I have always wanted to build my own bike frame, but I have never had the right opportunity to do so. I never had the chance to work with metal as a kid and certainly didn’t think that I had the skill to build my own frame. This is where my high school senior project came in. I knew from my freshman year that I was going to weld my own frame; somehow. Three years passed and this is what I did.
The first obstacle that I came across came pretty quickly. I knew that just building a frame would be super sweet; however, my project had to have more significance to it. This is where the idea of changing the geometry on an already built bike came in. I wanted to keep at least one bike from ending up in the dump so I purchased an old Diamondback hardtail from Facebook Marketplace for $25, and the journey started.
This bike was headed for the dump until I came in. The Process
I learned how to TIG weld with a local Welder and machinist, Mike Barklow https://www.instagram.com/metalmindset/
. I would go to his shop after school and practice welding, moving to thinner and thinner material each time. Overall, I spent one day, 24 hours total, learning how to TIG weld. This was a very critical part of the project, as I had never welded before this. I learned a bunch! Each week we would work on a new technique, or move to a new piece of metal.
Mock head tube that I made while practicing
Back to the bike. I stripped the $25 bike of parts and paint and began cutting the frame apart.
Stripping and getting ready to cut frame
This process of cutting the frame apart was easy, yet nerve-wracking because I didn’t want to mess up on the first step of the build. I decided to keep the rear end together to help cut down on the welding that I would need to perform. This ended up being a huge time saver and adds a bit more character to the bike.
Making the cuts
Now onto the actual frame building. I was fortunate enough to have the help of the very skilled, Wes Van (https://www.instagram.com/wildflowerbicycles/
), during the frame building portion. We designed a frame in BikeCad that would work for the already small tube lengths, a dirt jumper. We then started building. The rear end was easy. we bent the seat stays down to match the cut seat tube. We ended up brazing the junction of the seat stays and the seat tube because of how difficult it would have been to miter the stays since they were still connected to the rear triangle. This was my first time brazing, and it was pretty fun. I know that my brazing is not perfect, but that is the theme of the bike.
Brazing the rear triangle together.
Pretty shabby, but not too shabby for the first time Brazing.
Once the rear end was done, we mitered the top tube and down tube. I used the original downtube as the top tube on the dirt jumper. Wes had a dented downtube that I used, and I bought a new head tube. Mitering was super easy thanks to the tooling that Wes has.
Mitering and the frame in the jig.
Once mitered, I tacked all the tubes in place and started welding. As expected, I blew a lot of holes in the frame (whoopsies), but that is just the process of welding thin material. I patched some of the smaller holes, and Wes came through as the cleanup crew and patched some of the bigger holes that I made.
Putting on the brake tab seemed easy enough, but because we didn’t have a jig for quick release dropouts, the position is a bit off. For now, I am just running brakeless, which is super fun but scary at first. We finished up by reaming the head tube and calling it good. I put a clear coat on the frame to show off the sub-par welds and the franken-bike feel.
Newborn franken-frame, fresh off the welding table
I built up the bike using a mix of parts from the original bike, parts I had at home, parts from Cycle-Z (a bike repair club at my school), and some new parts. I tried to keep the recycled theme throughout the bike while building it up.
From this, to this
Overall, I spent 49 hours and around $250 total to transform this dump destined bike into a snappy jump bike. Although keeping only one bike out of the dump is not super impactful, I think that this project shows that it is very possible to repurpose old frames that many people find no value in.
Huge thanks to Mike and Wes for their tremendous help in completing this project! This project wouldn't have gone anywhere without their help and generosity! Check them out on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/metalmindset/