First Bike Build...Need Advice


Retro Newbie
Hi everyone,

I'm looking to build my first bike and need some advice with regards to the frame or the general build?

I've been looking at steel road bike frames (Colnago, Gazelle, Merckx etc.) how ever I'd like to put 25/28mm tyres on for durability and I'd like to be able to ride along the gravel/compact dirt paths around my the roads round me can be one big pothole sometimes.

How ever I'm not too sure if this will work with some of the frames due to the clearance. Could anyone shed some light on this for me? Point me in an alternative direction? Or highlight any issues that they've had in the past with this topic?

I guess this will also apply to the brakes with regards to them being cantilever or caliper...

Thanks in advance.


Senior Retro Guru
Most bikes except for the tightest racers will clear a 25. Anything with mudguard eyes ought to clear a 28 or more.

If you're going on bumpy stuff a lot, I'd probably recommend not getting a too high-end steel frame but stick with standard gauge 531 or similar. Tubes on high-end frames are very thin and the bumps will eventually fatigue the steel and crack a tube. The potholes on my commute eventually broke the downtube on my Bob Jackson, which was incredibly thin steel. Bigger frames put less strain on the downtube, due to the longer head tube - that's worth bearing in mind if your roads are bad.

Old Ned

Old School Grand Master
Try and find a cyclo-cross frame or bike? Plenty of clearance for wide tyres (I should hope!). A decent steel one should be OK, a carbon or alu. one, especially if it's been raced etc., might be a bit suspect?


Retro Wizard
Alternatively look for a UK frame designed for 27" (ETRTO 630) rather than 700C wheels. It gives that extra few mm of clearance.


Retro Newbie
Second the going for a lower end frame, especially as it's your first build; I wouldn't want to take any of the frames you've mentioned off road, i'd be terrified!


Retro Newbie
Thanks for the advice, with regards to the off-road aspect, maybe I've made it seem more than it would only be on towpaths...the only thing I could compare it to would be similar terrain to that of the Tuscany L'Eroica event.

The advice may still be the same, or you may say that the idea of thicker tyres just isn't necessary.

Definitely right about the cheaper frame though...don't want to get too ahead of myself before I've even started.