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  1. #1
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    Building a 29er: Buy a boxed bike from LBS or assemble ala carte?

    Hello all,

    I'm new here but I really want to build a 29er mountain bike. I currently have a Trek 1.1 Alpha that I ride to and from work (weather permitting) but have a real itch to assemble my own bicycle.

    The build here is the main driver, and I'm trying to decide if it would be better to buy a boxed bike unassembled from my local bike shop, or piece it all together individually. I like the idea of doing all the research and grabbing each piece to get exactly what I want, but it appears to be cost-prohibitive. I have my eye on the Trek Cobia at $1100-$1200 and my rough draft has that as a soft budget cap, but I am finding myself going over budget rather quickly on my custom ala carte selection. Individual parts are obviously better in the piece by piece option, but at a significantly higher cost. I am willing to spend more if it is worth it in the end.

    Question here boils down to which is more prudent: Buy the boxed bike and assemble it myself or pick it piece by piece and assemble full-on custom?

    Thanks for the input.

  2. #2
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    buying a custom bike one piece at a time is going to easily cost you 3-4 times what a complete bike will cost. you might be able to buy a "build kit" package of some sort.

    because of the agreements that most LBS have with manufacturers, you can NOT buy a brand new boxed bike from a dealer. this is to protect the brand, so if you screw something up in the assembly process and something fails on the bike, the manufacturer knows that the problem probably has a legit warranty claim because the bike was assembled by "professional" mechanics (which was hopefully the case, if you picked a decent shop). if they let every Tom, Dick, and Harry assemble their own bikes, most of them will do it wrong, use the wrong tools, and end up hurting themselves.

    if you really want to do this, you will have to ask your LBS. if they are cool, and not terribly busy, maybe they will schedule a time to let you at least watch and help out a little with the assembly.

    your other option would be to mail-order a bike. I highly suggest you find someone who's pretty handy with a wrench to show you how to do it right. if there is a bicycle co-op near you, they can help you out with tools, work space, and knowledge.

    Community Bicycle Organizations - Bike Collective Network Wiki

    Titus sells a lot of cool bikes with great prices- Titus Cycles/On-One Bikes USA Web Store I have not ridden one of their mountain bikes, but On-One stuff gives you a lot of bang for the buck.

  3. #3
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    Wanting to put a bike together is great . If you want start with something why don't you start with the Trek or find something used . Even the mailorder bikes come mostly assembled , they be put together in a hour or so .

  4. #4
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    Complete bikes come from the manufacturer 90% assembled. If you want to assemble a bike from the frame up, buying a complete bike and finishing the assembly yourself will not satisfy that urge.

    Something else to consider when building a bike from scratch is the tools. There are many bike specific tools that you will need to finish the job properly and the cost could reach into the $100's depending on what you already have on hand.

    My suggestion is to just get the Cobia (great bike for the $$$). If you want to experience building a bike, start by picking up an older bike from another category of riding that you are interested in and doing a complete refurbish on it.
    "There are those who would say there's something pathological about the need to ride, and they're probably on to something. I'd wager though that most of the society-approved compulsions leave deeper scars in the psyche than a need to go and ride a bicycle on a mountain." Cam McRea

  5. #5
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    Here's a video:



    Trying to build a bike up with a budget around $1200 will be tough and a huge commitment.... which the commitment is tirelessly shopping for deals on components. A good fork can easily swallow up half (or more) your budget.

    The other half.... frame.

    then wheels are a good chunk of change....

    and the rest of the components....

    you can save on the frame if you go straight to a chinese source.

  6. #6
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    Guy just built a RIP9 FS with SLX parts for $2700, frame was $1100 and he used a Revelation fork, so to me quite high end parts. Take a peak at Jenson and their OEM SLX 10spd stuff, you could also look at the closer out EMDs, but a cheaper option would be a SETTE Razo or Performance Access frame to build on. Fork will run you the most and most likely you'll end up closer to $1400-1500 with a good frame and fork, but you'll have piece of mind that you won't have to look back at the parts to upgrade because they're already real nice parts.

    As mentioned, there's a few bike specific tools required, but honestly not that many and a lot you can actually make on the cheap if you've a mechanically inclined brain.
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  7. #7
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    Thanks for all of the input, everyone. I'm mostly interested in the build process because I would like to have a project. I am quite mechanically inclined and have a rather reasonable spread of tools from working on my car, house, etc. The painstaking research and learning of the components is part of what interests me, as I work as an IT engineer and the research and assembly is one of the best parts for me.

    I have found that it is much more expensive to build the bike in pieces and like was mentioned before, crushing my budget with basically the bike, frame, and wheels. I have all but decided to buy the Trek, but if I can't assemble it, it then I guess I will have to go back to the drawing board.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    buying a custom bike one piece at a time is going to easily cost you 3-4 times what a complete bike will cost. you might be able to buy a "build kit" package of some sort....
    I don't agree with that. If you price shop and do your homework taking the time to buy when there are sale you can get a better bike at a better piecemeal than buying off the shelf. I did that with my current bike and the reason comes down to getting what you want for every part. Most built bikes come with a mix of components you want and don't want. One bike may have the fork you want, but not crank set. The one with fork and crank set does not have wheelset you want. So you can spend more and overbuy in some areas to get what you want in others or buy just the parts you want to put them on the frame you want.

    if you buy at full retail it will be expensive, but if you buy when parts on on sale or closeout deals you can save a a lot of money and have the bike build exactly as you want it.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  9. #9
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    Don't worry dude, buy the bike, it will come assembled, when you get home strip it right down and then build it back up with the correct torques and grease/lube etc where it needs to be - you'd be surprised at how some companies assemble bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by absenteemessiah View Post
    Thanks for all of the input, everyone. I'm mostly interested in the build process because I would like to have a project. I am quite mechanically inclined and have a rather reasonable spread of tools from working on my car, house, etc. The painstaking research and learning of the components is part of what interests me, as I work as an IT engineer and the research and assembly is one of the best parts for me.

    I have found that it is much more expensive to build the bike in pieces and like was mentioned before, crushing my budget with basically the bike, frame, and wheels. I have all but decided to buy the Trek, but if I can't assemble it, it then I guess I will have to go back to the drawing board.
    One day your life will flash before your eyes, will it be worth watching??
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  10. #10
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    If you buy all the parts and assemble yourself you will spend at least 3x what it would cost to buy one whole. And as previously statedout of the box you get to put on the front tire, pedals, and maybe seat. Sometimes I have rarely seen the handle bars needing installed but never on geared bikes. I would suggest to stay under budget buying used. Get parts off ebay and CL. You can get nice clean parts for less than new an dhave the fun of fitting it all together.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by LyNx View Post
    Don't worry dude, buy the bike, it will come assembled, when you get home strip it right down and then build it back up with the correct torques and grease/lube etc where it needs to be - you'd be surprised at how some companies assemble bikes
    I like this opinion Very Much. The "take it apart and put it back together--RIGHT" approach is a wise and noble venture, and you KNOW you have neither too many nor too few pieces.

    If it's ALL in the building for you, you might make friends and 'volunteer' at the Local Bike Shop (or Bike CO-OP?). It might be a chance to socialize while getting your 'greasy wrench' fix. Proper bike building appears to me to be more involved than Hammer-And-Screwdriver stuff.

  12. #12
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    No you will not, only if you haven't a clue about the parts or where to look for deals. As I previously stated someone just put together a complete RIP9 with SLX 10spd for $2700 US, show me where you'll find that cheaper buying complete from a shop Heck, looking at some of the FS options out there I could buy a low or medium spec frame, strip those parts and sell them, then replace with SLX or XT for way cheaper than the actual company is selling their complete builds for with those parts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thumpy69 View Post
    If you buy all the parts and assemble yourself you will spend at least 3x what it would cost to buy one whole. And as previously statedout of the box you get to put on the front tire, pedals, and maybe seat. Sometimes I have rarely seen the handle bars needing installed but never on geared bikes. I would suggest to stay under budget buying used. Get parts off ebay and CL. You can get nice clean parts for less than new an dhave the fun of fitting it all together.
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  13. #13
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    Buy a hardtail frame that you can afford and that you like. Buy a used donor bike in decent shape that is mostly compatible (wheel size and fork type). Keep $200-400 in your budget for a new headset, bottom bracket, seat post and possibly crankset if you can't get it to fit. Also some specialty tools. Build your bike around the new frame replacing stuff that is too worn or does not fit. You now have a self-built bike on a budget. You may decide that you need to upgrade some components over time.
    Economical this is not unless you find a good donor bike -- try to find one with a damaged frame.

  14. #14
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    Don't do it. It is just too addictive to build your own bike. I currently have 6 bikes and I built all of them including the wheels. I just can't stop messing with bikes. But if you really want to risk getting hooked on bike building, I think you should throw your budget out the window and just build it piece by piece. Like the other guys said, you can get good deals on parts and try to keep the price down if work at it. Buy a nice hardtail frame, seatpost, seatpost clamp, and a bike stand first. Hang the frame from the seatpost on the bike stand (don't forget to grease the seatpost). Then start buying tools and parts one by one to finish the build.

    You will need a lot of bike specific tools to do the job. You could get a basic set of tools packaged together or buy them one by one. Park tools has a good website and they make great bike tools. Keep in mind that a lot of frames need extra prep before assembly - facing and chasing the bottom bracket and facing the headset. That's the only part of the build that I don't have tools for because they are prohibitively expensive. Speedgoat used to include that when you buy a frame from them, I don't know if they still do or not.

    It's probably a better idea to buy a nice used bike and just start swapping out parts to learn how to build bikes...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by LyNx View Post
    No you will not, only if you haven't a clue about the parts or where to look for deals. As I previously stated someone just put together a complete RIP9 with SLX 10spd for $2700 US, show me where you'll find that cheaper buying complete from a shop Heck, looking at some of the FS options out there I could buy a low or medium spec frame, strip those parts and sell them, then replace with SLX or XT for way cheaper than the actual company is selling their complete builds for with those parts.
    Is there a thread for the guy who just put together a RIP9 for $2700?

    One Niner's site, the frame and fork alone is $2700...... so he must of gotten a real steal on the frame & fork

  16. #16
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    I'd just buy a 29er frame, fork and wheels and scavenge the rest off of your other bike. Upgrade/replace as budget allows.

    I've done it for my last 13 bikes (actually, I think it's 15). It's way more fun than just buying a whole bike and re-assembling it. There lots of good deals on eBay from people who have upgrade-itis and need the latest and greatest.

    Just don't in a rush and take your time. And take pics!
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  17. #17
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    Check the either 29er forum or 29er components forum, fairly recent post and yeah, he only paid $1100 for the frame.
    Quote Originally Posted by tednugent View Post
    Is there a thread for the guy who just put together a RIP9 for $2700?

    One Niner's site, the frame and fork alone is $2700...... so he must of gotten a real steal on the frame & fork
    Yeah, that's how my last 3 bikes have been built - got the frame and fork and then all the good parts off previous main ride got brought over and then normally lesser parts onto old frame as loaner/2nd-3rd bike for me
    Quote Originally Posted by intheways View Post
    I'd just buy a 29er frame, fork and wheels and scavenge the rest off of your other bike. Upgrade/replace as budget allows.

    I've done it for my last 13 bikes (actually, I think it's 15). It's way more fun than just buying a whole bike and re-assembling it. There lots of good deals on eBay from people who have upgrade-itis and need the latest and greatest.

    Just don't in a rush and take your time. And take pics!
    Last edited by LyNx; 03-28-2013 at 04:12 AM.
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  18. #18
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    Why don't you do a complete overhaul on your current bike?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    I don't agree with that. If you price shop and do your homework taking the time to buy when there are sale you can get a better bike at a better piecemeal than buying off the shelf. I did that with my current bike and the reason comes down to getting what you want for every part. Most built bikes come with a mix of components you want and don't want. One bike may have the fork you want, but not crank set. The one with fork and crank set does not have wheelset you want. So you can spend more and overbuy in some areas to get what you want in others or buy just the parts you want to put them on the frame you want.

    if you buy at full retail it will be expensive, but if you buy when parts on on sale or closeout deals you can save a a lot of money and have the bike build exactly as you want it.
    I agree with this. I am in the process of building from the frame up. The patience factor is the hardest part for me. The instant satisfaction of buying a complete bike is nice but, like you said, ending up with parts that would need to be upgraded or swapped is a waste of $$. I will know that when I finally roll, it will be with a complete bike that I hand picked. Yes, it will cost a few bucks more than the complete bike I wanted, but 3-4 times more??? No! The bike I wanted (Carve SL SS) retailed for $1300 + tax (about 8%). I may have been able to negotiate a 10% discount (salesman hinted) because of previous purchases. Currently the build I have priced out is roughly $1600 and change. So, yes a bit more, but well worth the added expense to get exactly what I want.

  20. #20
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    Building a bike doesn't have to be expensive. Plus you build it the way you want.
    If you want something non-mainstream, it's the best way to do it.
    I assume you don't have the option but most bikes I build start out without wheels - I share from other bikes. That's a huge cost saving - wheels, tires, rotors and a cassette.
    Pickup wheels when I see a deal - even better if I can find just a rear wheel.
    I've even shared seat posts and saddles between bikes - only riding one at a time.

    I've built with drop bars by finding a road bike with a damaged frame. $100 for shifters,brake levers and derailleurs - for that matter, I just picked up a damaged Cannondale road bike for $40, should even be able to use the crank.
    Your built bike can have oddball alt bars if you want.
    A rigid fork keeps the price down and you can't buy a decent bike that way.
    1X9 or 1X10 saves some money and simplifies the build. You can sell the original chain rings to recover some cost.
    Last edited by Slash5; 03-28-2013 at 08:44 AM.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by customfab View Post
    Why don't you do a complete overhaul on your current bike?
    I currently have a road bike and would like to have a 29er that I can take out to play in the dirt.

  22. #22
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    I've been doing a lot of research and all the input has been very valuable. It looks like I will be able to keep the cost down to within 20% of what I would be able to buy straight up, but with a much better frame and components.

    The only wrinkle in my plan now is the nature of the parts. I've decided to basically limit the components to Deore/X5 or better depending on the deals that come my way. What parts would you error towards more than others? Better wheels or fancier crank? things like that. I don't think I will notice much of a difference between the mid-range and high-end, since I am not a professional rider.

  23. #23
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    I would say get the best wheels that you can afford since this is one of the most expensive parts of a build. I would spend more on wheels and less on cranks.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by absenteemessiah View Post
    ... What parts would you error towards more than others? Better wheels or fancier crank? things like that. I don't think I will notice much of a difference between the mid-range and high-end, since I am not a professional rider.
    What kind of riding are you after? Do you want durability, weight or price? Buying a complete is pretty easy, but doing it from parts is much harder because you need to select each part based on what you want. Great if you know what you want, but much harder if you have no clue. I built my bike to be light, reasonably durable, high quality and moderately priced. I was also pretty well established in my riding style so I knew what I wanted my bike to do. I ended with most an XT build as I felt it was the sweet spot between weight, durability, function and price. XTR was nicer, but I felt not worth the cost and STR/LX of the day was not enough improvement over the parts on entry level bike I had to make it worth while. Most of my bike is make up of nice parts, but not the best parts. The very best to me always carried price premium I did not think was worth it. However most the "1 step" down parts were nearly as good a much lower prices. So in every part I choose to get stuff where I felt gave me the best performance at reasonable price. It took me 4-6 months of looking and planning to decide on and gather the parts. That was part of the fun to me.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  25. #25
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    OnOne Inbred 29er frame, order with headset installed and get cool alt bars, stem, and pedals at the same time. Maybe tires too.
    SLX components from this thread New SLX 10 Speed Drivetrain Dirt Cheap...Please Help me Chose
    Stans wheels here Shimano 525 Disc Hubs - Sun / Stans 29er Rims | Sale Wheels | Merlin Cycles

    Well on the way to a cheap bike.

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