I purchased a new mountain bike online. As I understand it, new bikes are usually shipped only partially assembled, but I don't really know what to expect. Will it just be a matter of attaching large assemblies like pedals and handlebars, or should I expect to have to route cables, setup derailleurs, etc? I know it probably varies somewhat between manufacturers, but what would be the typical level of assembly I should expect?

EDIT: For clarification, I'm comfortable doing almost all my own maintenance and I own most of the necessary tools. I'm just looking for an idea of what to expect and how much time to allot.

  • Could be all over the map. First you spend about 15 minutes removing all the packing material, then you attach the pedals and attach or twist the handlebar. (You will need the appropriate wrenches for these.) Depending in particular on what they do with the handlebars you may have to reattach some cable straps. And assume that the derailers are not adjusted properly -- assume they will need adjustment after a couple of miles of break-in. Similarly with the brakes. Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 21:24
  • @DanielRHicks I assumed adjustments will be needed. After all, it's not like somebody at the factory hops on and takes every bike out for a ride. But I wasn't sure if derailers and brakes would be fully mounted and hooked up. Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 0:39
  • 3
    This is not an effective question; why don't you wait until the thing arrives and then ask about some specific problem you run into (if any)?
    – Kaz
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 6:19
  • 1
    @Kaz - Because then it would be too late to serve the purpose stated in my edit to the question. I fail to see how asking what to expect makes it an ineffective question, or even what "ineffective" means in this context. Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 6:30

2 Answers 2


The details depend, but as a guide expect to install pedals and wheels and attach the handle bar to the stem (2 or 4 Hex bolts). Unless you are DIY challenged, the most time consuming part will be removing the packaging material from frame, handlebars, wheels.

The disc brakes will (should) have packers that will needed removing. There might be plastic spacers in the forks and "plugs" to remove from the cranks where the pedals go in.

Once assembled you need to tune the gears and check the brakes are working an aligned correctly. Check all the bolts and nuts are tight (use a torque wrench if you have one, else be careful - tight as in firm, not tight as in done up by a 600 pound gorilla holding a spanner)

If you have any doubts, your LBS will be able to assemble it for a about 1/2 hour labor charge.

  • 3
    An important note - left pedals are opposite threaded. You will usually have to adjust the brakes, derailleurs, etc. on these bikes to get them to shift properly and stuff though the cables are already routed. If you aren't comfortable with this, you should take it to your LBS - they will also usually give it a lookover to make sure anything isn't wrong and you can get it dialed in a bit for yourself. Also, make sure you know how to use a quick release... Some directions from BikesDirect (probably the biggest retailer of this sort) are at bikesdirect.com/instructionhelp.htm
    – Batman
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 21:27
  • @Batman I'm comfortable doing pretty much everything short of frame repairs, and generally only use my LBS when it's something requiring a tool I don't own and don't think it worth owning. So yeah, I know how quick releases work. ;-) Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 22:35
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    @CareyGregory, remember to bed in the brake pads properly.
    – Vorac
    Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 8:47

Nope, it should be as easy as you think. I've built my own bikes and a few for my friends. I also used to build bikes at Target and they get the same ones consumers do. Typically, everything complicated is preassembled. For instance, the brake lines will be attached and connected, and all you have to do is fit the wheel in and attach it to the frame.

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    In the interest of balance, one should also point out that department store bikes are almost never setup properly from the start (brake rub, spoke tension, bad cable routing, etc.)... Building a bike to run properly is almost never as simple as bolt the pieces together and go.
    – Batman
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 21:35
  • @Batman: often the BSOs those places sell cannot be set up to work correctly using the parts supplied.
    – Móż
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 23:27
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    @Ӎσᶎ Just adding a link for BSO. One good thing about BSO's is that they make people appreciate a real bicycle!
    – andy256
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 6:00
  • @andy256 Wow, you can do text links in comments. I didn't know that.
    – Móż
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 6:01
  • @Ӎσᶎ Same syntax as in a post.
    – andy256
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 6:03

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