Meet Tartan, the home-built adventurer of the world…
Timelapse: Building my bicycle in my old bedroom
…using makeshift tools and coffee (and pizza)
All in a day’s work. I came across some problems and had to botch a couple of things (there’s a washing machine o-ring helping hold the cranks against the BB, and there’s a piece of PVC pipe holding the front mech and lock to the frame). But hey, nothing has fallen off (yet) and I’m still alive. I hand-built the wheels (in 2012) and they were the first set I built (they lasted over 17,000km without a problem, but have since rebuilt them). My point is: you don’t need to be an expert. I did everything with basic household tools, a couple of spanners, and a bicycle multi-tool.
Rims – Ryde Sputnik 700c 36 hole
Front hub –
Shimano 105 Shimano DH-3N80 (Ultegra) dynamo hub
Rear hub – Shimano 105
Front spokes – DT Swiss Alpine III (triple butted)
Rear Spokes – Sapim double butted (nds) / Sapim single butted (ds)
Tyres – Shwalbe Marathon Plus Tour 700x35C
Shifters – Shimano 9spd Tiagra 2010 with cross-top brakes
Front mech – Shimano Tiagra Triple 9spd Road
Rear mech – Shimano DeoreLX 9spd mountain
Cassette – SRAM PG950
Chain – SRAM PG951
Crankset – Tiagra 2010 (
28-53t) (30-52t) 70mm
Bottom Bracket – Shimano Hollowtech Tiagra 5500
Pedals – Shimano SPD
Brakes – Shimano cantilever with Coolstop brake pads
Handlebars – Aluminium drop bars (wide)
Headset – FSA Orbit Extreme Pro 1″1/8
Stem – BBB high rise stem (compact short)
USB Charger – Cycle2charge V2 integrated charger
Bar tape – Double wrap of generic stuff
Speedo – Cateye Micro Wireless (terrible)
Mascot – Orange hamster from Holland
Saddle – Brooks B-17
Seatpost – Carbon Specialized Tricross Sport
Rear pannier rack – Tortec Expedition Rear rack aluminium 35kg
New parts? …Nah
Currently I’m running a whole bunch of second-hand parts, including the bottom bracket, rear pannier rack, cassette, crankset, pedals.
I also have a significant amount of carry-over from old bikes such as the handlebars, seatpost, levers and shifters (all 2010).
My collection of new parts is growing as I head further east and specific second-hand parts become harder to find.
There aren’t normally any issues with second-hand bicycle parts, they’re usually less than half price for more-than-half the lifetime.
By the way how cool are doughnut charts?
My old bicycle
My old bike…which cycled the length of the UK with me, and saw 17 countries on mainland Europe. I gave the frame to a charity bike shop in Barcelona. His name was Specky.
It has a funny seat, eh? It’s a Selle SMP, the same as what Mark Beaumont used to cycle around the world.
It was a Specialized Tricross Sport 2010…a very good bike. But it had some things I couldn’t live with. Like an aluminium frame which creaked when I was on the climbs due to the weight of the pannier bags. It really wasn’t designed to cycle around the world. Still, it had a good run.
Steel is the material of choice for RTW trips because of it’s flexibility (therefore comfort), ability to cope with torsional stress and it’s ease of repair (you’d be hard pushed to find an aluminium welder in somethingstan).
That said, if you have the time and money you can pretty much do whatever you want. People frequently complete laps of the planet on carbon bikes (without panniers).
Can I, a novice, build my own bicycle?
Yes! To anyone that wants to build their own bicycle…do it! It’s extremely satisfying. And the great thing is you know exactly how to fix it if something goes wrong. There’s something really empowering about travelling great distances on something you built with your own hands (in your bedroom).
Nearly everything I learnt about bicycles I learnt from trial and error, experimentation, watching internet videos and asking people in the know. If you live in a city, there’s a chance there’s a bicycle co-operative near you. Bike co-ops can offer you their tools for a small fee and often have cheap second hand parts. Some also offer “build your own bike” courses and have mechanics to help you. I ended up volunteering for one, Glasgow Bike Station, and eventually became a paid mechanic there.
Once you get your head around compatibility of components, youtube will help you assemble them. Familiarise yourself with the basic parts. The late Sheldon Brown has an excellent website which can help you too – it’s used by professionals and laymen alike.
And with that, wishing you luck and tailwinds.