Getting back on the road: the Frame

A photo of the author in his kitchen holding up a raod bike frameset and smiling
Yours truly, satisfied with an eBay score.

One of my goals for 2024 is to finish the road bike build I have started, and to start riding again. I have been a few years without a road bike at this point, and itching to get back on the road.

While my previous builds have been a hodgepodge of components gathered in an serendipitous way and as often as not replaced on a whim, I want to be deliberate about selecting components this time, as I hope for this bike to last me, if not a lifetime, at least a few good decades.

My strategy for component acquisition is this: I research what parts exist, decide what I need, and then hunt down the best possible bargain, taking the time I need. The goal is to assemble a high quality collection of parts over time, while avoiding spending extremely unreasonable amounts of money1. Often, this means going for previous generations of specific parts, as these can be found at a significant discount.

When building a bike, the fundamental decision is the selection of a frame. In the past, I rode steel and carbon frames, and loved both the toughness of steel tubing and the lightness and stiffness of carbon. After flirting with the idea of going for high-end carbon, I decided to get a titanium frame — almost as lightweight as carbon, and tough and durable like steel.

Reilly Cycleworks have been on my radar for a long while, but their beautiful titanium bikes always felt like something I would never be able to afford, so I was delighted when my eBay alerts notified me of a Reilly Spectre frame available, not only in my size, but also at a very reasonable price.

The Spectre is listed on Reilly’s website as a “gravel frameset”, but the architecture is very much road-friendly. Reilly’s sales copy reads:

The all-weather, all-road REILLY SPECTRE tackles both the tarmac and off-road trails with speed and comfort.

With up to 38mm tyre clearance and mudguard mounts, it’s the perfect winter bike but come spring, ditch the guards and it’s a full-on, speedy sportive machine. If one of the legendary endurance rides takes your fancy just strap on your bags and race off to break the TCR record. The SPECTRE is a titanium chameleon and probably the only bike you will ever need.

That all sounds good to me! The versatility that the Spectre promises is reassuring: I want to be able to do sportive rides, possibly some touring, but most of all I want to be able to take N. to the nursery, even on the days where the weather is less than perfect (which, in London, is a large chunk of the year indeed).

So, with my partner’s support, I hit that “buy it now” button. The frame is now sitting in its box in our kitchen, waiting for me to gather the rest of the components, and to build it up.

As I go about doing that, I will document the process in a series of posts here. In the next episode, we will talk about maybe the nerdiest part of building a bike: selecting a drivetrain.

See you then!

  1. Nevertheless, I’m afraid this build will not be cheap, either.