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Bicycle Mechanics Broken bottom bracket? Tacoed wheel? If you're having problems with your bicycle, or just need help fixing a flat, drop in here for the latest on bicycle mechanics & bicycle maintenance.

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Old 02-24-07, 11:21 PM   #1
J_J
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How long to become proficient enough to be able to become a paid bike mechanic

I'm just wondering. I have pretty much 0 mechanical bike skills but I want to get to the point where I'm good enough to have people pay me to work on their bikes. Today I paid a shop to mount my tires and the tires werene't mounted correctly so the tread came off the rims and popped my tube after 1 miles of riding. So obviosuly I want to do everything on my own now and possibly open up a side business at my dad's retail location (not bicycle related but its free rent).
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Old 02-25-07, 12:08 AM   #2
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Do you really want an answer to this question or are you just griping because you had a tube failure that you believe to be the shops fault?
Any one with a bit of sense would go back to the shop and tell them what happened and any decent shop would replace the tube and check to see why it happened. And there are many reasons that a tube can blow besides incorrect mounting.
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Old 02-25-07, 04:29 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J_J
I'm just wondering. I have pretty much 0 mechanical bike skills but I want to get to the point where I'm good enough to have people pay me to work on their bikes. Today I paid a shop to mount my tires and the tires werene't mounted correctly so the tread came off the rims and popped my tube after 1 miles of riding. So obviosuly I want to do everything on my own now and possibly open up a side business at my dad's retail location (not bicycle related but its free rent).
How about another perspective on the problem. If you operate out of your father's business, he becomes liable for any mistake you make. Because his commercial insurance policy, which I hope he has, isn't rated as a bicycle store, they don't pay for your mistakes. Guess where the money comes from? You spill some solvent cleaning a chain and cause a fire in Dad's building, guess who pays? I'll give you a hint, it isn't Dad. With zero experience as a wrench or business owner, you will be hard pressed to find insurance. I can tell you that lawsuits are rampant in business today. Most are frivolous but if you are not insured, you pay the cost to defend out of pocket.

I'm not trying to rain on your parade. I was just giving you some inside tips. You can probably guess what I do for a living.

Good luck on improving your mechanical skills. Do it for the correct reason though.

Tim
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Old 02-25-07, 07:35 AM   #4
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I guess my big question is why did you have to pay some LBS to mount tires and tubes? You can't do that yourself? If you can't, I suggest you find another hobby!!!!!
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Old 02-25-07, 07:52 AM   #5
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It took me 12 years. That's when I became a paperboy and started repairing my own bike to keep it on the road daily. The previous years were spent in training by taking my toys apart to see how they worked.

My point is if you haven't started doing the simple things like change a tire yet (I'm assuming by your well written post you're at least in high school), you probably aren't the mechanical minded type. It sure wouldn't hurt to take some community college or yellow jersey courses on bike repair to get some experience. Everyone needs to know how to fix a flat. And who knows, I may be all wrong and you may really have the aptitude to work on bikes and take a liking to it enough to work in a shop. Though I kinda doubt it.
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Old 02-25-07, 08:21 AM   #6
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I do a lot of repair and maintenance and builds for friends and neighbors but would never consider charging for it. If someone insists they have to pay something I always say I only accept payment in liquid form and I prefer you drink it with me.

If all you're after is getting proficient at bicycle mechanics, do it as a hobby. If you want to start a business, I'm not sure mechanical proficiency is anywhere near the top of your skills-needed list.
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Old 02-25-07, 08:47 AM   #7
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I've been in the bike business for 20 years and been a mechanic for about 12. You can become a mechanic pretty quickly. It take about 5 years of doing it every day to become proficient enough to have the skill necessary to be a good mechanic. You won't become a good mechanic by reading a book or going to a class. Hands on is the best way to learn. Most shops will start you out building boxed bikes. You don't get to do pro builds until you're the big dog in the service area.

The service manager at the 'pro shop' here in town has been a wrench for less than 2 years. He'll never touch any of my stuff. If I can't fix it or figure it out, I confer with another wrench who has been at it for 20+ years.

That being said, if you cannot install your own tubes and tires, then being a wrench is likely beyond your skill set.
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Old 02-25-07, 08:54 AM   #8
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How do you make a small fortune in the bicycle industry?

Start with a large one....
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Old 02-25-07, 09:02 AM   #9
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serious question;

when you balance your checkbook and you're off by a couple of cents, how long do you work on it to reconcile the balance?
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Old 02-25-07, 10:00 AM   #10
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How long to become a proficient bike mechanic? That's easy - exactly one entire lifetime.

I consider myself adequate but there's a whole lot of stuff, like suspension for example, that I'm barely familiar with. Even worse, new stuff keeps getting introduced faster than I have the capacity to master so, in a sense, I'm less capable today than I was when I started fooling with bikes 35 or 40 years ago.

It never gets easier you just expand your knowledge base.
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Old 02-25-07, 10:20 AM   #11
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Quote:
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How do you make a small fortune in the bicycle industry?

Start with a large one....
Very good, beat me to it. I was going to post something about wanting to die poor.
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Old 02-25-07, 10:55 AM   #12
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Very good, beat me to it. I was going to post something about wanting to die poor.
If a person dies poor but happy vs a person who died wealthy but unhappy...who then was the richer of the two?
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Old 02-25-07, 11:41 AM   #13
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Very good, beat me to it. I was going to post something about wanting to die poor.
Are there any people left who don't die poor? I kind of figured that the healthcare people are going to get whatever money I have left at that point. Screw 'em. Rather than live frugally and save so that I'll have another $4,000 or so to give them I think that I'll buy myself a nice bicycle.
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Old 02-25-07, 12:23 PM   #14
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You may die poor but if you love what you do, you'll die rich in spirit with a lot of people that remember you for being so enthusiastic about what you love. Without getting too philosophical, after reading Walden a few times and meeting some incredible people, including a farmer who makes $10,000 a year and doesn't have insurance, but is unbelievably content and satisfied with his life and wouldn't trade it for any other life.


Walden Pond
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Old 02-25-07, 03:54 PM   #15
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Actually we all die poor...we came into this world with nothing and we're going to leave this world with nothing.
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Old 02-25-07, 04:54 PM   #16
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Last week I visited a medical clinic for treatment of an ailment of a private nature and I still don't feel all that well today. How long does it take to become proficient at doctoring folks and making potions and such? I'd like to open a practice of my own, my sister said she'd let me use the back room of her gourmet cake shop so rent would be free.
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Old 02-25-07, 05:58 PM   #17
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Doctors have it easy. They only have to work on two models... male and female. Mechanics have to work on dozens of brands and models.
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Old 02-25-07, 06:07 PM   #18
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i've been racing for six or seven years and i would say it took me three years before i could do it all, know the only reasonn i go to the bike shop is to buy parts.

it takes a while
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Old 02-25-07, 07:50 PM   #19
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I think most everyone is being a bit harsh towards the OP. I've been mechanically inclined all my life and as a second job I teach an adult ed mechanics class at the local community college. Some of the students I teach have never had a wrench in their hands before entering my class. When they leave, most have good basic mechanical skills.

Some of us have been exposed to mechanical things all out lives, others have never had that experience. Perhaps we should endeavor to help our new friend.

Pick up one of the more common available bicycle repair manuals, a garage sale bike, and begin to learn.
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Old 02-25-07, 08:03 PM   #20
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Yeah, I overreacted. Why did I take it to a shop? Because I was lazy and my tire levers were missing. The shop did it for me the same day and I just wanted to go riding on a Saturday afternoon while there was still daylight. I just got pissed off that I paid money expecting it to be installed correctly. After only one mile on my brand new tires I heard a pop and lost pressure. I looked down and there was a portion of my tire bulging out out the rim and the tube obviously was flattened from being squished on the edge of the wheel. I bought their new tubes and tires so its not an issue of me having them install some bad parts.
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Old 02-26-07, 08:25 AM   #21
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I would say it sounds as if the mechanic who performed the tube installation was on his/her first day on the job, and not at all proficient at it, then.

I think I might have gone back to the LBS and gently pointed out that I could have been injured or worse due to the fragile skills of the wrench, and what could they do for you to keep you happy?

Just my humble opinion.

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Old 02-26-07, 06:05 PM   #22
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By the time you become proficient you forget why you wanted to learn and then of course it's too late to change your mind.
Enjoy
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Old 02-26-07, 09:18 PM   #23
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If you wanted to be a mechanic at a bike shop, you could start as soon as they hire you and learn from the head mechanic while you get min wage.

As for a side business, you'll need years of experience and an insurance policy.
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Old 02-26-07, 09:25 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atomship47
serious question;

when you balance your checkbook and you're off by a couple of cents, how long do you work on it to reconcile the balance?
about .02 seconds. it's not worth the time.
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Old 02-27-07, 01:46 PM   #25
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I've been an apprentice bicycle mechanic for 1.5 years now. I tinkered with bikes in my shed and thought that I would not have too many difficulties learning the job by working 4 days a week and going to school one day a week.

Besides having a boss who wasn't able to give me constructive criticism, only negative, I also got a job at a shop that was very busy and had very skilled wrenches.

I felt very tiny at the beginning. I discovered that my mechanical aptitude was almost absent and spent the first year doing the simple, ****ty jobs.

Only after about 16 months did i get into the zone, if you will. The point where you do not have to think every move over, fearing you forgot something. Believe me, having to do stuff over again because you missed out on something glaringly obvious can really ruin your day!

There are so many bicycle specific things you have to know. Just take tire sizes and threadings for example. Or part (in)compatiblity. I thought i knew a lot, having read Sheldon Brown and Barnett's, but the only way you learn all those shortcuts and little facts is by busting your butt fixing bikes every day.

Only now am I getting into complete bike overhaul and am I allowed to build wheels on a regular basis.
The summer is especially hectic. Customers wanting their bike back the next day when the schedule is already jampacked. Customers flat out stating that you made a mistake when it is obvious they have been tampering with the bike themselves and finally decided to bring it in. Only in the bike business do people assume that you want to rip them off, becausse really, how difficult can it be to repair your bike anyway, it's just a bike, right?

You really have to be able to deal with customers. Most are ok, but some just seem to do everything to rub you the wrong way.

Good luck!

PS, I really do love my job!
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