I'm a new casual cyclist with an '09 Fuji road bike. I've spent enough time on it to feel comfortable with the basics of biking safety and to get past saddle soreness.
I'm developing an interest in the hardware and mechanics of my bike - starting to learn about the workings of the gear and brake systems. This is partly just academic curiosity, and partly practical: my rear gear has been missing a lot during shifting (sometimes taking as many as two revolutions to fully engage) and clicking a fair amount during ordinary riding in some gears.
So I have a few questions for everyone:
(1) Any advice for looking into the rear gear? I've ordered a repair stand, and intend to prop up my bike to scrutinize the shifting mechanism in practice (with a textbook in hand) to learn how it works and what may be going wrong. Any advice for going about this process?
Any thoughts about the prognosis of the gear? Is this the type of problem that can be fixed through amateur maintenance or needs professional repair? And is this typically solved by adjusting the derailleur, or should I be expecting the need to replace significant parts of the gear?
Finally - where do I draw the line between minor home maintenance and taking the bike to a cycling shop? I'm not about to start unbolting anything critical to the stability of the bike, but I'd also like to improve my understanding of the mechanism and start developing hands-on experience.
(2) Any recommendations for hardware upgrades that might improve the casual cycling experience?
I'm definitely not looking to bling out my bike and don't care about status; I am a self-admitted casual cycling amateur. But I recently swapped out the pedals with some SPDs and a pair of cycling shoes, and I'm really happy with the experience. So this has started me thinking about other upgrades that might be appropriate for my situation.
So - any recommendations? Saddle or tires, maybe? (I will gratefully accept "no, your bike is fine for your needs" as an answer.)
Thanks in advance, everyone.