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  1. #1
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    Common question: Work on yourself or let LBS do it?

    So there are parts of the bike that I can work on myself no problems: Chain, Derailleurs, Brakes etc. I have a mechanics rack to do the work. Then there are things like headsets and Bottom Brackets....my question is when a person has the ability to work on something but they take into account purchasing the tools and also the part in comes out a whole lot more exspensive then letting a shop do it....Example: Headset would cost around $90 or so in tools if you dont have them and this price takes into account the Park Tool Home Mechanic Bearing Cup Press, not the shop quality one. The shop would charge around $10 to $20 to do the job.

    So what do you personally do in these circumstances?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    My LBS charges lots more than that, and when they're through, all I have is the job done. If buy the tools and do it myself, the job is done and I'm also left with the tool and the experience. The latter may cost a bit more, but it's worth it, IMO.

  3. #3
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Improvise? I have installed lots of headsets without a specific headset tool. It can be done with a bench vise. Awkward, but perfectly doable.

    etc. etc.

    The LBS builds wheels for me, I do everything else.

    Don in Austin
    Last edited by Don in Austin; 09-30-11 at 04:18 PM. Reason: typo

  4. #4
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    Whenever possible--which is almost always--I do it myself. If I have to buy a tool I do, unless it's prohibitively expensive.

    For example, last week I noticed my left side bottom bracket cup was threading out. To fix it, I needed the correct BB tool and a crank puller. I had neither. Both tools together cost me about $25. I'd guess the repair at the shop would have cost me $20 or so. With my own tools, I pulled the crank, took the BB cup out, inspected the BB, re-greased the cup, threaded it back in, greased the crank bolt, and re-attached the crank. It probably cost me about the same as the repair plus an hour of my time, and now I have the correct BB tool for that bike and a crank puller I can use on almost any bike.

    Now, if the tools had cost $150, it would have been a different story, but in this case and in many cases it makes sense to do it yourself.

    I recently started building my own wheels too. It only cost me $15 for some various spoke wrenches and $0 for a free fork that I use as a truing stand. No other tools required. Really.
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  5. #5
    Wookie Jesus inspires me. Puget Pounder's Avatar
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    For things that require big tools, like alignment and facing, I have the shop do it. I do everything else myself. The experience has value as well.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    I used to do everything but build my own wheels. I paid a shop to build me a set and they scratched the polished rims badly, so I bought the tools and taught myself how to build them myself.

  7. #7
    Senior Member NukeouT's Avatar
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    I try to teach myself so that I can be responsible for and educated about the workings of my equipement. It also helps with costs down the road and repairs during rides or repairs of friends bikes.

    There are times when I am unsure if I did something correctly or safetly. In those cases I do take it down to the LBS for a check-over, and make sure to pay attention as to what is done and how if additional wrenching is required.

    Bicycles are not that complicated once you spend some time with them. A lot of the problems have to do with troubleshooting, proper adjustment and incompatibility between different company and period specific standards.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member gyozadude's Avatar
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    Remember that first hammer you bought that was contractor grade? And then you went around tapping everything with it?

    No? Okay, bad example. But remember when you got that Park Rear Derailleur bracket alignment tool? I had to align every single RD in my stable. Yes, it was partly to get my money's worth out of the tool because it did cost over $60 after shipping. And buying a $40 set of 4th hand cable pulling tool? Geez, I use it so often servicing bikes for kids that it's a real time saver. Headset tools? Well, I've gone the cheep route and never really had to look back. I have the 1 inch copper pipe split 3 inches at the base using a band saw to have 4 flaps that flare out. I use Cu end cap and gentle taps removes headset cups easily. I also have the well documented on Google threaded-rod-washer headset press and the 1.5 inch sched 80 pvc crown race setter. Not quite $20 for materials I think and they work pretty well.

    I used to work in a shop. So I could bring it to myself and pay myself more. Or I can bring it to myself and pay myself less. Either way, I end up doing the work!
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  9. #9
    Senior Member MudPie's Avatar
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    If I don't have a tool, I usually ask friends.

    If that fails, I typically purchase the tools I need. Tools will last and the experience adds to the symbiotic relationship between me and the bike.


    In addtion to cost of tools, I look at potential frequency of use. For example, I don't think I'd ever buy a tool to reface a bottom bracket but would let a shop do it. I doubt I'd have enough frames in my lifetime to justify it's cost.

    There are some tools I have that when I purchased, thought I'd use them more, like the headset wrench set from Shimano that fit certain year 600 headsets - nice tool but only probably used it 4 times in its life. Now it sits in my tool box, fortunately it looks pretty nice.

    The bad part of being well tooled is you become the person your friends call when they need a tool.

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    in the years between working in bike shops I did my own work.

  11. #11
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    Like Puget said unless you are facing something like a bottom bracket shell do it yourself. I put my whole bike together with no experience. It took me an awful long time selecting components but was is a lot of fun (still not finished). You don't need special tools to install a headset, ballpeen hammer and block of wood will achieve the same result.

  12. #12
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    +1 with Puget, Tools for facing and alignment are too expensive for the limited amount I woud use them, everything else I have the tools for, and do myself.

  13. #13
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    The right answer here is "it depends". I enjoy working on bikes as a hobby and consider the cost of tools and time as well-spent. My good friend and riding buddy is an excellent rider but has other interests to take up his spare time. He takes all his work the shop. There is no right or wrong between us, and neither of us justifies our path based upon cost.

    Edit: My friend is big on trail work. He spent an entire day recently clearing brush from cross-country ski trails. I've been known to spend an entire day rebuilding a neighbor kid's Huffy. It's all good in the end.

  14. #14
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    Fully agree with the above posters. For rarely used tools like facing and chasing taps and cutters I have the shop do it. For everything else I obtain (or make) the proper tools. Consider it this way. The tools VERY expensive the first time you use them but free after that. Having the right tools lets you handle any emergency even if the shops are closed or too busy to do what you need when you need it. The sense of competence and independence is well worth the initial cost.

    Headset installation falls in a grey area. The commercial tools are expensive and the job is quite infrequantly done so having the shop install one may make sense. I had my first few bikes done at the LBS and, since I bought the headsets from them, the charge wasn't too bad. Later, I made a set of homemade cup presses from a section of all-thread rod, a couple of nuts and a stack of big washers, fabricated a crown race press from pipe and bought Nashbar's house brand "Rocket tool" as my cup remover and have done my own occasional headset changes since.

    I buy prebuilt wheels since I would have to pay more for just the parts than I can buy the complete wheels for. However, I have a simple truing stand and good spoke wrenches and I can refine the true and tension on them when needed.

  15. #15
    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    My last 4 bike builds (in the last 4 years) I have performed everything myself except build the wheels. I find that I can purchase wheels built cheaper than buying the components and building myself. I can build my own wheels and have done built them for the last 25 years but its a matter of economics. I'm sure the hand built wheels that I am buying are better than having one built by me since I just don't do it frequently.

    I look at bike mechanics as a stress relieving hobby and prefer to do all my own work, if I don't have a tool, I buy it or go to the co-op.
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  16. #16
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    Everyone has to make their own decision based on their knowledge and skill level, and the time and money involved.

    IMO 100% of riders should be able to change a tire, adjust seat or handlebar, replace brake shoes, and do basic adjustments on their brakes and derailleurs.

    The next level includes replacing cables, more subtle derailleur adjustments, servicing bearings, replacing cassettes and other basic assembly and repair work not requiring very expensive specialized tools. If you're a serious rider putting in lots of the miles this is stuff you might want to do, or you might be very happy to let a pro handle it for you since it isn't every day kind of stuff.

    The last level, involves expensive specialized tools and skill and knowledge for things like facing the bottom bracket or headset on a frame, frame straightening, building wheels, or other more complex work. The economics rarely favor doing this yourself, but many do either because there's no reliable mechanic locally, or because they enjoy the work and trust themselves more than strangers.

    There's no hard and fast rule as to where the line is, but before investing too much into specialized tools, consider that bikes change and you may only have a few years to recoup the outlay vs. paying as you go for service.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dinkjs View Post
    Headset would cost around $90 or so in tools if you dont have them and this price takes into account the Park Tool Home Mechanic Bearing Cup Press, not the shop quality one.
    Past a stand, the headset press is one of the most expensive tools you can buy. Fortunately it is also one of the easiest and cheapest to make, too. As Don mentioned, a vice can be used. But what works better is to go to any decent hardware store and buy a chunk of 3/4" threaded rod ('all thread') and a pair of heavy hex nuts and washers. This is about $10 of hardware. Just thread it through the cups and head tube and start tightening. If you really want to be slick you can buy bushings that will fit up to your cups, but I have yet to damage a cup yet by just using washers and I've done a few this way.

  18. #18
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by canam73 View Post
    Past a stand, the headset press is one of the most expensive tools you can buy. Fortunately it is also one of the easiest and cheapest to make, too. As Don mentioned, a vice can be used. But what works better is to go to any decent hardware store and buy a chunk of 3/4" threaded rod ('all thread') and a pair of heavy hex nuts and washers. This is about $10 of hardware. Just thread it through the cups and head tube and start tightening. If you really want to be slick you can buy bushings that will fit up to your cups, but I have yet to damage a cup yet by just using washers and I've done a few this way.
    While the washer and althread thing works, the proper tool is a joy to use. Nashbar sells a Park knockoff that is only slightly more expensive than the Park HHP-3 press and works about the same as the Park. The Park press is far better than all of them but it's much more expensive too.

    As for the rest, I do everything myself except facing. I have access to the tools to do that now but it's just not something that comes up all that often.
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  19. #19
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    As many have said - facing tools are expensive and rarely used - although icetoolz do a bottom bracket chasing/facing tool which is loads cheaper than alternatives - google "icetoolz bottom bracket facing"
    Some other tools (e.g. star nut setters, crown race removers & setters) are really about enabling a pro mechanic to do things quickly. You can remove a crown race, for example, with an old screwdriver, a hammer and a lot of patience.

    I build and true my own wheels. I bought a truing stand and tensiometer for doing this. I have seen a home made truing stand which worked just as well. The tensiometer is a nice toy - but I think all it results in is me continuing to fiddle with a wheel when I should have just deemed it finished and left it alone.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    While the washer and althread thing works.....
    Yes it does and, for a job not done very often it's perfectly adequate. Over 25 years of working on my own and friends' bikes I've installed and/or replaced maybe six headsets and the all-thread/nuts/washer tool has done a fine job each time.

    One refinement I've added is to make a set of leather disks the diameter of the biggest washer and use them as liners to protect the cups. This is particularly useful with Chris King and similar headsets that have unremovable bearing cartridges and must be pressed in using the edges of the cups.

  21. #21
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    Yes it does and, for a job not done very often it's perfectly adequate. Over 25 years of working on my own and friends' bikes I've installed and/or replaced maybe six headsets and the all-thread/nuts/washer tool has done a fine job each time.

    One refinement I've added is to make a set of leather disks the diameter of the biggest washer and use them as liners to protect the cups. This is particularly useful with Chris King and similar headsets that have unremovable bearing cartridges and must be pressed in using the edges of the cups.
    Depends on how often you do headset installations. Over my 25+ years of working on my own bikes, I've replaced dozens of headsets. I've used the washer technique and I've come very close to screwing up a frame doing so. The proper tool is still preferable and far easier to use.
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  22. #22
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    I've been using the washer technique for about 20 years myself and haven't yet screwed anything up. Of course, if I'd bought the proper tool in the first place, it would have paid for itself long ago, and I'd have saved myself the aggravation of using a home-made tool so many times.

  23. #23
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    $90 for headset tools? You need to shop around. I bought mine from this guy:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mountain-Bik...item3ca1ba8023

    Last time I had a shop do any serious work for me was 1975. Since then, the only time I use a shop is to remove an oddball freewheel, where I don't have the right tool (I have about a dozen freewheel tools, but there are many more varieties out there).

    Park sells a home owner version of their headset tool, available on line for less than $50.

    It really depends how often you plan to work on bikes, and do you have the room (and budget) for a nice selection of tools. The choice is yours.
    Last edited by wrk101; 10-02-11 at 10:24 AM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Cyclomania's Avatar
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    If when I'm working on my bike and I run into a difficulty, such as an impossible crank arm removal. I'll go to my LBS for help. I think of my LBS as similar to the fire department. For small fires get your garden hose and put her out! But for those raging up the walls of your flat fires, get the expert to tame the flames!
    Last edited by Cyclomania; 10-02-11 at 02:28 PM.
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  25. #25
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
    $90 for headset tools? You need to shop around. I bought mine from this guy:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mountain-Bik...item3ca1ba8023
    Who said anything about a $90 headset tool? The Nashbar one I linked to is $60. I'd say the Fleabay far more expensive than the Nashbar considering what you can make yourself at the local hardware store. I'd spring for the Nashbar before I'd buy the Fleabay one.
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