1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
mtn. biking 101
2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
Results 1 to 18 of 18
  1. #1
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    Can I just build it?

    So, being a noob sucks, but you gotta start somewhere. Here it goes: I've ridden bikes before (who hasn't). I've been on bmx and mountain bikes pretty much all my life. Nothing too serious, just as kids do with their cheap box store bikes. I've always dreamed of having one of those freakin awesome bikes that cost more than I could ever afford. So, recently I got to thinking and decided that building one sounds like a good idea. Here is my thought process:

    a) it's always cheaper to build it yourself (part for part, used, etc)
    b) you can pay for what you can afford at the moment
    c) if you are willing to buy something used but still functional, you can usually get better parts for close to the same price
    d) hopefully the end result is something amazing
    e) familiarity and intimacy with your project when it needs attention

    with that being said, I have a few questions:

    1) can I start with a mediocre mountain bike and upgrade it?
    2) would parts be interchangeable?
    3) would my above assumptions be correct assuming I set a budget and stuck with it?
    4) what is a good frame to start with that is very compatible to upgrades?

    I am looking for an all mountain type bike that I can maybe build in a year or so for $1000 or less. FS or hard tail. I know there are tons of variables, but I'm just looking to start. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    I'm not a building expert, but I'll give my $.02:

    a) it is not always cheaper to build it yourself. Often, big bike companies get parts much cheaper than you can; the sum of the parts on my bike (at retail, at least) is a good deal more than I actually paid for it. I think closeout/end of year deals are probably the best bang for the buck (I got the bike in my sig for about 60% of msrp on an end of year sale -- purchased piecemeal at retail prices, just the suspension, drivetrain, and brakes would cost more than I paid for the whole bike). Also, this assumes you have the tools (there are a fair number of special tools that are needed) and the ability to do it right. Also, hopefully your time is worth something, which people fail to account for.

    b) true. but you don't have anything to ride in the meantime.

    c) You can get good deals on used parts, if you know what you are looking for and all that. You can get burned, too -- for example, my brother bought a used fork off ebay that wasn't the model it was represented to be, and ended up needing several hundred dollars worth of overhaul/repairs to get functional. In the end, he only saved a couple hundred dollars (this was a high end DH fork), his bike was inoperable for a few weeks, and he still had a 5 yr old fork to show for it. Unless you know what you're looking at, used parts are a crapshoot in my book.

    d) maybe result in an amazing bike, or perhaps a hodgepodge of mixed parts that don't work particularly well together and always needs fixing when you could be out on the trail.

    e) true, plus the satisfaction of having built it yourself. Not my thing, but some people like building as much as riding.

    1) Many feel your bike is only as good as your frame. I'm in that group of people.

    2) some parts are interchangeable, some are not. If you don't already know what those are going in, you may be in for problems.

    Summary -- if you want to build a bike, go for it, but don't expect you'll be saving a ton of money or necessarily coming out with a better product for your $$ invested.
    '11 Specialized Enduro Expert for the trails
    '13 Felt Z4 for the road

  3. #3
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    Every bike I have, I've built from buying the majority of the parts online and I can honestly say, its not a money saving way to get a bike. I budgeted my last bike for $1200. When it was all said and done, its much closer to $2000. But like you said, its a way to buy what you can afford at the, plus you also get the parts you want, which is why I like putting together a bike piece by piece.

  4. #4
    Cleavage Of The Tetons
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    With bikes, it is never cheaper to 'build it yourself'. In general.
    "We LOVE cows! They make trails for us.....

    And then we eat them."

  5. #5
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    I am pretty new to MTB, so take my views with a grain of salt.

    If you bought a mid level bike and upgraded, obviously you would have something to ride now, but it would not save you any money simply because you are paying for some parts twice. If you bought piece by piece from scratch, you don't have anything to ride NOW. For me, this would be a bad approach!

    Most mid level bikes don't have great wheels or great forks or great frames. These are the most expensive components on a bike, and if you want the best of all of them, a premade bike is most likely the way to go for lowest cost (but wow what a cost it would be!)
    If you could buy a mid level bike with either very good wheels, fork, or frame, I think that could be a good way to go, though bikes generally aren't sold this way.

    I chose to buy an entry level Revel 0 29er 6 months ago. I've had a blast with it since day one, but have recently upgraded the fork and the wheels. Many would say I should have just bought a 'good' bike to begin with, but how much would it cost to buy a new bike with a Reba RLT and Arch EX wheels? For the money I have spent, I would still not have as good of wheels or fork, though probably a slightly better frame.

    In the end, the goal is to have fun right? So the question is how to get the most fun for the least money you want to spend. For some people, spending money is fun!?

    PS - I think the suggestion for looking for a clearance bike is a great one, now is a great time of year to do that too!

  6. #6
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    I'll echo the sentiment that building your own is not cheaper unless you have a bunch of spare parts laying around.

    Typically, if you own a nice bike (or two) then just swapping out a frame or swapping out a set of wheels or whatever IS cheaper than buying an off the shelf bike.

    For example, I'm riding a Dialled Bikes Prince Albert which I built up initially for about $1400 with a mix of new and used parts. Over the course of two years, I've upgraded the brakes and fork. And now I am ready to swap the frame out. But I'll be re-using all my existing components.

    In the end, if I want to build my bike from scratch with new parts, it would cost about $2400.

    In any case, going back to your background and your current needs. Find a the nicest used HT you can find. With your BMX background, you should be able to do very well on most terrains with just about any bike. But get the nicest component set you can afford on your bike.

    Then when the time comes, you can look at swapping out just the frame and fork or just sell it off and pick up something that is more suited to your riding style.
    Just get out and ride!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by The FNG57 View Post
    So, being a noob sucks, but you gotta start somewhere. Here it goes: I've ridden bikes before (who hasn't). I've been on bmx and mountain bikes pretty much all my life. Nothing too serious, just as kids do with their cheap box store bikes. I've always dreamed of having one of those freakin awesome bikes that cost more than I could ever afford. So, recently I got to thinking and decided that building one sounds like a good idea. Here is my thought process:

    a) it's always cheaper to build it yourself (part for part, used, etc)
    b) you can pay for what you can afford at the moment
    c) if you are willing to buy something used but still functional, you can usually get better parts for close to the same price
    d) hopefully the end result is something amazing
    e) familiarity and intimacy with your project when it needs attention

    with that being said, I have a few questions:

    1) can I start with a mediocre mountain bike and upgrade it?
    2) would parts be interchangeable?
    3) would my above assumptions be correct assuming I set a budget and stuck with it?
    4) what is a good frame to start with that is very compatible to upgrades?

    I am looking for an all mountain type bike that I can maybe build in a year or so for $1000 or less. FS or hard tail. I know there are tons of variables, but I'm just looking to start. Thanks in advance.
    a) It is almost always more expensive to build it yourself. Unless you have all the time in the world, then you might be able to come out on top. Very contingent on how well you can identify exactly what part is a good buy and if it fits on what you're building.
    b) This is true.
    c) True, but do you know how to identify a gently used part vs. a beat to death one? Just because someone only "rode it on weekends" doesn't mean that they aren't a DH pro who is very hard on parts.
    d) That's the goal right!?!
    e) This is a great reason to build something. Much better than trying to save money.

    1) You can but it's not a good value.
    2) Most likely not. The big stuff will usually transfer like brakes (disc) shifters and derailleurs. Things like forks and wheels are a question mark, you have to make sure your bike uses the same type as the one you're changing to. And bottom brackets, seatposts, and cables won't usually transfer unless you're lucky.
    3) Not sure what this is referring to.
    4) What kind of riding do you want to do? What have you rode and what do you like best? The answer to this question depends on you and what you want out of a bike. If anyone recommends a particular frame to you without you providing more information, they're being misleading.

    Buying a complete bike is always a better value if you don't have something to ride right now. If you can afford to be patient, picking up things piece by piece may work out to be a better value, but you had better know what you're doing. If you start buying the wrong part, your budget gets blown really fast.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  8. #8
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    I'm in the same boat here so to speak. I ended up with a freebie bike as a gratuity from my workplace benefits. It's a $300 no-frills, entry level bike. But as I looked it over wondering what to do with it I thought it may have some potential as a decent XC bike if I did some upgrades.

    I absolutely hated the saddle and handlebar/grip set-up and immediately changed them out. Saddle, seat post, grips, bars, stem, levers. Well that was $170.00 (on sale parts).

    Then I changed the forks. The Suntour XCT V4's were swapped out for RockShox Tora 302's. That was another $200. Rear shock was next. Another $200.

    Then I upgraded from 8 speed to 9 with a SRAM 990 cassette and 991 chain (another $100). Swapped out the front disc (Promax) with Avid BB7 front and Avid Single Digit rear V-Brakes ($15 which later got switched out with a 180mm rear Avid BB7 ($100 for both bB7's) then I changed wheels (Vedette alloy to WTB Laserdisc XC's - $150). Bought the wrong headset initially (FSA Pig Pro DH - $20 on sale) and had to go with an integrated set (Cane Creek-$40). Front & rear SRAM X9 (shifters & deraileurs - $175).

    I resold the Avid single digits and FSA headset for exactly what I had in them. But did I save money ultimately?? Probably not...

    I didn't include the LBS costs for some of the work I had neither the tools or the skills to do (crankset $130).

    But you know what...I got the parts I wanted and thought (via research) that I made up a pretty decent XC bike. At least for me.

    And maybe that's the point. Like everyone said, if you shop around for sales, you can find some good buys. If you don't do your homework, you can make some costly mistakes (thank god for eBay). And if you're a complete control freak like me who loves to tinker around, it all works out in the end. Or not...

    Would I do it differently? I don't know. Honestly I don't. I'm sure I could have found a nice (complete) bike for what I invested. But I'm happy with it.
    Last edited by BodeZapha; 07-30-2013 at 08:53 PM. Reason: spelling error

  9. #9
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    When I was 14 years, I volunteered to help out at an LBS that was a few blocks from my home, so I learned a lot from there. I love working on bikes and putting them together. With two Park Tools workstands, I work on all my friends' bikes whenever they need stuff done whether its servicing their forks (Fox) to just lubing and tuning the bike up. For me, getting a bike piece by piece is just fun. Its also a great way to learn about your bike.

  10. #10
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Since you mention a budget, let me share a story. A while ago, a friend of mine decided he wanted to try mountain biking. He'd been riding on the road and commuting for ages, so he already knew bikes okay. He's also a thrifty sort.

    So he went to a few of our local shops including the big chain store that's always having a sale and one that started out dealing exclusively in used bikes. He ended up buying a lightly used, late-model Giant. I can't remember if it was the Anthem or the Trance. Not the bottom-tier build, either. Thing cost him $600. I think that the only hookup that you could apply to parts but not apply even better to a complete bike would be a sponsorship from a component manufacturer. Even then, a sponsorship from a company selling complete bikes would probably trump it.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  11. #11
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    Another fine post from zebrahum above

    Building up piece by piece may be cheaper than buying entry level, and then riding the upgrade train into oblivion. Economically speaking, those (buying cheap entry level and then upgrading, or building up from scratch) are the two least economical ways to get into a decent bike. There will be anecdotal exceptions to the rule, but they mostly prove the general validity of the rule.

    If you build piece by piece, and expect to be searching for good deals, you must also know all of the compatibility issues awaiting you. There are now a multitude of standards with virtually every part on a modern mountain bike. Novice riders are unlikely to know all of them, but if due diligence is done, it's certainly possible. Whether or not it is probable is another story. For better or worse, you end up with exactly what you have chosen.

    Some of the issues related to various standards:

    Frame (you should start with a frame, because the first part you begin with will have to be built around): Size (example: all 18" frames are not equal), geometry concerns, intended use.
    Fork: Travel, steerer type (1-1/8", tapered, 1.5" are most common these days), axle type (QR, QR15 or 20 mm).
    Crankset: Chainring sizes, bottom bracket type
    Bottom Bracket: Has to be compatible with both the frame and crankset.
    Front derailleur: Has to match attachment type that frame was designed for (top or bottom pull, top, mid or bottom swing), attachment type [seat tube size, or direct mount], cage angle, 2x or 3x [sometimes 3x can be used as a 2x], chainring size/range, swingarm/tire clearance, possible chainline issues.
    Rear Derailleur: Pull ratio of the shifters (Shimano or SRAM), max rear cog size, range [min and max tooth count] will determine cage length [three sizes available], 8 speed, 9 speed, or 10 speed?.
    Wheels: Rim diameter (26" 27.5", or 29", appropriate inner rim width for tire sizes being used, appropriate balance of intended use and weight, spoke count, spoke type and size being appropriate for rider size/weight and intended use, axle size/type/width, hub and freehub durability/serviceability.
    Cassette: Number of speeds, appropriate range for intended use, whether or not an aluminum carrier/spider is needed to keep from damaging an aluminum freehub body.
    Headset: Conventional, integrated, or semi-integrated, size (as it relates to both the head tube of the frame, and the steerer of the fork), stack height.
    Stem: Length, rise angle, handlebar diameter, steerer diameter.
    Seat post: Diameter, length, clamp type, clamp offset.
    Brakes: caliper mount type, appropriate rotor size, rotor attachment type, ergonomic compatibility with shifters, hose length (with hydraulic type).

    These are just some of the possible issues. Some of these things, you should be aware of even when buying a complete bike at the local bike shop, but those bikes already have the compatibility issues resolved. If you buy a bike designed for XC use, it will have parts that are designed for that level of use, and shouldn't have any glaring weaknesses that are holding the rest of the bike back.
    =========================
    "and shouldn't have any glaring weaknesses that are holding the rest of the bike back"

    This is one of the major flaws with upgrading an entry level bike. First major thing people generally go after is the fork. Now, you have a fork that will allow you to ride harder, and then you start finding both the performance and durability limits of other parts (not to mention weight concerns), and it generally continues until you only have the frame, and maybe the front derailleur, that are from the original bike. You will usually have applied lipstick to a pig (an entry level frame), and you will usually have spent quite a bit more to do so.

    If you have the money, and/or maybe just want to do what you want to do, then knock yourself out. It's your money and time.

    Q: Why do I have an opinion, as well as a little bit of knowledge of how this process works?

    A: Because I have done it both ways.

    I'm not saying you shouldn't do it. Just saying that you can make the best decision to do so by having both eyes wide open and being fully aware of what you're getting yourself into and are likely to end up with.

    Party on Garth!

  12. #12
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    Just do the math for what you want in your bike. If you can get the parts on sale and it adds up just right....go for it. It worked for me. Not a huge savings (couple of Benjis), but in the end I got exactly what I wanted for less.

  13. #13
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    Two things usually influence bike spending for a new rider.
    Most have never been on a mtb trail.
    That strongly affects the amount of their resources they think about committing to the sport.
    And the big manus don't give them a break. Bikes in the 400-1000 range look good but are for bike paths not trails.
    Once out on a rollercoaster trail the fun and challenge takes over and a better choice could be made. New riders hardly ever hit demo days before buying.
    But at that point the second thing comes up.
    The new rider has to learn what components currently offer the best value for the performance. And where to find these parts at the best prices.
    An example is SLX brakes, XT/XTR stopping for 160 a set.

  14. #14
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    Well, I have built quite a few bikes from the ground up for myself, and for a lot of other people... this is my $.10:

    1. It is not always cheaper. Unless you are a real bargain hunter and don't mind older parts that are in many cases just as good as the latest models, you will spend more money. For me, I use the XTR 952 series stuff from 2001. It's light and it works, but I had to disassemble and clean everything. But it was cheap and I have boxes of the stuff now. Just one example.

    2. You can pay for what you want... VALID! I agree 100%.

    3. Used parts... VALID... see my comments in #1... for myself I use a lot of pre-owned stuff. When I build for other people though, they want new, and high-end.

    4. Amazing end result... I hate to tell you, but building bikes is trial and error. "Hope" is a good word... I hope it turns out to be amazing. #1 thing I have learned is that the geo-specs of a frame are just a starting point. The end product is the sum of all, not a freakin' math problem. It is a qualitative venture.

    5. Familiarity... ABSOLUTELY! Love that point! I like finding things out. Messing with stuff is a great way to find stuff out.


    So... you can start with whatever you want. I have a $10 used Motobecane frame from 2005 that is a frankenbike. It is wonderful and who would have known. Start with whatever you like, but have a goal and KEEP THE END IN MIND. What is your ultimate goal? What is the absolute least you need to achieve it? If that is some AL banger frame, cool. If it is a Hard Eddy frame, then get it.

    Most parts are interchangeable. That said, the MTB market has been in a techno-flux as of late. Wheelsize, headset sizes, axle types, axle sizes, BB30 vs EBB vs plain old BB's... there are a lot of choices and some of those choices will dictate other parts of your build. So do you homework.

    Best frame to start to ensure compatibility? A 2013 frame from a known mfg that doesn't use a bunch of proprietary gear.


    Quote Originally Posted by The FNG57 View Post
    So, being a noob sucks, but you gotta start somewhere. Here it goes: I've ridden bikes before (who hasn't). I've been on bmx and mountain bikes pretty much all my life. Nothing too serious, just as kids do with their cheap box store bikes. I've always dreamed of having one of those freakin awesome bikes that cost more than I could ever afford. So, recently I got to thinking and decided that building one sounds like a good idea. Here is my thought process:

    a) it's always cheaper to build it yourself (part for part, used, etc)
    b) you can pay for what you can afford at the moment
    c) if you are willing to buy something used but still functional, you can usually get better parts for close to the same price
    d) hopefully the end result is something amazing
    e) familiarity and intimacy with your project when it needs attention

    with that being said, I have a few questions:

    1) can I start with a mediocre mountain bike and upgrade it?
    2) would parts be interchangeable?
    3) would my above assumptions be correct assuming I set a budget and stuck with it?
    4) what is a good frame to start with that is very compatible to upgrades?

    I am looking for an all mountain type bike that I can maybe build in a year or so for $1000 or less. FS or hard tail. I know there are tons of variables, but I'm just looking to start. Thanks in advance.
    - The only thing that keeps me on a bike is happiness.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by OmaHaq View Post
    ...The end product is the sum of all, not a freakin' math problem. It is a qualitative venture.
    You're doing math wrong.

    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  16. #16
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    Wow, I definitely got some good feedback here. I have been looking at used bikes and sale bikes online and I agree that it would be a better all around idea for a new guy to buy a setup that is already complete and ready to ride. I have also come to the conclusion that although it may be more expensive to build a bike, I can buy it 1 piece at a time as I can afford it (although this usually proves to be a poor decision in my case). So I will thank you for your guys' input and continue my quest looking for the perfect bike for me to big in with.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by The FNG57 View Post
    So, being a noob sucks, but you gotta start somewhere. Here it goes: I've ridden bikes before (who hasn't). I've been on bmx and mountain bikes pretty much all my life. Nothing too serious, just as kids do with their cheap box store bikes. I've always dreamed of having one of those freakin awesome bikes that cost more than I could ever afford. So, recently I got to thinking and decided that building one sounds like a good idea. Here is my thought process:

    a) it's always cheaper to build it yourself (part for part, used, etc)
    b) you can pay for what you can afford at the moment
    c) if you are willing to buy something used but still functional, you can usually get better parts for close to the same price
    d) hopefully the end result is something amazing
    e) familiarity and intimacy with your project when it needs attention

    with that being said, I have a few questions:

    1) can I start with a mediocre mountain bike and upgrade it?
    2) would parts be interchangeable?
    3) would my above assumptions be correct assuming I set a budget and stuck with it?
    4) what is a good frame to start with that is very compatible to upgrades?

    I am looking for an all mountain type bike that I can maybe build in a year or so for $1000 or less. FS or hard tail. I know there are tons of variables, but I'm just looking to start. Thanks in advance.
    I agree jeffj, zebrahum and tysteven posts were awesome.

    It would not be $1000 but it's definitely possible do get a kick A$$ education and bike at the same time for a bit more.

    What you mentioned is pretty much just a bit more than a walk in the park for experience riders with multiple bikes in the stable. Many installations and tunings are quite simple. More important they'd have extra parts in the drawer somewhere

    That said these skills usually acquired over a period of time, learning to adjust the brake here, adj the shifter there and so on. It can be quite overwhelm to learn all things at once. Then, you need tools. You don't need fancy tools or bikes stand but building a bike with proper tools make it very easy to get the job done. You can always use the mini pump to install the tire but it's very difficult and take a lot of efforts and time, compare to using air compressor with built-in gauge, for example.

    Things like headset, fork installation(cutting the steerer) and facing/tapping job can be done by the local bike shop(LBS) for a small fee. So you just need a basic tool kit, you can pick up from PricePoint, Jensen, Bluesky, etc, I do recommend some form of bike stand. Then just lubes and grease and small parts like cable/ housing and cable caps. None are terribly expensive, but buy all at the same time can certainly dip into your bike budget a bit.

    As for your question about the frame. Hardtail is cheaper(in general) than Full Suspension it's considered the heart of the bike, get a good frame to start. The good news is many models(alloy) from entry level to top of the line, share the same frame, but has different components so you can start with the entry level and upgrade along the way. On a few FS model they offer different shock than the more expensive model so if you can get the one with the good shock..

    If I were in your position this is what I'd do. Buy a used but good frame like Cannondale Rize, Rush, Prophet then ride it, when the urge comes then pick a few things to upgrade like tires, wheels, fork, shifters, brakes, and so on. If it has entry level components, don't upgrade to the next level up I'd skipped, for example, Shimano Deore, don't buy LX or SLX skip to XT. That's just an example of one bike brand and component brand. Do your homework.

  18. #18
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    Im currently in a similar situation. I'm a noob and Ive started building my first full suspension bike. My thought was the same as you that it would be cheaper to buy the parts one by one. So far I think this might be the case but its taking a lot of time researching and finding bargains that will work together. Luckily, I enjoy doing it so I dont mind. Others would hate spending hours searching the internet everyday for the same parts. Each to their own I guess.

    I started with a frame (Santa Cruz heckler) and thus far have purchased the crankset, cassette, chain, front & rear derailleurs, shifters (all Shimano XT), pedals & handle bars. Everything is brand new and bought at a discount and I think I'm at around $1200 with some of the major expenses left (Fork, wheels & brakes). But, when I look at the cost on the Santa Cruz site for a new Heckler with the SLX kit they price at $2999 (plus tax maybe??) it seems like Im building a better specced bike (at least on paper) for cheaper or similarly priced. However, what I'm finding is the the research results are a killer. With almost every part I have looked at im upgrading to the next one in line (i.e SLX to XT) which can add up. $40 on the XT crankset over the SLX same on the derailleurs and every other part can take its toll on the final spenditure.

    I havent started building yet so not sure if I will run into any compatibility issues but so far Im enjoying the process and if you enjoy researching parts/compatibility/bargain hunting and have good restrained you can build a bike cheaper than purchasing new.

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