is it cheaper to build a mountain bike

Is It Cheaper To Build a Mountain Bike or Buy One Prebuilt (Complete Guide)

is it cheaper to build a mountain bike

If you are looking to get a new mountain bike you might wonder if it is cheaper to build a mountain bike instead of buying a prebuilt mountain bike. No, it is not cheaper to build a mountain bike.

It’s often more expensive to build a mountain bike from scratch due to the individual cost of high-quality components, necessary tools, and the time invested.

Prebuilt bikes benefit from bulk pricing and manufacturer partnerships, bringing down the total cost. Therefore, for most consumers, buying a prebuilt mountain bike is usually the cheaper option.

Building a Mountain Bike vs Buying Prebuilt

The debate over whether to build or buy a mountain bike has been a long-standing conversation among cycling enthusiasts. On one side of the spectrum, there are those who advocate for building a mountain bike from scratch.

These individuals cite the freedom to choose each component, the customization that allows for a tailored ride, and the valuable knowledge gained about bike mechanics as major perks of the build-your-own approach.

Building a bike provides an in-depth understanding of how every part works together, potentially making future repairs and upgrades easier to tackle.

It allows for a high degree of personalization – every part, from the frame down to the grips and pedals, can be chosen to suit the rider’s preference.

However, the cost of individual components can quickly add up, often resulting in a higher overall cost compared to prebuilt bikes. Furthermore, the time and skill required to assemble a bike should not be underestimated.

On the other hand, buying a prebuilt mountain bike is often viewed as the most convenient, cost-effective, and time-saving approach. Manufacturers have the advantage of bulk pricing on components, which can bring down the total cost significantly.

The bike arrives ready to ride, which is a considerable benefit for those eager to hit the trails. Additionally, prebuilt bikes often come with warranties and after-sales service, providing peace of mind to the purchaser.

However, buying a prebuilt bike may also mean compromising on the exact specifications and brand of components. There’s less scope for customization, and the bike may include components that the buyer might consider unnecessary, adding to the overall cost.

In the end, the build vs. buy debate often comes down to a rider’s personal preferences, budget, mechanical skill, and how they intend to use the bike. Both paths have their own set of advantages and challenges.

Cost of Building a Mountain Bike

Building a mountain bike from scratch involves acquiring numerous components, each with its own price tag, as well as the necessary tools for assembly.

  • Frame: The frame is the core of your bike. Depending on the material (aluminium, steel, carbon fiber, or titanium) and brand, a frame can cost anywhere from $200 to over $3000.
  • Suspension (Forks and Shocks): Suspension is critical for a mountain bike. Quality front forks and rear shocks can range from $200 to $1000 each.
  • Wheels (Rims, Tires, and Hubs): A set of wheels includes rims, hubs, and tires. Depending on the quality and durability, a complete set can cost between $200 and $2000.
  • Drivetrain: This includes components like the chain, rear and front derailleurs, crankset, cassette, and shifters. A full groupset can cost from $100 for lower-end components to over $1000 for high-end versions.
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes offer the best stopping power for mountain bikes and can range from $50 to $300 per set.
  • Seat and Seatpost: Depending on comfort and material, these can cost anywhere between $20 to $200.
  • Handlebars and Stem: These steering components can vary in price from $20 to several hundred dollars.
  • Pedals: Basic pedals start around $20, while high-end models can be $100 or more.

In addition to these components, there are also costs associated with necessary assembly tools, some of which may not be found in a standard tool kit.

The total cost of building a mountain bike can vary greatly based on the chosen components, but a self-built bike with mid-range components generally starts around $1000 and can go well over $5000 for top-of-the-line parts.

It’s also worth noting that these prices don’t account for the time and skill required to assemble the bike. For those without much experience, there could be added costs for professional help or bike-building courses.

Remember, building a bike allows for high customization, but it often comes with a higher price tag compared to prebuilt options.

Cost of Buying a Prebuilt Mountain Bike

Buying a prebuilt mountain bike is the more traditional route for most cyclists, and for good reason. The process is simpler, quicker, and often more cost-effective, particularly for entry-level and mid-range bikes.

  • Entry-Level Bikes: These bikes are designed for beginner riders and typically cost between $500 and $1000.
  • They come with basic components that are sufficient for light trail riding and beginner off-road excursions. These bikes are usually heavier with less sophisticated suspension and drivetrain components.
  • Mid-Range Bikes: Designed for more serious riders, mid-range bikes typically cost between $1000 and $3000.
  • They come with better components, including more advanced suspension systems, lighter frames, and higher-quality drivetrains. They are suitable for tougher trails and more technical terrains.
  • High-End Bikes: These bikes are the cream of the crop, designed for professional riders or those with a larger budget. They are typically priced at $3000 and above, with some models going well over $10,000.

These bikes feature the best of the best in terms of components, including top-tier suspension systems, the lightest and most durable frame materials, and the most advanced drivetrains.

One of the primary benefits of buying a prebuilt bike is the warranty and after-sales service that manufacturers offer. These can include free tune-ups, part replacements, and other services that add to the value of the purchase.

However, a potential downside of buying prebuilt is the potential lack of customization. Riders are limited to the components the manufacturers choose, and while these are generally of good quality and well-matched, they may not cater to specific preferences.

In summary, buying a prebuilt mountain bike offers a range of prices to suit different budgets and riding levels. It also allows riders to get onto the trails quicker, without the need for bike-building knowledge or skills.

Comparison Between Building vs Buying a Mountain Bike

The cost of mountain bikes, whether building from scratch or buying prebuilt, can vary significantly based on whether they’re entry-level, mid-range, or high-end. Here’s a detailed comparison:

Entry-Level Mountain Bikes:

  • Building: Assembling an entry-level mountain bike with basic components can start from $500, but can easily reach up to $1000 or more, especially considering the cost of necessary tools and time.
  • Buying: Prebuilt entry-level bikes can range from $500 to $1000. These come fully assembled with warranties and after-sales service.

Mid-Range Mountain Bikes:

  • Building: A self-built mid-range bike with more advanced components could cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000, not factoring in the potential costs for professional help or bike-building courses for less experienced individuals.
  • Buying: Prebuilt mid-range bikes typically cost between $1000 and $3000. These bikes come with better components than entry-level bikes and also come with the added benefits of warranties and after-sales service.

High-End Mountain Bikes:

  • Building: Building a high-end mountain bike with top-tier components can easily exceed $3000, reaching upwards of $5000 or more.
  • Buying: Prebuilt high-end bikes usually start from around $3000 and can go well over $10,000 for professional-grade bikes. These bikes offer the most advanced components and often come with comprehensive warranties and after-sales service.

In each category, buying a prebuilt bike tends to be the more cost-effective option, largely due to the economies of scale manufacturers can take advantage of.

The difference becomes more pronounced in the mid-range and high-end categories where the cost of individual premium components can significantly drive up the total cost of a self-built bike.

However, cost isn’t the only factor to consider. Building a bike offers a high degree of customization and can provide a sense of accomplishment, which, for some riders, may justify the extra expense.

4 Benefits of Building Your Own Mountain Bike Beyond Cost

Building your own mountain bike can offer a unique sense of personal satisfaction and a multitude of learning opportunities. These factors may not have a direct monetary value, but they can significantly enhance your biking experience and overall engagement with the sport.

  • Personal Satisfaction: There’s a distinct sense of accomplishment that comes from manually assembling a bike. You’re not just riding a bike; you’re riding something you built.
  • Every successful ride, every conquered trail becomes a testament to your skill and hard work. This personal satisfaction can enhance your enjoyment of the sport and potentially lead to a deeper connection with your bike.
  • Customization: Building your own bike offers unparalleled opportunities for customization. You can select each component based on your specific preferences, needs, and riding style.
  • This level of personalization can lead to a bike that feels truly ‘yours’ and is tailored to provide the best possible ride for you.
  • Learning Opportunities: Assembling a bike from scratch is a fantastic educational opportunity. You’ll learn about each component, how they work, and how they interact with each other. This knowledge can be incredibly beneficial in the long run.
  • Understanding the mechanics of your bike can make maintenance easier, allow you to make more informed decisions about upgrades, and equip you to handle roadside repairs.
  • Community Engagement: Building your own bike can also be a way to engage more deeply with the cycling community. There are numerous forums, social media groups, and local clubs where bike builders share advice, recommendations, and experiences.

Being a part of these communities can enrich your cycling journey and even lead to new friendships.

While these factors might not reduce the direct cost of building your own bike, they can offer valuable benefits that aren’t typically associated with buying a prebuilt bike.

When considering whether to build or buy, it’s important to weigh these personal and experiential factors alongside the financial ones.

How Much Time Does It Take To Build vs Buy a Prebuilt Mountain Bike

The timeframe from acquisition to actual use is a key consideration in the debate of building versus buying a mountain bike.

For prebuilt mountain bikes, the time to use is typically quite short. Upon delivery or pick-up from a store, there may be some minor assembly required, such as attaching the handlebars, pedals, or adjusting the saddle height.

Generally, this process takes less than an hour. Therefore, you can usually start riding almost immediately after purchasing a prebuilt bike, making this a great option if time is of the essence.

In contrast, building a mountain bike is a considerably longer process. The initial phase involves researching and choosing each component based on your specific needs and budget. This phase can take several days to weeks, depending on how much time you dedicate to it.

After ordering the parts, you’ll have to wait for them all to arrive. Depending on the supplier and shipping times, this could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Once all the parts are on hand, the assembly process begins. For a first-time builder with moderate mechanical skills, assembling a mountain bike can take anywhere from 10 to 20 hours spread out over several days.

For those more experienced in bike mechanics, the assembly might be faster, perhaps around 5 to 10 hours.

However, first-timers may also need to invest additional time in learning, which could involve reading manuals, watching tutorials, or even attending workshops, adding another few hours or more to the process.

Therefore, if you require a bike for immediate use, such as for a race or the start of biking season, buying a prebuilt bike is the most time-efficient choice. If, however, you appreciate the process and have the time to dedicate, building your own bike can be a satisfying endeavor.

Cost of Upgrades and Maintenance (Comparison)

The future costs associated with both building and buying a mountain bike largely pertain to upgrades and maintenance, both of which can add to the overall cost over time.


  • Building: When you build a bike, you have the freedom to choose high-quality parts that meet your needs right from the start.
  • However, as your skill level progresses or new technology emerges, you may want to upgrade certain components. The cost of upgrades depends on the specific part and its quality.
  • Buying: Prebuilt bikes often come with standard components that may need upgrading sooner, especially if you start with an entry-level bike. The cost of upgrading components on a prebuilt bike will likely be comparable to the cost of upgrading parts on a self-built bike.


  • Building: If you build your own bike, you’ll likely have a better understanding of its mechanics, which could allow you to perform some maintenance tasks yourself, potentially saving on labor costs.
  • However, some maintenance tasks may require special tools or skills, leading to costs for professional service.
  • Buying: With a prebuilt bike, routine maintenance is an expected part of its lifespan. This can include brake and gear adjustments, tire and tube replacements, drivetrain maintenance, and more.

If you’re not comfortable performing these tasks yourself, you’ll need to factor in the cost of professional bike services. Additionally, some manufacturers or bike shops offer initial free services or maintenance packages at the time of purchase, which can offset some of these costs.

Which Will Be Cheaper in Terms of Upgrades and Maintenance

If you’re building a bike and carefully select high-quality components from the start, you may delay the need for upgrades, which can save you money in the short term.

Similarly, if you have a solid understanding of bike mechanics from building your bike, you might be able to handle most maintenance tasks yourself, saving on professional service costs.

However, prebuilt bikes, particularly high-end or custom models, can also come with top-of-the-line components, minimizing the need for early upgrades.

Some manufacturers and bike shops offer service packages or warranties with their bikes, which can offset maintenance costs, at least for the first few years of ownership.

In general, it’s tough to definitively say whether building or buying a bike is cheaper in terms of upgrades and maintenance as it heavily depends on the initial quality of components, the individual’s mechanical skills, and how heavily and aggressively the bike is used.

It’s important to note that both upgrades and maintenance can significantly extend the lifespan of a bike and improve its performance, making them worthwhile investments for any bike owner.

9 Tips For Building a Mountain Bike

Building a mountain bike can be a rewarding project, especially for cycling enthusiasts who appreciate the mechanics behind their ride. If you’re considering this route, here are some tips to help you succeed:

1. Research Thoroughly: Before purchasing any components, spend ample time researching. Understand what parts you need, which brands or models are reliable, and what specific features are necessary for your riding style and terrain.

2. Set a Budget: Building a mountain bike can get expensive, so it’s crucial to set a budget from the start. Make sure to factor in all costs, including tools you may need to purchase.

3. Source Quality Parts: Don’t skimp on essential parts like the frame, brakes, and drivetrain. These components directly affect the bike’s performance and safety. If necessary, consider buying these parts new to ensure their quality and reliability.

4. Get the Right Tools: Ensure you have the correct tools for the job. Basic bike tools include a set of Allen keys, a torque wrench, cable cutters, and a bike stand. Some components may require specific tools for installation.

5. Follow Guides and Tutorials: If you’re new to building bikes, online guides and tutorials can be invaluable. They can provide step-by-step instructions and highlight common mistakes to avoid.

6. Take Your Time: Don’t rush the process. Building a bike takes time, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. It’s better to progress slowly and ensure each part is installed correctly than to rush and make mistakes.

7. Seek Professional Help If Needed: If you encounter a problem that you can’t solve, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Bike shops can provide advice, or you can pay for their services to ensure a component is installed correctly.

8. Double-Check Everything: Once your bike is assembled, double-check all fittings and fastenings. Make sure everything is secure before you head out on your first ride.

9. Enjoy the Process: Building your own bike is a labor of love. Enjoy the process and the satisfaction that comes from creating something with your own hands.

Remember, safety should be your top priority. If you’re ever unsure about something, it’s best to consult with a professional.

9 Tips For Buying a Prebuilt Mountain Bike

Buying a mountain bike can be a significant investment, so it’s essential to make a well-informed decision. Here are some tips to help guide your purchase:

  1. Determine Your Needs: Before shopping, determine what kind of riding you plan to do. Different types of mountain biking, like cross-country, trail riding, or downhill, require different types of bikes.
  2. Set a Budget: Bikes come in a wide range of prices. Set a budget that includes not just the bike itself but also essential gear like a helmet, gloves, and biking apparel.
  3. Test Ride: If possible, test ride several bikes before making a decision. This can help you understand how different bikes feel and handle, and can assist in determining what size bike is most comfortable for you.
  4. Size Matters: Bikes come in various sizes, and it’s critical to get one that fits you well. A bike that’s too big or too small can be uncomfortable and hard to control. Consult with a bike sizing chart or ask a professional at a bike shop for assistance.
  5. Quality over Quantity: It’s better to get a bike with fewer but higher-quality components than one with numerous lower-quality features. Focus on components like the frame, suspension, and brakes.
  6. Check the Warranty: A good warranty can save you money in the long run. Check what the warranty covers, how long it lasts, and if it’s a limited or full coverage warranty.
  7. Buy from a Reputable Seller: Whether you’re buying from a bike shop or online, ensure the seller is reputable. They should be able to provide clear information about the bike and have good customer reviews.
  8. Consider Future Upgrades: If you plan to upgrade parts in the future, make sure the bike you choose is compatible with the upgrades you have in mind.
  9. Ask for Advice: Don’t hesitate to ask for advice, whether from knowledgeable friends, online communities, or professionals at your local bike shop.

Remember, the most important thing is that the bike fits your personal needs and riding style. A bike that’s perfect for someone else might not be the best one for you. Take your time, do your research, and make an informed decision.


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