If I buy a new bike online from a dealer, how hard is it to assemble it myself? And how much would a LBS charge for the labor?
I'd appreciate any responses from those who have experience with this.
It would depend on the bike. A lot of the newer/higher end bikes these days will have internal cabling. This adds complexity to it. It also depends on how the bike comes to you. If it comes with nothing per-installed then you will have a lot of work. If it comes mostly installed then the work would be easier. This might be a good question to ask the folks selling you the bike.
Keep in mind that these are not Walmart bikes that you just tighten a few screws. If you know absolutely nothing about bikes, it can take you quite a bit of time to put it together. If you enjoy working with your hands and putting things together, it can be a worthwhile and fun project.
You will need plenty of tools. For example, if they give you the bike chain in an unopen box, you will need the proper tools to remove some chain links so that it will properly fit your setup. Putting on/removing the cassette, if you do not have the proper tools can be harder than it should be. You don't want your cassette to be installed improperly :) For me, derailleur adjustments is like cleaning the kitchen floor with a toothbrush. Installing brakes/shift cables can be tricky if you don't know what you are doing.
I destroyed a frame on a bike last year and purchased a new frame. I called around to different bike shops asking how much it would cost for the build from scratch. The answer was, it depends on type of bike. The quote that I got was around $400 (high end tri bike w/ internal cabling). It might be cheaper with a road bike or a bike with external cabling.
I ended up going with an independent mechanic that was a little cheaper. The mechanic came highly recommended to me. He used to work in a shop and is a bike mechanic for a race team. His basement looks like any LBS that you might walk into. I think I ended up paying something like $250 for labor.
I could probably have done it myself, but I knew that it would take me much longer than it should. I have some tools but not all proper tools required to put the bike together. I didn't want to go out and purchase them. I also didn't have enough confidence in my skills to do things right. It is a freaken expensive bike, so I didn't want to take the short cut and risk messing up .... penny wise/pound foolish was my line of thinking when I decided to go the pro route.
I second Tuan. Then again, I brought my daughter's wagon to a bike shope for assembly. It came in a flat box and something told me that - it couldn't be right? Well worth the trip to the bike store. Win-Win-Win. I was happy, I supported the local economy & my daughter didn't end up in the ER.
I purchased my road bike online from Competitive Cyclist. It came 95% assembled and all I had to do is install the stem/bar, seat post, and wheels. Verify with the online vendor on how it will arrive. If it needs a full assembly, then check Craigslist for bike mechanics or I've received a recommendation for a bike mechanic that comes to your house. LMK if you want his email.