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Assembling A New Bike For A Fellow 5BBC Member

Tom Hong | Published on 3/23/2016

Inspiration for a future 5BBC bicycle course?

Back in December 2015, Bill Mastro persuaded me to take on the role of bicycle course coordinator, and even though I can never claim to be a bicycle mechanic (I only do simple repairs and maintenance, and I had some spectacular malfunctions, thankfully only on my own bikes), I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to the club!

In the spirit of giving back, I had the opportunity last week to help a fellow 5BBC member buy and assemble her very first carbon road bike, and it gave me a flash of inspiration: Perhaps in the future if the opportunity arises again for me to help another 5BBC member do the same, maybe we can make the rare event an official one-off 5BBC bicycle course!

Anyway, this is what happened..

Our fellow member who wishes to remain unnamed (we'll call her JB) was interested in buying her first road bike, so over the past two years we had conversations on everything from frame geometry and fitting to choosing a bike to operational aspects such as how the STI combined shift/brake levers work. Then two weeks ago, JB saw an awesome deal on a brand-new carbon road bike that is just too good to pass up-- $800 (insane for a brand-new carbon!) for a 2013 model on clearance, so she jumped on it.

The bike in question is a 2013 Marin Verona relaxed-geometry road bike with a full carbon fiber frame, in the right frame size for JB. She test-rode a Marin Verona (mine!) and we found that she fits that particular frame size and she can be positioned correctly, and more importantly, comfortably on the bike. The bike was ordered and she received it on Wednesday (March 16). The brand-new carbon bike arrived in its manufacturer's shipping box.

Assembling a new bike sounds daunting, but it's actually already 90% assembled right out of the box. Essentially all I had to do is remove all the protective shipment wrapping, bolt on the handlebars, bolt on the seatpost, put the front wheel onto the fork, install the front brake, then tune up the braking and shifting, and voila the bike is ready to ride. And it can be accomplished with common tools such as Allen keys, screwdriver, and cable cutter.  We proceeded to unpack the bike and remove all of the protective wrappings.  I love that new bike smell!  

After the protective wrappings have been removed, the handlebars, seatpost and front wheel are put on.  Assembling the stem and handlebar requires tightening the compression bolt in the headset before bolting down anything else, to ensure the steering works properly (critical for safety!).  All bolts are greased to prevent the threads from stripping.  We also swapped in an aftermarket stem that is angled up (90mm length, 25 degrees rise) so JB can ride more upright for comfort.

We also took off the stock Shimano Tiagra rear derailleur and replaced it with a much better Shimano Ultegra unit to improve the gear shifting.  I wanted to make sure JB has a good experience with the STI control system, which can be intimidating to someone who has never ridden a drop-bar road bike before, and having a drivetrain that shifts nice helps tremendously.  Swapping out the rear derailleur requires taking the chain off the bike, which is easy to do because the bike came with a quick link in the chain, which can be disconnected and reconnected with just a pair of pliers.

Putting the chain back on after installing the new Ultegra rear derailleur:

Pumping up the tires to proper inflation..  In JB's case, for her weight optimum tire pressure would be 80 PSI front / 95 PSI back for these 700x25c tires.

The front brake needs to be installed (by necessity it had to be packed uninstalled from the factory).  The brake cable is threaded into the brake caliper assembly on the fork, and bolted down with the proper amount of cable tension.  We also swapped out the stock brake shoes for Koolstop Salmons, which have grippier brake pads so it does not take as much hand effort on those STI levers to brake.  It makes braking from the hoods less intimidating for beginners.

Applying grease to the pedal threads before installing them on the cranks to ensure the threads won't strip.  We put on a pair of plain platform pedals for now.  JB will transition to clipless pedals in the future when she feels confident enough to do it.

Once all the pieces are in place, we tune up the shifting by putting just the right amount of cable tension in the front and rear derailleur shift cables.  It's actually easy to do once you have done it a few times.

...And done!  It took about 5 hours to do everything above, from start to finish, including a lunch break and explaining to JB how (and why!) I do these steps.  And now JB's shiny new light-as-a-feather carbon bike is ready to ride.  It looks fast standing still!

It was a great opportunity not only to show a fellow club member how to assemble a bike, but also important maintenance procedures like how to adjust the brakes (cable tension, brake shoe positioning with the correct toe-in to prevent brake squeal, etc.), and how to adjust the derailleurs so they will shift the gears cleanly (shifting tune-up), and adjustments to maximize fit and comfort such as seat and handlebar positioning. All very teachable moments!

It's a rare occurrence when one of us buys a new bike (it doesn't happen every day after all), but if any fellow 5BBC members are looking to purchase a new carbon fiber road bike, I would appreciate hearing from you so we might explore the possibility of turning the occasion into a unique one-time bicycle course! (Leave me a reply below or a message on the Members Forum if you are interested.) Thanks!

Many thanks to JB for a fun day of bike assembly. Hope you will enjoy that brand new lightweight carbon bike for many thousands of happy miles on our club rides!

- Tom