How To Create A Perfect Custom Bicycle Build

July 17, 2020

How To Create A Perfect Custom Bicycle Build

When we received a new batch of FR FRD framesets at our California headquarters, we were pretty excited to plan a special custom build project. Even though we are all working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, a few Slack channels, video conference calls, and inspired debates led us to scope out what we consider to be a dream build to help inspire those looking to create their very own unique complete bike from a frameset.

Many of our models are available as framesets only, including frames for road, triathlon, cyclocross, and track. And while we also offer many great complete builds in our line, it's always fun to create something from scratch. By using a personalized selection of groupset components, wheels, handlebar, stem, and more, we've enjoyed the fun that goes with the decision process, the in-team debate over what to get, and the joy of unboxing all of those pretty new bike parts to lay across the table before the build even starts!

felt fr frd side

THE PROCESS

The front side of any custom bicycle build is like doing carpentry work—measure twice, cut once. In this vein, our team argued over the merits of different groupsets, wheel and tire combos, cockpit ergonomics, and even bar tape color. Given that our build project was focused on speed and performance, we opted for products that are appropriately lightweight, tried-and-true, and built to deliver some healthy KOM performances for the rider willing to lay it on the line. We also wanted to get stuff that, while premium, was still easy to find rather than rarified parts that are both ridiculously expensive and difficult to track down. After the back-and-forth subsided, we coalesced around what we consider to be a killer build.  

If you are looking at a build-a-bike project starting with a bike frameset, we suggest starting with the best frame that you can get and then looking at a set of parts and pieces that are optimal for your budget and what you are going after in terms of overall performance (i.e. fit, weight, comfort, etc.). If you consider any SRAM, Shimano, or Campagnolo groupsets as your starting point, you are pretty much going to have a good experience and get a mix of great ergonomics, function, and durability. Riders, journalists, and bike brands may have their individual preferences but, generally, you cannot go wrong with any of the choices from today's top gruppo brands. And it's always okay to mix and match certain build levels within a manufacturer's components, but just keep in mind compatibility to be sure you don't get anything that won't work together. Always consult the component manufacturer if you have any questions or need assistance.

Selecting wheels, tires, cockpit parts, and a saddle ends up being the hardest stage of the process given the depth and breadth of options on the market. Given that we wanted some really nice stuff and that our budget was pretty deep (thanks, Marketing department!), we opted for some staff favorites with ENVE wheels, bar, stem, and seatpost, along with Vittoria tires and a Prologo saddle. But, if you are building your own bike, keep in mind that you can start modestly and scale from there. Again, selecting the best frame that you can get is the most optimal use of your budget. If you do that, you can always go a level or two down in terms of components and then upgrade as your budget allows. The frame is the foundation of your bike. Our top choices for those riders looking to upgrade their riding experience are wheels, followed by the crankset, rear derailleur, and then cockpit. 

We recommend getting the best (i.e. most comfortable) saddle that works with you from day one, as there's no benefit to skimping there. However, you don't necessarily need a brand's most premium saddle either as those are often focused on being the lightest and are not necessarily the best fitting or most comfortable for you. If possible, try multiple saddles through your local bike shop or via friends, and then drop the dollars to get the one you like best.  

After ordering all of the necessary items, we set about building this amazing rig. In our case, we have a full shop in our office and the folks who know how to build up a bike. If that's beyond your skill level and/or you don't have the time or tools, your local shop is a great resource for such projects.

THE SPECS

Felt FR FRD Frameset: Disc, Ultimate level FRD level ride quality & performance (size 54cm)

Groupset:  Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, 52/36 chainrings and 170mm crank, 11/28 cassette, 160mm/140mm rotors (front/rear).

Cockpit: Enve, Road Stem (120mm), Carbon Road Bar (42cm), Felt bar tape

Saddle & Post: Prologo Scratch M5 hardblack TIROX, Enve carbon post 25mm set-back.

Wheels & Tires: Enve SES 3.4 disc wheels, Vittoria Corsa Control full black TLR 28C

Pedals: Time XPRO 10

Total Price (as-built): $13,999

THE EYE CANDY

Felt FR FRD 3-4 side view dream bike

Felt FR FRD front end detail picture dream bike build

CONCLUSION

There will be some fighting at the office over this one! The stealthy, FRD paint scheme gives some subtlety and flash that everyone on our team absolutely loves. The FRD "Felt Racing Development" technology yields the most high-performance road racing frame that Felt has ever made, delivering performance and comfort. With a dialed race geometry (but, not so aggressive that the ordinary rider cannot fit it) and an industry-leading selection of materials and construction techniques, this bike is a rocket. It's dynamic and balanced, and when you lay down the torque and squeeze out all of the possible watts for performance, the bike absolutely amazes. But, FRD also puts a premium on overall comfort and road feel. Even over chewed-up pavement and across longer rides, the bike is sublime.

The Shimano group is fantastic. Across finish, function, durability, and ease-of-use, there's not much more to add to the heralded Shimano Dura Ace Di2 group.

The ENVE parts and wheels deliver on the promise of performance, comfort, and design. The ergonomics and finish beautifully complement the FR frame, and the wheels are planted, smooth, and just beautiful to behold. Vittoria's Corsa series includes some of the best tires in the world for your connection to the road, while a great saddle from the experts at Prologo makes for a nice and comfy perch.

Overall bike weight is just shy of 15 pounds for our size 54cm bike. Sure, we could go lighter with different wheels, saddle, or cockpit. But, our choices are deliberate and meant for the best mix of weight, performance, and pure inspiration as we gaze longingly at this beauty just poised for a killer ride. That's what we recommend for anyone building their own custom bike: choose what's best for your riding needs, your aesthetic tastes, and what will enhance your love of cycling. But if your focus is achieving the lightest build possible, note that we've seen custom FR FRD frames built to complete bikes well below 14 pounds (6.3 kilograms) with relative ease. Swapping out wheels and going for the minimalist saddle are the quickest routes to achieving the weight savings. But in our opinion, an amazing ride is a combination of frame characteristics, geometry, weight, and position. Getting all of that dialed is pretty easy with the FR FRD as your starting point.

The number one best recommendation here is to start any custom bike build with the best frameset you can get and go from there. Your project doesn't need to have all of the bells and whistles or premium products at the start. If your frame is a good one, you can have fun upgrading and do it over time to adapt to your budget.

felt fr frd custom road bike




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