How to custom build a mountain bike

Ever wondered why different mountain bikes come with different prices? Are some of these prices exaggerated? Do they truly cost that much to build them? Well, wonder no more, we are here to learn how to build a mountain bike from scratch, and by the end of this article, we can get the answers to all those questions running through your head.

But before we get to that, why would you want to build a mountain bike in the first place? Is it that easy to build it? Can you make it? Will it be functional after you are done? Can you become a mountain bike brand CEO/maker? Is it worth it?

At least, that’s simple to answer. Remember all inventions under the sun began with a simple idea, which became a vision and later a reality. Then there’s always that feeling of pride and self-satisfaction knowing that you own a custom mountain bike, not only that but you can create your own mountain bike and that you have created it!

To top it all up, you can choose what you want to install in it and exclude what displeases you or what you find outdated. Perfect right? Yes, I thought so too.  

Thus, let us walk through this together and find out what you will need, what it will cost, the time, and the how plus the qualifications needed for one to become a mountain bike builder. But before we proceed, let us look at the pros and cons of building a mountain bike.

 

Advantages and disadvantages of building your own Mountain bike.

build a mountain bike
Image by pixaby

They say everything under the sun has its sparks and throwbacks and so do mountain bikes and building one that suits your taste and preference. Let us look at some of them:

 

AdvantagesDisadvantages
You can design It to suit your taste and preference, and above all your intended purpose for it.It might take you more time than buying a new ready-made one.
You can decide on its durability by using strong and highly durable materials.

You get a personal touch and connection to it, knowing you are its creator.

It will cost you more to create your own mountain bike.
If it serves you well and you have the capital, you can decide to start your own mountain bike brand/business line.The process is clumsy and prone to mistakes since you are learning and making at the same time.
You can add new features to it and experiment on them, after all, you have nothing to lose.
The quality of a custom-made bike is higher than the bought one.

Things to consider before building a custom mountain bike

  • Cost – how much would you want to spend on it? Do you have the budget for it? Can you afford it without cutting down on your livelihood? 
  • Time – consider this: do you have enough time on your hands to sit, design, make and assemble it and give room for mistakes and corrections?
  • Space – to build your mountain bike, you need free, uninterrupted space where you can work without distractions or moving to avoid misplacement of tools and parts. 
  • Purpose – consider what you intend to use the bike for? Different purposes need different gears and different frames.
  • Type of materials – depending on your budget, decide if you will use new or used mountain bike parts.
  • Guidance – since it is your first time building a mountain bike, it’s best to be under a superior/experienced person who has the know-how when it comes to the processes involved. 

 

The checklist summary on building a mountain bike

Before embarking on your journey of becoming a bike builder, there are things that you need to acquire first. The issue comes in what you put/install in your mountain bike. If you require a simple, functional, mountain bike, it will be easy, cheap, and affordable to build one. 

On the other hand, if you are looking to build something unique, classy, with over the top features and capabilities, that is going to cost you a fortune. Thus, it is highly recommended for you to create a budget/ financial plan for it in advance so that you will not end up getting disappointed in the process. The extreme parts of the mountain bikes are going to be expensive both acquiring, installing, and fixing them.

For a first-time mountain bike builder, it is best to go for a simple mountain bike, once you have surpassed the beginner level and are now a pro rider and bike builder, you can advance on what you need in building a new improved version of your first trial prototype.

The first step to build a mountain bike is getting materials and parts that suit you before assembling them. Maybe you already have them or you need to buy them first before embarking on the building. Here are a few of the basic and necessary mountain bike parts:

  • The frame – this is the life of the mountain bike and the most important part. Its main purpose to be to support the other parts of the mountain bike. Depending on your purpose for it, choose a frame made from a durable material. Materials range from steel, carbon fiber, to aluminum. 

-Secondly, choose a design and size that suit you. Remember a bigger or smaller size can be an inconvenience.  Also, consider the weight of the frame. For a lightweight and affordable frame, choose those made from aluminum.

  • Wheels–this is the part that determines the motion capabilities of your mountain bike and what it can withstand or go through. Wheels for rugged, mountainous, terrains need to be thick, quality, and tough. Nevertheless, these days wheels can be thin and light but still tough. 
  • Mountain bike wheels comprise of: hubs, rims, and spokes. Generally, the rim has to be large and sturdy while the spokes can be made of soft metal like aluminum. If it is your first time kindly get a wheel that is already assembled since a small mistake can cost you a lot when building a mountain bike wheel.
  • Note the manufacturer – Most of mountain bike wheels are prized by their manufacturers, it is more like one is selling the brand name more than the wheel itself. Thus, don’t get confused by thinking all expensive wheel-types are of high-quality or durable than their counterparts.
  • A quick-release or thru Axle – The two are axles that enable the wheel to hold on to the mountain bike’s frame/body. But since the quick release is getting outdated, most bikers don’t even know what it entails or does. The quick-release comprises a lever that opens up and allows the wheel to be removed from its frame dropouts or its U-shaped fork. 

-on the other hand, thru-axles are adjusted then inserted through frame loops or closed-form to provide room for improvement of the safety, stability, and handling of the mountain bike.

-if one was to choose from the ease in mounting, QRs are easier plus faster to mount onto bike racks as well as use. But when it comes to performance and safety assurance, thru-axles take the crown as they are a choice for most new bike builders.

  • The seat–this is the part of the mountain bike that determined your performance and comfortability since you sit on it, to peddle. The seat should be fitted in a way adjacent to your body (height and weight) and your riding style. For instance, if you are tall don’t let the seat be too low since you will be straining when cycling, ensure it’s adjacent to your waist at the lowest.

-the prices of the seats vary with what you want in them. There are those with suspensions then there are those without. There exist others that are well foamed and soft to sit on then there are the compact hard ones. The more the comfortability of the seat, the higher the price.

NB: Seats for mountain bikes meant for trails and competitions should be thin in size, aerodynamic, and compact to avoid soreness while riding.

  • Pedals with Cranks – cranks are the part that connects the pedal to the chainring whereas the pedal is what you use in getting the bike in motion. Choose a crank that is proportional to your intended speed, the length of the crank is directly proportional to the power and speed of biking. Pedals on the other hand come in direct contact with the riders’ foot. Mountain bike pedals come in three types: platform, caged, and clipped pedals.

– Beginners are advised to the caged or the platform pedals are they can be easy to get off the feet, unlike the clipped ones which are attached to the shoe and can take a while before unclipping. 

– then there is the issue of durability, there are pedals that are made from plastic and tend to break easily when used in rugged terrains, parked wrongly, or exerted intense pressure upon. Such pedals need replacement from time to time and can be an inconvenience when you don’t have finances for them when they break.

– Thus, to avoid the inconvenience and struggle of replacement and to save up on the added expense, go for a long-lasting, reliable pedal, it is recommendable to go for a metal-made one, that can be screwed in and can withstand anything that comes in its way.

  • Brakes–this is the part of the mountain bike that ensures your safety by giving you the power to stop and control your speed while riding. It is a known fact that riding a mountain bike is fun and one can get over-excited and ride at high speeds especially during competitions or retreat mountain trails. This can be extremely dangerous in case the chain comes off or one hits an obstacle and needs to come to a quick halt.  Due to this precaution that needs attending to, it’s best to choose brakes that are high-quality, strong, and firm as they can be your life-savers.

-Mountain bike brakes come in different types and installation methods: V-brakes, disc brakes, and rime brakes. The V and rim brakes are lighter, cheaper, and readily available in stores while disc brakes are a bit expensive. But in this case, disc brakes are quality both in the make and services that they offer. Most people go for them since they are more versatile and powerful than the others.

  • Handlebars–handlebars are the part of the bike that gives the rider control over the mountain bike’s movement. They serve as the steering wheel of the bike and house the controls, the gears, and the brakes. For smooth and freeriding choose a handlebar that’s slightly wider than your shoulders that you can move easily. But take note, different riding styles require different handlebar sizes.

NB: if the handlebars are missing, it is impossible to build a mountain bike that will be mobile and steerable.

  • Gears and chains – these are the parts of the mountain bike that drive the whole structure. A mountain bike comprises of different gears that enable you to ride in different types of terrains. The system with the gear is at the wheel and is run by levers located on the handlebars. It comprises sets of sprockets that move from one to the other as the rider shifts gears. 

The chain on the other hand is attached to the crank system and the chainring and moves in a circular motion as you cycle. 

Apart from the main components needed to build a mountain bike, there are minor parts needed too, in creating an effective, functional, trail bike. These include:

  1. The front fork (a suspension fork) – this helps in ensuring minimal impacts when riding on rugged terrains.
  2. Stem -this is the part that attaches the headset to the handlebar, consider its angle and length when buying one.
  3. Rear shock- this helps in bikes with dual suspension, some are included in the frame.
  4. Brake pads- these help in giving you a firm grip on the brakes.
  5. Wheel axle –choose a wheel axle that’s a thru-axle than a quick release as it will serve you better. 
  6. Kickstand – this is the part of the mountain bike connected to the wheel. It helps the rider when parking their mountain bike in a public area or a designated modern-facility parking space.
  7. Seat post clamp that you can add weight to increase the biking intensity.
  8. The headset – these are a set of bearings that allow the fork to rotate, most of them are thread-less.
  9. Handlebar grips- these help in firming your grip on the handlebars, they are personal and you can choose to exclude them.
  10. Brake levers and gear shifters – these are purchased separately in sets.
  11. Rear derailleur hanger- this is the part that connects the derailleur to the frame and is usually made from aluminum.
  12. Hubs, rims, and spokes – this is for those who want to build their wheel from scratch, though it is not recommended especially if you are a first-time mountain bike builder.  It takes a lot of work and precaution, thus it’s best to acquire one that is already assembled. But just in case you decide to buy them, choose their material, stiffness, and performance carefully before acquiring.
  13. Crank arms –sometimes they can be part of the groupset and don’t need buying. But in case you need them, consider their weight and length.
  14. Chain- this is the part of the mountain bike that’s easy to manipulate as you can add lights to them, shimmering, colors among other things. However, in the world market today, there are two main leading chain brands, the Shimano and the SRAM. They come in a group-set and both are effective and trusted by users thus far.
  15. Cables and bike housings – they are mainly used in non-hydraulic shifters and brakes.
  16. Tires- your riding style and the terrain of riding will determine the type, choice, and tread type of your tires. Biking advisers recommend wide, tough tires as they are safer and sturdier than their thin counterparts.
  17. The water bottle holder- this is the accessory that allows the rider to keep themselves hydrated at all costs and is installed on the frame, above the pedals, and below the upper side of the frame.
  18. Stickers- there are those people who love writings, philosophical phrases, or brand names put on their creation. Thus, one can create stickers and stick them on the frame to satisfy their ego.

 

FAQs

 a. How to build a mountain bike?

After acquiring all the needed parts, assembling them wouldn’t be that hard. All you have to do is follow the instructions given in the manual and the result will come out just fine. In case you are not confident enough, you can get a trainer or a more experienced mountain bike builder to guide you along the process for efficiency and avoidance of missteps. 

First, be confident and believe that you can create a custom mountain bike without failure or missteps. Here is how:

-if you bought a frame that the front fork isn’t already installed, start by installing it. Then install the handlebars, followed by the stem right next to the front fork. After that, you have to fix the saddle then position the bike on the floor facing upside-down, in that the bike is sitting on the saddle and handlebars. 

-then mount the tires on the wheel ensuring they are centered then inflate them with the required pressure.  Once done, install the pedals between the front and the rear wheel directly below the seat and the crankset.

– by now, your bike should be at least half done assembling it. Get the rear tire and add the rear cassette that comes with it and install it in its position. Thereafter install the derailleur (the rear one) close to the rear wheel.

-finally, run the chain through the derailleur and the bike gears and then attach the chain’s ends with a master link. Once done you can use your hand and run the pedal to see if the chain runs smoothly. There you have your full mountain bike fully assembled.

 

b. What do you need to build a bike?

When building a bike there are a lot of parts needed both major and minor parts. The necessary parts include saddle, seat, frame, wheels, handlebars, brakes, and gears. The other parts are added according to your taste and preferences.

 

c.  Is it cheaper to build a bike?

No, it is not. To build your mountain bike from scratch is more costly than buying a new one. This is because you will need to buy all the required parts separately, transport them to your chosen assembling point then invest time in assembling it. And since time is money, the time consumed to putting it up together to the functioning stage is costly than walking into a store and acquiring one!

 

d. How long does it take to assemble a bike?

It is hard to come up with a specific time it will take to assemble a bike. This is because of the availability of materials, the experience of the assembler, and above all the availability of the place and time to put it together.

 

Conclusion

The beauty/glory that comes when you create your mountain bike from scratch is the affection and passion you will have towards it. Remember, psychology states that, we tend to get drawn both physically and emotionally to things made from our efforts be it idea-wise or effort-wise.

For instance, nothing feels better than winning a mountain trail or a riding competition with a mountain bike of your creation. It feels like crowning a personal masterpiece and passing it through the set standards gracefully.

Furthermore, we all love challenges. And getting something that will keep you brainstorming like making your mountain bike is worth all the efforts put in. Thus, I am hoping you will enjoy doing it.

Wait no more, create a budget, find a place, buy the parts then bring them together, once done find time and build your mountain bike from scratch and live to enjoy the work of your hands. You can go a step further and crown yourself officially a mountain bike builder!

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