Introduction: Handmade Custom Road Bike

Picture of Handmade Custom Road Bike

I've been riding my own home built bike frames for a long time. I built this steel road racing frame back in 1995 and it's still going strong!

This frame was silver brazed using an oxy/acetylene torch and all the tubes were mitered by hand using a file and a hack saw. I made a simple jig from wood to hold the tubes in place while the frame was tacked together. The frame is a mix of Reynolds 531 for the chainstays, Reynolds 653 for the top tube and down tube and 731OS for the seat tube. The finished weight (not including fork) came in around 3.75 lbs.- not too shabby for a 56cm frame with an oversize top tube. The lugs came from Henry James and the dropouts came from a friend that is a frame builder. The dropouts are kind of neat as they have a deep socketed joint for the chainstays and seatstays.The fork is a carbon fiber Kestrel EMS Pro.

I tend to build my road bikes with pretty relaxed geometry since that's always worked well for me. I have a long femur and I need the seat to sit far back so this bike has a relaxed seat tube angle- 72.5 degrees. The head tube angle is 73 degrees and with a 56cm top tube length I can get a really nice comfortable ride and still get a good handling bike. The oversize (1.125" OD) top tube makes a big difference in handling- the old 1" diameter top tubes made for a pretty flexy bike with this relaxed geometry.

I've ridden a lot of carbon fiber bikes but there is something that is just so nice about the ride quality of a hand made steel bike (I do like carbon forks a lot.) Maybe if I manage to build myself a steel cyclocross frame in the future I can do a full detailed instructable that shows the entire process start to finish.

For more information about building your own frame check out the framebuilder's forum-


jnealy69 (author)2015-08-23

Great build!

Could you do me a favor and update the framebuilder's forum url? Doesn't seem to go anywhere for me.


jmhauer (author)2015-05-21

That is beautiful work. Immaculate, clean, and artistically done.

Honus (author)jmhauer2015-05-23

Thank you!

The nerdling (author)2012-06-08

that does not look home made :)

SCHLEPIC (author)2011-04-13

You've built a great looking bike! I've been yearning to build my own frame for a while now. The one thing I don't understand is how you customize the tube lengths and geometry when the lugs have specific angles? Insight on this would be spectacular.

Honus (author)SCHLEPIC2011-04-13

Thanks- glad you like it!

To answer your question, tube sets are sold in different lengths to cover building different size frames. Typically the the tubes are butted, meaning the wall thickness changes over the length of the tube. You have single butted, double butted and triple butted tubes. Seat tubes are usually single butted, so they are thicker only at the bottom bracket shell while top and down tubes are usually double butted so they are thicker at the lugged joints and thinner wall thickness in the middle. The length and thickness of the butted section varies according to the overall length of the tube and whether the tube was designed for brazed lug construction or TIG welding.

So according to the final length you need the tube to be you order a specific tube and then cut it to the proper finished length at the butted section. Some builders pick and choose individual tubes from different tube sets in order in order to change the feel of the frame according to rider weight and style of riding.

Lugs can be ordered in a few different angles/tube diameters and they can sometimes be modified up to around 1/2 degree by either grinding or bending them. Dropouts also come in different angles/styles- some have tangs, some have sockets and some are designed specifically for TIG welding.

If you have any other questions just let me know!

SCHLEPIC (author)Honus2011-04-25

Thanks. I guess what I was asking about was the proportionality of the triangles in the frame. Such as how if you change the top tube length the seat tube and down tube lengths will change as well to keep the angles of the triangle the same. In a few of the articles I've read from frame builders, they mention customizing the tube lengths but make no reference to their interdependency when using lugs.

Know of any place that sells lugs with a triathlon geometry? I can' seem to find any so I might have to do without for my future frame build.

Honus (author)SCHLEPIC2011-04-25

Ahh... I see. If you change the top tube length you have to change the down tube length and if you change the seat tube length you also change the head tube length to keep the angles the same. It might be difficult finding lugs for that geometry since most tri bikes have pretty steep seat tubes- generally in the 75 to 78 degree range. Your best bet is probably fillet brazing, especially if you want to use aero shaped tubes. One place you might check out for lugs is Ceeway.

Honus (author)SCHLEPIC2011-04-14

One other thing I forgot to mention is that you can also skip using lugs and fillet braze it- then you can do any type of frame geometry you want. I built several suspension bike prototypes using this method as lugs for that sort of thing don't exist. I even once made a fillet brazed BMX mini frame back in the mid 80's- that bike was super trick and very light.

TSC (author)2011-04-11

Nice! Did you weld the frame your self?

Honus (author)TSC2011-04-11

Yep- the only thing I farmed out was the painting, which was kind of funny as the painter did in the wrong color! I do like the blue though and they gave me a good deal on it due to the mistake so I can't really complain too much. :)

TSC (author)Honus2011-04-11


schkip1973 (author)2011-04-06

great build and impressive welding.

Honus (author)schkip19732011-04-06

Thanks! Technically speaking it's brazing but I do long for a nice TIG welder...

schkip1973 (author)Honus2011-04-09

you are right.

Honus (author)schkip19732011-04-09

Sorry- I didn't mean for it to come out that "abrupt"! It does remind me that in the next one I'll actually have to show how to braze lugged joints- should be fun. :)

Kaptain Kool (author)2011-04-07

Amazing work! this is awesome!

Honus (author)Kaptain Kool2011-04-08

Thanks!! For people wishing to learn more about frame building you can download the old version of the Paterek frame building manual here-

Tim has a newer version for sale on his website as well- for aspiring frame builders it's worth every penny.

mazzas (author)2011-04-06

Did you use a jig to set up your frame? Or is this the result of immense patients and very careful measuring?

Honus (author)mazzas2011-04-06

Both! You definitely need a jig of some sorts to hold everything in alignment. You also have to have perfect miters when silver brazing so precise measurement and accuracy in joint fitting is very important.

rimar2000 (author)2011-04-06

Congratulations, you have done a great job.

I hate these "modern" bikes having curved tubes, I think they are the "how not to do".

Yours is perfect!

Honus (author)rimar20002011-04-06

Thanks! I actually did built a curved tube bike in the late 80's- it was a "funny bike" curved tube time trial frame with small front wheel and solid disc wheel in the rear. I'll have to see if I can find a photo of it.

rimar2000 (author)Honus2011-04-06

No, please!!! ;)

mazzas (author)2011-04-06

I'd really like to see your detailed instructable. I've been riding for decades and would dearly love to be riding my own steel frame. You did a first rate job on yours. It looks flawless. Congrats!!!

Honus (author)mazzas2011-04-06

Thanks! I've been riding since '85 and used to average 15,000 miles/year on the bike- I didn't drive a car for 12 years. It's interesting that there has been a huge resurgence in hand made steel frames in the last few years. Some of the top custom builders have a wait list of several years.

I've been really wanting a cyclocross bike so maybe later this year or next year (funds permitting) I'll be able to build one. I've got a couple of new suspension bike designs I want to try out as well. :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a former bicycle industry designer turned professional jeweler. I like working with my hands and am happiest when I'm in the shop ... More »
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