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Old 10-13-11, 09:21 PM   #1
dingledangles
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First bike. Try and fix myself? Or leave to pros?

Hi mechanics,

I only recently got into cycling (initially out of need for a cheap, green commuting option) and by that I mean I just learned to ride this summer (I'm 22 years old...about time I guess).

So I bought my first used road bike today (Early 1990's Bianchi Forza, Shimano Exage Group, Weinnman Brakes) and it's in typical used bike condition: untuned and very dirty. The LBS's in Ann Arbor charge about 70-80 bucks for a complete tune-up and cleaning (sonication as opposed to just a degreasing).

I was wondering if I should try to do all this myself (no sonicate of course) for less dough. I would also be gaining lots of bike knowledge in the process. Problem is, I am an absolute noobie and I'm not sure it would be reasonable to try and teach myself this stuff with internet resources. Can this realistically be done? Or am I better off leaving it to the pros this first time around?
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Old 10-13-11, 09:49 PM   #2
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If you never anticipate ever having to do it yourself and want to pay each time, have the shop do it. However, I recommend you invest what you'd pay in shop fees in tools and learning. You will mess it up. And it will feel ridiculous. And in the end you'll probably take it into the shop anyway and feel like an ass. But you will learn no other way, and eventually you will learn to do things yourself.
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Old 10-13-11, 10:13 PM   #3
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The best way to learn something is to do it. I learned from building my own bike, piecing together parts here and there. Whenever I got stuck, I just searched on youtube and there was always an answer. I mean no offence to this site, but it's the best way to get an answer right away. It's very rare to find a problem that is totally unique to you. You can search and find almost anything you want here, or youtube or any where else online.
Fixing your own bike is an awesome experience. My bike is fixed on my terms and on my time. If I need my bike for tomorrow, I'll have it ready for tomorrow, not next week when it's convenient to the shop guys/gals (no offence to the pros).
If you're not completely comfortable of just relying of YT videos or asking questions here, you can always go check out your local bike co-op, and ask all the stupid questions you want and learn how to wrench of your own bike with somebody who know what they're doing.
Give it a try. Worst case scenario, you do the walk of shame of bringing in your bike. But at least you tried.
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Old 10-13-11, 11:14 PM   #4
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If you never anticipate ever having to do it yourself and want to pay each time, have the shop do it. However, I recommend you invest what you'd pay in shop fees in tools and learning. You will mess it up. And it will feel ridiculous. And in the end you'll probably take it into the shop anyway and feel like an ass. But you will learn no other way, and eventually you will learn to do things yourself.
This is probably the best advice I've ever heard for a newbie. I don't even want to muck it up by adding my own thoughts.

Edit: I do have a little advice. You can learn an incredible amount from www.sheldonbrown.com Only when I have searched the site and am still stumped will I post a new thread here. It doesn't happen too often.

Last edited by FastJake; 10-13-11 at 11:17 PM.
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Old 10-13-11, 11:14 PM   #5
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Fair enough. I ordered a multi-tool (Alien II, $30), some lube (White Lightening, $8), and degreaser (Finish Line Speed, $11). Can't afford a stand just yet though. If all goes well, the $50 I spent on this stuff will last me several cleaning and lots of repairs as opposed to 50 bucks every few months.
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Old 10-13-11, 11:45 PM   #6
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Ann Arbor bike co-op, Common Cycle

http://www.washtenawvoice.com/wp-con...f_files/b1.pdf
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Old 10-14-11, 01:37 AM   #7
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Fair enough. I ordered a multi-tool (Alien II, $30), some lube (White Lightening, $8), and degreaser (Finish Line Speed, $11). Can't afford a stand just yet though. If all goes well, the $50 I spent on this stuff will last me several cleaning and lots of repairs as opposed to 50 bucks every few months.
A little late. but here goes:
If you want your money to go as far as possible, treat bicycle-specific maintenance equipment with a high degree of suspicion.
Sure, there are some tools not found outside the bicycle trade, and I may on a good day be persuaded that the load case of a bicycle chain is sufficiently unique to actually merit a custom compound.
But there's no way anyone is going to be able to convince me that bicycle-specific degreaser is going to do a better job than a generic degreaser from the auto parts store.

Stuff like that are often referred to as "boutique" items. When compared with generic mechanical maintenance equipment there's often a considerable markup on them, particularly considering the very vague supporting evidence as to why they would do a better job.

I'd say that it's mainly a comfort thing. If it's bought from a bike store, and it has a pic of a bike on the bottle, it's gotta be the right thing to use on a bike, right? No further evaluation required.
For those with really cramped living conditions there's a small advantage in the container sizes as well. If you pick up bearing lube somewhere else you may get a whopping big can that you'll have to hold on to for years and years. Whereas the bike specific lube may come in something the size/shape of a tootpaste tube, that you're actually able to finish within a foreseeable time.

Multi-tools I think of as a preferable option to cussing, clawing and biting during a roadside repair, but I rarely, if ever, reach for them at home. If nothing else, they're smaller and offers less leverage than the "real" thing.
Can't say anything about your specific item, but the quality isn't always that great. I've watched at least three multi-tools shatter during use.
What I've done for my commuter is assemble a tool kit from the regular hardware shelves instead. I've picked just the tools I need, in a smallish size and that's it. It's not as neat as the multi-tool, but IMO more reliable and more useful.
Given that I had a stash of tools at home to start with, it ended up costing less too. The required Allen keys for instance I just had to dig out of the mixed pile rattling away at the bottom of a toolbox. I think IKEA contributed to some of them...
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Old 10-14-11, 02:01 AM   #8
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If you are really unsure of your capabilities it might not be a bad idea to have the shop do it. If you have a shop do it, find one that lets you help and learn the basics, many of them will let you do this. At the end you will be amazed how easy it is to do, ask the mechanic questions. After this, you can find resources on the net to walk you through it again.
Also, many of the big shops like performance sell a basic home kit (not pro kits but good for home maintenance) that will have everything you need to take a bike apart and back, usually on sale for 50 bucks.
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Old 10-14-11, 05:40 AM   #9
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Lots of good advice, here. Bicycles are really pretty simple machines, and, for the most part, working on them is not difficult. You've heard the old carpenter's maxim: Measure twice, cut once. I'd say with bikes, it's read twice, wrench once, especially when you're first starting out. If you're not sure what you're doing, read about it on Sheldon Brown's website, Park Tool's website, some other on-line source, and/or a bicycle repair and maintenance book until you've got it figured out. Then do the job. I've used this approach and, yes, I've made a few mistakes here and there -- usually as a result of impatience -- but nothing that did any damage or couldn't be reversed. Doing your own wrenching saves lots of $$$ in the long run and, if you enjoy it, can bring you lots of satisfaction.
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Old 10-14-11, 06:57 AM   #10
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The Alien II is what I have, among a full toolbox as well, and it can handle about 90% of the stuff I do with bikes, plus it is convenient and in a fairly small contained package. Throw in a pedal wrench, a 13mm & 14mm & 15mm open/box end wrenches for axle nuts and you're good for 95% of what you need most of the time. Beyond that you can add in cassette or freewheel tools and crank tools. But as noted above, "regular" tools instead of bicycle specific tools will work and hold up better.

The link to the local co-op is a good way to go. Volunteer some time there and learn "on the job". Be up front with them, tell them you want to learn and tell them to assume you know nothing about bikes, and learn from there.

Also check around and see if any local bike shops or if you have a local REI store, see if any of them offer the Park Tool School. It often gets offered in the fall and spring and sometimes in the winter off season. Costs a few dollars, you get a book, you get to work on your own bike, you get to maybe borrow tools you don't already own yet, and if you bring a notepad you can build a list of tools that you'll eventually want to buy. Plus if the shop or store is consumer friendly you might be able to snag a deal on a repair stand. Better yet you might be able to set yourself up for a part time job next summer at the shop building bikes and getting the employee discount, put in 10+ hours a week, learn more on the job, get tools for close to shop cost, get supplies for less than mail order cost, get to know the shop crew, win-win situation for many people.

And in addition to the sheldonbrown.com pages also check out the park tool web site for their how to do it section, lots of good tutorials on there, but they don't get into the older bikes too much.

Enjoy the learning process, bikes are fun.
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Old 10-14-11, 09:19 AM   #11
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I also second all those who said a) do it yourself and learn and b) take advantage of your local bike co-op. I was a late bloomer too (didn't have a bike as a kid, learned when I was ~24), and just this summer decided to completely disassemble my charity sale beater bike and repaint. I've since bought a new one, but learned enough during the build process that I can do my own maintenance now. There's a free bike shop where I work (at a university) and going there was the best thing I did. The staff supervised while I did my own work, and I got to use all their tools (and knowledge) for free.
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Old 10-14-11, 09:16 PM   #12
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For many riders the maintenance, repair, and fine tuning of bikes is large part of the enjoyment of cyclismo (did I just make up a word?). The bike is a wonderful machine that becomes, when we ride it, a mechanical extension of the body. It's not overly complex in principle and lends itself to not only being ridden but also understood and worked on to get it to perform just the way we want it to. Lets face it, most folks these days use things (cars, computers, TV's and other high-tech devices) with no idea of how they work or how to fix them when they stop working. Some folks approach bikes the same way, but bikes are simple enough that if you want to be more than just a "user" you can get more involved and become a "technician."

A good way to get into this is to get hold of some good general bike repair books, I like Zinn's and the Parks repair manuals. They'll discuss the parts of the bikes, how they are made, what they do, how they are maintained and repaired, and what tools you'll need to effect the repairs.
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Old 10-14-11, 09:30 PM   #13
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cyclismo (did I just make up a word?).
That means bicycle in Spanish

I recommend you get this book: http://www.amazon.com/Zinn-Art-Road-...8649350&sr=8-1

Helped me so much. When ever there is a problem, I whip out the book and it always has the info I need.
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Old 10-14-11, 11:18 PM   #14
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+1. Here in Portland there's a couple co-ops, plus Community Cycling Center, which teaches people to be self-reliant with regard to bicycle care.

It's a bicycle, not rocket surgery. Kids have been figuring them out for years. You should pick up the essentials pretty quickly since you're young and flexible, unlike doddering old farts like me.
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Old 10-15-11, 11:13 AM   #15
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One way to learn bike maintenence is to work on dump bikes or parts. If you want to learn the principles of bike repair without messing up a good bike look for a damaged bike. A bike with a bent frame might have hubs , pedals, headset and bottom bracket that you can take apart and put together. If you make a mistake, there is no great loss. Actually, looking for discarded bikes and parts can become fun, check out the C&V forum thread'your catch of the day...saved from the dump.
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Old 10-15-11, 11:54 AM   #16
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Fair enough. I ordered a multi-tool (Alien II, $30), some lube (White Lightening, $8), and degreaser (Finish Line Speed, $11). Can't afford a stand just yet though. If all goes well, the $50 I spent on this stuff will last me several cleaning and lots of repairs as opposed to 50 bucks every few months.
A multi tool is generally something you only want to use out on the road. For home bike working it's far more convenient to have separate tools. The other stuff has local options which you don't need to drive all around or have shipped. But at least you didn't pay through the nose for the WL and degreaser just because they have bike brands on them.

To Do you first need To Learn. To Sheldon's website posted above I'll add the other must have link www.parktool.com/repair . Before you do anything check the Park Tool site for a descriptive how to do it. I like Sheldon's site as well but it's more something that is good to read ahead of time and digest for the most part. The Park Tools site is more focused on what you need at a glance to do the job in front of you.

To start for tools you'll do well to get a metric allen set that covers 1.5mm to 10mm and a set of metric combination wrenches from 8mm to 19mm. You'll also want the usual set of general tools such as pliers, cutters, screwdrivers (lots of Phillips screws as well), hammer, soft blow mallet and whatever else you find you need to get things done.

On top of this you're going to run into situations that requre specialty tools. Some you can improvise from what you have, others you can make and some you just need to suck it up and buy them. You're the best person to answer what you can build and what you need to buy based on your background in metal working and mechanic'ing .

You can improvise a bike stand by hanging the bike from the ceiling or making up a wooden arm that comes out from a wall. Whatever suits your situation.

One thing many forget about but that really helps is to have a solid workbench with a GOOD vise. A good bench and good vise is your incredably important third hand which always seems to be needed. Once you have a solid bench with a good vise you'll wonder how you ever did without. A good vise will be one size bigger than you can possibly imagine ever needing and it'll have a movable jaw with very little side to side or angular play. On the other hand a bad vise is one which you think will do ok because you don't want anything too heavy and it'll have a jaw which moves around so much the wrong ways that it deforms the piece you're working on and let's it slip around at the same time. A good vise on a good bench is a lifetime investment. A rickety bench holding a lousy vise will give you cause to expand your vocabulary in colourful directions....
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Old 10-15-11, 12:17 PM   #17
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I have used a multi tool to build up a bike as much as possible. When I tour I like to be self sufficient for the mechanical problems. I don't bring headset or bottom bracket tools but I can do most emergency repairs with a mini tool. But I don't use the mini tool at home too often. But using the mini tool lets me know what works well on the tool and which don't and I can see if there is anything that it is missing that I may need to bring along, i.e. I now bring a torx for my brakes.
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Old 10-15-11, 01:14 PM   #18
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If you're not completely mechanically inept, bicycle maintenance is fairly easy to learn. You can start off with quite a basic toolkit (screwdrivers, allen keys, a few metric spanners) which will allow you to do routine jobs such as adjust your brakes or derailleurs. There's no need to rush out and buy everything at once. You can buy further specific tools when they're needed for the job in hand. This way, you will slowly expand your toolkit to be able to carry out any work on your bike. Individual tools may seem expensive, but they are a one-off cost unlike paying for the work to be done at the LBS. Next time the same job will cost you very little or nothing at all.
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