The Simple Pleasure of Building a Bike

When I got back on the bike in 2013, I didn’t know how to properly fix a flat tire.  No kidding.  I could do it at home, but even then it was a struggle.  On the side of the road?  No way.  I remember walking five miles home more than once…that and calling for a ride.

But I finally decided that this was a skill I needed to learn and so I watched some YouTube videos and, by golly, it wasn’t all that tough.  I learned other things along the way, too.  I’ve swapped out all of my cables multiple times now, even those confusing ones that feed through Shimano 105 shifters.  I’ve learned how to pull the shredded bits out of those shifters without damaging them, too.   Bottom brackets?  Cranks?  Chains? Cassettes?  Derailleurs?  Brakes?  Rotors? I’ve changed them all.  I’ve even started truing wheels.

As each project reared its head, I bought the tools necessary to do the job right.  With the exception of the Park Tool torque wrench (a beautiful heirloom tool), it was pretty painless from a financial perspective.  Now I have a well stocked workshop and bench.  With the exception of changing spokes and headsets, I can pretty much do everything I need to when it comes to bike maintenance.  I’m not nearly as good at it as the average wrench at the local bike shop, but I have discovered that I really like this kind of work and I’m getting better at it as time goes on.


And so a few months back I decided to buy a Karate Monkey frameset and build a bike.  I didn’t have any reason for it other than it sounded like fun.   I got it home and it sat for about two months because it was already summer and it was time to ride.  Even so, I found myself thinking about that frameset a lot, and so I eventually bought a wheelset and some tires and set them up.    I needed to do this to determine the proper geometry so that I can cut the steerer tube.  We’ll leave that to the pros.

But now it’s “game on.”  I found these awesome Niner carbon fiber bars at a deep discount online.  A trip to eBay yielded a Raceface stem that was almost free.  When we get home from the Black Hills, I’ll hose the inside of the frame and fork down with Frame Saver and then I’m going to have the LBS cut the fork.  They can install a bottom bracket while it’s there, as I’ve heard that threading the first one can be a little tricky.  I don’t want to screw that up.  All this reading and researching is paying off.

I’ve ordered a groupset from Prime 9.  They’re a new competitor to S & S and I really hope they succeed.  I’ve often felt that bikes have more gears than I need.  One by nine sounds about right for the type of riding I will do on this bike.  The extra room between rings on the cassette will make it easier to dig out the dirt and grime one picks up along the way.  I still need to figure out what I’m going to do for brakes, cranks, and seatpost.  The KM is dropper post compatible.  Do I need a dropper post?  No.  Do I want a dropper post?   Probably not, but I didn’t know I wanted a Chris King headset either.

The Karate Monkey is going to be my go long, go slow bikepacking rig. I chose this particular frameset because (a) it’s steel and (b) Surly throws about a million braze ons and eyelets on the frame and fork so adding racks and packs is no big deal.  It is versatile enough to allow me to run both 27.5″ and 29″ wheels.  I am literally wearing out my Fargo frame (10,000 miles of gravel dings) and I’ll eventually retire it, keeping the wheels (I’m already on my second set) as backups for this bike.

I won’t know if this is all a colossal waste of time and money until I finally get it all put together and then actually get out and ride it, but it has already given me more than it has taken.  For one thing, I’ve learned a lot more about bicycle components than I ever would have otherwise.   There’s also a great deal of personal satisfaction in starting with just a frameset, mixing and matching pieces and slowly seeing it all turn into a bicycle.






  1. I run a 2X9 on my Pugsley (26/36 – 11/42) but rarely get into the smaller chain ring and I’ve always been happy with the gearing. I’ve done Gravel Worlds, Cool Hand Luke, Bohemian Sto Mil, Graveleurs Raid among other events so we’ve seen our share of hills.

    As for the KM frame, Surly has been using an ED process on their frames for a few years now so it shouldn’t need frame saver applied to it right out of the box. Obviously it’s up to you but I’d ride it as is for at least a couple of years before worrying about applying frame saver and maybe a new powder coating. Looks like it’ll be a sweet ride, can’t wait to see the final iteration.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s