I was going to ask about the pros and cons of building one's bike from scratch, but I came to the conclusion that I'm not going to do it (asking and building).

Now my question is: why is it (usually, if we leave the silly high-end prices alone) more expensive to build a bike from scratch?

  • Maybe "bike fitting"?
    – Ivan Chau
    Jul 18, 2015 at 13:39
  • I came here from a duplicate thread to mention this here. Bespoke builds can be tailored to meet your exact needs and wants rather than getting something that is "good enough" off of the shelf. I built a heavy duty touring bike that had a number of features (like heavy duty rear wheel, heavy duty headset, and a tailor-built trekking bar cockpit) that just would not be available in a comprable bike had I not built it bespoke.
    – Kevin
    May 9, 2016 at 18:14

5 Answers 5


The sale price falls between what the customer is prepared to pay and cost plus. (If the cost plus is more than what the customer will accept, it's not worth doing business).

Complete bikes are a highly competitive market, and this drives the price down to very close to cost plus pricing. It's the high volume, low profit part of the business. The accessories and parts are the high profit part that keeps them going.

Bike parts are not competitive. Most bikes sold never get to see a new part except accident damage, and individual parts are relatively cheap, so the consumer cannot save that much by shopping around. Most parts are sold and installed at shops and the labor cost will not change shopping around. Most consumers do not have the skills or desire to install parts themselves, let alone diagnose a fault. Even for the small percentage that replace worn out parts, shopping around is hardly worth the savings (unless you go online and buy on the world-scale market).

On a world scale, the likes of wiggle show just how much profit is in parts, yet they represent a very small percentage of bike parts sold. Most parts are sold and installed at shops. As such, they have little volume buying power and probably pay more for parts than the manufacturers, or pick up the end-of-life parts the manufacturers no longer make and stock. Have a look at wiggle stock - you will not often get exactly what you want - you will get usually something very close - unless your bike is a year old - because they are an 'end of run' outlet shop.

Comparing to computers is not correct. If you look at what's happened, laptops and all-in-ones are a lot cheaper than boxes and the modern PC equivalent of the pre-assembled bike. Try building a laptop or all-in-one from parts and see what it costs. Your "custom built PC" is now the equivalent to that "silly high-end" bike. Years ago, the market for parts for a PC was a very competitive one with many manufacturers.

  • I now think that the main part is the difference in difficulty/need for special tools between PC building and bike building and who is doing these things, thanks for pointing that out.
    – Jasper
    Jul 17, 2015 at 22:07
  • @Jasper: I think that is not the point. The point is that the markets are quite different. The volume of bikes is much less than the volume of PCs. The component manufacturers can't live without selling to the bike manufacturers, so the manufacturers can buy parts for so much less than the retail consumer it swamps the labor for assembly. Jul 18, 2015 at 4:22
  • Okay, but the market is as ist is at least to some extent because of difficulty/tools IMO.
    – Jasper
    Jul 18, 2015 at 7:08
  • @Jasper I'm not clear on whether you think bikes require more skill and tools or PCs. I've built both, and a PC requires nothing more than a couple of sizes of nut drivers and a philips head screwdriver. The difficulty is selecting and matching components correctly, which is also the difficulty with bikes. Therefore, I think they're equal in terms of difficulty/skills. Where they differ is tooling. Building a bike requires several special tools. However, none of them are expensive and once purchased will last years, so unless you build only one bike tools aren't a significant factor either. Jul 18, 2015 at 14:04
  • 3
    I think that bike assembly requires more skill and tools. Building a PC is almost always "put everything where it fits" and there's usually exactly only one way to do this for each part. No adjustments of tires/brakes/shifters neccessary, neither knowledge about "how much torque does this screw need?"
    – Jasper
    Jul 18, 2015 at 14:10

You don't get bulk buying discounts for each part. You have to get retail packaging instead of bulk packaging. Certain parts are only made for OEM bikes.

You have to put it together (and possibly get the frame prepped at the bike shop), which can add labor costs (since the work is not done in say, Taiwan).


I have built a few bikes for less than already built cost. It takes a lot of time and research to do it. If you add the cost of the personal time, it has to be more a labor of love than a financial gain. It took over a year and hours of looking on line, E Bay, Craigs List and retailers for the best deals on individual components and buying only when I thought the price was the best I could get. What I finished with was about half the cost of the bike assembled. I also gained the skills needed to repair almost anything on the bike and an understanding of how everything works. The reason for the up charges on components are as stated by others, volume pricing and the five or six hands that touch the part before it makes it to the bike shop. Every layer of the supply chain makes a profit and the price goes up per unit.

  • +1 for mentioning the supply chain. The supply chain is different for parts vs complete bikes.
    – andy256
    Jul 18, 2015 at 2:07
  • Well, half the price of the assembled counterpart seems to be a very good bargain. Of course I'm not going to put my own time in the calculation.
    – Jasper
    Jul 18, 2015 at 7:07
  • What do you use as "already built cost" reference? MSRP, street price or price you could find by scouting various discount outlets for equivalent time?
    – ojs
    Jul 20, 2015 at 20:01

Economy of scale, bulk discounts, underpaid Chinese laborers. One of those.

RE: building your own PC. Yes you can sometimes save money doing that too (on higher end rigs) but if you just want 'a cheap PC' it would be almost impossible to top a pre-built Acer or Dell...and literally impossible if you factor in things like Windows licenses.

  • Well, I just checked Dell. A low-end Inspiron is offered for 420EUR + 30EUR shipping. I can get the parts (including Windows 8) for ~350EUR including shipping.
    – Jasper
    Jul 18, 2015 at 11:38

Because you are only buying 1 of each component. A bicycle manufacture buys thousands of the same component and thus gets huge discounts. Sometimes, some components on a bicycle are the bicycle manufacture's own product, such as hubs, bars, etc. These are not for sale to you. However, building your own bike allows you to select exactly the components you want. As for PCs, once it was possible to build for less than a complete PC, but now the price of PCs is so low, that's not really possible anymore. The exception would be a high level gaming PC.

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