How To Build Your Own Bike- A Detailed Guide
We buy and receive free products to review, and may receive commissions from affiliate links. See our disclosure page for details.
So in this article, I want to begin with the “how” part. If you have read any of my other articles you will know that I truly believe the bike is a utilitarian machine. It is easy to work on, fun to customize, and even more, fun to ride around.
Sure there are plenty of carbon fiber and graphene compound frames out there that cost more than your first born but you shouldn’t let that intimidate you.
How To Build Your Own Bike- Steps
The idea of building your own bike is surely exciting, but speaking from experience, you should definitely get the right tools first. You don’t want to be fumbling with the frame and tires not knowing how to fix them together. Here is what you are going to need:
- Allen Wrench
- Torque Wrench
- Adjustable Wrench
- Spoke Wrench
- Chain Tool
- Bottom Bracket
- Pedal Wrench
- Cable Cutters
- Grease and Lubricants
- Chain Whip and Cassette Lockring Tool
Don’t be scared of the long list. These tools are only going to make the job simpler! Let’s begin.
Step 1: Get The Frame
Unless you know how to weld and have all the necessary jigs for bike building; the frame is something you will have to buy either new or used. Sometimes the classifieds or your local co-op are good places to start looking for frames.
You need to make a choice on what kind of bike you want to build and buy accordingly. You should look for something your size of course and judging against the past bikes you’ve owned this should be relatively easy.
Besides the size, you want to make sure the frame is not bent, rusted, or broken in any way. When dealing with steel, bending is more likely to be the case, but even then still unlikely. Aluminum and carbon fiber tend to have more catastrophic failures and will be easy to see with the naked eye.
If you can, try to make the bottom bracket threads have not been stripped or damaged as well. This kind of thing can be fixed but it will add unnecessary cost to the project. Many times used bikes will come with a myriad of parts still attached to the frame.
Tip: I would recommend you buy a frame new is the only way to ensure that it has not crashed. For aluminum and carbon frames it is the only way to really know the mileage and age of the bike. Most manufacturers have a frame or frame and fork option on their website store.
Step 2: Find The Fork
Just like with the frame you need to know what kind of fork you want. It should match the type of bike be it road, BMX, mountain, or everything in between. You should know what material is best for how you want to ride and it needs to have the right clearance for the types of tires you want.
Some manufacturers are now doing offset or tapered headsets in which the top race (headtube race) is smaller in outside diameter than the bottom race (crown race). It is critical that you find a fork that is compatible.
In choosing your fork think about the frame material. Carbon fiber is light and strong. It will dampen the hardness of the road beneath you. Aluminum is light and rigid. It can sometimes amplify those bumps in the road but it is cheaper than carbon fiber and most mid to upper-level road bikes are made out of aluminum.
Steel is heavier and suppler than the other two. It is cheaper as well. This is my go-to material for my mountain bike fork. It’s best for touring, fat tire mountain bikes, and family heirloom road bikes. It is going to outlast you.
Tip: If you need rack or fender mounts, you can get them. If you want to run a quill stem make sure you get a threaded fork and headset.
Step 3: The Headset
Briefly mentioned before, the headset is a set of bearings, cups, and races that connects the fork to the frame. It is what allows your front wheel to turn. The races are pressed down onto the fork, the cups are placed into the holes in the headtube on the frame, and bearings fit into these cups.
Most modern headset bearings are sealed bearings. They are also usually higher quality than unsealed bearings.
Sealed means that the bearing inners and outers are press-fitted around the bearing balls themselves and usually a rubber or plastic seal is placed on top of the bearing balls so you cannot see them when you look at the finished product. The only drawback here is that sealed bearings are much harder to work on and add grease to the life of the headset.
Bearings that are not sealed tend to last a little longer because you can clean and regrease them after every season. My favorite headset brands include Chris King, Phil Woods, Paul Components, and Cane Creek.
Tip: Be sure to keep in mind that if you get a tapered headtube you get a headset that is compatible.
Step 4: The Stem
Sizing and compatibility are also very important here. You need to get a stem that will fit around your steer tube. Modern stems fit down over the steer tube and tighten into place. Often times there will be spacers to raise the height of the stem. The spacers go on top of the headset and then the stem fits down over them.
How To Buy Your First Real Mountain Bike
Why Should You Build Your Own Bike?
So after all that why would you build your own bike? It is the only way to have complete control of what goes on your bike. Sure, you can add new parts to an already complete bike but you won’t learn as much.
Building a bike will increase your knowledge of the industry, it will increase your knowledge of the mechanics of bicycles, and increase your confidence in yourself. I have done it. It took time and effort, and it was not cheaper than buying a complete bike but it changed the way I think about transportation and it made me want to become a mechanic which I am today.
Here is a beginner guide that might help you a lot through the building process
Tips To Build Your Own Bike
With such an exciting project at hand, it’s really very easy to get carried away but you do want to get the job done, rightly. Here are a few things to keep in mind when building your custom bike.
Keep In Mind Your Riding Style
You definitely want to set your mind on which type of bike you want along with your riding style. I am an adrenaline junkie so I knew I would be riding on the hills more than the roads.
This is why I built myself a mountain bike using a Nukeproof Scout 275 Alloy MTB Frame. You can build a road bike, commuter, or whatever kind of bike, just make sure that it aligns with your riding preferences. This will help you choose the right components.
We have done most of this part but try to search on the different components. Explore the bike shops and see what interests you. If you are going to buy a used frame (which I definitely do not recommend) examine it thoroughly. Make a wise choice.
Set Your Budget
Although it is somewhat cheaper than buying a whole bike, you still need to set a budget. Try to achieve a balance between quality and affordability. You do not want to get up being carried away with the idea because that can cost you some bucks!
Get The Right Tools
As I previously said, having the right tools will make your job much easier. Get the right tools before you start assembling your bike.
Seek Professional Help
If things get too complicated or overwhelming, seek professional help. Most home mechanics can even pay a visit to your garage to help you with the process. Take proper measurements so that you can get a proper bike fit.
You can also visit a custom bike builder or a bike shop that specializes in building custom bikes to get help.
Best Mountain Bikes Under 450,000
We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Read more about us.
Not everyone needs a high-end mountain bike that breaks the bank. If you are new to the sport, ride infrequently, or prefer easier trails with few major obstacles, cheaper bikes offer plenty of performance. Following a significant industry shift in wheel sizes, most budget bikes share a common formula: 27.5-inch or 29-inch wheels, suspension up front, and an aluminum frame. The good news is that there are plenty of suitable options in the sub-450,000 price range, and below are our favorites for 2023. For more background information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
1. Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 (999)
Suspension: 120mm (front)Tires: 27.5 x 2.4 in. (medium frame)Gears: 2 x 9What we like: Great price, decent off-road abilities, and convenient REI warranty.What we don’t: Somewhat dated 2X drivetrain.
REI’s Co-op Cycles (formerly Novara) offers a pretty complete lineup of hardtail mountain bikes with wallet-friendly and good feature sets. Sneaking just under our 450,000 cap is the brand’s versatile DRT 1.2. This bike is a great option for beginner- and intermediate-level riders with stable and grippy 2.4-inch-wide tires, thru-axles for added stiffness, and a solid 120 millimeters of front suspension (20mm more than most options on this list). And for those that spend time on smooth gravel roads or bike paths, a lockout on the fork is a nice touch. Adding to the value equation, the DRT 1.2 includes premium features like internal cable routing for a clean look, plus it’s set up to accommodate a dropper post (not included, but you can add one later on).
At over 32 pounds, the DRT 1.2 isn’t as nimble or speedy as some of the more XC-focused models on this list (including the Specialized Rockhopper below). In addition, the 2 x 9 drivetrain is fairly dated—many new models have dropped the front derailleur in favor of a lighter and simpler 1X setup—but the Shimano design shifts smoothly and has a sufficiently wide range for tackling hilly terrain. Overall, it’s not a particularly fast or twitchy bike, but it checks the right boxes as a first “real” mountain bike for light trail use, and it doesn’t hurt that the DRT comes with the security of REI’s excellent warranty. For a truly entry-level option, see their 599 DRT 1.1 below.See the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2
Cannondale Trail 5 (960)
Suspension: 100mm (front)Tires: 29 x 2.25 in. (medium frame)Gears: 1 x 10What we like: Fairly modern geometry and mixed wheel sizes for smaller riders.What we don’t: Uncomfortable in rough terrain.
The big recent news from Cannondale is their growing e-bike collection, but there’s a lot to like with their budget-friendly Trail line. The “5” comes in at 960 and has been recently modernized with a longer and slacker geometry. Outfitted with a 1 x 10 Microshift drivetrain, trusty hydraulic disc brakes, and sharp looks—internal cable routing keeps things clean—and you have a strong all-around machine. Additionally, the size small and extra-small frames come with 27.5-inch wheels rather than 29-inch wheels, making the Trail 5 a viable option for shorter riders. It’s not as planted as the DRT 1.2 above (or San Quentin below), but the Trail 5 is a good option for recreational riders or those just starting out.
At its full 960 MSRP, the Trail 5 is a direct competitor to the popular Giant Talon below. Both pack similar component groups and aren’t too far off from a geometry perspective either. It’s a very close call between the two, but the Cannondale gets the edge in gear range (a plus for steeper climbs) and availability (Cannondale is sold through REI, while Giant is more hit and miss nationwide), and price (the Trail is discounted by 20% at the time of publishing). But realistically, both are solid values and fine options at this price point. Read in-depth reviewSee the Cannondale Trail 5 See the Women’s Cannondale Trail 5
Mountain Bike Comparison Table
Mountain Bike Frame Materials
In the sub-450,000 price range, there isn’t a lot of variety in frame materials, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All of the bikes on our list use aluminum, and the reasons are pretty simple: It’s lightweight, affordable, and fairly easy to manufacture. From a performance standpoint, a well-made aluminum bike like the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 is stiff enough to withstand rough trails and plenty durable to avoid significant damage in an average crash. Compromises in aluminum include ride quality—that stiffness comes with a slightly harsher feel and less bump absorption—and longevity. The welds required to put together an aluminum frame can crack over time, and the material itself fatigues faster than alternatives like steel and carbon fiber (although many aluminum frames last a decade or more).
Steel is another reasonably affordable frame material that’s well known for its strength and toughness. Compared with aluminum, steel bikes are even longer-lasting and better-equipped to withstand years of rough use. But it comes with a weight penalty and less of a playful and nimble feel, which is why you rarely see it on a budget-oriented mountain bike. Finally, carbon fiber is a common choice among premium bikes and comes with benefits like less weight—typically about a pound less than an equivalent aluminum frame—a cleaner look with no welds, and smoother ride quality. That said, it’s substantially more expensive to manufacture, so you won’t find any options at this low price point (expect to pay 4,000 or more for carbon).
Mountain Bike Suspension
The vast majority of mountain bikes under 450,000 are intended for smooth trails and cross-country-style riding. As a result, their suspension layouts are very similar, with a front fork that offers between 75 and 120 millimeters of travel (a measurement of how much the shock absorbers can compress). These designs are known as “hardtails,” because they only have a front suspension and no cushioning at the rear. In general, you’ll get less travel with a cheaper model, including the 599 Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 (100mm), while spending up for the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 or Marin San Quentin 1 gets you more capabilities with a 120- or 130-millimeter fork. It’s worth noting that none of the bikes on our list will be comfortable on a technical or rock-filled descent, but if you plan to explore some moderate singletrack, we advise choosing a bike with at least 100 millimeters of travel.
GT Aggressor Comp
We are excited to introduce this budget mountain bike. This is not a high-end bike, but it is an excellent choice for beginners.
The GT Aggressor Comp secures its place as one of the top affordable hardtail bikes thanks to the attractive money-to-value ratio.
Key takeaway points:
The bike is built around a durable aluminum frame that combines strength and comfort. There’s plenty of standover clearance for short riders thanks to the slanted top tube.
The Aggressor Comp is a bargain hardtail mountain bike for everyday riding as it comes with wide 27.5″ wheels and WTB Ranger Comp tires and suits different mountain and recreational biking purposes!
This particular model comes in a modern and attractive black finish which makes it look more expensive.
The GT Aggressor Comp’s components are suitable for entry-level mountain biking and include an SR Suntour XCT fork with 80 mm of travel and Tektro mechanical disc brakes. With the grip and comfort you get from the tires, you will feel confident to ride and explore dirt roads and trails.
This bike also has a 3×7 microSHIFT drivetrain, which is enough gearing for beginners but adds some weight and maintenance requirements.
GT has done a good job on this bike. It will provide years of performance and riding bliss to any entry-level rider.
Mongoose Switchback – Men’s and Women’s
Best Affordable Hardtail MTB
Mongoose Switchback is a versatile hybrid mountain bike that’s suitable for male and female riders. Plus, it comes in several versions, such as Expert, Comp, Sport, and Trail.
It has a lightweight, streamlined, and sleek aluminum frame painted in various attractive colors, which is always a big plus. It’s not ultralightweight, but it’s not heavy either. The coil suspension fork is basic but it’s a great feature for recreational trail, gravel, and dirt riding.
Moving on to the components, the Switchback is equipped with anywhere between 8 and 21 gears, depending on the model. This is more than enough for entry-level riders. The groupsets vary as well, so you’ll get Shimano Tourney or Altus, depending on the model.
over, this bike comes with mechanical disc brakes to slow you down or stop you on a dime, which is an indispensable feature when riding off-road.
Mongoose Switchback is a well-built mountain bike that delivers phenomenal value for the money to the average beginner trail rider.
Finding the right fit on Mongoose Switchback is easy as the bike is available in Small, Medium, and Large sizes. All models also get 27.5 x 2.1″ knobby tires that will ensure plenty of grip in most conditions.
Mongoose Switchback is an entry-level bike so it’s not recommendable for serious trail riding. However, it’s perfectly suitable for casual off-road rides and explorations off the beaten path. It’s a comfy, upright MTB that will do a great job of introducing you to the nuances of the sport.
Cannondale Trail 8
Best for comfort with SAVE micro-suspension
It’s time to update our list of the best mountain bikes. The newest addition is the Cannondale Trail 8. It has earned its place on the list because it provides unprecedented value for such a small amount of money.
The low overall weight is achieved thanks to the lightweight SmartForm C3 aluminum frame with a trail-specific geometry. It puts the rider in a more upright and easygoing position. Therefore, you will feel more confident and ride more.
The best aspects about the Trial 8 mountain bike are:
The Cannondale Trail 8 has a 75mm travel suspension fork, WTB Ranger Comp tires, and comes with 27.5″ or 29″ wheels depending on the size. Therefore, it is suitable for different terrains and types of off-road riding.
Even though the Trail 8 costs just over 600, it uses decent components. These are entry-level choices, but they work really well even at this level. You will have 14 speeds in total which is perfect for some decent off-road riding and climbing.
The Trail 8 is a simple and versatile trail mountain bike that does well on paved and unpaved roads, in the forest, and on moderate trails.
The 2.25″ tires are knobby and wide, so you won’t be lacking grip. You’ll also get a pair of platform pedals and a comfy saddle. Therefore, all you need to do is hop on and go explore!
The Trail 8 mountain bike is the right choice if you want to buy an affordable mountain bike with decent components that you can ride on and off-road, to enjoy the outdoors, lose weight, or get fit.
Custom Mountain Bike Build Checklist
So let’s first look at the mountain bike parts list and components needed:
- Frameset (Frame, Seatpost, Fork, Headset). You have a choice between a hardtail, dual suspension, or fat bike. The material can be aluminum, steel, carbon or a combination. You’ll also need to choose the wheel size, with 29” being the current industry standard. Keep in mind that brake systems might not work on all frames.
- Rear derailleur hanger, which connects the derailleur to the frame. Typically made of aluminum, this part is an essential component.
- Front and rear derailleur –Front and rear derailleurs are part of the shifting groupset, so FOCUS on performance.
- Wheels. Look for something light but not flimsy.
- Hubs, spokes, rims. If you want to build everything from scratch, you’ll need to consider the hubs, spokes, and rims. Wheel building is not for beginners, so make sure you know what you’re doing. The hub material, performance, and stiffness all matter.
- Tires. There are also lots of choices out there when it comes to tires, so consider your riding style and terrain to determine the tread type that works best for you.
- Wheel axle. Thru axles are now standard, but the quick release is an older option.
- Headset. The set of bearings that allow your fork to rotate. Most are threadless.
- Front fork.In most cases, you’ll want a suspension fork for the front fork. There are many models to choose from, so do your research.
- Rear shock.For dual-suspension bikes, you’ll need a rear shock. Some frames may come with one included.
- Stem. It attaches the headset to the handlebar, so the length and angle are important considerations. The handlebar itself should be chosen based on width, sweep, rise, overall geometry, and material.
- Handlebar.The stem attaches the headset to the handlebar, so the length and angle are important considerations. The handlebar itself should be chosen based on width, sweep, rise, overall geometry, and material.
- Shifters brake levers. They can be purchased separately or in group sets.
- Handlebar grips. Don’t forget about handlebar grips – they’re highly personal.
- Brakes and brake pads.Disc brakes are a popular option, but cantilevers and V-brakes are also available. Don’t forget about brake pads!
- Seatpost.When it comes to the seat post, you’ll need to decide between standard or dropper post. Consider different materials, like aluminum vs. carbon fiber.
- Seat post clamp. The seat post clamp must work well, and it’s also an opportunity for weight weenies to shave off a few grams.
- Seat.The seat itself is highly personal, so choose one that fits you comfortably.
- Chainrings. They are the cogs at the front, typically sold in sets of 1, 2, or 3, and they can be part of a groupset.
- Crank arms.Crank arms may also be part of the groupset, but you might want to swap them out. Length and weight are key considerations.
- Bottom bracket. It is where the cranks attach, so look for something solid here that is compatible with your frame.
- Cassette.The cassette is a cluster of cogs at the rear, usually bought with a groupset.
- Chain. The cahin, typically from leading brands like Shimano and SRAM, also comes with the groupset.
- Pedals. They can be flat or clipless, depending on your typical riding terrain.
- Cables and housings. Don’t forget about cables and housings for non-hydraulic brakes and shifters.
Tools and Products to Build a Bike
A good checklist of tools and products for building a bike includes:
- Cable cutter for bikes
- Pedal spanner and box wrench of various sizes
- Inner tube sealer
- Hacksaw for metal
- 600 grit abrasive sandpaper
- Carbon grease/assembly paste
- Bottom Bracket Equipment (Square Pivot; Integrated Cups; Press-Fit)
- Thread locker
- Bearing assembly/disassembly toolset
- Brake and gear cable passage tool
How to Build a Mountain Bike from Scratch (Step by Step)
Building a bike starts with choosing the components for the assembly. Let’s take it a step by step.
Step 1: Choosing the Components
If you are wondering how to build an error-free MTB, you need to FOCUS on the orderly choice of components. On the market, many standards are not compatible with each other, for this reason, you must follow a specific order for purchases.
To give an example, it will be useless to choose the small parts, bearings, or wheels if you have not even identified the frame first. Sometimes for some components, you will have to make choices that intersect with multiple controls, as in the case of wheels.
The key component for assembly is the frame, so you necessarily start from the choice of the chassis, only then will you start choosing the components to match according to the construction standards.
To mention a few aspects, you have to look at the frame, the diameter of the wheels and the respective standards, the minimum and maximum suspension travel, the type of attachment, the headset, and the bottom bracket change completely.
Once the frame has been chosen, its standards are checked, start with the bottom bracket and the headset. Then you will need to purchase a suitable fork, for example with a straight 1: 1/8 or tapered connection.
When purchasing the suspensions, you must keep in mind the manufacturer’s indications, which indicate the maximum and minimum travel foreseen for the frame. The same thing for the rear shock absorber the attacks, length, and compatibility (trunnion or metric for example) vary.
We Built The Ultimate Cheap DH Bike!
Each frame houses a precise wheel diameter that you will have to respect, and which influences the hub standard. For example, if the rear stays have a standard width, you will not be able to buy wheels with a Boost hub (wider) and vice versa.
Step 2: Wheels
The wheels are quite demanding and before buying them you have to make several evaluations. Make sure the tires are sturdy. If you plan to ride on bumpy roads, you need to be sure the tires are wide, and the tread offers plenty of grips. They also need to be thicker than road tires, to avoid ending up with a flat spot and needing to replace the tire.
You will only need to install road tires on your MTB wheels if you will be deploying the bike for racing on asphalt. Better still, if you want to use the same bike for the mountain trail or terrain and as an urban bike, it would be much better to have two wheelsets, one an MTB wheelset and the other a road wheelset, or simply install a hybrid wheel.
You can find reinforced tires that provide more support when riding off-road. Choose those that are 29, 26, or 27.5 inches
Trusted Source 3 Ways to Customize a Bike. wikiHow Riding a bike can be great exercise and fun activity to do with friends and family. Customizing your old bike’s look and performance can be a fun and cost effective way to spice up your ride. Whether you’re looking to conquer a new… www.wikihow.com
as these are the standard sizes. The dimensions are shown on the shoulder of the tire itself. As for the width, mountain bike tires generally respect values between 1.8 and 2.2 inches (4.5 and 5.5 centimeters).
After looking at the standard and type of axle you can (almost) choose the wheelset. It remains to understand which transmission you want to mount, to go and get the correct freewheel body.
For example, Shimano drivetrains ranging from 9 to 11 speeds are fitted with the standard Shimano freehub body, which will also be compatible with some of the SRAM drivetrains such as the two 12-speed models SRAM SX Eagle and SRAM NX Eagle. If, on the other hand, you want to mount the new 12-speed Shimano groups, you need a micro spline body. Instead of the SRAM GX, XX1, and X01 groupsets, the SRAM XD body is needed.
And if you think about a tubeless configuration, you will have to buy the tape of the internal diameter of the rim and a set of valves. If you want to know how to tape a tubeless rim, here’s the procedure.
It is really difficult to find an MTB wheelset ready to match your MTB with all the standards included. A winning solution is to buy a custom MTB wheelset, which is assembled according to your requests.
From hub to rim, types of pin and body. Save money, make a solid wheelset by keeping an eye on the price and weight.
Step 3: Transmission
To choose the transmission, you will first have to evaluate if you have a standard or boost rear stay, in which case the width of the crankset changes. See what type of bottom bracket can be mounted on the frame and the relative compatibility of that type of bottom bracket with the crankset. Check out the GANOPPER 170mm Crankset if it will work for you. It’s one of the most recommended by our experts in terms of durability, performance, and product offer.
The most convenient way to buy a bike is usually to get one that is already factory assembled. However, there are times when it is more convenient, and you get what you dream of by getting the parts separately and assembling the bike. You can put together a new bike, combine used parts with new ones, or put together a recycled one. Knowing how to build a mountain bike yourself may not help you save money compared to buying a complete bike. But you’ll appreciate the customization, performance, and technical knowledge you get from it.
The contact points between the bike and the rider are the grips, the pedals, and the seat. To a large extent, the comfort level of the bike will be directly related to these contact points, so it is worth looking for comfortable and suitable options for the use you intend to give your bike.
Bike Geometry Explained: Understand What You Need and Why
Cyclists should know basic bike geometry before choosing a ride, including stack, reach, wheelbase, head tube angle, rake, trail, and bottom bracket drop. Read more…
The second idea my friends hit me with when I told them I was psyched: Let’s go to the downhill mountain biking park next weekend.
Doing exactly that worked wonders. I visited Spider Mountain, a lift-accessed downhill park not far from Austin. I made plans with my crew, paid for my lift ticket (under 30), and arranged to rent a bike, helmet, and pads through the park.
I finished the day with three key takeaways:
- Confirmation that I actually do like it, and I’m not just heroicizing it
- A far clearer idea of how I want to ride and what I want to ride on
- Lingering inflammation in many major joints and way less skin on my right hand
In essence, those three bullet points form the basis for why I recommend you try before you buy.
First of all, there’s no way you can be certain whether you’re going to like something before you actually do it. As a rock climber, I’ve seen this lots of times: The Alpinist or Free Solo blows somebody away, but then they get on a rope and find out they’re scared of heights.
So, if you think you’re going to like downhill riding, find a place nearby where you can do it and then go do it.
Extra points if that place will rent you equipment. Because I got the opportunity to try a couple of different bikes throughout the day, I got a better idea of what size bike would feel comfortable to me. I also got to wrap my brain around other spec nuances — for instance, I now know that HT Components pedals feel very grippy if you wear Vans to ride.
And you know what? None of it will matter if you don’t love what you’re doing. I’m grateful that I got the chance to ride with some of my favorite people on my first day out. But I also required vindication that I would connect with it in my own way.
I arrived at the park with two goals: crash and crash again. I accomplished both (and then some), and as I sat there afterward, nothing made me more sure that I was willing to invest in the sport than this one thing: the fact that I had spastic thighs and half a right palm and I still couldn’t wait until the next time I got out.
Try Affordable BMX to Pass Time, Develop Skills
As I sat in the ongoing afterglow of my first day of downhill mountain biking, I realized that it would probably still be a while before I got my own bike. I wasn’t in the position to spend several thousand dollars on anything, let alone a new, injurious pastime.
However, what I could buy right away was a BMX bike.
It ain’t freeride, but you can find plenty of similarity in the skillsets you’ll need for both BMX jumping and downhill MTB.
Pump tracks can be your friend as you teach yourself how to control your bike with your body (rather than with the “controls” like the pedals and brakes). And if you want to get into sending big gaps, you’d probably better start with a few small ones first.
For me, BMX also checks the “do it local” box. The dirt park 10 minutes from my apartment has been in Austin longer than I have. And at even closer range, there’s nothing stopping me from goofing off in my parking lot after work (read: bunny hopping, doing stair sets, working on skids and brake control).
Again, it’s not 25mph, full-suspension downhill mountain biking glory, but it’s something — and it’s a way to maintain contact with a sport I can’t feasibly do every day.
Downhill Mountain Bikes and Where to Get Them: Suggestions for Noobs
If you want to go to Marketplace, you’re on your own. Craigslist, even more so.
One place I’d recommend is The Pro’s Closet. The site’s moderators vet and regulate the resale community and the equipment that flows through it. Look for the Certified Pre-Owned label, which guarantees buyer benefits like a pre-listing inspection, pro tuning and servicing before delivery, and 30-day, no-hassle returns.
(The Pro’s Closet also lets you buy your bike over time through Affirm, as long as you qualify for credit.)
I again recommend looking for a bike that’s not Hyper-specialized. You’d be miserable doing big climbs on a pure downhill bike. That can be true even if you don’t have to actually ride uphill. Carrying your bike on your back is the reality at any trail spot without a lift, and you’ll likely do it a lot — again, DH bikes are heavy.
On the other hand, a new rider can prematurely trash a bike that doesn’t have enough oomph. Because you’re new, you’ll likely be hard on the equipment by nature.
A final note on bikes: Prepare to adjust your suspension. Unless you buy a new one at a shop, you’ll have to do it yourself or pay or convince someone else to. Either way, travel and rebound only deliver their intended benefits if your component tuning corresponds to your body weight. Worst-case scenario, you can bottom out a poorly tuned shock and damage its guts.
Bike Clubs: Your Ticket to New Trails and Friends
There’s a whole other angle you can take to work your way into the world of bike know-how: the real world.
The way I suggest you get there is to take the internet.
Google “[your city] mountain bike club” or something similar, and see what happens. Within minutes of searching, I found a club where I live that charges a nominal membership fee for waiver-accessed, unrestricted access to a handful of local properties.
It also gave me access to a community of riders I might not have met otherwise. “Your network is your net worth,” as the kids say.