Is it Cheaper to Build Your Own Mountain Bike?

Lately, you’ve been yearning to hit the trails with your bike, but frankly, your road bike isn’t suited to off-roading. As you scan through the shiny new mountain bikes, you notice that the prices are running off into the thousands. You can’t help but wonder if there’s a less expensive option.

Is it cheaper to build your own mountain bike? It depends on the parts you want to buy. To build your own bike, you’ll likely be purchasing the same parts at retail that were purchased by a manufacturer at a bulk rate. This means buying a bike is probably less expensive than building one yourself.

The good news is that there is a market for not only used mountain bikes but also for used mountain bike parts. While you may feel backed into a corner, you should know that there are plenty of options available to you. Let’s talk about some of them.

I just bought my first bicycle… ever! I was surprised at how expensive they were, and even more shocked at the prices of the mountain bikes that I saw. And that got me thinking about building vs. buying mountain bikes. This is what I found out…

Building a Bike is Not for the Faint-Hearted

Maybe you’re a hobbyist and you just desperately love engineering. If you’re really interested in building your own mountain bike, you should know there are definitely some of the pros and cons.

Of course, the first “pro” will be the flexibility to customize the whole bike to your very specific needs. You’ll get everything exactly as you want it to be. Also, it’s great to know exactly where each part originated and what it’s all made from.

You’ll be far more knowledgeable after researching and sourcing every single piece and part of your bike. Knowing how everything goes together, you’ll also come out of it with sensible expectations of what your homemade mountain bike can do.

The number one con of the whole process is going to be the price. Buying each part of a mountain bike at retail means you’re actually paying at least double the cost per part that a manufacturer would.

Manufacturers purchase parts in bulk, which means they get a discount. However, price aside, the other major con of building a mountain bike by yourself is the time. Consider the time it will take to find, order, deliver, assemble, and troubleshoot the parts you need.

Buying a Brand-New Mountain Bike

There are so many factors involved just in getting ready to buy a mountain bike. Budget restrictions, as well as the type of riding you plan on doing, are two good factors to start with. Sure, there are options ranging all the way into the tens of thousands, but a good quality mountain bike will usually run between $1500 and $3500 (Source).

Beyond that range, you’re likely looking at additional safety features or specialized add-ons. Otherwise, figure out what it is you want to use your bike for. There are several different types of mountain bikes, and from there, you’ll want to look at materials, brakes, suspension, and wheels (Source).

A good specialty shop will not only make sure you’re thinking of all the components but will also help you find a great fit. You’ll pay a little more for the service, but you’ll also be getting the security of a properly fitted and equipped bike perfect for the exact use you have in mind.

The other benefit of purchasing from a specialty shop is the option for warranties. When building your own bike or buying a used model, you won’t have a chance for a warranty that covers the whole bike. Some bike shops will even offer free tune-ups, so ask your salesperson about the services they offer mountain bike owners.

There are Different Uses for Mountain Bikes

The most common form of mountain bike would be a trail bike. This is a great one for a beginner as it gives you the freedom to get out into nature as long as you stay on the designated paths.

As you chat with a specialist about your beginner status, the term fat bike may crop up. This is not a jab at your love handles. “Fat” refers to the oversized tires that make it easier for beginners to navigate over rough terrain. With the added traction and stability, you have the chance to really enjoy the great outdoors.

Are you dreaming about racing through woodlands or using your bike to ascend great hills? Then it’s likely you’re imagining cruising on a cross-country bike.

Another fun option is a downhill bike, but these are built specifically to be ridden, you guessed it, downhill. For this kind of riding, you’re also looking at needing a lot of other safety equipment since gravity, and Mother Nature is more likely to tear you up as you enter a controlled fall down a mountain.

Searching for a Used Mountain Bike

The process of shopping for a used mountain bike will run about the same as looking at new bikes.

  • First, you will set your budget.
  • Second, you will establish your bike use needs.
  • Third, you will go to specialty shops and assess the fit needs. This will include the tire size and frame size.

Once you have noted this information, you can go out into the world of used bikes.

Obviously, there is Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for shopping used products, but there are other reputable bike resale options as well. There is a site called PinkBike that is literally just for cycling enthusiasts. The BuySell tab will give you a great way to find used bikes for sale in your area.

While you probably have already considered this, here’s the biggest tip we can give you: meet up with the seller in person at a neutral, safe location and inspect the bike yourself. If you feel that you are being pressured into the sale, get out. If you find issues with the frame that indicate damage, say no. Really check out the bike, every single inch of it.

When buying used, you have to be more knowledgeable about mountain bikes than if you were to buy new. This will empower you to recognize any issues with the bike and allow you to ask informed questions of the seller. Make sure you know what you want and how that ought to look before you walk into a sale, and then really stand your ground to make sure you get what you need.

The Red Flag on Used Mountain Bikes and Parts

Bikes are one of the easiest vehicles to steal, and thieves are rarely caught due to a lack of technology and police resources. So, when you’re looking at used bikes or parts, have a smartphone with you ready to search the serial number.

Here are two sites to check against: and

Ask the seller about the serial number and any customizations or modifications they did. The seller should know all about the bike and should be willing to submit to a serial number search.

You might also test their knowledge of local trails or ask where they’ve ridden before. It’s important to get a history of your bike’s use, but it’s also important to make sure that you’re purchasing the bike from the actual owner.

Before You Ride

Whether you’ve purchased your mountain bike new, used, or built it yourself, before you take it on the trail, it’s time to protect your new bike. First, register your bike on the two sites noted above.

This way, if you are the victim of theft early in your ownership, there’s a chance of recovery. You may want to invest in a GPS tracker or aftermarket anti-theft device. Also, call your insurance company and see what protections are available.

Jack Clancy

Everything I do is focused on this concept: "To inspire personal change, so that together we can become the people we wish to be."

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