How the Build Began

I'd thought about building a bike even before I won the fork. I thought about it the way some people might dream of driving a Ferrari or taking their dream trip to Paris.

Building a bike, being so close to my bike that I understood each of its most subtle loads and mechanisms — this was a wonderful dream.

Friends, I can't work a corkscrew on a wine bottle.

Then I won this fork in the raffle at Spiderfest. Spiderfest is a local MTB'ers party in the fall. I'd gotten a small taste of dirt and wanted to meet people I might ride with.

I showed up with my bike, which was kind of like taking a butter knife to a gun fight... went out alone on the one section of dry easy trail and promptly tumbled on the first hill... didn't meet anyone new but managed to have an unpleasant and public falling out with one of the four people I did know... and then won the Reba in the raffle. It was the grand prize at the end of the night. I must've looked like some random soccer mom who had wandered up from her campground and won a fork, new in box. Weird night all around.

The fork didn't sell on eBay. So... why not? I looked at cheap frames online and priced components. And realized that because I had the fork, I could build a really nice hardtail for the same money as a heavier entry-level bike.

All I had to do was choke down my puritanical guilt about spending money on myself. I went back and forth finding every deal I could, developing specs. I read as much about each part and make of part as I could find. I spent a lot of time at, and let me tell you, there are people out there who are EXTREMELY INVOLVED with their headsets.

After many measurings of my inseam, measurements of my current ride, test stances over bikes with very different geometries at the shop, sorting through advice, and a lengthy online chat with tech support at Performance, I finally took a deep breath, clicked Pay Now, and bought a frame in January. The head tube was dented. It was the last Performance frame in my size. Discontinued. The search for a frame went on for another month, then a stretch of puritanical guilt, then the find -- an Orbea frame in my size for twice my frame budget. Do I love my frame?

Zoolander checked my specs and offered some corrections and suggestions, and I taxed my puritanical nerve at each turn. "When the hell you going to get this bike built?" says ZL for a couple of months now. We're two weeks out from the season's MTB race opener and the bike is not yet built.

But it happens this week. The parts are in or arriving. The frame and fork are at the shop. The headset will be installed and the tube cut tomorrow. To calm my panic state trying not to think of that tube cut (what if they cut too much? what if something goes wrong?), I will show off my bike parts to you tomorrow.

And that is how I came to build a bike. Why a mountain bike? Well... a) because I have all the road bike I could possibly need and then some, and b) because MOUNTAIN BIKERS ARE THE HAPPIEST-LOOKING PEOPLE ON THE PLANET.

And I want me some of that.