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  1. #1
    Senior Member ultimattfrisbee's Avatar
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    Does a journey of a thousand miles begin with a single wrench?

    Could've posted this to mechanics, but it's not a question.

    I have been awed and humbled by the apparent ease with which so many posters maintain their bikes. The talk of swapping out forks, stems and headsets, converting to single speed and back, repacking bearings, replacing the cranks, the cassettes, the bottom brackets, putting in new cables, installing hydraulic disc brakes, and it all sounds as easy as making toast. I wonder if I'll ever true a wheel or successfully adjust my derailleur.

    So today, after an hour and a half, with grease under my fingernails and on my pants, I am inordinately proud to say that I have replaced the brake pads on my bike. The bike stops. The tension in the levers is right. They do not squeal. Last week, I switched my tires from plain knobby tires to studded ones for winter. I didn't make the tires, mind you. I just swapped 'em and put 'em on.

    I know it's not much. I know it would have taken a real mechanic 10 minutes, at most. I gotta say, though--right here, right now, it feels like a win.
    2009 Jamis Aurora
    1993 Bianci Ibex

  2. #2
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    LMFAO. I totally understand. I am new to all this and this past summer was the first time I so much as changed a punctured bike tube. But by the end of the summer, with a little help from youtube(Im lying youtube is my hero) I replaced my brake pads, and removed and replaced my bike chain. Again like you said its not much but it gave me a little confidence that this comming summer I may order some tools and attempt some more difficult repairs on my soon to be old bike, knowing that if i mess it up I can still ride my new(still unpurchased) bike. one such planned endevour would be to replace my chain ring(just learned what that part was actually called today) for one with more teeth.

  3. #3
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    When I was but a wee lad and got my first bicycle my father handed me a wrench and showed me how to remove my wheel so we could mend a flat tyre which was a fairly common occurrence in those days and he felt that if I was going to ride it, I needed to know how to fix it.

    Pretty soon I was fixing everyone's flat tyres and he also showed me how to make sure the chain was lubed and how to tell if anything was amiss so that it could be addressed right away.

    My first bicycle had a Sturmey Archer three speed and I had to learn how to make sure the shifter was set up as my father worked on the road and was not always there to lend a hand.

    I fell in love with bicycles when I was very young, they have always fascinated and intrigued me, and after many years of turning wrenches on pretty much everything and building wheels I turned my attention to learning how to build frames and forks which was an entirely new journey.

    We learn with every step we take and the longer you walk the easier it gets and what seemed like a major accomplishment today will seem funny a few months from now.

    I like teaching and seeing how happy people are when they learn how to do something they considered impossible or beyond their abilities and it was not so long ago that I handed my daughter a wrench so she could learn how to change a flat tyre.

    Funny as she was lacing wheels when she was 8 and has been maintaining her own bike for 4 years but with better technology those flats are few and far between... and her bike is also a three speed so she is learning how to make sure it is properly set up.

    She has built a few bikes with me and has some amazing skills but then she likes to hang out with me and watch everything I do in the shop and is a very quick learner.

  4. #4
    Senior Member ultimattfrisbee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mondo734 View Post
    LMFAO. I totally understand. I am new to all this and this past summer was the first time I so much as changed a punctured bike tube. But by the end of the summer, with a little help from youtube(Im lying youtube is my hero) I replaced my brake pads, and removed and replaced my bike chain. Again like you said its not much but it gave me a little confidence that this comming summer I may order some tools and attempt some more difficult repairs on my soon to be old bike, knowing that if i mess it up I can still ride my new(still unpurchased) bike. one such planned endevour would be to replace my chain ring(just learned what that part was actually called today) for one with more teeth.
    Love the part about the chain ring. I live in fear of calling the parts of the bike the wrong name. Just learned what chain stays and seat stays are (but still don't know if they're one word or two!). Looking forward to taking the chain off at some point to give it a real cleaning in a jar of mineral spirits and my back wheel is the tiniest bit wobbly, so I'd like to try to true it.

    I think, before I get much more ambitious, a repair stand, either bought or somehow improvised, might be a good purchase.

    We should both keep tinkering. It's the only way to get better. As Star Trek's Mr. Spock (and countless others) have said, "We learn by doing."
    2009 Jamis Aurora
    1993 Bianci Ibex

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Just don't mess with the spokes unless you REALLY know what you are doing...


    PINGGGGG...wobble wobble...
    "Why is it that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a barbecue?" Anonymous

  6. #6
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete In Az View Post
    Just don't mess with the spokes unless you REALLY know what you are doing...


    PINGGGGG...wobble wobble...
    If you never make a mistake, you never learn anything. As a corollary, sometimes you make great discoveries by making mistakes.

    ultimattfrisbee, we all started somewhere. You'll make mistakes. You will break stuff. Eventually you get to the point where, to quote a Viagra ad, "you've reached an age of knowing how to get things done". It's only easy for some of us because we've seen it all.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    I just wish I hadn't had the "learning experience" out in the middle of nowhere, on a Sunday.

    I would have preferred three blocks from home.
    "Why is it that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a barbecue?" Anonymous

  8. #8
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete In Az View Post
    Just don't mess with the spokes unless you REALLY know what you are doing...
    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    If you never make a mistake, you never learn anything.
    I agree with cyccommute. No matter what kind of journey you're taking, you have to start where you are right now.
    Not messing with spokes until you know what you're doing is like wanting to get into better shape before starting to exercise.

  9. #9
    Senior Member ultimattfrisbee's Avatar
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    Fortunately, I have some people around who are good teachers. I think once the weather clears a bit, I'll feel more inclined to mess with my commuter. When it's nice out, I prefer the touring bike, anyway, so a mistake that puts it out of action for a day or two is no tragedy.

    Thanks, all, for the encouragement. The guys I've met on bikeforums are (mostly) an inspiration!
    2009 Jamis Aurora
    1993 Bianci Ibex

  10. #10
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    I guess I had a double advantage when I was in that learning phase; I was being OJT'd by a real mechanic, and all my mistakes were on crap bikes for Walfart.

    It took probably a month of trial/error to get 'competent' with wheel truing, but about 9 months to get what I considered 'good'.

    Now, after 11 years, I'm a shade better than that mechanic (I was approached by a race team for a wrench's job with them, picked over him!), and can do most of this stuff in my sleep.

    But then, I'm obsessed.....

  11. #11
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete In Az View Post
    I just wish I hadn't had the "learning experience" out in the middle of nowhere, on a Sunday.

    I would have preferred three blocks from home.
    The ones in the middle of nowhere make more of an impression than the ones 3 blocks from home.
    Stuart Black
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    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete In Az View Post
    I just wish I hadn't had the "learning experience" out in the middle of nowhere, on a Sunday.
    Yup, part of the learning experience is judgeing the right time and place. I've made some bad calls in that regard but I'm typing this from home so I've obviously always found a way to get back.

  13. #13
    Senior Member johnr783's Avatar
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    Who cares if it took 90 minutes to get the brakes done right. Now you know how to do it and it will be faster next time. Plus, you saved a few bucks! good job.

    Keep it up. When I learned to true, it took me 2 1/2 hours to get that rim straight. Now I can true in less than 10, sometimes.

    Practice and dont get frustrated/discouraged.
    *All that was included in this comment was meant to be read with a light-hearted demeanor. If at any point I offended anyone or presented an idea that is contradictory to what they hold to be true please consider this post to be a joke. For the sake of keeping the post free of unnecessary clutter, please reconsider any "correction" to this comment you may or may not feel compelled to post.

  14. #14
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    After hearing from some of you more experienced bike mechanics I find myself wondering about tools. How about recommending some good tool sets and bike repair equipment. I'd like to know what items are a must have and what your average rider can do without - things that are better left to professionals. For example I can change the brakes on my car and do most intermediate maintainance but wouldn't want to be swapping out a transmition or something.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mondo734 View Post
    After hearing from some of you more experienced bike mechanics I find myself wondering about tools. How about recommending some good tool sets and bike repair equipment. I'd like to know what items are a must have and what your average rider can do without - things that are better left to professionals. For example I can change the brakes on my car and do most intermediate maintainance but wouldn't want to be swapping out a transmition or something.
    Just do it.

    To me, one of the attractions of messing with bicycles is that my screw ups have always been relatively cheap to correct. I also justify that cost as tuition in the school of bicycle maintenance and mechanics.

    I'm an advocate of buying tools as you need them. A good percentage of bicycle maintenance can be done with just a 5mm allen wrench. A GOOD cable cutter would also be an early purchase. The other specialty tools tend to only be needed as projects arise. Buy a cassette lockring tool and chain whip when you decide to change cassettes. Buy a chain breaker when you replace the chain. Spoke wrench and cone wrenches when you decide to tackle wheel work.

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