I picked up my welder and dove right in at my first opportunity.  All of my metal parts had already been cut, cleaned, and had nice chamfered edges.  The only thing missing was a welder to glue them together.

Here is what everything looked like at about 4:30pm:

And here is where I was around 7:30 pm:

This morning before heading to work, I tacked the tabs onto the bottom bracket.  The next step will be cutting into the main boom to install the head tube.

Stay tuned!

Also (advertising time) if you have any spare bikes or bucks lying around that you’d like to donate to my projects, please contact me!

Adjustable Bottom Bracket

The plans I’m following incorporate an adjustable bottom bracket.  Two steel pieces are welded onto the bottom bracket, and the entire assembly is bolted around the main tube.  It’ll be more clear once it’s put together.

I cut a semi-circle into some plate steel, then I drilled two holes for bolts.   You’ll see this in action soon.

On the project and cycling front, it’s been a bad few weeks. My welder is still in the shop. My main diamond frame bike is down as well, pending complete cable replacements. It’s been over about 2 weeks since I’ve been on my bike, and I have a 60+ mile group ride next weekend already paid for. I’ll admit I feel like kind of a poseur spending all this time today making parts for a new bike and blogging about it, while being out of the saddle for so long.  I’m also down miles this year vs. last year.  When this bike is complete and my diamond frame is fixed, I have a lot of catching up to do! 🚴

Cleaning Components

This is just a quick note about cleaning your components. I highly recommend completely dismantling your chain and cassette to clean. Here are the large sprockets of my cassette soaking in a degreasing solution:

The degreaser is available at Sams Club.  Better products may exist (leave a comment if you have suggestions!) but this works very well in my experience.

After a quick soak, I brush them with a toothbrush.  I found that I could buy a 6 pack of toothbrushes at the dollar store.

Here is a quick before and after:


Head Tube Arrived

I’ll need plenty of head tubes for projects, and I have several that I could cut off the donor bikes. I wanted to make sure the head tube for this bike was solid and reliable.  Also, I didn’t want to cut the bike frames just yet, because I’m not sure exactly which parts I’ll be scrapping for future projects.  So I ordered a head tube piece from the good folks at SOLID bikes.

This, coupled with the new headset I purchased (again, just because I want this bike to be solid and reliable in the right places) added about $30 to my project costs.

This is something that I believe I’ll find as the projects continue. The raw working materials (frame) are fairly inexpensive, but new components could easily make the costs skyrocket. My goal is to use as many of the old components as possible. This was an exception to that rule.

Pressing the cups into the head tube is another issue.  It requires a special tool that on Amazon is about $150. That is a little rich for my blood!  Luckily I stumbled upon a DIY video on YouTube that shows how to make your own version for much cheaper.  No doubt this will be the topic of a separate post!

Recalculating Costs

You’ve no doubt noticed that prominently display the Project Cost on the sidebar.  That’s because I want to encourage people that they can do what I’m doing.  That being said, I don’t want to be disingenuous with how I calculate the costs of these projects.  And that goes both ways.


I don’t want to overstate how much it costs because not everyone will make the same decisions I did.  For example, you might have a friend with a welder.  If you don’t, you might buy one from Harbor Freight for nearly 1/10th the cost of mine.  You may not need all the PPE, or the clamps, etc.  So it’d be unfair and unnecessarily frightening to include those costs.

I also buy in larger (by my standards) quantities when possible, and the supplies get used for other projects.  Or they’ll be used for future projects.  My calculations could include, for example, all 15 lbs of welding rod that I purchased, but I’m only going to use a fraction of it for this bike.  Grinding supplies are another example.  When purchasing flap and cut off discs, I bought in bulk to save on per-item costs.

If you add up the total cost of supplies, tools and equipment (and trust me, I am keeping track), the grand total at this time is nearly $2,300.  These costs include a new welder, 24 feet of steel tubing, 24 feet of aluminum tubing, 15 pounds of welding rod, PPE, plans, test materials, carbon fiber samples… you name it.  If it’s even tangentially related to my bike projects, I’ve included it.


This post is for context and clarification.  If I say I built a bike for less than $100, that might be true, but it isn’t taking into account all the actual dollars I’ve spent.  It’s like when they say factories crank out widgets for pennies.  Sure, it’s pennies per piece, but the factory may have cost millions!

So I don’t want to over-sell the idea.  Building your own bikes can be cheap if you use all donor parts and already have some equipment.  Or it can be a money pit.

Ad Nauseum

The above being said, am I calculating the gas required to drive to people’s houses to pick up donor bikes?  Electricity for the welder?  What percentage of welding rod or disc supply have I consumed?  Just how anal am I about this?  The truth is: Not Really.  I’d rather be riding.  I’d rather be building.  I’d rather be doing literally anything than crunching numbers to that degree.

All that being said, I’m going to calculate the costs for each project individually.  So the $100 I spent on steel and aluminum now becomes the $23 I spent on steel, because there’s no aluminum being used right now.  Supplies, tools, and consumables are par for the course.  I’ll continue to track those, but I’m not going to figure them into my totals.

So when you see the total drop from about $350 to $117, it’s because I’ve recalculated the costs.

The amazing clarity I’ve had after recalculating, is that nearly 1/3 of the money I’ve spent has been on plans.  There’s an important lesson here.  Having good plans is a great investment.  The folks at Atomic Zombie are really providing a service to the community.

After all this money talk, I feel obliged to add a Donate button here.  Click!  Donate!  Help a poor bike nerd out.  🙂

Bottom Bracket Adapter

I tested out the bottom bracket adapter yesterday.  So far, so good!

Just to be absolutely sure, I removed the crankset from my current road bike and fit it into the adapter.

Looks like it fits!  This was a great opportunity to use a rag and degreaser on my chainrings!

Head Tube and Bottom Bracket

I grinded the bottom bracket and head tube I’d recently cut from the donor bikes.

Because this was a womans’ frame, the top tube and down tube meet the seat tube in close proximity. This picture is sort of a before and after.  There used to be two tube remnants.  The one on the left has been grinded away.

In this picture, both have been removed:

The bottom bracket shell and a length of seat tube, ready for welding:

Here are some before and after shots of the head tube from my son’s old bike. Because this is aluminum, and aluminum won’t weld to steel, I won’t be able to use this for my current project. In the bin it goes for my aluminum future bike!

I’m going to purchase a bit of steel tubing from an online bike frame building supply. I’ve also ordered a headset (steering bearings) from Amazon to match the steel tube.  The bearings that go with this head tube will be used on an aluminum build sometime in the future.

First Frame Cuts

I chopped up my first two bike frames today. I will admit it seemed a little emotionally taxing to cut up to perfectly decent bicycles.  The steel road bike only needed new tires and tubes, and my son’s old bike had nothing wrong with it except that he is too big for it now.

Everything started out easy:

But  without the proper tools, everything went downhill pretty fast, and I left quite a wake of distruction, haha.

But it all worked out in the end. I now have a bottom bracket, fork, headset, and two wheels.

I want to use the same crankset that is currently on my upright road bike so I can avoid buying a second power meter. The bottom bracket from the steel bike is a size that can be adapted to Shimano’s Hollowtech II, which is what that crankset requires.  Perfect!

Templates in Action

I printed out the templates (available here) onto large paper at FedEx Office. The cost was only $0.44 per sheet.

Here are some shots of the templates in action. First are some 14.5″ forks on the wrong template. As you can see, those minor changes in angles make a big difference in alignment.

Below is a 17″ piece on a 17″ template. See how easy it is?

After laying both pieces onto the template, I took a measurement at the top and bottom. If everything is done correctly, it should be a 2″ space at the top and 5.25″ at the bottom.

The camera angle is a little misleading, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The top was 2″ and the bottom was 5.25″, right on the nose! Making these templates turned out to be a great idea!

Atomic Zombie Project Templates

These are some templates I came up with while following plans from AtomicZombie.

NOTE:  It is not my intention to violate Atomic Zombie’s copyright.  Although I followed plans from Atomic Zombie, these templates are my own work.  If you make your own bike by following my blog, good for you!  But if you want REAL plans with AWESOME detailed information, head over to the fine folks at Atomic Zombie and buy the appropriate plans for the type of bike you want to build!

All templates are PDF files and must be printed full size on the appropriate size paper.  Do not use “resize to fit” etc.

Several of the plans use a rear axle assembly made from 1.5″ tubing.  Here is a template for 14.5″ and 17″.  They must be printed on “Tabloid” sized paper.  FedEx Office does it for $0.44 each as of March 2017.

bike forks 14.5 inch tabloid

bike forks 17 inch tabloid

Here is the rear dropout template I used for my projects:

rear dropout template

The main boom of the stick bike must be aligned with the rear fork and wheel.  I made this template to ensure proper alignment.  It’s “legal” size, but you can print it on Letter paper, allowing Acrobat to crop part of it out.  All you really need is the top of the fork and the segment of boom:

Fork and Main Boom Alignment

Later on in one of my projects, I need to put something at a 56° angle.  I made this sheet to help me there.  Some of it is cropped, but that part isn’t important.

56 degree angle

Check back later for more!