Depends what style of bike you want to make. To be honest start off with a lugged frame. You get the full gammut of skills in those. Planning, filing, heat control, fillet if you go hood syle drop outs. It’s also a bit more forgiving in accuracy tough still aim to get those mitres as good as possible.
I started making bike frames because I am very tall. My goal was to build rideable frames as quickly as possible, because I didn’t have a bike that fit me and I didn’t even know what that bike would look like. The only way to find out was to build it. I spent a lot of time researching about how to make as simple of a frame as possible with my very limited tools and budget.
The first two frames I built were fixed gear, then eventually single-speed because I didn’t have a way to put canti bosses on when I started.
I built three lugged frames in about a year. They all used Llewellyn lug sets with sockets for the seat stays and plug or socketed dropouts to make construction as easy and forgiving as possible. Despite this, my first frame was still very crooked, the second one was better, and the third was passable to the untrained eye. Every one had some critical flaw.
This one broke in the middle front third of the top tube, just after the butt, because I got the front wheel stuck in a ditch and it’s a .7-4-.7 Tube. It was basically the same as the 1st, except bigger, (too big), and I built the fork.
A lugged frame does sound useful and more accurate for us beginners
Doing a fillet brazed course with @Schonstudio and I have a tig welder I’m burning tubes with at home.
I’m more curious about how beginners have budgeted for components as you learn. A fixture, welder and tubesets are substantial costs but to keep making frames and practicing, some parts have to go on them.
Having recommendations for cost-effective components would be super useful to beginners who aren’t (yet) surrounded by people willing to pay $5000+ for parts on their cheap/for cost custom framesets.
Fillet brazed or welded frames are going to be hard to get right for a while, and it’s good to view them as disposable. I’ve built about 12 frames, 8 fillet brazed, and I’m finally ok at it. Develop an ecosystem of parts that are interchangeable and pick “standards” that work for you. Almost every part you see above has been hung on at least 3 different frames. Theres a Phil wood bb in there that’s been in at least 5 of mine, and I bought it used. I scoured online marketplaces for deals and pieced things together, bit by bit and worked in a bike shop so I could get deals on the expensive bits
I didn’t have a jig until frame 5 or 6. Can’t remember. Made my own because buying them here in Australia is absurdly expensive. (The basic spec’d cobra fixture shipped is like Aus$9500 without import taxes!) More important to spend your money on an alignment surface. Even if it’s just a big chunk of granite bench top. They are actually flat enough for intro frame building.
You don’t need to spend a huge amount to get going. Good hacksaw and files. A good vice and bench. The chunk of granite and some method of resting the frame on the granite so it’s flat and away you go. You’ll pick up heaps of stuff from Danielle that will make sense once you see it. She is an awesome builder who will show you a good way of going about it.
It’s a great question, and I think it’s great that you are looking ahead to parts. A bike is the sum of parts, so the frame and components need to be designed together. I have made the mistake of designing bikes without fully vetting out standards and availability of parts.
IMO, since you will be learning with good instruction, I would try to build something with thru axles and disc brakes. They require more tooling and require higher tolerances, which you will have access to and a safe environment to learn. You can always do easier standards on your own.
If I were you, I would build a 650b flat bar commuter/townie w/ mtb standards.
I’ve long suspected that a lot of people take a class and make one bike, and then it takes them years and years to get the tooling together before they feel prepared to make another one. David Bohm has made social media posts that allude to this.
It feels good to keep up with modern standards, but you need a ton of expensive tooling to succeed in your garage. Take advantage of the tools while they are available, but keep in mind the pratfalls of holding every bike to the standard of what you made in class.
Yes, this is great information to have, especially for us just starting out. For the first few frames I build (one of these days!) I will just want to use components that will make the bike rideable. Not saying I’ll be using big box store trash components, but I’m also not putting Dura-Ace on the first road bike frame I build for my own light duty use.
Check out MicroShift Advent drivetrain as well. Building a gravel/townie bike with MTB drivetrain and chainstays/seatstays is a good call. That’s exactly what I did, I built my wife a commuter frame and despite some major learnings, it turned out fine (and surprisingly straight) and she still rides it 2 years later.
I recommend considering these modular type dropouts, because you can use a 142mm thru axle dummy axle to build the frame, and can run 142 x 12 thru axle or 135 x 9 QR hubs. I found canti-bosses to be more work than doing an ISO tab, and you’ll want a jig for either.
If you ride a GRX 1x drivetrain back to back with a Deore 12s drivetrain, the mtb groupset is a decade ahead in shifting and durability. SRAM has decent gravel drivetrains, but they are all high-end wireless options.
But that set shifting and durability aside, from a frame-building perspective, gravel vs MTB all comes down to drivetrain and tire clearances.
On page 22 of the SRAM Frame Fit Specifications, you can find the mountain bike chainring/crank clearances:
Another advantage to using brazing rather than TIG for your first few frames is the ability to undo things. If the alignment is way out or you ruined something big-time, you can tear it down and at the very least re-use dropouts, lugs, BB shell etc. You could even re-mitre the tubes and make a slightly smaller frame. Not sure how sensible this is for thin gauge tubes or anything you’ll actually want to ride hard, but handy for practicing your joints, build process etc.
Plus you’ll need to braze on your cable guides, bosses etc anyway so it’s one less big expensive tool to buy.
And I have gathered that there are plenty of crank options, some perhaps even cost effective for the beginner. For example: the Easton cranks you linked as well as some brands I’m not familiar with listed in the Nerd Database.
Although, my understanding for avoiding this (road/gravel) style of component selection, as well as it’s modern standards is that it is less straightforward. There are a couple options but both have their drawbacks:
Mix and match parts to get the best of both worlds, example: MTB disc brakes with road shifters. As stated there is potential for errors in part selection with this setup. Personally not something I want to tackle at the get-go but perhaps some cool tricks and hints one could gather over time
Commit to the modern road standards including flat mount brakes which could be difficult for the first time builder. As well as you have said, the modern drivetrains equivalent to a Deore budget are not as smooth, reliable, etc. They also just sound boring: “flat” sorry.
For modern parts and standards: MTB seems to be the reliable entry option for the first time builder.
Of course, the decision is up to the passion of the builder and if one is already making a lugged frame with canti-posts for their first frame, vintage parts could be a great option. Or the tiagra groupset with rim brakes.
The experience of the builder and what they have on hand would definitely play a role as well. If I had the experience @wzrd had with the mixed drivetrains, maybe I would be more comfortable trying those out.
Those are great tips and a sweet setup! Same to @JoeNation.
My question in this thread is directed to component selection and standards for first frames.
What collection of components and standards did you design off of for your first frame? How did that work out for you? Would you recommend those standards and components to another beginner? What’s so great about those weird 90s mountain bike cranks you just had to put on your first custom-lugged 2015 hardcore hardtail?