Building a gravel bike?

dimrub

Regular
My son seems to have grown out of his Giant Talon MTB, besides, it's not suitable for trips we're contemplating together. I was thinking of buying him a gravel bike here (in Israel), but they were not very popular here even before COVID-19, and now there appears to be a shortage, so none are available at all. I've been told that a shipment of Kona gravels can be expected some time in November, but I consider this to be a low confidence information. So a crazy thought occurred to me - to build him some bike out of parts (I blame YouTube that makes this sort of projects look so effortless and easy).

I've never built a bike, and I lack the necessary tools (I think). I think that the benefits of this project is that we can build a bike that is a perfect fit for his requirements, that we can have without waiting for Kona to do their shipment, and that we can perhaps get at a similar price if we manage to source some of the components 2nd hand (this last one is questionable, since the 2nd hand market here appears to be sparse and somewhat unreasonable price-wise). I also think that it's a great way to obtain some necessary mechanic chops, good to have on a multi-day tour. Oh and we can do this together as a father-son project, if he can be persuaded (for once, I'm the crazy one and he's the reasonable one who says this is a pipe dream of a plan).

With that said, I think I'd prefer to choose an existing bike as a point of departure, so any pointers will be most welcome. The idea is to have a medium sized frame with the standard stuff - flat mount disk brakes, 1x drive-train (probably 1x11?), drop bars, rack mount, alloy or steel (no carbon), the standard bottom bracket and front/rear wheel clearings (thru axle) etc. I'm thinking tubeless, of course, and tires wide enough for gravel, but not prohibitive on asphalt - I have G-One Allround on my Canyon Grail, and I think I want something similar for him. One peculiarity: it can't be Shimano - Shimano parts can't be shipped to Israel (although can be shipped as part of a whole bike - go figure).

As for tools, I'll probably buy them on AliExpress - the price difference for similar tools as compared to say Park Tool is x3, and I'm not going to be building bikes day in day out, so extreme durability is not an issue. Is there a flaw in this plan? Is there a minimal list of required tools/materials one can recommend?

Thanks all!
 

Cycleops

Legendary Member
Location
Accra, Ghana
Certainly a possibility. The problem might be getting a suitable frame with sufficient clearance for the wide tyres. Don't know what the situation is for bike spares there.
If you can't find anything frame wise you could consider converting your MTB or a road bike. RJ the Bike Guy has a few videos on YouTube with this in mind.
1x drive train might be a problem but why not a double or triple? You have a Decathlon in Tel Aviv so they should have quite a few useful bits. They also offer some gravel models, have you tried them? They do a very good starter toolkit.
Good luck.
 
OP
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dimrub

Regular
In terms of the tools, here's what I think I'll need:

- A bike stand (in the past, I got away with hanging a bike by an elastic band from a tree, but while I can do some basic maintenance in the garden, I think I want to move to the basement for this build).
- A torque wrench
- A bottom bracket tool
- A cassette tool
- A chain tool
- Brakes bleed kit and oil for it, chosen based on the brakes I end up using

This is it I think.
 
OP
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dimrub

Regular
Certainly a possibility. The problem might be getting a suitable frame with sufficient clearance for the wide tyres. Don't know what the situation is for bike spares there.
I can get a frame shipped (but not a whole bike), e.g. from bike-components.de. As for the local market, it's very limited, and thus overpriced. I can try hunting for a 2nd hand opportunity, but shipping from EU seems like a simpler - and possibly cheaper option.

If you can't find anything frame wise you could consider converting your MTB or a road bike. RJ the Bike Guy has a few videos on YouTube with this in mind.
Alas, I don't have an MTB or a road bike to convert. My son's MTB is a good entrance level bike, but it has outlived its usefulness, I think.

1x drive train might be a problem but why not a double or triple?
My Canyon Grail is a 1x, and I'm a convert. So much simpler, less maintenance, less weight, overall a great solution. Why is 1x a problem?

You have a Decathlon in Tel Aviv so they should have quite a few useful bits. They also offer some gravel models, have you tried them?
Good luck.
The Israeli Decathlon does not carry the same choice of bikes as do the European stores. I've been there - they only have a very limited choice, not at all in line with our requirements.
 

Cycleops

Legendary Member
Location
Accra, Ghana
You'll also need:
Chain whip
Various metric spanners
Set of Allen keys
Cable cutter
Spoke key

The 1x drive is only a problem in so much as there is a supply problem with Shimano at the moment and being relatively new you're unlikely to find one used.
 

Jody

Guru
Alas, I don't have an MTB or a road bike to convert. My son's MTB is a good entrance level bike, but it has outlived its usefulness, I think.
A talon would be a decent base for making a quick XC/Gravel bike.

Lose the suspension and swap for a carbon fork,1x, light wheels with some skinny tyres and then reduce weight with some cheap carbon components.
 
OP
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dimrub

Regular
A talon would be a decent base for making a quick XC/Gravel bike.

Lose the suspension and swap for a carbon fork,1x, light wheels with some skinny tyres and then reduce weight with some cheap carbon components.
Hmmm, that's an interesting idea. I'll give it a thought, thanks (though my intuitive preference is towards a new, dedicated frame).
 
OP
D

dimrub

Regular
On the question of building out of 2nd hand frame: just out of curiosity, I tried to check how feasible this would be here in Israel. I found a bicycle on Facebook Market which is basically a rusty frame with some components hanging off it, and a description saying "suggest a price". So I thought of suggesting a token price - say, 50 shekels (something like $15), provided an additional photo of the bicycle taken from the right side shows it at least has a cassette and a derailleur, so I contacted the seller. 350 shekels, says he (about $100). For little more than a rusty old frame! That's why we can't have nice things (such as bicycle restoration projects).
 
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