5 reasons to build a custom mountain bike
Why you should build your bike from the frame up
You’ve probably drooled over custom mountain bike builds on the internet—all those shiny, high-end parts. You might even have a mate who created his own custom beauty. At some point, you’ve must have thought, “could I do that?”
The answer is yes. In this article, we’ll discuss 5 reasons why everyone should build a bike from the frame up at least once. (And two bonus reasons why you shouldn’t).
Let’s get started.
Custom bike builds give you control
From the frame to the grips, you choose what goes on the bike. Choose the stuff you love and none of the things you hate.
The best part of a custom mountain bike build is that you control every aspect of the bike. You choose the frame and, thus, the standards. You select the geometry and design features. You fit the right parts to it.
You can choose the gear you know works well for you. Many riders will buy an off the shelf bike. Then straight away, change tyres, grips, handlebar, saddle and many other parts. If you know you want to ride Maxxis tyres, then when you DIY, that’s what you get.
From a budget standpoint, you get to spend your money on things that you think are important. For example, bike companies specify XT dérailleurs because people are impressed. A better shifter makes a more significant difference. So when you DIY, you can choose an SLX rear mech, which saves cash for that fancy XTR shifter.
You also get to fit the bike to your intended use. The same frame can be a sturdy trail bike or a marathon race bike by choosing different components.
You can use parts you already have
With a custom mountain bike build, you can use those parts you have lying around. You can also transfer the best components from your previous bike to help keep the cost down.
While new standards are trying to interfere, many riders will have parts that can transfer to a new build. It’s not unusual to hear a rider tell stories of moving Chris King hubs between bikes for 10 years.
Cyclists have a tendency to want the next new piece of technology. But, an excellent suspension fork doesn’t get any less remarkable when they release a new model. No matter how many TLAs (three-letter acronyms) it has.
Much of the time, the improvement from any replacement is small, and the part you own still has life in it. Upgrade fever doesn’t help the planet much either.
When you DIY, you buy the best gear, and you make it last. Get the good stuff, and you can move it to the next bike too. I have a set of hand-built carbon wheels with a no questions asked replacement guarantee. I plan to shift these from frame to frame (as long as I can adapt to the new standard).
It will develop your mechanical skills
If you put the whole bike together yourself, you know how it works. You know the parts you chose and the standards in use.
Every rider needs to know how their bike works. There is no better way to learn than putting it together yourself. Time spent learning skills like how to press in headset bearing cups will teach you a vast amount.
This knowledge can save you trips to the bike shop for regular maintenance. Maybe you won’t learn how to build a wheel or rebuild a fork damper. But, mastering more minor things, like changing a gear shift cable, will save you time and money.
If you are out on a backcountry ride, knowing how things work will make it easier if you have a mechanical. It’s not a big step from installing your drivetrain to hacking a single-speed set up so you can crawl home.
Oh, and no more possum in the headlights when the shop guys ask you which type of brake pads you need.
Your custom mountain bike will be unique
If you build the bike, then there won’t be another bike like it. Most off the shelf bikes match a specific colour scheme with a parts spec. You get what they offer. If you DIY, then you choose each part.
You can have the frame colour you want and get matching components. It’s a custom mountain bike after all. You can put purple anodised Hope parts on a Yeti yellow bike and get that perfect 90’s superbike.
You can choose unusual parts because you’re only restricted by what you can buy. If you want that sweet Intend upside-down fork, then you’re probably doing a custom bike build.
The uniqueness of your bike is a conversation starter. It will help you make friends riding wherever you go. You’ll find yourself talking about your sled in lift lines and pretty soon having a beer with a new riding buddy.
Any bike you build will be yours, and there won’t be another like it.
A sense of satisfaction
The bike you built will bring you a joy that no off the shelf bike ever will.
You selected every part, and you know why you chose each one. You know how it went together and which parts were challenging. You have a relationship with it from the start.
It’s a great feeling to know that your build put the money in the right place. That handlebars and stem are the best you’ve ridden and still cost less than a pair of tyres.
Knowing that you put this all together and it rides like a dream is a priceless thing.
Bonus: Reasons NOT to DIY
Custom isn’t cheap
If you want to save money, then DIY probably isn’t for you.
Bike companies have buying power. They buy large numbers of components which helps them keep their build costs down. You’re just one person buying one of everything.
On top of this, you may need to buys tools to complete your build. As much as you’ll have these tools forever, that still costs you dollars.
There are exceptions. If you are transferring all the parts from another bike, it might be cheaper than a whole bike build. If you are resurrecting an older bike with new components, you might save some cash too.
So while it’s possible to save money, in most cases you’ll spend more. The same bike off the shelf would cost less. And then there’s the time …
Its time consuming
Planning and assembling your build can take hours and hours.
First, you’ll spend time finding the gear you want on the internet. Selecting a frame takes time. Possibly tracking down a test ride takes even more. Then you have to match all the components to the frame standards.
If you have a non-boost wheelset and buy a boost frame, you’ll need new wheels. Or you’ll spend time finding the proper adaptors, so your existing wheels fit.
Even once you have it all planned, you’ll still spend time on the assembly. If this is your first time, you’ll probably have to work out how to do many things. You might have to check how to assemble that specific brand of crankset. Or look up the torque settings for the suspension pivots.
If you’re impatient, then it’s best to buy off the shelf at your local shop.
Building your own custom mountain bike from the frame up is an exciting project. You learn massive amounts about your bike and gain a great deal of satisfaction from the process.
That bike is something you chose, and it’s yours alone. There will be no other bike like it, and that in itself is worth the effort.
Everyone should try it at least once. Although if you do … you’ll probably never go back!