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Katherine Dennis: Building up a dream bike


In early 2019, I was looking to buy a new road bike. However, as I was on a tight budget, I took the plunge and bought a new frame to build up with parts myself. I made a bottom bracket press out of bolts and washers from the local hardware store and used tools that I had already acquired from tinkering with my bikes.

After spending time piecing together my new bike, I realised I knew every little part of it. Whatever went wrong, I felt empowered knowing I could fix it; if my bottom bracket started creaking, I could sort it out without a shop visit and a lengthy separation. This gave me a deeper love for it and made it more special than any I could buy already built. The more I learnt about putting bikes together and the need for top‐notch components, the more I held out on replacing my old bits and bobs waiting for the perfect part to come up. I was absolutely enthralled by the process of building up frames: creating a speed machine, a bikepacking rig, a track racing bullet or even a cyclocross‐style gravel muncher. I could save some pennies for race entry and re‐use parts I needed, while also learning how different components come together to create such a brilliant piece of engineering – the Bicycle.

When I became a Hope HB.130 ambassador I got my hands on my HB.130 with the full Hopetech build. I found the missing piece in my search: long lasting components that I could install confidently with magnificently clear instructions both in the manuals and online (big props to Dan on Hopetech YouTube!). So with this in mind, after smashing my basic CX bike at a race, I took on a challenge. You may think Lockdown 3 got to me (and it might have done a little) but this project just seemed like the seamless progression from my tinkering with builds in the past.

I ordered a frame, beautiful red Hope components and scoured the internet for any parts that I needed for the groupset. The global shortage in bike parts was hitting most places quite hard, so the ease at which I could order and choose the correct Hope parts was an absolute blessing at this point.
All the components being designed and manufactured here in the UK meant that everything was ready in the factory or could be machined up in next‐to‐no time.

When my frame and parts came, I set to work. This time I was a little more organised and ordered the correct presses, bottom bracket tools, bleed kits and a new set of smaller wrenches for those fiddly hydraulics. The need for good tools is something not to be overlooked. The wrong tool can lead to a wonky headset which can lead to impinged bearings which can lead to a clunky ride, threading bolts and even a dreaded scratch on a shiny new part. I learnt this the hard way on previous builds ‐ this time I would be ready!

The process of building up a bike is relatively easy to find online so I’ll spare you the arduous step by step details but will provide you with some entertaining highlights. Upon receiving my blingy Hope RX crankset and amazing 38T spiderless chainring I realised I didn’t have the correct lockring tool! I immediately re‐checked the instructions to find the part code and rifled through listings for them online. It was hard to find and I knew it would extend my goal build time. In my misery I opened the crank box and it was literally right before my eyes. Lesson learnt, inspect the box to make sure you’ve got all the parts first. The second entertaining issue was following Dan’s great instructions on brake bleeding but missing the section (that I fast forwarded) “It’s always good practice to wear gloves”. Thinking I was a Maverick, I didn’t use gloves and found out the hard way that Dot 5.1 fluid can be a little irritating. Let’s just say it isn’t my new favourite hand cream!

In my excitement, I proudly finished the build in one evening, and with the wheels I had set up the week before, I proudly went out on an off‐road gravel adventure that very weekend.
I have never had as much fun on gravel. Everything worked perfectly, I got to escape central London and had the satisfaction of knowing that this bike was parts mere hours before. I had turned components of metal, plastic and cables into pure joy and excitement! So, after all this rambling, I get to what I think it is all about: turning inanimate objects into a vibrant thing full of personality and fun.

If you are a cycling fanatic and want to take your love of your bike to the next level, I would encourage you to take the gauntlet and start small. Replace your own cassette, check over your bolts, learn a little more about your bike each day ‐ I promise it will enhance your cycling experience.

Words: Katherine Dennis
Pictures: Tay.velo