Building a full suspension bike-Step by Step
I promised to build this bike for someone and send him photos of the process.
I hope to get to get it finshed and tested this weekend. Busy week ahead.
Step one-get the nicest frame you can afford. This is a good one. Titanium/Carbon/Exogrid Titus Motolite with 4"/5" travel, Fox RP23. Any decent frame will do (if it fits you).
Step two-assemble the components you want (or have on hand, or can afford). I left out a couple things out of the photo, so no need to remind me.
Step three-got tools? Torque wrench is important. Set up bike stand outside in sunlight. I think mt. bikes are better built in the fresh air where they will thrive. Also better for photos.
Step Four-Invite a few friends, turn up the muzak.
faced and chased
Anodized or painted frames often need to have their headtube faced, and bottom bracket shell faced and chased. Not so much on unpainted ti frames. Many times this is already done by the factory or builder.
Same with disc brake mounts front and rear.
Oh, and before you forget, weigh the unbuilt frame. Many people will ask you the weight of the naked frame, as well as the finished bike. That way they can figure their own build's projected weight if they are considering a similar frame.
This one weighs 5.83 lb. Sorry, the digital scale turned off before I snapped the photo.
Under 6 pounds is good for a 5" travel full suspension frame.
Lube, insert and mount
Sounds kinda sexy, but it's not.
Lightly grease the seatpost (not if it's carbon), insert into seat tube, tighten seatpost collar, and mount on stand.
Good idea to keep a finished bike nearby for reference,inspriation, or cannibalization if you are swapping parts.
Lube and carefully thread the bottom bracket after reading and rereading the instructions. Better to have the right spacers in place the first time. Bikes have different bottom bracket shell widths, usually 68mm or 73mm. It's good to know your bike's specifics.
If you really want to avoid squeeks in future, add some plumber's teflon tape. It's available at any hardwar store.
Take much care not to crossthread.
Use Ti prep in place of grease on ti frames. Gets all over your hands and clothes (and camera and keyboard) if you're not careful.
Please hand tighten to start. It should go in easily. Finish with the correct tool for your particular bottom bracket per instructions included.
Which cranks do you want?
Fun part. Try out a few different cranks to see which looks better. Ask customer how much more money he has to spend.
NB-Don't tell him how much new XTR replacement rings will cost.
Guess which headset
Correct. You must use the obligatory Chris King No-Threadset. Choose your favorite color (pink??) Even your girlfriend knows what a Chris King is. Makes any bike a custom-could even double the value of some rigs. But be careful. If you spent more than $300 on your headset, stem and carbon bars, you better be able to handle your bike. Otherwise you might get the dreaded poser label.
Actually, there are numerous excellent headsets available these days. Sealed bearing types are readily available and recommended. Cane Creek, FSA, RaceFace are all topnotch But if you want to add color, Chris King has the market cornered.
Ti prep on ti frames first. I like to carefully line up the KING letters. If you're more casual, skip this step. People can still see the logo from a distance.
If you don't have Chris King adapters do not continue. Take it to your freindly neighborhood bike shop (along with a 6-pack) and have them do it, along with setting the crown race (adapter also required)
NB. Insert the fork, but make sure it doesn't drop to the ground.
Measure 3 or 4 times with stem and spacers in place. Most of now allow for extra spacers so we can determine stem placement over time. Or if we swap the fork to our next frame, it's good to have some leeway.
1:30-1:40 Prepare and eat lunch
1:40-2:00 Answer 4 phone calls, fix two flats, respond to 12 emails, go to bathroom. (no photos)
2:00-4:20 Go for ride. Bring cell phone and camera.
Break's over-cut steerer
Remember-cut twice, measure once. Or is it measure twice, cut once. More than one builder has forgotten the stem when he marked his steerer and cried himself to sleep. Use a hacksaw, some kind of guide, and cutting oil if you have it. Pipecutter can be used instead.
File the cut steerer to smooth the edges. If you have a star nut setter, hammer in the starnut, being careful to go in straight. I have another starnut setter that makes sure you're straight, but it's hiding from me. In a pinch a bolt and hammer will do the job.
Blow off the filings and reinsert fork, headset top, spacers and stem. Sealed bearings require no grease. Ball bearing race takes a good dollop of grease.
No carbon spacers? Too bad. Better luck next time. We would also have accepted Chris King spacers.
Make sure there's a 2-3mm gap above the steerer tube and beneath top of the stem so you can tighten the top cap properly. That's a common error causing loose headsets.
You have to have the right touch to get the proper preload on the topcap. Too tight and it binds. Too loose is worse. This is something you'll recheck once the bike is complete and on the ground.
If you are building a singlespeed, skip this step. You're a masochist anyway. You should be lifting weights instead of being online.
Dab a little grease on the derailleur bolt, make sure the b-screw and the plate it hits are in the right position and install into the derailleur hanger on yorur frame carefully. There's usually a tiny bit of play when it's in place, so don't 'try to tighten this away.
Notice the SRAM rear. Personal preference. Like the shifting and looks. Like Shimano in front, though.
Setting up the front derailleur is more of an art form. Put it in position, tighten the bolt just enought to keep it in place, but still able to slide up and down and around the seat tube.
If it's a new one, out of the box, it should have the little sticker that shows you where the chainring teeth should be in relation to the derailleur cage. If not, you want a 1-3mm clearance between the teeth of the big ring and the cage.
Now line the cage up parallel with the chainring. This is a good place to start. When you get to the final step of adjusting the shifting you may have to toe it in slightly. Now you can tighten the clamp to spec.
There is no end to the discussion of what bar and stem combo to use.
I think the OS bars look cool, if nothing else. And your bike will look dated if you go skinny. (Might as well have anodized barends).
With the current popularity of carbon bars and oversize 31.8 stem combos, you will want to have a torque wrench on hand. Cuz who would want to put a hairline crack in their $120 carbon bars.
Keep in mind that many bars come fairly wide and can be cut back to suit you. But this may cause problems and void the warranty on carbon bars. So pick your bars accordingly. If you have a tendency to hit trees or the ground often, a carbon bar might not be wise.
Read the stem manufacturer's instructions for torque spec and apply evenly. Lightly grease the stem bolts. Alternately tighten the 4 bolts (or two) little by little. You don't want to torque one all the way before getting the others close. You want an equal gap on all corners of the clamping surface.
Then use the torque wrench alternately for the lightly greased side bolts to tighten the stem to the steerer tube.
Thomson Elite stems insist on using a torque wrench. Many people don't, and may have loosening issues,or worse, stripped bolts. Tighter is not always better, except in abs and buttocks. .
What we have so far
Sun's going down. Too cold, too little light. Here's the bike so far.
Tomorrow brakes, shifters, grips, wheels, cassette, tires, chain, cables, test ride.
Finishing the bike at last
After a week of snow and other distractions, it's time to get the bike done.
Be prepared for changes. Notice the aluminum bar in place of the original carbon. Less likely to crack, no problem to cut to preferred width later step), less expensive.
Torque stem bolts to spec.
Slide on left and right shifters and brake levers, followed by some lockon grips. Even if you are going to use regular grips, it's a good idea to start with lockon grips that are easily removed until you are happy with the width of the handlbars and placement of the shifters and levers. You can slide on the permanent grips at that point.
Tighten the shifter and lever clamps lightly. You want to leave them loose enough to adjust the angle that works best for you. I usually tighten the brakes to the point where the lever will still twist before bre.aking, if I hit a tree or ground while riding (crashing)
45 degrees is a good starting point. Depends on your body geometry. A straight wrist with your fingers on the levers is good.
Route the brake hose (if you have hydraulics) back to the rear disc mounts. Mechanical brakes get the cable housing added later.
Notice if there is paint on the tabs or if they have been faced already (as pictured). If you are using Avid brakes with CPS washers, facing is usually not critical. Other types of calipers (Magura, Shimano) that require spacers to adjust their position may need this step. Try them out first. If they won't line up perfectly and spin without rubbing, go to your bike shop for facing.
Following your brakes instructions, attach them to the frame, leaving them a little loose until the wheels/rotors are in place.
NB. New hydraulic brakes come with a plastic piece (red in picture) between the brake pads that prevent you from squeezing the pistons together and perhaps requiring bleeding to spread them apart again. Never squeeze your levers without the rotors or this plastic piece in place.
Repeat process for the front brake.
Buy or build wheels. Note to Turner/Ellsworth owners. Make sure hubs and nipples are color-coordinated to your frame/fork/jersey.
Attach cassette to the rear hub (it only fits in one position-like a puzzle) with casstte lockring tool. Torque to 40nm if you have the right wrench. Otherwise, just tighten snugly. Don't want it loosening up while riding.
If you have disc brakes, attach the rear rotor. Alternate the 6 bolts (IS) tightening as you would a car wheel. Shimano centerlocks-follow instrcutions.
I use a drill to save time, but most brakes include a torx wrench. Tighten firmly. Don't want your rotor coming off while riding.
Install rim strip or rim tape on your rear wheel carefully and evenly. Mount one bead of you rear tire (check for directional arrows)., slip in a very lightly inflated tube, the finish mounting the other side of the tire. Inflate. Now would be a good time to do the same for your front wheel. If you need photos to put a tire and tube on your rim, you might need help with everything else.
Lightly grease your skewers and insert in hubs. Don't loose the little spring that go on either side of hub (narrow side pointing in)
Carefully put rear wheel in place in the dropouts of your frame, being careful to slide the rotor in between brake pads. It gets easier after you've done it a few times, so be very careful not to scratch your chainstay with the rotor. Pulling the derailleur back out of the way helps. It's easier without the chain in place.
Starting to look like a bike now!
Tighten skewer and go to next step.
Setting limits on rear derailleur
Before installing cables and chain is a good time to set the limits on the rear derailleur. The instructions that came with your SRAM or Shimano derailleur are very helpful and detailed. But since you threw them away with the rest of the packaging, here's a basic explanation.
The H and L screws on the derailleur can be adjusted to limit how far the derailleur will move in either direction. With Phillips srewdriver in place, looking down form directly above the cassette, push the derailleur pulley as far as you can toward the large cog (Low) on the cassette. Turn the screw until the guide pulley is perfectly in line with the center of the teeth on the large cog, but can't go further. This makes sure you're chain will not go past this point and into the spokes. You don't want this to happen when you're downshifting up a big hill ( and your loose cassette and brake rotor have just come off)
Same procedure with the small (High) limit. If you have a standard derailleur (high normal) then you can just look straight down from above to align the guide pulley with the outer edge (rather than center) of the smallest cog.
If you have a Rapidrise (low normal) Shimano derailleur, you'll have to push the derailleur into position.
Now adjust the b-screw to set the chain gap, following the included instructions. Just in case you threw them a way, I included a photo of them.
You want to turn the b-screw until the gude pulley is 1/4" from the teeth on the largest and smallest cog.
Chain chain chain
Time to measure, cut, and install the chain.
I prefer SRAM or other chain with removable master link, just in case you have to remove it. Shimanos are fine, but the pins required make it harder to put on and take off, and are prone to stiff linkitis.
Measure the chain by running it around the big ring in front and big cog in back, but without putting it through either derailleur. Just around the ring and cog.
Have the ends meet on the big ring. Add a link or two to the point where they meet, making sure the end you cut is the narrow, inner link. That way it will accept the master link. Same with a pin-type chain. (Don't cut the end that has the pin that links the ends)
After you shorten it with your chain tool, thread it through your front and rear derailler,. Please avoid the beginner mistake of missing the tab on the derailleur cage. Inevitably, you will do this sometime, so the easy to remove master link will keep you from feeling like a total idiot. It helps to have a thrid hand pushing down on the derailleru to give you some slack. If you only have two hands, make sure the chain is on the smallest ring in front, (or better yet off the chainrings and resting on the bottom bracket shell) and on the smallest cog in back. Makes it easier to connect the ends.
Buy freshly roasted beans. Measure and grind for your particular coffee maker. Use filtered water. Add cream and sugar to taste. Serve hot (or lukewarm)along with your favorite patries.
If you're are ever in Winter Park, CO, check out a very cool bike shop (actually down the road in Frasier beside the bakery/deli). The shop mechanic is also the coffee roaster. His work stand is an arm's length from the bean roaster. Adjust chain, stir beans. Wish I had the picture.
I like my coffee like I like my women...................cold and bitter.
Or is it tied up in a sack and thrown over a donkey?
Note to PC police-just a joke. I don't use a sack.
Now is a good time to add fresh inner cables if necessary. New shifters come with cables, but you might want to upgrade to stainless or teflon cables if they don't have these.. Follow the instructions for your shifters.
Starting at the front, measure a length of housing from the shifter to the first cable stop on the frame. You don't want them to be any longer than necessary, so as not to hinder full steering. I like to run the rear housing around the left side of the head tube, and vice versa for the front derailleur cable. That way the housing rubs the frame less.
Cut with sharp cable cutter, or dremel tool (wear safety glasses). Use awl or cutters to open the hole and round the housing back to normal shape after cutting. Add ferrules (housing end caps). Apply a thin lube to the cable and insert in housing.
Put the housing in place and move on to the middle section. This is a bit harder to describe, since it's specific to your particular frame. Different mechanics will route it differently. You may find out later that you have ghost shiftingand will have to reroute, shorten, or lengthen this section of housing.
Insert cable and move on to the rear derailleur. There is a specific measurement for SRAM. A straight shot from cable stop to derailleur
Shimano derailleurs require a loop-not too long, not too short. I hope you have some extra housing for when you cut it too short.
Shift to the slackest position on your shifter and derailleur (high gear) and attach the cable to the derailleur's clamp. Pull tight an
Do the same for the front derailleur, except slackest is low gear.
Carefully cut excess cable and crimp on a
cable end (or solderr end)
I won't go into details on tuning. That's been done here before.
But you will need to adjust the position and limits of the front derailleur with the cables and chain in place, and maybe the rear derailleur, too.
Shift to the lowest gear in front and rear. Make sure the cable is not completely tight by turnin gin the adjuster barrel on the front shifter Using the L screw on your front derailleur, turn in or out until the cage just clears the chain by a millimeter or so.
Now move the chain to the highest gear (big ring front, small cog rear) and do the same using the H screw and barrel adjuster to pullthe deraillerur all the way to the right posiiton.
Turn the cranks and adjust as necessary to shift properly. Pay attention to the middle chain ring position. You want to avoid chain rub in this position iin either extreme of the rear derailleur.
Some adjustments of the vertical and horizontal of the front derailleru may be required.
Remember, the cage need to clear the teeth of the big ring by 1-3mm, and the cage should be parallel with the big ring or with the backof the cage skewed a degree or two in toward the frame. Keep trying till you are satisfied with the shifting.
When adjusting the rear derailleur, after you get the cable tension (barrel adjuster on SRAM shifters or barrel adjuster on Shimano derailleurs) you may have to tinker with the high and low set screw again to get the chain to shift easily into the big and small cog.
Dpending on your frame and your type of brakes, you may have to do the following step.
If you don't want to or don't need to detach your hydraulic hose for shortening, you will have to remove some of the shock/swingarm assembly to properly route your rear hose.
Good idea to have a torque wrench and manufaturer's specs for this procedure.
On the Motolite I needed to remove the Fox shock and rocker arm from the left side.
Good idea to take a before picture or sketch to remind you how it goes back together. A common mistake on the 4"/5" adjustable Motolite is to remount the shock in the wrong position. Upper hole is 5" travel, lower is 4".
Route the hose and put everything back together, torqued properly. Don't want the swingarm to bind or fall off, do you? Esp[ecially when your chain has gone into the spokes and your rotor has slipped off because you didn't check them before the first ride.
Use zip ties (Turner/Ellsworth owners-be sure to coordinate color of zip ties with nipple color), or my preference-C-clips. Easy to remove.
With everything in place you can now adjust and tighten your calipers following the manufacturer's idirections.
If your rear hydraulic hose is too long, you'll have to shorten it. This requires some skill and the right small bits, maybe a bleed kit. Go to "brake time" forum for advice.
Install pedals, recheck, and pedal!
Just about done here. Big pat on the back if it all works properly.
Good time to weigh the bike, as the common pratice is to do this without pedals, cages, etc. Ask skinny roadie that works in shop how he would lighten the bike up (ignore his suggestions to go to a rigid singlespeed)
There are numerous pedals on the market. A ti bike deserves ti pedals. All Turner/Ellsorth bikes should get them, too, even though they are aluminum frames.
I am a sucker for cool packaging, hence these 210g Xpedos.
Grease or ti prep threads, and mount carefully on crankarms. Left and right specific-remember?
Go over all the bolts and angles of stem, bars, levers, saddle, brake caliper position, etc. Inflate tires again (started building a week ago) especially if you have tubeless.
Much of this is easier to do with the tires on the ground.
Take last picture of fresh, clean bike. for Bike Porn post.
Parking lot ride, then back to workstand for fine tuning.
Don't forget chainstay protector, and cable protection on frame. Good place for all those little stickers you've collected
Head for trails. Remind yourself how much it was worth it as you bond with your new ride.
Write glowing review for MTBR.com
goes well with tea
Amazing. Inspirational even.
PM Me for Wood Fenders
That's got to be the best step by step I've seen. I'll be going back to this when I start my Leader build. I still havn't figure out the zero stack head set thing it requires, but that's all in time. Thanks for the thread.
Just stumbled onto this thread while I was looking for something else. A superb writeup and well timed as I'm about to attempt my first build in a few weeks as soon as my frame turns up!
Excellent post. Like the humor and wit...keeps you sane when things go awry.
Currently bilding up a Jamis Dakar XC Expert...first FS MTB frame-up build. I'll be a FS convert yet, but have to get off the tri-bike or my butt long enough to finish the build.
"Pain is the essence of internal satisfaction...especially when riding uphill!"
I also stumbled upon this and it is so well done it had me riveted till the end, well written, great pics, good stuff!!! Great to see the amount of work people will selflessly put in to help others!
Good stuff... I've been building bikes forever, and found some of that stuff informative... Like the coffe bean part, and lunch part! How'd you come up with that??
nice work, very helpful!
"..& don't forget to RECYCLE! Ride your bike again & again!" a beardie guy in Kranked II
Thanks so much for the time and effort. Priceless!![/B]
A dumb question from someone who doesn't have any idea. How long does it take a competent bike mechanic to build a bike from scratch??
What about and enthusiastic amateur, assuming all the correct tools are available??
40 & Fast
Very well done and informative.
You have pointed out the error of my build.
I will immediatly cut the zip ties off my turner as they don't match my nipples.
Ride hard, Drag the broken pieces back, Share lusty tales of adventure & Tell everyone, " I almost stuck the landing".
Great info for a build. I found this just in time to help with my upgrade. I know you cant cover every frame or combination, but What I ran into on my rockhopper was a small J clip or adapter that the rear dérailleur hangs off. It took me a few minutes to figure I had to move to new XTR. I was disappointed you did not stay with all XTR, because that was what I did and the adjustment are giving me fits. You did not of course go into removal of old components and that would be another benefit to novices like me. I did not face the BB as you recommended as the $300 for a park tool to use for 10 minutes was a bit much. Took a chance and very carefully removed the paint and as little metal as possible with a fine tooth file and after checking for square installed.
Originally Posted by sp3000
Have worked on bikes (as a means to make money) for about two years and I very carefully built my bike today.
Originally Posted by chcmuzza
I spent 4 hours on it.
Prepped frame (faced BB, Headtube, disc tabs, checked frame alignment)
Checked wheels on stand
Tore down and Changed Reba from 80 to 100mm
Cut steer tube
installed BB & crank
straightened derailleur hanger (a must)
Cleaned up mess of paper and plastic
Sweet, im going to build a bike with a KHS frame and this is really going to help...thanks
Originally Posted by chcmuzza
depends on the bike and components. can take 30 mins, or much longer if the components will not tune up, or bent (brand new) etc...
and thats a great how to do!!!!
"I'd pee on that"
Thanks for taking the time to post all of that. I will try to make use of some of it soon.
very appropriate sticky!
great job, inspiring!
Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
Very nice - Just built an Intense SS!
Mouth-Breather / Huffer
One of the best posts/series/threads I've ever seen! Thanks...
you left the translucent red alignment tape on the front derailleur.
you do know that the white plastic ring for the Chris King headset goes between the upper race and the first spacer right? it does NO good under the top cap.
also the pic of the bar/stem head on the bar is off set to the right in the stem clamp.
Originally Posted by thefuzzbl
thats real nice!!! Great job!!! =]
Gives it that newly built, never ridden look that customers like.
Originally Posted by Slurry
excellent ! Thanks
This made me laugh, and taught me how to build a bike!
I know this is very old. But I'm curious. Why did you go for that seat, you seem to be cutting back on weight on everything except the seat.
The saddle in the first photo was a little joke. You'll notice I used a lightweight ti/leather Maxm saddle for the actual build.
Originally Posted by Joel.