What’s the Difference Between Building and Assembling a Bike?

Troy's Tech Talk

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We have gotten a few e-mails about building a new bike out of a box and what to adjust when building. Since the consumer-direct model is becoming more popular, this is more relevant than ever. Recently, I rode with two riders on new (consumer-direct) bikes, and both were suffering from rough shifting. While riding along, I asked them who had built their bikes. Turns out, they did it themselves, and both mentioned how fast and easy it was. If only. Just because a bike shows-up at your door “assembled” doesn’t mean it’s even close to being ready to ride.  

To date, 99 percent of the test bikes we get at the office need a full check-over and the derailleurs tuned. A few brands do treat us special and pre-build and tune the bikes then repack them. Even those bikes need minor adjustments. What I’m getting at here is that most of the bikes we receive are just as you would if you ordered something online. We usually designate at least an hour to get each bike built and tuned. Even knowing what to look for, this can take much longer on some builds.

First, it starts with brakes—checking that they are properly aligned and everything is tight. If they are hydraulic disc brakes, there is a 50-percent chance you will need to bleed them (I bleed them no matter what). Next is the drivetrain and making sure the derailleur hanger is straight. Limit screws are next and set correctly. One of the most overlooked adjustments is the derailleur jockey wheel position for your specific cassette using the B-tension screw. This also should be adjusted if you ever change your cassette gear-range ratio.

There are lots of other adjustments that should be done and things that need to be checked. Every bolt, especially the stem, should be checked and set to the proper torque. 

“As happy as you might be to have embraced the digital economy with a direct buy, my best advice is to take the money you saved by cutting out the middleman and head down to your local bike shop to have a trained mechanic go over the whole bike.”

This initial setup not only sets you up for a worry-free first ride, but it will also ensure you get the most out of each component. Since they are set up correctly, they will wear properly with much less chance of failure. As happy as you might be to have embraced the digital economy with a direct buy, my best advice is to take the money you saved by cutting out the middleman and head down to your local bike shop to have a trained mechanic go over the whole bike. That is the best resource for getting that new bike rolling safely. 

For reference after our ride, I helped both people with their bikes, and between the two bikes, I spent over three hours making sure they were properly tuned. Neither bike had any of the drivetrain adjustments even close to properly adjusted, and if it wasn’t for them both being electronic, they wouldn’t have shifted at all.

 

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