I was looking for a decent bike to use on the roads and trails around my camp. Most of the road around my lake is unpaved and so is the road out local attractions such as the Essex Chain. But I’m not sure how much I’ll use it in the short summer season. I figured I would get more bicycle for my Buck by shopping online and going with bike home assembly in my basement. I was at the ~$400 to 500 price point so the frame is aluminum not the more fussy carbon fiber.
Before buying a bike on the internet to be shipped to you in a box I’d ask yourself a couple of questions: Is it the bike you want and are you comfortable with the required assembly. I don’t know what bike you might be eyeing, but I can share my construction experience after the internet purchase arrived.
Some Assembly Required: Amount of required construction varies?
The mountain bike I bought unseen on the internet was a 2013 SE Big Mountain 24 29er, a predecessor to this model, with 24 gears and cable brakes. It is likely at the extreme of ‘some assembly required’, unless you are selecting specific components à la carte for customized construction. It was probably intended for purchase and assembly by a bike shop for retail sale rather than for bike home assembly. There were NO assembly instructions, no lists of parts. Construction was not that hard, but there was no safety net and no hand holding. I had to attach the brake disks to the wheels and the calipers to the frame/fork assembly. The screws and bolts were provided but I was guessing what was used where. I had to tune the gears and brakes.
The polar opposite of my experience is where the bike has maybe been assembled and the knocked down to a transportable package, in that case the gears and brakes could be close to set up, but it is reasonable to expect that you will have to tweak things.
My best recommendation is to read the reviews on the sales site, if construction isn’t mentioned much and there are comments that ‘I was out on the trail in less than an hour’ then it is a fair bet that needed assembly is minimum. I read an assembly guide for Diamondback bikes that indicates the gears and brakes are in place for what they offer.
I worked on the bike in my basement but you could easily do the assembly setup in an apartment or hallway. You need some mechanical aptitude, basically a feel for how hard to tighten things down and the patience to work through any tweaking that the brakes and gears need. There are videos for most required steps on You-Tube, but as usual you need to watch a few on the same topic to figure out what is believable and what is Internet crazy.
A Dedicated Assembly Stand Simplified Bike Home Assembly
If you got a good price on the internet for a bike in a box then I suggest investing in a stand to do the assembly. Take a look at this bike assembly video. The guy works through the set up process in around 10 minutes. Of course, he knows what he is doing and it is a straightforward assembly.
I bought Halter bike stand for $37. It arrived with a chipped foot and a crack on the middle clamp in the telescoping section. It worked for a one shot process and I didn’t try to return it. Not great but I can fix it with a hose clamp to the cracked area.
Two things about clamping the frame to the stand:
- I’d have preferred to clamp on the cross-bar to get an even weight distribution for the frame but that risks crushing the rear brake and gear change lines so I went with the seat post. Like the Pro in the video.
- The second thing is to pull out that top horizontal support much further than I did in any of the pictures I’ve included. I tucked the bike frame without pedals in close to the vertical support of the stand for stability – then the pedals fouled the stand when I attached them and turned the crank.
Tools and Other Stuff for Mountain Bike Assembly at Home
It seems like there is a universal need for 4, 5 & 6 mm hex wrenches for bike home assembly. That is the major tool requirement. I assembled mine with Allen keys I had around but then bought the Park 3-way hex wench to tighten fasteners and to do the tweaking of the brake positioning. That tool is worth the $10 and one has it for use in the future. My wrists and thumb joints are not in great shape and I could get better leverage holding the Y of the Park tool. One last item: save any heavy rubber bands used in the packaging. They are handy for holding in the rear brake handle if you need to tweak the alignment on the rear-brake calipers!
The Park PolyLube grease seems to be a common choice. I used it on the axle spindles, pedals threads and a touch on the seat shaft. Looks like additional lube products I’ll need are a de-greaser for the ‘wax’ on the new chain and then a chain oil. I put a combo package in my wish list but figured I revisit the pick when its closer to riding season. I used some Loctite type product on the nut that holds the rear gear chain assembly to the frame. I didn’t need it for the fasteners attaching the brakes and the disks: They already had a dab of something rubbery that seemed to make for a solid attachment.
I had to add the brake calipers and attach the cables. There were long segments of cable wire that clearly needed to be trimmed. I tried wire snips and wire cutters: they make a mess. You can get a tool for the job but I used my Dremel tool with a cutting wheel, it did the job. The cable cutters are cheaper if you have to make a purchase but the Dremel tool is handy to have around.
There are decent videos on setting the cable-operated disk brakes and Shimano drive train which helped me configure things. Note that I had to attach and install this hardware: If yours comes attached then pause and check if current settings are OK before starting the adjustment process.