This is a question that we get from a lot of clients here at BfG. Some bike brands are selling consumer direct, and with Amazon, Competitive Cyclist, Performance, Toys R Us, Target and Wal-Mart being such easy and affordable options for people looking to buy a new bike, a lot of folks get that big bike box delivered and as excited as they are to get it, that excitement quickly shifts to fear once the box gets opened and they see what’s in front of them. Our first piece of advice? RELAX! You definitely have some work to do, but it’s absolutely within your capabilities (provided you have an opposable thumb and the right tools).
So what should you do if you find yourself with a brand new bike and a bit of insecurity about assembling it? Well our first response is to book an appointment with Beers For Gears and let us do all the work for you! In a lot of cases, we have taught people what they need to know to be able to do it themselves. But if you are really motivated to do it yourself, here are the basics. And if you see something we missed, feel free to chime in via the comments below. Note that this is the down & dirty version. This list will get your bike rideable, but definitely have it checked out by a professional at some time in the very near future.
Step One – Unbox
Bikes are assembled overseas and are packaged in a way that will ensure they make it to you with little to no damage. Think about it. That bike started in an assembly factory, got put in the box, then put on a truck, then loaded into a shipping container with a couple of thousand others. It then sailed for 25+ days on the ocean only to be unloaded and re-loaded onto a truck, put into a warehouse, then loaded up and shipped to another warehouse before finally getting loaded back onto a delivery truck where it was probably thrown on your front door by a guy in a delivery outfit who was not happy about lifting it out of the back. You see why there is lots of packaging?
So tear off all the foam, cardboard and anything else that looks like it doesn’t need to be there when riding. A lot of this stuff is recyclable, so please put it in the appropriate container. There should be a box with accessories in it (pedals, reflectors, stem, brakes, it all depends). Be sure to pull everything out of that box and set it all aside.
Step Two – Grease
The biggest oversight that people make is not greasing the seatpost and stem. Ungreased parts will corrode together, essentially welding your seatpost and/or handlebar in place. Use something like a Park Polylube to put a thin layer on the inside of the seatpost and the inside of your steerer tube (provided you have a quill-type stem. That’s the one that the doesn’t wrap around the steerer). While you are at it, grease the threads of the holes where the pedals will thread in so they don’t seize together as well.
Step Three – Install the wheels and inflate the tires.
The rear wheels is typically already installed so that’s half the battle! On the front, if it is a bolt-on wheel center it in the dropouts and tighten the nuts. On a bolt-on wheel, you will likely have some “lawyer tabs” that look like washers with tabs on them that need to be installed. These go around the axle and the tabs should stick into existing holes in the fork. If you don’t put these on correctly, be ready to visit the emergency room.
On a quick release front wheel, but a bit ofr grease on the skewer, slide it through the axle and put on the wheel. Note that a properly installed Q/R will be on the non drive side (the side without the chain) and pointing up or back when in the closed position.
Step Four – Adjust brakes
Depending on the type of brakes that come on your bike, you will need to adjust them accordingly. Bottom line is that you need to make sure the pads line up with the rim (when they are contacting the rim after you squeeze the levers) and that they are toed-in slightly.
Step Five – Adjust shifting
If your bike has more than one chainring in the front and more than one gear/cog in the back you will want to adjust your derailleurs to ensure you can use all those gears. There are LOTS of tutorials on the interwebs. Just search “adjust derailleurs” and you will find hours of videos.
Step Six – Install any remaining parts
This includes saddle (seat), pedals (pay attention to left vs. right and how they are threaded), reflectors, pads, and anything else that came in that parts box.
Step Seven – RTFM
That stands for Read the Friendly (or insert another F-word of choice) Manual. There are lots of tips on how to check for different issues and safety checks in there. Don’t overlook it!
Step Eight – GO RIDE!!!!!!!!
And then pay attention to anything that feels or sounds weird. Cables stretch, spokes settle in, tires get seated. If something seems weird, fix it!
Bottom line is don’t let the overwhelming idea of building a bike up get in the way of you puling the trigger on buying one. You can do it! And if you can’t, just bring it to us. We promise not to charge double if you tried working on it first.