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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 09-14-12, 12:49 AM   #1
Andra2000
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Has anybody here personally repair his/her bike?

Hi everyone,

I really want to be able to do my own bike repair. I hate being without a bike and having to run it up to the shop. And it's wasting not only money but also time


Is there anyway that I can learn bike repair with confidence? Is bike repair easy, or something best left to pros?
Can I learn from a bike repair manual, or better to get some hands on training?
Thanks for any advice.

Last edited by Andra2000; 09-14-12 at 01:01 AM.
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Old 09-14-12, 12:54 AM   #2
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I do it all the time. I have an old copy of Bicycling Magazine's Bicycle Maintenance and Repair Book. To do it correctly requires all the proper tools and lots of patience to learn. I enjoy the act of repairing/restoring, but certainly understand why shops charge what the do.
I do it all, including brazing frames, building wheels and re-shaping leather saddles. there's no better way to spend your leisure time!
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Old 09-14-12, 01:00 AM   #3
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Awesome resources:
1.) Sheldon Brown - read, surf, read some more
http://sheldonbrown.com/articles.html
2.) Park Tool's repair help database:
http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help
3.) YouTube videos - TONS of these in varying quality. Some are excellent. Search for whatever issue you want to learn about.
4.) Classes at bicycle co-ops and elsewhere. Often free. Go hang out and learn stuff in person.
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Old 09-14-12, 02:30 AM   #4
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I have a cheap bike that I just try and fix. I make a few mistakes, but I learn every time. Eventually it becomes easy. You do need the right tools - and they can get a little expensive.
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Old 09-14-12, 02:49 AM   #5
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I've been doing my own repairs since I was 14 (I'm now 19). Sheldon Brown (may he rest in peace) was the source of most of my knowledge, although the Park Tool website occasionally helped. I've messed up a fair few times, but I've always learned from it.
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Old 09-14-12, 02:50 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Andra2000 View Post
Is there anyway that I can learn bike repair with confidence? Is bike repair easy, or something best left to pros?
You should know the answer to that better than anyone else...

The fact you're even asking suggests you haven't put a whole lot of thought into tinkering with stuff before; to anyone familiar with a screwdriver, the tendency is to be over-confident.

General tinkering skills transfer quite well, but probably the two biggest hassles are procuring the right tools (there are a handful of bike-specific tools it's pretty hard to live without), and all the very similar but slightly different sizing standards, particularly on French bikes.

If you don't have much tinkering experience but you're strong on observation and logic, you should be right.
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Old 09-14-12, 04:25 AM   #7
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Ditto on the above comments concerning technical resources and tooling. Cycling is a wonderful sport, however the amount maintenance and repair work you do wiill be determined by the type and level of cycling you do. A recreational rider will likely need to be able to fix their own flats and make minor adjustments etc.. As a cyclist becomes more involved(/committed) the level of tooling and work they perform becomes more involved all the way to the point of a "stem to stern" rebuilds and upgrades.

Its a wonderful journey, take it a little bit at a time and learn as you go. Go as far as you need to/want to. Have fun.

Last edited by epiking; 09-15-12 at 08:11 AM. Reason: gammer
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Old 09-14-12, 05:36 AM   #8
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Andra2000, Bicycle maintenance isn't very difficult. The Bicycling Magazine's book referenced above is an excellent source for the newbie that wants to start their own maintenence. Some bicycle shops offer seminars, often free, to teach basic maintenance. A co-op is a valuable resource for dirtying your own hands under supervision.

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Old 09-14-12, 05:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andra2000 View Post
Hi everyone,

I really want to be able to do my own bike repair. I hate being without a bike and having to run it up to the shop. And it's wasting not only money but also time


Is there anyway that I can learn bike repair with confidence? Is bike repair easy, or something best left to pros?
Can I learn from a bike repair manual, or better to get some hands on training?
Thanks for any advice.
Best way to learn is buy yourself a book and just do it. Chances are the first maintenance you'll learn is how to repair a flat, then I'd guess you'll have to change your chain and cassette at some point, and somewhere down the line you might have to replace a broken spoke, change pedals, swap out a bottom bracket etc. Get the tools you need as you need them and go from there.

If you've got a local bike shop that's friendly you've got the falback that if you make a total hash of it you can take the bits to the bike shop and ask them to put it all back together again.

At its most fundamental a bike is a simple device. Your cranks turn the chainrings which pull the chain which drives the cassette which turns the rear wheel, while the handlebars turn the front wheel.
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Old 09-14-12, 06:14 AM   #10
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Is there anyway that I can learn bike repair with confidence? Is bike repair easy, or something best left to pros?
I don't like the word "easy". Begin with passion. Stir in good doses of patience and thoughtfulness. Spend time on the forums. Follow-up on all the resources mentioned in earlier posts.

Give yourself permission to make mistakes. The day I looked myself in the eye and told myself I could afford to replace anything I broke, that was a turning point. Permission to fail took away the fear.

Experience counts. I gained a ton of experience fast from working on bikes for friends and neighbors -- especially the kids -- who beat a path to my door. Often their bikes are in such poor shape that I just do complete tear-downs and rebuilds. (If you ever need a cheap Huffy stripped bare to the frame and put back again, I'm you're man ) I also like to change things up on my own bikes. I go through one or two frame swaps per year, depending upon what I luck onto used on eBay. Thanks to my neighbors, I've had opportunity to work on BMX bikes, department-store bikes, high-end carbon road frames, and boutique mountain-bike builds. Embrace it all. You'll learn a lot.

Wrenching is not for everyone. My best riding buddy is an excellent rider who simply prefers to leave the maintenance to others. He's got a shop he goes to where he likes the mechanics and their work. All good. Nothing wrong w/that.

Good luck! Keep it fun. That's what's important.

Last edited by JonathanGennick; 09-14-12 at 06:40 AM.
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Old 09-14-12, 06:21 AM   #11
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As everyone has said, get a book, read the forums, check out utube videos and get the proper tools. I'm fairly new to the repair game, but I found it addicting and satisfying to properly repair something by doing my own research and then just digging in. I recently replaced the drivetrain on and old Schwinn 10 speed with modern components. It's still a 40 year old, heavy steel bike, but I like riding it more than my other bikes because I built it myself.
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Old 09-14-12, 06:23 AM   #12
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I always say that there are three things I love about cycling: the fitness and sport, the opportunity to buy myself an occasional treat at the bike shop and the satisfaction of doing all my own build and repair work. I have never been much of a "hand" at auto mechanics, but compared to that, working on a bicycle is plain simple. Buy or search the references recommended above. Buy the tools. It is not too painful if you only buy what you need for a new task, a little at a time. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that most "wrenches" (local bike shop mechanics) will be glad to tutor you in a specific job that you need to perform. Not side-by-side, but they will usually lay out for you the procedure so you can go home and perform it. Also never be afraid to take a screw-up into the shop for a paid correction. That is part of learning. And finally to really become a good home bike mechanic, you need to do more than just adjust and repair, etc. the store bought bike. You need to take on more ambitious projects like building up a purchased frame with parts that you selected and purchased, building your own wheels, and so on. That is how you become an expert. You might think you need to be an expert to do those things, but not so. The job will make you a mechanic. There is no easier bike to maintain and repair than the one you built yourself. You know every inch of it, every component and part. Good luck.

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Old 09-14-12, 06:58 AM   #13
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Do not cut corners by buying cheap, low-quality tools. You do not need top-of-the-line professional ones but leave the poorly-made, ill-fitting cheapies on the rack. Your savings buying cheap will quickly evaporate with the marred and damaged components and barked knuckles you will incur trying to get them to work.

Using the correct tools is also important, there are few places on a bike where adjustable wrenches or slip-joint pliers are appropriate. Get a good pedal wrench with a long handle for adequate leverage and a good chain tool, these will work on any bike. A good set of cable cutters will save you a lot of aggravation. Buy the other tools as you need them; the kits offered are not such a great deal in general as they will contain tools that you may never need.
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Old 09-14-12, 07:27 AM   #14
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I grew up on a farm and started working on my own bike when I was 12 or 13. The mechanical aspect of working on a bicycle is not rocket science. They are straight forward mechanical devices. What I think is a hoot is that some bike shops refuse to work on recumbents since they are "different". What a joke, about the only difference is the frame.
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Old 09-14-12, 07:28 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andra2000 View Post
Hi everyone,

I really want to be able to do my own bike repair. I hate being without a bike and having to run it up to the shop. And it's wasting not only money but also time


Is there anyway that I can learn bike repair with confidence? Is bike repair easy, or something best left to pros?
Can I learn from a bike repair manual, or better to get some hands on training?
Thanks for any advice.
Are you mechanically inclined? Do you like to tinker with stuff? If so, I would say its pretty easy. If not, it will take some time to learn.

Myself, I am not a big fan of books, there is more than enough great information available on the web. Hands on experience is best, if you have a really nice bike that you are worried about messing up, then pick up a cheap bike at a garage sale/thrift store/from a neighbor, or wherever, tear it down, rebuild it and either redonate it back, give it to a friend, or if you scored something really nice, sell it. Repeat the cycle a few times, and you will quickly become an expert. Sell a couple, and the $$ will fund your tools.

Note, you will either need quite a few specialized tools, or have access to a co-op.

I started tinkering with bikes when I was 12 years old, I am sure I messed some up along the way, but it has worked out. I bought my own tools (my dad was not into fixing stuff) with money from mowing lawns, etc. I haven't had a pro do work on my bike since (OK, one time I did pay a shop to remove a stuck bb adjustable cup, that was a weird one).

+1 A good cable cutter, a good chain tool, and a good pedal wrench are important. On some other tasks, the cheaper tools work OK.
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Last edited by wrk101; 09-14-12 at 08:42 AM.
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Old 09-14-12, 07:47 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andra2000 View Post
Hi everyone,

I really want to be able to do my own bike repair. I hate being without a bike and having to run it up to the shop. And it's wasting not only money but also time


Is there anyway that I can learn bike repair with confidence? Is bike repair easy, or something best left to pros?
Can I learn from a bike repair manual, or better to get some hands on training?
Thanks for any advice.
You can watch some tutorials on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imlbtZi4VAc&feature=plcp

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Old 09-14-12, 08:22 AM   #17
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Awesome resources:
1.) Sheldon Brown - read, surf, read some more
http://sheldonbrown.com/articles.html
2.) Park Tool's repair help database:
http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help
3.) YouTube videos - TONS of these in varying quality. Some are excellent. Search for whatever issue you want to learn about.
4.) Classes at bicycle co-ops and elsewhere. Often free. Go hang out and learn stuff in person.
This is how I got started working on my own stuff and now I work on other peoples bikes for a living.
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Old 09-14-12, 09:48 AM   #18
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Ditto on the above comments above concerning technical resources and tooling from above.
The sentence above, has, above all, an above-average number of appearances of the word "above".
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Old 09-14-12, 10:09 AM   #19
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Are you mechanically inclined? Do you like to tinker with stuff? If so, I would say its pretty easy. If not, it will take some time to learn.
This is the bottom line to the subject, anyone can take off and replace parts but doing it right the first time takes some degree of skill.
If you want to learn start reading and watching videos or better yet fine someone who is willing to guide you along seeing it done and hands on is the best way to learn!.

And if you are serious get the correct tools for the jobs you plan on doing it makes life much easer!
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Old 09-14-12, 11:16 AM   #20
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If I am about to try a repair/upgrade that I have not done before, I usually spend some free-time over the course of a few days doing some research and looking for tips and tricks and making sure I have the right tools. I try to go into it with enough information to do it without additional guidance from a website or book, but many times I will still have to refer back. It's almost like writing a story...you want to have a clear overview of all the steps involved, rather than following directions piece by piece so you can avoid future pitfalls. Even then I'll sometimes run into a problem that could have been prevented if I had the right tool or done something a little differently beforehand. I estimate that I've saved about $300-400 doing my own repairs and I've spent about $50 on tools. With this in mind, I'm less afraid of screwing something up because I can always take it to the LBS and still come out ahead.
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Old 09-14-12, 11:49 AM   #21
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youtube is a wonderful thing!
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Old 09-14-12, 12:42 PM   #22
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I learned as needed. I knew how to change disc brakes before I could properly tune a derailleur, for instance. I've perused this forum, varying websites, YouTube, the Park Tool Big Blue Book, and maintenance clinics. The one frustration is that you need to invest in tools - and being bike specific, many of them are pricey.

My suggested order of learning:
Learn how to properly set up your brakes and derailleur - you will learn how they function. It makes it easy to change cables or swap out parts. If you are changing cables, buy a good cable cutter. This also makes it easy to make needed changes while riding.

After that, learn how to maintain the drive train (lube, clean, remove chain, etc). This will extend the life of those components and make for a much more pleasant ride.

Then learn as needed. Headsets, hubs, bottom brackets, and wheel truing all require different tools and special knowledge. Learn what the bike should do, and then you can diagnose problems. This is the stage I'm in (currently repacking hubs and adjusting cones) - I don't have it yet, but I'm almost there.
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Old 09-14-12, 01:01 PM   #23
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there's no better way to spend your leisure time!
I was nodding my head at everything you wrote, yes, yup, yes, until I got to this line. I enjoy the heck out of bike repair but there certainly ARE other, better, ways to spend leisure time. Exercise is left to the reader
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Old 09-14-12, 06:43 PM   #24
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Basic mechanical knowledge of how things work in bicycles should be your first goal before you start working on your bike. I still remember how as a kid, the whole concept on how a derailleur works to shift the gears on a bike baffled me so much and I never got it till I finally got a 10 speed from my father at around 11 years old.....then I got to closely inspect and fiddle around with the mechanisms finally and understood it enough to get the courage to start adjusting and fixing my bikes when needed. Just be patient and don't bite off more than you can handle and leave those more complicated items that require more specialized tools fro the bike shop to fix for you first if needed. Eventually, servicing hub, headset and bottom bracket bearings won't be such a big deal after you get more tools and understand better how to deal with those more complicated parts of the bike.
And oh, yes, a good book on bicycle mechanics will be very useful. Make sure the book includes instructions for servicing bikes of the vintage you have as some of the newer ones might not have the proper information for it.

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