Words by Molly Weaver
Having recently taken a break from professional cycling the time came to give back my team bikes and build up a new machine. It was only then that it dawned on me how little I knew about bikes. I knew how to train and race, but the lack of knowledge that came with the luxury of team mechanics was clear. I never touched my bike except to ride it.
I’m still very fortunate to have the support of Genesis and Epic Cycles in my latest two wheeled pursuits, and could have left my beautiful new bike to be built by the pro’s, but the time to gain some more mechanical knowledge had long since passed. Now I’m stepping into amateur life, and have bikepacking trips coming up, it’s inevitable I will need some emergency fixes along the way. Having the knowledge to do that myself will make life a lot easier.
From gears and brakes to bottom brackets and handle bar taping I’ve now done it all at least once. I wouldn’t say I’m in a hurry to build my next bike, but I’m glad I at least know how to.
A massive thank you to mechanic extraordinaire Tom at Epic for his patience, it was much needed. I definitely took the shop record for the slowest bike build. Lessons learned and laughter aplenty though. The perfect combo. Here’s some I learnt along the way.
Lesson 1: Building up a full custom bike takes a long time. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a first timer there are a lot of steps from bare frame to fully functional machine, and a lot of them are intricate and meticulous. My original allowance of an hour for the full build was quickly laughed off. By day three I was laughing too.
Lesson 2: Internal cables are aesthetically beautiful, but I’m glad I’ve never had to do that before. I began with the optimism of inexperience, and ended with the frustrated reality. Everything eventually fits together perfectly and looks great, but it only just makes up for the struggles and endless failed endeavours. Fitting a cable through a frame from one small hole to another is no walk in the park. At least I could profit from a mechanics hacks, because I wasn’t born with the patience to have completed this job without them.
Lesson 3: Before my next bike build I need to work on my hand strength. As a cyclist I’ve always known my upper body strength left something to be desired, but this is the first time my hands have been called into question. When something needed to be done up ‘as tight as you can’ that translated into ‘tighter than that’ and quickly became ‘I’ll have to do it’. Time to get training.
Lesson 4: Hydraulic disc brakes have liquid in them. Mind blowing I know. I’m sure if I’d ever really thought about it I could have worked it out, but I’d never needed to and therefore I never had. I’m also sensing a theme here.
Lesson 5: Air is the enemy of the hydraulic brake. Bleeding them takes a long time and is another task for the patient, but there’s something satisfying about each air bubble you eliminate. The added motivation of fully functional brakes kept me going with this one.
Lesson 6: If you spend a bit of time planning you’ll save a lot of time building, and more times than not the experts know best. Case in point: tubeless tyres. Perhaps the only job I found a true breeze. The carefully selected tyre and rim combination fitted together like a dream. My original choice wasn’t such a match made in heaven.
All in all it was a labour of love, and the finished product has definitely been worth it. The stunning Genesis Zero Disc: