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Old 03-24-12, 02:32 PM   #1
DougG
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Why I no longer trust my mechanical skills

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I did all my own maintenance on cars and motorcycles. And for a while, on weekends, I drove 200mph down a drag strip in a car that I rebuilt every week!

But in my 60s, I find myself screwing up more than I'd like from lack of observation or forgetfulness. So over the winter, I did my yearly maintenance including taking the drivetrains apart, cleaning, and reassembling them on all my bikes, and this week the weather let me take them all out for the first rides.

When I started riding one on Thursday, it seemed a bit noisy when pedaling. It sounded chain-related, but seemed to be coming from the crank area although I couldn't see anything rubbing. So I spent part of the 30-mile ride imagining all sorts of things like bad bottom-bracket bearings, etc.

As soon as I got back and put it on the stand, it was obvious that it was very noisy, and coming from the rear derailleur -- not the front. After checking and double-checking, I finally saw that I had misrouted the chain when I put it back on! After passing over the upper pulley, I had run it under instead of over the cross-brace that's in between the upper and lower pullies. As a result, the chain was dragging over the tab and making a heck of a racket that apparently I couldn't hear well while on the bike at speed.

Luckily, I use a Wipperman Connex link, so correcting it took less than a minute. Lesson learned, but it doesn't do much for my self-confidence!
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Old 03-24-12, 02:43 PM   #2
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Common mistake and can't be put down to mechanical-Or lack of -Skills.

Just idiocy

You only do it once so watch out for a re-occurrence of Lack of attention when assembling the bike. That will point to a more serious problem. (In the mechanic- not the bike)
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Old 03-24-12, 02:48 PM   #3
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At 65 I still trust my mechanical skills





when I can rember what to do.
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Old 03-24-12, 02:58 PM   #4
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Common mistake and can't be put down to mechanical-Or lack of -Skills.
Well, maybe I should have put it that I don't trust myself as much when doing mechanical work, from a combination of eyesight not as good and a bit harder to maintain concentration. The last time I changed oil on one of my motorcycles a number of years ago (before I quit riding them), I noticed a few days later that there was a drip of oil on the garage floor; since it was a German and not British bike this was not normal, and a quick check showed that I had forgotten to tighten the drain plug! Now that could have been a really expensive mistake!
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Old 03-24-12, 03:07 PM   #5
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Funnily enough Doug--I did this but it was on a British bike so never noticed. But being a British bike-- There was a Sub Frame beneath the Sump plug that meant you had to Remove the rear engine mounting and tilt the engine to drain the Oil. The sump plug couldn't unscrew as it hit the sub frame after 1/2 turn.

My problem is that although I am/was a mechanic- I haven't used my spanners in 20 years. As I have just bought an Old VW campervan- I now know why- My son-in-Law has them round at his house.
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Old 03-24-12, 03:09 PM   #6
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As soon as I got back and put it on the stand, it was obvious that it was very noisy, and coming from the rear derailleur -- not the front. After checking and double-checking, I finally saw that I had misrouted the chain when I put it back on! After passing over the upper pulley, I had run it under instead of over the cross-brace that's in between the upper and lower pullies. As a result, the chain was dragging over the tab and making a heck of a racket that apparently I couldn't hear well while on the bike at speed.
I've done the same thing 2-3 times, but I've never gone more than a block before heading back to the garage to fix it.
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Old 03-24-12, 03:13 PM   #7
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Common mistake and can't be put down to mechanical-Or lack of -Skills.
Yeah. Bike mechanics pretty much fall into 2 categories: Those who admit to having made this stupid error and liars.
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Old 03-24-12, 03:36 PM   #8
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You mean it looked kinda like this...




Instead of this....?




I'll never tell where I got those pictures from!!
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Old 03-24-12, 04:33 PM   #9
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If you were building race cars up every week, I suspect you knew every part, every torque and every routine so you could recite it or even do the jobs blindfolded.

When you don't do something for a while, you do have to stop and think and get that routine working again.

I do my own wrenching, and wheel-building. But I don't do it every day or every week or every month. And I need to think about what I am doing right to the end.

If I don't, I, too, can route the chain through the rear derailleur incorrectly. Fortunately, in the past year, I seem to be building bikes or changing them around to suit riding conditions such as hills or flatland riding. So the chain-over-the-tab trick is one I have under control.

Wheel-building is the toughest because you have to start with a certain spoke in a certain hole next to the valve hole, especially on the drive side of the rear wheel. And I have to reference already-built wheels to get it right. From then on, it's not such an issue.
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Old 03-24-12, 05:07 PM   #10
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I'll never tell where I got those pictures from!!
Guilty as charged! And I still can't believe that it wasn't more obvious where the rattling noise was coming from while riding it.
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Old 03-24-12, 05:09 PM   #11
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If you were building race cars up every week, I suspect you knew every part, every torque and every routine so you could recite it or even do the jobs blindfolded.

When you don't do something for a while, you do have to stop and think and get that routine working again.
You're exactly right; I knew all the torques, bearing clearances, etc. It really is lack of practice that's causing me to go a bit stale.
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Old 03-24-12, 05:14 PM   #12
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If you were building race cars up every week, I suspect you knew every part, every torque and every routine so you could recite it or even do the jobs blindfolded.

When you don't do something for a while, you do have to stop and think and get that routine working again.

I do my own wrenching, and wheel-building. But I don't do it every day or every week or every month. And I need to think about what I am doing right to the end.

If I don't, I, too, can route the chain through the rear derailleur incorrectly. Fortunately, in the past year, I seem to be building bikes or changing them around to suit riding conditions such as hills or flatland riding. So the chain-over-the-tab trick is one I have under control.

Wheel-building is the toughest because you have to start with a certain spoke in a certain hole next to the valve hole, especially on the drive side of the rear wheel. And I have to reference already-built wheels to get it right. From then on, it's not such an issue.
I always start with a diagram of the particular lacing pattern being used taped to the wall above the work bench. There are too many variations for my memory to keep up with. Just the differences between trailing spokes for disc brake wheels vs trailing spokes for rim brake wheels makes my memory go far far away.
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Old 03-24-12, 06:37 PM   #13
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I've done that before, too, DougG. It's not old age, it's just a missed detail.
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Old 03-24-12, 06:45 PM   #14
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Jeese Doug, I'm a spritely55 and just did the same thing because I was working too quickly on my R500. Wanted to ride and got in a hurry. One thing I do and have done since I was a motorcycle mechanic in the 70's was to make a list of what I was doing and as Madmaxx does, a diagram. Now I take a digital picture of everything before I start and compare each part worked on to how it was when I began.

As said, you aren't doing this stuff regularly and it will come to you. 60's ain't old my friend

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Old 03-24-12, 07:15 PM   #15
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The other thing I am doing more and more is compiling the instructions that come with new parts. I have a swag of them here right now as I am building up the new touring bikes. Of course, Shimano supplies its instructions in about 15 languages, so I am dutifully tearing out the English version to keep the volume in the filing cabinet to a minimum. I got a Ritchie stem for Machka's bike, and the English instructions are small print on a HUGE sheet of paper!

Actually, reading the instructions can be quite instructive, sometimes. And sometimes, they go against the advice offer up here on BFs...
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Old 03-24-12, 07:18 PM   #16
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+1 Rowan, I have all of them on file together. Shimano, SRAM and a few others will let you print them out or download them. This I like!

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Old 03-24-12, 09:14 PM   #17
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You're doing much better than me. I've been making mechanical mistakes my entire life. My father is still annoyed that I won't do some things with a car. But you only need to have a 68 Chevy Nova SS transmission drop on you and pin you under the car for several hours once (until help arrived) before you realize that some things just aren't worth it. In terms of bicycles, I do 99% of my own maintenance. The other 1% is when the LBS has to fix something I screwed up.
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Old 03-24-12, 09:42 PM   #18
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Yeah. Bike mechanics pretty much fall into 2 categories: Those who admit to having made this stupid error and liars.
Yup. I made this faux pas my first day on my new job. Thankfully. there was a quick link in the chain, and I caught the error the moment I started turning the crank to set the derailleur.
I didn't try to cover it up, just told the other mechanic what I had just done, and we had a good chuckle and moved on. Life's like that.
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Old 03-25-12, 04:58 AM   #19
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These are all just things that happen when we work on bikes .
Everybuddy has such a story to tell.
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Old 03-25-12, 09:02 AM   #20
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If you were building race cars up every week, I suspect you knew every part, every torque and every routine so you could recite it or even do the jobs blindfolded.

When you don't do something for a while, you do have to stop and think and get that routine working again.
That says a lot about familiarity and its effect on speed. In my youth, one of my jobs was taking apart helicopter missile guidance units so they could be repaired. It was a job that was considered to be a day's work. That was until the time that I simply made a list of the tools needed to remove each component and pasted it in my tool box. With this guide, the time required to deconstruct the guidance unit dropped from 1 day to 45 minutes. My boss was pleased.
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Old 03-25-12, 09:21 AM   #21
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my pedal fell off the other day.I switched them a week earlier from another bike and it sat for a week non tightened and I forgot!Fell off in 15 min.
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Old 03-25-12, 09:55 AM   #22
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I think I buy into that unconsciously competent learning matrix, that you get to the point where it's all instinctual and 'second nature' through repetition, then get a little rusty or distracted and the easy stuff becomes a Homer moment. I think the cure is not assuming you naturally do things right withotu direct attention, and get methodical. When you forget the directions to the store you've been to a 1000 times, that's when you start worrying.
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Old 03-25-12, 10:18 AM   #23
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I did the OPs mistake once and felt like a total moron. It happens.
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Old 03-25-12, 02:37 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
Common mistake and can't be put down to mechanical-Or lack of -Skills.

Just idiocy

You only do it once so watch out for a re-occurrence of Lack of attention when assembling the bike. That will point to a more serious problem. (In the mechanic- not the bike)
Yep...I have done the same thing and still do not doubt my competence. Its repeating a mistake that makes me question...

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Old 03-25-12, 03:23 PM   #25
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I've never NOT done stuff like this. I never put the case on a computer until I've tested it, and never put the bike up without a trial ride. So I don't think it's related to age.
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