How To Build An Ebike From Scratch: Buying

You’ve made your parts list and checked it twice. Time to start the feeding frenzy: buy your parts.

Introduction
Step 1: Planning
Step 2: Hunting
Step 3: Tinkering
Step 4: Buying (You Are Here)
Step 5: Assembling
Build Day 1
Build Day 2
Build Day 3
Step 6: Perfecting
Tools List

Its about time! We’ve been preparing for weeks. Lets break out the debit card.

This step should be straightforward and by the numbers. In previous steps, you determined what your parts were going to be, and as part of your planning process you acquired links to all of your parts sources during the process you underwent to assess the project budget.

At this point, all thats left for you is to click the links, Add to Cart and go thru the checkout process.

Your Build Sheet Is Your Project Bible

I think I used this exact term earlier on in this series to describe your build sheet. Its going to turn out to be absolutely true if you have been keeping it up. At the beginning of this stage in the process it should look pretty much like what you see below. Red with a few green lines:

The Build Sheet up to this moment in our story
  • The frame has been bought, paid for and delivered.
  • Our motor and motor mount parts on the paid and delivered list as well.
  • The greenlit items we have purchased now have their dollar amounts in the Paid column. We have a clear view of what has been spent, and what needs to be spent to finish the project.

What Comes Next?

That depends on your cash flow and how you want to go about your build. At this point, you could simply

Click to unleash…

And show no mercy to your debit card. Buy everything at once and start tracking whats incoming.

OR

  • If you still have any level of uncertainty on any part that may or may not fit, stage your purchases so you buy just the part you need to test-fit and nothing that depends on it. Wait to buy Part Y after you confirm Part X behaves/fits as expected.
  • Do your buying in stages to accommodate your budget.
  • Buy the stuff that will take the longest to arrive first.
  • Whatever… its your call at this point.

Specify a Landing Zone

For stuff that comes in and has to sit – possibly for weeks – and wait for the build to commence, I like to set aside a great big, empty storage box. EVERYTHING related to the project goes into it or next to it in a dedicated corner of my shop or garage. Otherwise its easy for stuff to wander off in the weeks between the first arrivals and the last.

For the Apostate build, I set aside an entire set of shelves, since I had one available. That was really nice as I was able to lay everything out, which in turn let me find a part with a glance rather than having to rummage thru a box to haul out this or that bit if I wanted to check something.

While parts are en route, I also like to hunt down esoteric tools I may need. Like my headset press, or my star nut setter. Stuff I use once a year only on a build. During the Buy and Ship phase, you have a few weeks to gather your tools together. I can guarantee you not all of them will be handy – or even found – if you are just looking for them at the moment you need them (if you are buying tools as part of your project, they might go into the project box with the parts, or if you are lucky enough to have empty shelves, give the tools one of their own, which is what I did for this project).

OPEN. THE. BOX.

Fortunately, this is a lesson I had already learned and remembered to apply for this build project. I need to make sure I pass it along to you, dear reader, because its very important to preserve your sanity:

DO NOT trust that a box labeled X actually contains X.

I have ordered presta inner tubes of a given size, set the unopened package aside, and then months later when I need one, opened it up and oh crap they are Schraeder tubes. The box was mismarked. Or the box was not mismarked and the seller shipped me the wrong stuff. Months later when I really need the part, I am screwed and a)cannot use what I have and b)can’t return it since I’m now past the return window.

My first time buying wheels online. They came very well packed and arrived undamaged.

So for the Apostate build, because its an old-school frame the hubs need to be old-school QR and not thru axle. I specified this in my wheel order of course. Unfortunately, I got thru axle wheels. Now… lets be fair here: Someone ordering high-end DT Swiss MTB wheels in 2022 is pretty much never going to be ordering QR hubs. So thats a detail that skated past the builder. He just goofed. Luckily DT Swiss hubs use interchangeable end caps so its no big deal to change a thru axle wheel to QR.

But those caps ain’t cheap, so its something I needed a fix for from the seller. And they were sorry for the mistake and happy to immediately ship out the hardware I needed to complete my order.

So it was no big deal and I only had to wait a few days to begin my assembly process. But if I hadn’t opened the box and looked inside… well, you get the idea.

Open up all of the boxes and make sure everything is inside each one of them that is supposed to be there. Not just the main part you expect, but all the little bits that go with it as well.

Managing The Process

As your build proceeds, your build sheet will change colors as you move forward with the process of purchasing your parts. As you proceed, add in the tracking numbers as soon as you get them. Having everything on this one central sheet will save you enormous amounts of time versus wading thru all of the web site service areas and emails.

Bank account drain in progress

A bonus to using Google Sheets for this is you can just select the tracking number in its cell, right-click and from the menu that pops up, tell Google to search for the highlighted number, whereupon it will, for most shippers, recognize the number format and give you tracking info onscreen, or an automatic link to tracking on the shipper site. No typing in tracking numbers necessary.

Putting expected arrival dates in Column D will also make your daily areWeThereYet check on your list a lot smoother. Its going to save you a lot of lookups to find out whats on time, whats delayed and what maybe needs a phone call to the seller to find out where the hell your stuff went.

Installation Guides

As the buy process goes on, you are going to be visiting product pages that may have static installation guides (pdf or html format) or, ideally, install videos on Youtube or Vimeo. Look for these (go to a manufacturer’s web site if you are buying from a reseller with no supplemental info). Copy the urls of the guides to the Notes column of the Build Sheet for use during the Assembly stage. These will be of enormous help to you. If I come across a pdf for a given product, I like to download and store that guide in my project area on my Google Drive account, for reference later.

For example, my Marzocchi Bomber X-Fly Z1 fork is a vintage fork manufactured in 2000. 22 years ago as of this writing. The fork actually has a manufacturer stamp stating it was machined in 1999. Only the service manual was able to tell me how much oil to refill the fork to after a seal replacement, and I really, REALLY had to dig to find it. Someday your parts may be old and your parts manufacturer may no longer post the service manuals for them. Ideally you will get hold of pdf copies of all service manuals, specifications and install guides for reference in future years.

Finishing The Process

At some point, the board is going to go green on you.

  • You’ve spent all the money
  • Nothing got lost and what did, you were on top of and dealt with because you stayed aware of what was on the way, on time and overdue.
  • You have a big box of parts all in one spot. Nothing wandered off and got lost because you faithfully put everything in the box and if you did take something out to play with it… you put it right back when you were done.
Bank account drain complete. Note the item in red. We’ll cover that in Assembly, Build Day 1
  • You have set up a place to work and execute the bike build. Preferably somewhere with a lot of flat, clean concrete space that is also near a bathroom and a refrigerator.
  • You have a laptop (first choice – big screen) or a phone with an internet connection, as you are going to need to refer to installation videos on Youtube and read installation sheets throughout the build process.
  • During this parts purchase process, you also bought the tools you needed and set them in a segregated spot waiting for them to be used to….

Oh my Gahd! We’re finally ready!

Step 5: Assembling

Author: m@Robertson

I'm responsible for the day-to-day operations at my place of business: Leland-West Insurance Brokers, Inc. We do classic and exotic car insurance all across these United States. I'm also an avid auto enthusiast, a born again cyclist (i.e. an ebiker) and participate in medium and long range CMP and NRA sanctioned rifle competitions.

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