How To Assemble A Bike in 6 Steps

Years ago, the typical way of buying a bike was to go into a store, where it was ready to go and prebuilt for you. In modern times, it’s very different, and with many people buying online, they often find themselves needing to learn how to assemble a bike at home.

For a bike mechanic or builder, this is a fairly straightforward task, but for a casual day-to-day cyclist, this can prove more difficult. There’s a process of how to do this, and it’s important to get it right!

As a professional bike mechanic who’s spent years packing and assembling bikes, I’m going to be running you through the process so you know exactly how to do it and can get out on the road as soon as possible.

We are going to be covering:

How to assemble a bike, showing an assembled grey road bike next to a bike box.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Bike Assembly Vs Bike Building

Before we start, it’s important to discuss the difference between assembling and building a bike.

Assembling a bike is taking a part-built bike out of a box and putting it together, which is the process you need to take when buying a complete bike online. That’s the process we’ll be covering in this guide.

Building a bike involves attaching each component separately from scratch and making all the adjustments yourself. While we recommend doing this if you ever get the chance, as it will teach you a huge amount about your bike, it’s not required when buying a complete bike online.

Will A Bike Shop Assemble A Bike For Me?

There’s a common misconception that if you walk into a bike shop with a bike ordered from another shop online or bought secondhand, they are going to be upset you didn’t buy a bike from them. This is never the case. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Many bike shops offer an assembly service for around $100. They will take the bike and the box, put it all together for you, and do some safety checks on the bike. It’s probably the best way to go if you don’t feel confident doing DIY bike assembly.

What Tools Will You Need To Assemble A Bike?

When it comes to bicycle assembly, you are not going to need much. You can do it with nearly just hand tools alone, but we recommend a little more to ensure it goes smoothly. You are going to need:

  • Allen Keys
  • Tire Pump
  • Pedal Spanner
  • Grease
  • Torque Wrench (optional)
  • Carbon Assembly Paste (if using carbon fiber)
  • Bike Stand (optional)

Using good tools will go a long way and prevent possible issues, such as rounding off bolts.

We highly recommend the use of a torque wrench, as this ensures the bolts are at the correct tightness. Overtightening is a common issue for beginner home bike mechanics, which can result in damage to your bike’s components.

Also, a bike stand makes the job much easier and keeps you more organized.

How To Assemble A Bike in 6 Steps

Let’s get to the exciting part and start assembling this bike. We recommend allowing an hour to go through this process. 

Step #1. Check The Bike

A bike dismantled ready to be packed in a bike box.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Before you start grabbing the tools and putting the bike together, I highly recommend checking what you have and ensuring it’s not damaged in any way. Open the box and remove the foam packaging from the frame and the wheels. 

Check the box for any extra bike components that might be loose, such as pedals and thru axles. After everything is out, clear the rubbish and pop it back in the box in case you need it later to return the bike.

Now, get the frame in the stand and check the bike to ensure there’s no damage to the frame, forks, or wheels. It’s important to do this now because once a bike is built, companies often refuse to take it back, thinking it has been used or was built incorrectly. 

Step #2. Insert The Wheel (Or Wheels)

Most manufacturers already leave the rear wheel in when they transport a bike. This is for many reasons, the first being to help protect the wheel and the frame, to help everything stay in place in the box, and to make it easier to build.

Let’s get the wheels in now. If you have disc brakes, you will need to remove the small colored blocks inside the brake calipers. When these are out, and the wheels are not inserted, you must be careful not to pull the brakes or it can adjust the pistons.

Put the wheels into the bike and then insert the thru-axles or quick-release skewers. Tighten up the axles and then torque up to the recommended specification if required, often stated on the axle. Now, it’s starting to look like a proper bike!

You will then need to pump up the tires to the correct PSI. If you are unsure where the PSI should be, start using an online PSI calculator such as this one from SILCA

Step #3. Attach The Handlebars And Seatpost

An Allen key set undoing stem bolts.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Next, we need to attach the handlebars. These are usually detached at the stem, so it’s very simple to put them back on. Undo the stem’s faceplate, which is the four bolts on the front.

Then, put the handlebars into the stem and screw the faceplate back on again. I recommend only tightening it up loosely, as you will need to spend some time getting them into the right position.

Now, stand over the bike as if you were riding, and maneuver the handlebars to so that they are positioned centrally and at an angle that feels right. Once you’re happy, tighten these faceplate bolts using the torque wrench.

Then, you will need to add the seatpost. Take the post, attach any saddle you might want, then insert it into the seat tube and tighten up the small collar at the top with the seat at the correct height for you. Again, ensure the correct torque specification. 

Step #4. Add The Pedals

How To Assemble A Bike in 6 Steps 1
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

The last component you are going to need to add on this DIY bike assembly is the pedals.

Adding pedals has to be done in a certain way, as each pedal tightens and loosens in a different direction. It can be really easy to get this wrong, and you can end up damaging the bike. 

The key to success is to get the correct pedal on each side and install it in the correct direction. There’s a method that makes this easy, and we’re going through it now. Start by finding out which is the left and which is the right pedal. It should be written on them.

Now go to the right side of the bike (the driveside). Start by putting the crack arm pointing towards the front of the bike. Then put some grease on the threads of the pedal and then start screwing it clockwise as if towards the front of the bike. Do this until it is finger-tight.

Then, go to the left side of the bike (non-driveside) and again put the pedal pointing towards the front of the bike. Add grease, then screw it in, but this time it will be anti-clockwise. Do this until finger-tight.

Finally, take the pedal spanner (or for some pedals, Allen keys) and tighten them up. It’s worth checking the manufacturer’s guidelines on torque. They have to be quite tight. 

Step #5. Check The Other Bolts On The Bike

Now for the final step of the bicycle assembly. We are going to check the bolts on the rest of the bike. Although you shouldn’t have to, it’s important to do so even if you’re buying a bike, new or secondhand. It’s not that we’re untrusting. It’s just good practice.

I once bought a bike from someone and found that 60% of the bolts needed to be up to a higher torque. It was a disaster waiting to happen if I had ridden it before checking.

Here are all the bolts I recommend checking before heading out on the road or an adventure.

  • Faceplate Bolts
  • Stem Bolts
  • Shifters Bolts (under the rubber shroud)
  • Crank Bolts
  • Brake Caliper Bolts
  • Brake Disc Bolts
  • Seat Tube Collar
  • Wheel Axles
  • Saddle Bolts
  • Pedals Axles

It might seem like a lot, but it’s such a good idea to do this. Loose bolts not only break bikes, but they are dangerous. When it comes to DIY bike assembly, do it right and do it once.

Step #6. Shake Down

Finally, I recommend having a shake-down ride. Take the bike out with your Allen keys and go somewhere safe where you can use it and make any necessary adjustments.

Now you know how to assemble a bike!

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