Building up a MTB frame - thoughts/advice?


#1

As I’ve posted several times on other threads, I’m in the market for a new MTB this year – however, I’m a relatively new mountain biker and have never owned an MTB rig before.

I know from my road/gravel bike experience that I would be better off buying a frame, and building it up to my own spec – it would likely save me money now, and save me the hassle up upgrading the parts later as I’ve often done on my road bikes.

The frame I’m pretty much set on is the Yeti SB100 – however, is it foolish for a rider with my somewhat limited experience in the genre to build one up from scratch? Any advice or gotchas that I should look out for?


#2

I built up a new Yeti ASRC 2 seasons ago - I’ve built bikes before, and I’ve been riding/racing MTB for many years… so I knew exactly what I wanted.
Since you’re considering this approach, I assume you have no worries about the mechanical side of putting it together, tools required, and so on? If I’m right on that, I say go for it - generally, I’d model it after a pre-built bike spec and incorporate the parts/upgrades that appeal to you.
If you can build it over time, and search out deals, that’s where you can really start to save some money.

The SB100 is a great bike, I like the geometry a lot, it’s heavier than my ASR… and if I fall into a pile of cash this year I’ll be looking at picking up one also.


#3

What are your goals with MTB? If you’re just gonna have fun on it, sure build whatever you want if you have the time, knowledge and money. I wouldn’t make it your “dream” build though, because your wants and needs are likely to change as you get out on the trail and start racking up miles, experience and races.

My journey was in the beginning of April 2017 when I bought my first MTB hardtail (first bike actually) to go out with friends. After one trail ride I fell in love with the sport. I wanted to immediately ride several times a week and I couldn’t get enough. None of my friends wanted to ride as much as me so in May 2017 I entered my first XC bike race to see if I liked it. LOVED IT!

Did another race then decided I wanted to be seriously competitive. Sold my entry level hardtail and bought a carbon hardtail race machine. Finished off the 2017 race season and was fully invested in cycling. Over the winter I bought an indoor trainer. By March 2018 I had sold my carbon hardtail and picked up a full suspension Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup. Raced that bike all 2018 season and had upgraded to carbon wheels and a few other tweaks. Also picked up a fatbike for winter :smiley:.

So my passion for MTB developed and progressed resulting in 3 bikes in 1 year. I was also able to keep from getting divorced in the process… but just barely though :grimacing:.


#4

In general, you are going to spend more building up from scratch if you don’t already have parts that you like and have experience with to transfer from a previous build.

I’d say go with a complete through a dealer.


#5

I spent my first year on an aluminium frame (Giant Trance 1) with google quality components.

At the end of the year I decided to go to a carbon bike and purchased a new frame (Devinci Troy) and built it up from the Trance parts.

This year I built a totally new bike from the frame up (Yeti SB150). It probably cost me about 5-10% more building from a frame, but I have no parts to swap out (even little things like saddles and grips add up). But I knew what I wanted from the parts I’d swapped out over the previous bikes.

Having now ridden a large, small and boutique manufacturer bikes I would say if budget is a concern then the parts you get on a Giant are hard to beat for the price. As far as ride, the difference between the same components on the Troy vs the Trance was notable. The Troy sat better in its travel and absorbed descended significantly better. If I was starting now this is where I would look for a price/performance balance (Dave Weigel knows how to create a decent suspension platform).

The SB150 is in a league of its own. It’s not directly comparable to the other two as it’s a 29’r with 150/170. Being my first Yeti I was surprised just how easy it is to pedal and like the Troy, I rarely flick the pedal switch on the shock. I can only imagine how well an SB100 would climb.

I don’t think you can go wrong getting a Yeti or Devinci. A lot comes down to your LBS. Having good, local, support for whatever you buy is a real bonus.


#6

Your plan seems like a huge waste of money to me: if this is your first mountain bike, you don’t even know what you like and how the mountain bike would fit into your riding (you still have a gravel bike, too …). You don’t know what kind of trails or tours you will ride and what kind of geometry you prefer.

If I were you I’d spend one year on a bog standard middle-of-the-road mountain bike with decent components. Don’t get a bike with too much or very little travel (e. g. 160 mm or 100 mm) or one whose geometry is very “progressive”. With mountain bikes the variations between the different types are much, much bigger than, say, between endurance road bikes and aero road bikes. I would even suggest you go for a hard tail, but in case you opt for a fully, I’d definitely take one with an aluminum frame. If something happens, no big deal, because with mountain bikes, you will crash much more often. After one year you know whether you want something more sporty or less sporty, with more suspension travel or less.

Then you can spend big if you’d like and if you can, but then you will also know better what your dream bike actually is. For me it would be an XC machine, but for others it would be a trail muncher.


#7

Hey dude, I didn’t say I had never ridden a mountain bike. I said I had never owned one. I take several 2-3 mountain bike trips a year, and I generally rent high-end bikes or demos.

Maybe I wasn’t that clear. But maybe your condescension isn’t necessary either. I’m hoping I’m mistaking your tone. But based on how many italics you used, I’m guessing I’m not.

Good luck to you.


#8

I didn’t mean to be condescending, I was just going off of what you wrote. Although I could have been more diplomatic. Your very first sentence of your original posts ends with “… I’m a relatively new mountain biker and have never owned an MTB rig before.” And you did not mention you went on 2-3 mountain bike trips per year, renting high-end stuff. If you put yourself in my shoes, not knowing you apart from your very first post here, what kind of rider would you picture yourself to be?

So why don’t we start over? If you have experience mountain biking, I think we would still need to know what kind of riding you do and how much experience you have. When you went on the mountain biking trips, did you for the most part do tours or trails? What kind of riding is available to you locally? Do you want a do-it-all bike or something more focussed? What kind of bikes that you have ridded did you end up liking and why? And what is your budget?


#9

I am a massive fan of buying previous years models, if not stuff that is 2 seasons ‘old’. If you buy sensibly you can get a whole ready assembled bike, with a current spec frame (in an old colourway) for the same price as just a frame, if not a little more - if you have to build then of course you can strip and sell.

Builds, as sure you aware if you have done before, can end up costing more than expected through bars, stems, headset bearings, post (if not included), saddle etc. Of course I end up changing bits like saddles, bars and stem but other bits I usually use till they wear out.

Through buying a colourway that people obviously didn’t like (thankfully I did!), or a bike with a slightly unusual spec, I actually managed to get myself 2 bikes.
First was a heavily reduced 2 season ‘old’ new full suspension trail bike, running Fox shocks/dropper and SRAM gears with Shimano brakes. It’s a 27.5 plus bike so suffered with the market being indecisive and fickle, but when you look past that it’s very very similar to the current 29er model in terms of geo and spec - just that bike is £2k more. The whole bike was about same price as the frame is now…

With the money I saved I bought 1 season ‘old’ new hardtail XC again with Fox / SRAM / Shimano (some one tier down from trail bike). The frame is still the current model, this whole bike cost just a couple hundred more than the frame is now.

The rest of the money I saved I have spent on upgrading tyres, tuition (which has made me better than any bike) and a few riding trips away.

Maybe old stock isn’t that common where you are but is worth a look.


#10

If you like the mechanical side of things, then building up your own bike is great fun and very rewarding, you’ll make plenty of mistakes and learn a lot.

‘Most’ things can be done easily at home with your standard toolkit, however press fit BBs and headsets require a bit more thought and care, as you can potentially bugger up your frame. Likewise internally routing hydraulic cables and associated bleeding can be tricky if not done before.

As mentioned above, you will probably end up paying more than buying a complete bike, however. One way to in which I have saved a good chunk of cash is buying buying a less popular model, older, second hand alumium bike that has a decent spec and then swapping components to the frame of my choice.

things to consider that may or may not fit when swapping components between frames

fork steerer - tapered, straight or too short for frame head tube
headset and BB
rear hub
seatpost
crankset
front mech
cable runs will probably be too long or too short


#11

I’ve done custom builds for 4 of my last 8 high end bikes, then bought complete bikes for the other half. From my experience, nothing beats building a bike from the frame up, especially if you’re a particularly discerning rider and have likes/dislikes regarding component spec. You also need to be incredibly patient, mechanically adept, and know that you’re going to run into some compatibility issue or forget cable tips, ferrules, brake adapters, etc.

For a newer rider, I’d caution against that route, since you’ll save yourself a huge headache and a bit of money buying a complete bike. Once things start breaking, you can replace them, or do a full build on your next bike after having ridden a bunch of components and figuring out what you like. For me, I can’t usually get the bike I want with Shimano brakes, for example, so that can either be a reason to do a frame-up build or just swap out that component if I’m happy with the rest of the spec.


#12

If only buying from dealers, but ebay still has a lot of new…ish stuff, to go with some brand new stuff. They also have a decent amount of knock-offs though so if you see a $10 stem or $30 handlebar from “RAceFAce” or something with an odd logo, buyer beware!

but yes, in general, building up can get expensive compared to buying a complete bike.


#13

That‘s also a great idea. In most years essential components such as the groupset don‘t change at all. Also the frames are usually sold for several years essentially unchanged. Although if you want to get deals on last year‘s models, the best time to buy is fall.


#14

Yup, and when you get bigger changes the discount sometimes gets even bigger. Things like 11 to 12 speed, plus size into medium width 29ers, ‘progressive’ geometry, wider bars/short stems. Yet the frame can be the same.

Some of those don’t matter to me - 11 speed is wide enough range and gaps not a problem, most plus bikes are basically 29ers and bars/stems are sort of thing you might change anyhow.

The geo thing is personal. I way prefer how my XC bike handles, that is ‘modern’ but not overly long or slack. Trail bike is borderline, it shreds well but handling can be odd with the steerer angle, bars and stem. Point it downhill and it’s ok though.


#15

I say go for it. Especially if you like the mechanical side. If you buy and use a torque wrench you are unlikely to damage anything. And just use your LBS for bearing pressing etc.


#16

One thing I always end up having to run back to a shop for is cutting the fork steerer and getting the starnut installed. Also pressing on the lower race if your headset doesn’t come with a split one. Sure, you can make it work without the proper tools, but this is always a portion I forget.


#17

True story, there is a trek x Calibre out in the world somewhere that will forever have a 19mm socket of mine stuck in the steerer tube… the result of a botched attempt to remove an old rusted star nut


#18

Ah, I’m sure a little extra weight up there will forever go unnoticed. :wink:


#19

I’ve built my own bikes up over the years and love doing it. 20 years ago in college I had different versions of Zinns bike maintenance books. Now pretty much everything is on the internet but it can be a great way to get started working on bikes getting one of his books google Zinn and the art of mountain bike maintenance if interested.

Building your own bike from scratch with all new parts you buy individually will not likely be cheaper than a stock option. But it’s fun. There are ways to balance it out though. For instance you could get your dream frame and a pricy fork and put a gx 1x set up on it. Some basic brakes etc. even some used parts. Then as you ride more and meet personal goals reward yourself with nicer parts. New wheel set, new brakes etc. this is what I do. I was riding an old wheel set about 10 years old I rebuilt myself and said - loose 10 pounds and I earn the wheels I want etc.

You can get great deals on used bikes. One downside is you won’t have the manufacturer warrenty but There are lots of used bikes out there people ride 5 times and sit in a garage and then sell at half the price and they are basically new. Consider finding a used bike a couple years old. Then build it but by bit as you go.

My first bike was a trek fuel I got prodeal while working at a shop in 2000. Over the years I cracked the frame twice and had it replaced under warranty. Gradually replaced 90% of it as stuff broke and I “earned” new parts. Bought a Santa Cruz blue carbon frame used off a guy 1 year old which he rode 4x and realized it was the wrong size. Got it at 30% cost. Swapped my old parts over. Over the years built up up with newer higher end parts. Originally it was a 26 inch wheel Xc racer with 3x10. now it has 27.5 wheels, a pike 130 on the front and a 1x set up and is more of an Xc/trail ride with slacker angle. It’s a lot of fun if you enjoy working on stuff and nerding out. Although it can be frustrating with all the constantly changing standards.

Over the years I’ve got enough knowledge I can fix virtually anything even on the trail. If you enjoy working on your bike it’s awesome. Consider trying to find a lightly used sb100 fully built up and then modifying it over the years.

Or do whatever you want - but enjoy working on it. If you wanna change parts just do it. There’s tons of options to find sale parts or even used parts online.