - layer #1 (old used Planet Bike cork tape, great for a comfy base layer)

EVERYTHING FUNCTIONAL! Derailleurs on, all cables run, 2nd layer of bar tape on. Just need to cut the excess on the steerer tube.

Cutting the steerer tube. Hacksaws are fun, 100x easier with the guide.

Steerer cut, fork, headset, stem replaced! Star nut to be installed.

Star nut installed, stem cap in


DONE. Very pretty.

Overall, I'm really pleased with how it turned out! It's really responsive, light, and gearing should be plenty fast offroad, not to mention looking like the Batmobile in all black. The only parts I ended up getting new were the frame, headset, and brakes, in addition to odds and ends like cables and housing, chain, bar tape, etc - little stuff that is infinitely easier to just buy new without a big hit to the wallet. To me, sub-$500 is a fantastic price for a totally unique bike that I can honestly say I know down to every last bolt. I'm hoping to still throw in another small tour this fall (hopefully mostly offroad!) and will most likely be entering my first cyclocross race next weekend, so I'm excited to see how Crankenstein performs!