How to Build a Mountain Bike from Scratch

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Any serious cyclist has likely dreamed of building their own mountain bike at some point or another. After all, most people already have their own idea of what their dream bike would involve. This is why we decided to put this guide together for anybody that’s planning to build their own mountain bike from scratch.

Now, before we go any further, we do want to point out that we’re not going to give you a step-by-step on how to build a mountain bike here. That’s something that would take thousands upon thousands of words.

And, even then, the information may not necessarily be accurate to the components that you have purchased. Instead, we are going to give you a general overview of the process and what’s involved.

Building Your Own Mountain Bike

Here, we want to go through the key steps involved when it comes to building your own mountain bike.

As we said, we aren’t going to talk about slotting your components together here. This is a really complex task. Instead, we want to give an overview of everything involved.

This is because many people often tend to underestimate the amount of effort that you need to put in.

Required Components

There are a lot of separate components that you’re going to need to source for your mountain bike build:

  • Bike frame and fork. This may come as a set.
  • Wheels; Tires
  • Handlebars; Handlebar Stem. These will likely have to be purchased separately. 
  • Brakes and braking system. These will normally be purchased separately.
  • Pedals
  • Chains
  • Bike saddle
  • Crankset
  • Gearing system (i.e. your derailleurs)
  • Bottom bracket

Basically, if you’re looking into the idea to build your own mountain bicycle, each and every component is going to need to be purchased separately.

Outside of a few items e.g. frame and the fork, it’s rare that anything will be available as a set.

This means that you’ll likely end up with dozens of components that you somehow need to slot together. As we said, this is going to be a lot of work.

Required Tools

Surprisingly, a DIY bike build doesn’t involve that much in the way of specialist tools. In fact, you don’t need any specialist tools. Assuming that you have the following in your tool kit, then you should be good to go.

Most of these are tools that you tend to use to maintain a bike anyway:

  • Screwdriver set
  • Hex key set
  • Wrench set
  • Pedal wrench
  • Wirecutters
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Tire pump
  • Bike grease

How to Purchase Your Components

Many people that are looking into how to build a mountain bike from scratch seem to believe that it’s going to be cheaper than purchasing a readymade mountain bike from a manufacturer. It isn’t. Even if you used exactly the same components, then you can still expect your DIY mountain bike to be a good 20-30% more expensive.

Even if you wait for a few sales, you’ll still end up paying a lot more. As a result, you should only really be building your own MTB if you love the idea of a project, or you’re simply looking for a bike build that no manufacturer offers.

Before you even think about shopping for bike components, you are going to need to make a list up of everything that you want in your dream bike. This may be a specific frame style or material. It may be a type of braking system that you really want or even a specific gear ratio.

Once you have made up a list of your ideal components, you can get to researching them. Not all bike components are going to be compatible with one another. For example, the type of frame that you want may not necessarily accept the wheels that you need.

This means that you may need to make a few sacrifices here and there. This stage is one of the most important parts of the bike build. If you skip it, you may end up with components that simply aren’t fit for purpose.

At the same time, you may also want to look into a few reviews for the components that you have your eye on. Some of your dream components may not be all that they are cracked up to be, so you may want to switch them out of your build.

Once you have made up a list of the components that you need, you can go out and purchase them. You may need to buy from different stores in order to ensure that you get the best possible price.

Preparing for Your Build

Don’t even think of building your women’s mountain bike until every single one of your components has arrived.

We know some people have jumped the gun on their bike build and, often, they find that they have to undo everything that they had already done in order to slide a late-arriving component into their build.

As we said, we’re not going to go through every single stage of the bike build here. This is because every single bike build is different.

What we do suggest that you do is carry out your research into the type of bike build you’re doing i.e. all of the components that you’re using and work out how everything is supposed to fitting together.

The process will likely be something similar to this:

  • Attaching the headset to the frame
  • Attaching the fork to the frame
  • Attaching the wheels
  • Installing the tires
  • Installing the brakes
  • Installing the gearing system
  • Installing the handlebars
  • Attaching shifters and brakes to the handlebars
  • Installing crank-set
  • Installing the derailleur 
  • Attaching the chain
  • Attaching or replacing the pedals
  • Attaching the seat

As you can see, there are a lot of steps here. Each individual step will involve numerous tasks. This is why it’s so important that you draw up a plan of how you want to be attaching everything together before you jump in. This way you don’t get anything wrong.

How Long Will a Mountain Build Bike Take?

It’s likely going to take you between 4 and 6 hours to complete your build. It may even take a little bit longer than that if you have no idea what you’re doing. 

Completing and Testing the Mountain Bike Build 

Once everything has been pieced together, you still need to spend a bit of time calibrating everything.

This means ensuring that the derailleur is in the right position, that the chain is moving smoothly, that the gears work, etc. Then you have the staple adjusting the height of your seat, handlebars, etc.

The last part of the build is essentially the same sort of stuff that you would be doing if you were doing a spot of maintenance of your bike. Therefore, it should be pretty simple.

Conclusion

Learning how to build a mountain bike is neither going to be a cheap or easy process.

Expect to be spending at least 20-30% more on components than if you bought the bike directly from a manufacturer. Expect to be spending hours and hours on your build.

However, at the end of it, you’ll have completed a highly rewarding process. You’ll have ended up with a bike that’s truly designed for you.

James Mattis

James is a passionate bicyclist who has done about every kind of biking there is. He loves the wind in his hair, the sun over his shoulder and maybe even the bugs in his teeth. No, just kidding about that last item. He isn’t crazy about road burns, either, but acknowledges that to have the good there is the occasional tumble. James feels that his bike is the place where he can unwind, leave troubles alongside the road, meet new people, go new places, and live the life of adventure that he loves. He is ready to share the ride with you.

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