The costs of building from a free frame

Discussion in 'Motorized Cruiser Bicycles' started by Motorbike Wanabe, Oct 17, 2010.

  1. Motorbike Wanabe

    Motorbike Wanabe New Member

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    Someone mentioned in another thread about the varying amount of money that you can sink into one of these things. I love a bargain as much as the next guy and when I found a 24-inch cruiser frame for $5 at a yard sale, I was on it like stink on a monkey. Then, I started to do the math.

    I've been trying to decide whether it would be best for me to build up this bike for an engine or, just go with one of the new Cranbroooks or one of the other "near $100 bikes" from Wally World. For someone just building a bike, not a themed "let's make it look like something cool" type of bike, the Cranbrooks can be an excellent start--if you do your homework. I've got a $5 frame in my shed that I thought of putting another motor on. Then I started thinking about it. $5 frame, $65 dollar (with shipping from Husky) rear wheel, new handlebars ($15) + grips and a new seat, and, new tires ($15-up, x2) and tubes ($8 x2). Unless someone is going to build something entirely unique and needed to purchase these items anyway, they'd be better off to go and purchase a Wally World bike and start with all new. Of course, EVERY bike needs grease and preparation and typical safety checks. Just my .02 and I'll be handing out change at the end of my rant.

    Anyone else find themselves in the same conundrum or am I over-thinking this with faulty math?
     
  2. hurricane

    hurricane New Member

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    I personally have never seen the benefit of just purchasing a frame. Too many extras a person needs to make it even just a bicycle. Plus if you buy just the frame you wont have all the cool left over stuff for your inventory of bike parts. And generally speaking it is cheaper to purchase a complete bike vs a frame.

    Ive built two builds using complete cheap walmart bikes,one was a roadmaster the other a cranbrook. Im happy with both builds and the costs involved.
     
  3. joabthebugman

    joabthebugman New Member

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    I recently bought a tandem frame only

    If I were to buy the stuff to build it up it would cost me more than it would to just buy a good used one

    However
    It will make a nice receptacle for the extra parts off the other junk bikes I buy or find dumped in my yard

    Ima build a truck bike
     
  4. jbcruisin

    jbcruisin Active Member

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    I started out with just a frame. It cost me much more than buying a complete bike. BUT, I wanted everything heavy duty. Heavy spokes, comfortable seat, front drum brake, Shimano rear hub, wide rims, 2.125 motorbike tires ($6.00 more each) etc, etc. I might have over $800. in the bike without the engine but it never breaks down & I ride hard. Remember the old saying "you get what you pay for. I'm amazed when I ride with people how often some of their bikes break down and they consider this the norm. Build a sturdy bike & ride for many miles & years.
    Jay
     
    #4 jbcruisin, Oct 17, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2010
  5. GoFastBicycles

    GoFastBicycles New Member

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    I have 700 in a build and the frame was free.

    Adam
     
  6. msrfan

    msrfan Well-Known Member

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    I guess I'm lucky because I started collecting bikes and parts in the 60's. I can probably put 20-30 complete bicycles together with all those parts. You know how it is. When people know your into this hobby, bikes and parts just appear in your yard or truck. I still buy Wal-Mart bikes to chinese motorize, and use the old pieces for Whizzers and homemade rides. When I hear on the forum that someone has to buy a chain or a wheel or other parts, I realize how valuable a pile of junk can be.
     
  7. Venice Motor Bikes

    Venice Motor Bikes Custom Builder / Dealer/Los Angeles

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    Here's the trick... Buy a complete GIRLS bike, & swap all the parts onto your frame! ;)
     
  8. silverbear

    silverbear The Boy Who Never Grew Up

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    The question posed has as many answers as there are forum members since it is a personal thing. There are so many variables from a person's size to where you live, what riding conditions, how often and of course budget. We can each speak for ourselves and we each have our reasons and justifications for what we do. And so one person may build a Wallyworld bike that takes a day from buying the bike to installing the motor and riding off into the sunset all for as little money as possible. I have more time than some of you and come from another era when things were made in America from better quality materials and with some pride. When I work on an old Schwinn and see the decal "Made in Chicago" it means something to me. I've been to Chicago and know where it is, what it looks like and have an idea of who those middle class folks were who made the bikes. The old American model from the 60's was a declaration of fact. Everything on the bike was made in the USA. I spent this morning stripping down to bare metal of a 1949 Schwinn straightbar frame as used on the Panther. While I was stripping away the old paint and a bit of rust here and there I thought about 1949 when I was four years old and I wonder about the boy who got that bike. Was it a birthday present, Christmas? Or did he earn the money for it on his paper route? For me these old bikes are time machines and I take real pleasure in making them better than when they were new. My friend will invest close to $2,000.00 in this build when all is said and done with Worksman wheels, a suspension front fork, top notch tires, a four stroke HS engine and the 2 speed EZMotorbike transmission as soon as it's available, a custom gas tank from Sportscarpat, some of my custom leatherwork in seat and grips and possibly harness leather saddlebags (as soon as I figure out how to make them), custom copper jewel running lights. He gets to decide what color the frame and fenders should be and choose handlebars, center kick stand, headlight... all the things which go into a build of this kind. And he has to compensate me for my time and skill in putting things together for him. You might well think that's crazy to spend that kind of money on a motored bicycle. He doesn't think so and neither do I. It is beyond my budget and is no small expenditure for him. No doubt he could save a lot of money with a lesser bike and enjoy the heck out of riding it. Or he could take that 2 grand and buy a scooter or a used motorcycle of some kind. But this is what he wants. He saw my 50 Schwinn Motorbike, saw me start a cold engine with one easy pull, listened to the exhaust and knew what he wanted. He likes time machines, too, and he was 5 years old when this old bike of his was brand new. No doubt the boy who had the bike put playing cards on the spokes, pretending it was a motorcycle. Pretty soon it will be.
    SB
     
  9. bairdco

    bairdco a guy who makes cool bikes

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    if you've read any of my other posts, you'll know i have a real hatred for china-made, junk bikes. on this forum you'll see hundreds of posts about the quality of a cranbrook. one of the most common is the exploding rear hub. so there goes your $65 for a rear wheel from husky.

    frame breakage is a problem, too. luckily, you have a $5 one...

    now, didja get the upgraded bike that has front brakes? no? well, after you cooked the coaster brake, you're probably gonna want them. depending on what set-up you want, it can be 20 bucks or 200 bucks.

    i could go on.

    my hatred for the cheap china bike is pretty obvious. i do realize that for some people, like the tinkerer, or the guy who wants to build one just to get away from his wife and spend some time in the garage, maybe take a little ride once a month, then the Huffy's the bike for you.

    it's also a great bike for people who have short attention spans and jump from one fad to the next. you can just dump it on craigslist for a couple hundred after you grow bored of it and recoup your money.

    but if you're looking for a reliable means of transportation, something safe, and something that can last for years with only minor repairs, you need to spend a lot more.

    i think cheap china bikes are the main thing that holds this "hobby" back. when the majority of bikes that the average person sees is an oily, smoking mess with bent wheels and half-assed repairs, they're just gonna keep thinking how stupid we are for making death-trap toy motorcycles.
     
  10. msrfan

    msrfan Well-Known Member

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    I'm with you, bairdco, I make them for my friends or to sell. I only keep and ride my homemade bikes with American frames and motors.
     
  11. Motorbike Wanabe

    Motorbike Wanabe New Member

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    Hi Bairdco,

    I've checked out your bikes and they're awesome. Wouldn't fault you at all for any of them.

    I would say though, the "oily, smoking mess with bent wheels and half-XXXXed repairs" is actually a question of the final builder's devotion to the finished product, most likely not the best indicator of the original bike's manufacturer.

    I would LOVE to find an early Hiawatha or Colson to do something with. That would be an awesome ride for me. But, if we're talking simply assembling a bike with an engine on it, in my mind, the platform isn't as important as the build. After all, no matter where the bike was built, we're all putting a chinese heart in it.

    I've had several hobbies (some may say that I'm that person that floats from hobby to hobby) and like R/C airplanes, guns, cars and almost anything else, there will be a few constants.

    1). Someone will always have an opinion of which is BEST (Smith & Wesson, O.S. Engines, DA or DL, Ford or Chevy).

    2). There will be those items that will always be looked down upon by others (High-Point pistols, OS LA engines, Wal Mart bikes).

    3). everyone's experience is different. The best way to find out for yourself is by yourself. Sure, you can observe other's experience and listen to their recommendations but, like JBCruisin said, some folks' bikes constantly break down, even the high dollar ones. Many a fine-oiled machine has turned to rust, thanks to a man with a tool and a little knowledge.

    I've got about the average cost in the Andian and I'm happy with it. Just looking at different ways to go with my next build and wondering if anyone else has come to the same crossroads as I have pertaining to old frame foundation or Wally World off-the-shelf, one-stop shopping. Maybe I'll commit to purchasing a bike and just see for myself. I'll be making some changes but maybe I'll let nature take it's course on those "weak" parts and document the ride. Kind of like a long-term test drive. OF course, I don't care to wind up along the road in a puddle of previously me, so catching a problem before it's a problem would be key.
     
  12. BarelyAWake

    BarelyAWake New Member

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    For a first build, there's something to be said for the box store bikes, my first was a $200 Chinese Schwinn, with pretty much what you had in mind Motorbike - a long term test drive :D

    I was getting an unknown/untested (to me) super cheap engine so I wasn't holding my breath much heh - building the MB taught me a bunch in a hurry about both motorizing a bicycle and what maintenance & repairs would be needed in a worst case scenario, using a cheapo bike taught be a ton about bicycles with little investment.

    Thing is I expected it to be a POS, it didn't frustrate me when stuff broke & I knew it was somewhat hazardous with the potential for frame breakage and the inevitability of rim failure - I jut wanted to tinker w/stuff and see if it was worth my time. I couldn't in clear conscience sell the thing & wouldn't ya know it... the one time I let a buddy ride it is when the front wheel tacoed >.<

    BUT overall it turned out to be so much fun & once the China was worked out, reliable enough I decided I'd take the lessons learned and build a better one - which in the long term turned out to be about the same cash investment interestingly enough. I think where the problem is lays in people's expectations - you can build a MB for about $250, but yer gonna pay for it in attention, if ya know that and are willing to pay the price then it'll be a blast. If you expect anything other than a somewhat labor intensive, hazardous & disposable toy - it'll be little more than disappointment.

    Building a motorized bike is easy, building a economical, reliable & safe one... now therein lays the challenge lol
     
  13. chad223

    chad223 New Member

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    If you do some hunting on Ebay and Craigslist, you could build yourself a really nice bike for a reasonable price. Just today I found a set of wheels with disk brakes for $50 on Craigslist.
     
  14. bairdco

    bairdco a guy who makes cool bikes

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    quote: "...if we're talking simply assembling a bike with an engine on it, in my mind, the platform isn't as important as the build. After all, no matter where the bike was built, we're all putting a chinese heart in it..."

    i totally disagree. i think the platform is the most important part. yes, you are putting a chinese motor with questionable quality in it, but it's the bike that is keeping you off the ground.

    most motor malfunctions won't make you crash. in the event of a full seize-up, you have a good chance of skidding to a stop. from reading this forum, that's a pretty rare occurence.

    if your cheap frame breaks, your cheap bearings fail, your cheap forks break, your cheap fender sucks up into your cheap forks, your cheap handlebars bend, your cheap wheels taco...

    well, all of those could be life-threatening. and when those things happen, if you don't get hurt, you need to replace it all.
     
  15. silverbear

    silverbear The Boy Who Never Grew Up

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    I'm with Bairdco on this one.
    Even on an economy build, a good old frame is the foundation for the build. The first place to dump some money is in stout wheels and they don't have to be fist class worksman either. I think you could get by with a cheap frame more easily with a four stroke than the China girl. The vibration of the motor subjects these frames to stresses they were not designed for which is why if you're going two stroke especially, you need a strong frame. In my mind, the frame and the wheels are the foundation of the build. You can live with rusty handlebars and a crusty seat. If you're on a budget, forgo the shiny paint and chrome and go for the sound foundation under you. I don't even want to think about a frame breaking or wheel collapsing at speed. Like building a house, start with a sound foundation.
    SB
    SB
     
  16. Sgt. Howard

    Sgt. Howard Member

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    I suppose that I have not yet enough miles into my Cranbrick to cause it to fail- I HAVE had to hunt the high grass for the muffler pieces that fell off- a quick (proper) bit of welding cured that problem that afternoon. There was the time when vibration backed out the coaster brake torque arm bolt- it got caught in the power chain sprocket and was lunch. I thought I'd popped a spoke- tried to hit the brakes and the pedals shoved forwards! As I keep tools and some bolts in the tool roll, I found some shade and had it back on the road in ten minutes. But when my 132 pound twelve-year-old hopped a curb with it, no harm was done.
    As long as you keep up on the mantainance, keep track of bolt tightness and do not try to set new speed records all the time, it seems to do quite nicely. Yes, I am aware that I am asking a cheap bicycle to go BEYOND it's inherit abilities... that's why I never push it too hard!
    My next build will be a worksman, it will have monarch springers with disk brakes in the front, if I can figure out a four-stroke belt drive situation, that's what I am running. I will weld my own tank together and do the BTR routine, perhaps not any particular BTR of that era, but authentic enough to have people guessing... a fantastical story comes to mind- how in 1904 (supposedly) Thomas Fletcher and Edward Wadsworth combined resources to create a motorcycle. as they found their full last names would not fit on the tank, they decided to call it a "1904 FL#TCHW&D"... let's see if the Washington DMV buys the story and grants me a title as an "Antique and/or collectable"...
    but I digress...
    the cheap wallyworld bikes are what got a LOT of people into this hobby. Why not? I got mine up and running for less that $250, and that includes shipping on the engine and two cans of paint to make the gas tank and helmet match. I learned a great deal, both from this forum and from the build and still enjoy the silly thing, The front fender has TWO heavy steel tags holding it in place (I guess they heard about that fiasco) so I am not too worried there. The frame shows no sign of injury, the rims are still quite true. I might eventually put that motor on a Scwinn frame and wheels or keep it as is- they are only good for what? 10k, maybe 20k miles? Fine. When that mill wears out, I will remove it from the bike and give the bike to some kid for Christmas after I clean it up. But I will always remember it...
    the Old Sgt. dance1.flg.usflgr.ly..wee.
     
  17. silverbear

    silverbear The Boy Who Never Grew Up

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    Sgt. Howard,
    My thoughts echo yours pretty closely on this. I didn't use a Wally World bike as my first one, but it was a less than stellar build which taught me so much and gave a great deal of pleasure. It was a step through 63 Schwinn American Deluxe and before the China Girl came into its life had been run around by a little antique Bikebug friction drive motor. With the China Girl I moved into the fast lane so to speak and learned the need for better fastenings, heavy duty rims, fatter tires, first experienced the joy of a Manic Mechanic hub adapter and what it meant to have perfect alignment in the drive line. I was saddened when that good old cruiser burned up in a fire. I salvaged it's heavy Schwinn rear rack and put in on the back of a Worksman build this summer so that something of that first bike could live on. I've learned so much here and now my bikes are much better quality than that first one. Yet, it gave me much and started me down this smiling road of motorbicycle dreams. In some ways it will always be my favorite bike.
    SB
     
  18. biknut

    biknut Active Member

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    No matter what you're talking about, it's always cheaper to buy a factory's finished product than to build the same thing from components. This applies to everything from automobiles, to air conditioners, to bicycles.

    As far Chinese vs American made quality, might as well forget about it. I used to be one of the number one people bashing cheap Chinese junk crap. That was then, this is now. The quality of most stuff coming from China now is so good that when you consider the price, we weren't ever even in the ball game. At least not since the 50's, which is about where China is now. The cheap Chinese bicycle I just bought is about 10x better than any Huffy, or Murry that I had as a kid back in the early 60s.

    I'm not trying to say we can't make high quality items in America. We can, and custom Harley parts are a good example. But now days that only makes since when price is no object. Don't blame it on the Chinese, blame it our own government rules and regulations.
     
  19. bairdco

    bairdco a guy who makes cool bikes

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    i don't blame the chinese, walmart, or any government. i blame the consumer.

    the only time i've ever shopped at walmart was when i was in New Orleans, rebuilding Verizon's network, just days after Katrina wiped it out. it was the only place open (in Covington, i think) so it was either go there or starve.

    after the regular stores opened a few weeks later, i never went to a walmart again.

    besides all that, i realize that i'm not gonna change the world, and people are gonna continue buying cheap goods, so i'm gonna step off my soapbox and just build my bikes the way i want.
     
  20. fishguts

    fishguts New Member

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    What I've learned in 40 years of building hot rods and custom cars of various types is that there's an oversized amount of disaster crisis, oh my God we're all gonna die BS out there and few statistics to back it up. Someone folds a wheel, blows out a hub, swallows a fender or whatever and we start imagining every cheap bike is disassembling while its going down the road, which probably isn't true.

    So honestly, what percentage of MB's have had serious equipment failures? For a particular bike (Chinese or otherwise), wheel, fork, hub, fender, etc. etc., how many have failed and what percentage of failures led to rider injury? In a niche market like this I highly doubt anyone knows - just not enough volume to justify an accurate study. So that leaves us with conjecture and urban legend and opinions based on individual limited experience.

    As in the world of hot rods (a much larger market and also without equipment reliability stats), one needs to use common sense, build to suit the use and keep an eye on equipment maintenance and repair and always remember it is a modified vehicle being used in a way it wasn't originally designed for.
     
    #20 fishguts, Oct 25, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2010

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