How to do a perfect custom bicycle build
When we received a new batch of FR FRD framesets ar our California offices, 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 a dream build for those looking to build up a new bike from a frameset.
We offer certain frame only options across our bicycle line, including frames for road, triathlon, cyclocross, and track, and, while we 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 parts, wheels, bars, stems, and more we have 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!
The front-side of the 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 light-weight, 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. 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. It's pretty ok 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.
Selecting wheels, tires, cockpit, and saddle ends up being the hardest part 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 a staff favorite with Enve wheels, bar, stem, and post for all of those contact points along with Vittoria tires and Prologo saddle for tried-and-true performance. 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 could always go a level or two down in terms of components and then upgrade as your budget allows. Our first choices for upgrades are wheels, followed by the crank, rear derailleur, and cockpit.
We recommend getting the best (most comfortable) saddle that works with you from day 1 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 fit/most comfortable for you. If possible, try multiple saddles through your local 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 offices 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.
FR FRD frameset: Disc, Ultimate level FRD level ride quality & performance
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, 52/36/170mm 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:
There will be some fighting at the office over this one! The mix of stealth/FRD color-hit 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 materials+construction technique, this bike is a rocket. It's dynamic, balanced, and a real whip. When you lay down the torque and squeeze out all of the possible watts for performance the bike amazes. But, FRD also puts a premium on overall comfort and road feel. Even over crappy pavement and longer rides, the bike is great.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 compliment the FR frame and the wheels are well-planted, smooth, and just beautiful eye candy. Vittoria & Prologo: some of the best tires in the world for you connection to the road AND a great saddle from the experts at Prologo to keep your butt's perch on the bike nice and comfy. All good stuff.Overall bike weight is just shy of 15lbs for a 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. We've seen the FR FRD built up below 14lbs (6.3kgs) with relative ease. Swapping out wheels and going for the minimalist saddle are the quickest routes to achieving the weight savings. In our opinion, an amazing ride is a combo 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 whistle, premium products to start. If your frame is a good one you can have fun upgrading and do it over time to adapt to your budget.