43. How to Assemble a New Bike

Overview of a boxed bike assembly. Shows how to put together a mail-order bike.

IMPORTANT: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.
How to Assemble a New Bike
DVD Vol. 2 DVD Volume 2
This video is available on DVD

50% of the cost of the bicycle featured in this video was donated by JensonUSA.

These days you can get a great deal on a new bike by ordering online. Today we’ll learn how to properly assemble a mail order bike right out of the box. Since there are so many different types of bikes and components available, I’ll give a brief overview of the assembly. If you’re watching this video on bicycletutor.com, you can check the links in the text below for more specific instructions.

Tools

For this job you’ll need several tools. Ideally you should have a repair stand and a wheel truing stand. Other necessary tools include wire cutters, a set of metric allen keys, a set of metric open-end wrenches, flathead (-) and phillips (+) screwdrivers, cone wrenches, a pedal wrench and an air pump. You’ll also need some waterproof grease, chain oil and a rag.

Unpacking

Open the top flap and carefully pull everything out of the box. Apply some grease to the inside of the seat tube, slide the seatpost in to the minimum insertion mark, grease the threads of the seatpost bolt and tighten it just enough so it will hold the weight of the bike. Then clamp the seatpost in your repair stand.

Remove the front wheel by using wire cutters to carefully snip the zip ties. To save these for future use, cut them just before the head and then pull out and recycle the remaining piece of zip-tie. This leaves you with a short piece of zip-tie that can be used again for odd jobs. Remove the rest of the packaging and either recycle it, or save it so you can box your bike up in the future.

Assembly

If your headset and bottom bracket have loose ball bearings, open them up and check for grease and adjust as needed. If you have sealed cartridge bearings in these places you can skip this step.

Now we’re ready to install the handlebar. Grease all of the stem bolt threads and shaft if you’re installing an older quill-style stem. Then center the handlebar and tighten the stem bolts evenly so the gap is equal on both sides. Tighten the top cap just enough to hold it in place.

Remove the rear wheel and cassette or freewheel, and open the hubs on both wheels to check for grease. Add more grease as needed and then adjust the hub cones so they spin freely with very little play. See the hub overhaul tutorial for adjustment instructions. Grease the cassette or freewheel’s threads before re-installing them.

Watch the wheel-truing tutorial to see how to de-stress and true the wheels. Then inflate the tires to the recommended pressure and install both wheels on the bike.

It’s a good idea to grease the threads of the crank bolts, chainring bolts, and other bolts that hold accessories like water bottle cages. This will help them repel water and dirt and stop them from seizing up. Grease the pedal threads and install them. Remember that the left pedal always has a reverse thread, so you have to tighten it by turning counter-clockwise.

Set up and adjust your brakes. See the brake tutorials page for set-up instructions on specific brake types. Then lube the chain and adjust the derailleurs. Watch the front and rear derailleur tutorials to see how.

Apply any stickers and/or accessories and then remove the bike from the stand. Adjust your seat height and angle, align your handlebars and adjust your headset. See the headsets and handlebars pages for related tutorials… and then get out for ride!

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