Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Bicycle Mechanics
Reload this Page >

How did you all learn to work on your bikes?

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.

How did you all learn to work on your bikes?

Old 05-17-16, 09:45 AM
Senior Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Palmyra, Virginia
Posts: 76

Bikes: Specialized Sirrus Comp 2006, Diamondback Ascent Ex 1989

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 11 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
How did you all learn to work on your bikes?

I've been riding my bike since I was about 40 not counting my childhood and I'm 65 now. I've been lucky enough to never have had a flat on the road or any serious mechanical issues on the road. I've always had my bikes tuned up at a shop and if I got a slow leak I pumped it up until I could get to a shop. I always lived in a city though or on longer rides was with someone, usually a guy that could help if I had a problem. Now I'm in the country and going 20 or 30 miles on a regular basis with no one around during the day to come rescue me if I do have a mechanical issue. I am hoping for extended touring in my future.

Last month I took a fix a flat class at REI. Next month I have a cleaning and detailing class to go to. I haven't seen anything else offered at my REI. How do you all learn?
elizwlsn is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 09:55 AM
Senior Member
bluenote157's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Orange County CA
Posts: 963

Bikes: Surly CC, Raleigh Team Pro, Specialized Rockhopper with an xtracycle

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
You can start here.. Home Page | Park Tool
Or if you have Shimano components, you can go to their website and find the install sheets.

Once you understand how most things work you'll be on your way.
bluenote157 is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:02 AM
Retro Grouch 
Senior Member
Retro Grouch's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: St Peters, Missouri
Posts: 29,412

Bikes: Catrike 559 I own some others but they don't get ridden very much.

Mentioned: 13 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1225 Post(s)
Liked 73 Times in 56 Posts
I learned two ways:

1. "Anybody's Bike Book" I think the author's name was Cultherson. Basic but it was good enough to get me started. The Leonard Zinn maintenance books are similar but somewhat more modern.
2. Making dumb mistakes.

Mostly the second.
My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.
Retro Grouch is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:03 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 31,700

Bikes: '''96 Litespeed Catalyst, '05 Litespeed Firenze, '06 Litespeed Tuscany, '12 Surly Pacer, All are 3x8,9 or 10. It is hilly around here!

Mentioned: 34 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1229 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 68 Times in 60 Posts
Books. I got every repair manual I could find, most from my local library at first, and read them thoroughly. When I started riding in the mid-80's the internet wasn't available so that's how we did it.
HillRider is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:06 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Central PA
Posts: 4,829

Bikes: 2016 Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross v5, 2015 Ritchey Road Logic, 1998 Specialized Rockhopper, 2017 Raleigh Grand Prix

Mentioned: 11 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 360 Post(s)
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
Originally Posted by elizwlsn View Post
I've been lucky enough to never have had a flat on the road...
Lucky? No flats in 25 years of cycling? You should be playing the lottery.

As for your question: Bikes are simple things mechanically. If you are in any way inclined you should be able to work them out. I've never read a book, but I have watched plenty of you tube videos for the minutiae.
dr_lha is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:09 AM
Other Worldly Member
Jseis's Avatar
Join Date: May 2012
Location: SW Washington state on the ocean!
Posts: 1,537

Bikes: 1973 Motobecane Grand Jubilee, 1981 Centurion Super LeMans, 2010 Gary Fisher Wahoo, 2003 Colnago Dream Lux, 2014 Giant Defy 1, 2015 Framed Bikes Minnesota 3.0, several older family Treks

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 176 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 10 Times in 9 Posts
Takes apart things and putting them back together. Plus the Gearhead Gene. At 12 years of age I completely dismantled my Honda 50 and put it back together. The first car I had at 16 was a truck that I transplanted a "new" engine into. Ok, dad was jourenyman electrician/scientist and my grandfathers were master mechanics/master electricians/civil engineers/farm boys...so that helped.
Make Amerika Grate Cheese Again

Last edited by Jseis; 05-17-16 at 10:14 AM.
Jseis is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:09 AM
Little Darwin
The Improbable Bulk
Little Darwin's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Wilkes-Barre, PA
Posts: 8,401

Bikes: Many

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
I learned from books I checked out from a library in the 70's.

I have added to that over the past decade by looking around the internet. Primarily Sheldon Brown's site, and YouTube. YouTube is great once you find a good video on the topic you want to gain knowledge on... but there are some out there who seem to have learned from trial and error, so you might want to check out a few videos before diving in. In a few cases you may find one that talks about the exact component you need to install/adjust.

Also, searching this forum has proved beneficial.

If you have any mechanical aptitude, you will find that a bicycle is very easy to maintain. Most things are almost intuitive, others you just need to learn a tip or two to get to the point where it becomes intuitive.
Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Little Darwin is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:19 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Upstate NY
Posts: 3,797

Bikes: Bianchi San Mateo and a few others

Mentioned: 18 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 633 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 3 Posts
When I was a kid, I rode my bike to get around. If I got a flat, I needed to fix it or my transportation was out of commission. So I grabbed some wrenches and figured out how to get the wheel off, and I read the directions on the patch kit. I've always been mechanically inclined and bikes are pretty simple machines, so it wasn't the most difficult thing to take apart and get back together.

As for dealing with other mechanical problems on the road, the best advice I can give you is to practice at home by doing your own maintenance. There are great tutorials online, like the ones at the Park Tool web site. If you work on the bike and learn how it works, you'll gain knowledge and experience that'll help you deal with unexpected problems that may come up while you're riding.

Last edited by SkyDog75; 05-17-16 at 10:25 AM.
SkyDog75 is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:33 AM
Senior Member
blakcloud's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Posts: 1,935

Bikes: Custom Winter Cycles flat bar road bike, Trek Domane SL6, Rivendell Sam Hillborne, Brompton S/M3L (modified)

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 328 Post(s)
Liked 17 Times in 12 Posts
The bulk of my learning was;
  1. Watching bike mechanics work.
  2. Books
  3. Lately, videos.
  4. Last and the most important, this forum. There is a wealth of talented individuals who share their knowledge here.
blakcloud is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:50 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 198
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Just to add to what others have said, you might want to get a second clunker bike to experiment on. Youtube videos can be really good too.
kennj123 is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:53 AM
lostarchitect's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posts: 6,918

Bikes: See sig

Mentioned: 16 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 40 Post(s)
Liked 16 Times in 10 Posts
1. This web forum!
2. Trial & Error
3. Sheldon Brown and Park Tools websites
1964 JRJ (Bob Jackson), 1973 Wes Mason, 1974 Raleigh Gran Sport, 1986 Schwinn High Sierra, 2000ish Colian (Colin Laing), 2011 Dick Chafe, 2013 Velo Orange Pass Hunter
lostarchitect is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 10:54 AM
fietsbob's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW,Oregon Coast
Posts: 41,396

Bikes: 8

Mentioned: 188 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 6942 Post(s)
Liked 253 Times in 208 Posts
4) get books on bike mechanics from the public library ..

I started mechanical curiosity as a Child turned my JC Higgins(Puch) 3 speed into a 3x3x3 speed in 1957 (Aged 10)
fietsbob is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 11:51 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Syracuse, NY
Posts: 7,510

Bikes: 2008 Novara Randonee - love it. Previous bikes:Motobecane Mirage, 1972 Moto Grand Jubilee (my fave), Jackson Rake 16, 1983 C'dale ST500.

Mentioned: 10 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 480 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
As you can see there are many different routes. More important than how someone else learned to work on bikes is how you have learned to work on or do other things. Only you can determine which learning method works for you. Some people are very visual and kinesthetic - they do best with in-person instruction, though most everyone can benefit from the immediate feedback of such an option. Others learn well from written instructions and pictures, while other prefer videos (though I strongly advise to learn from manuals and online written guides first, as videos often leave out important info or include incorrect procedures or info).

I fall into a final category - I just started learning on my own when still in grade school. Of course at that time I had only a Schwinn coaster brake bike, but I knew how to (and did) lube, adjust and overhaul every part of it by the time I was 13 years old. The only major mistake I made was very carefully making sure there was no grease on the brake shoes when I reassembled the coaster brake hub - after all, you want more friction on brakes - right?

My learning type is very much based on observation and logic. I don't know why, but I have always been good at figuring out not only how things work but also how they interact with each other. I have not ever read a bike repair manual or taken a class, though once I started working at a shop I used Sutherland's Manual on a regular basis. I'm not recommending that, of course. One would be a fool to not take advantage of the wealth of information now available.
There's no such thing as a routine repair.

Don't tell me what "should" be - either it is, it isn't, or do something about it.

If you think I'm being blunt take it as a compliment - if I thought you were too weak to handle the truth or a strong opinion I would not bother.

Please respect others by taking the time to post clearly so we can answer quickly. All lowercase and multiple typos makes for a hard read. Thanks!

Last edited by cny-bikeman; 05-19-16 at 05:20 AM.
cny-bikeman is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 12:08 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: May 2006
Location: NY, NY
Posts: 190
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post
Lucky? No flats in 25 years of cycling? You should be playing the lottery.
My theory is ignorance is bliss. It was 20 years before I even knew bike tires could flat (I mean, besides air gradually escaping over time, but basketballs and footballs are like that, too, so all within the realm of "experience"). In that time, I never flatted once.

Then I started educating myself on bike repair, including how to change a tire. Lo and behold, I've started getting flats.
dubes is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 12:11 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: May 2006
Location: NY, NY
Posts: 190
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
As for the OP, my approach was buying a few books, visiting parktool.com and sheldonbrown.com, and reading this forum. I started with simple stuff (v-brakes) and worked my way up. Still don't build my own wheels (I have neither the time nor the patience for it).

dubes is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 12:42 PM
Senior Member
texaspandj's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Heart Of Texas
Posts: 3,481

Bikes: '86 , '87 , '88 , '89 Centurion Dave Scott Ironman.

Mentioned: 96 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1191 Post(s)
Liked 116 Times in 87 Posts
I remember reading a similar question in a motorcycle magazine. The staff wrote, volunteer to help assemble new bikes at a shop. So probably could work for you.
I do not consider myself a mechanic or mechanically inclined. In fact I was reluctant to reply on this thread, but I figured I could give you inspiration. Now my uncle he was a mechanic, they just think differently somehow. However I can do all the work myself. This year I finally bought bottom bracket and headset tools and can live LBS free now.
I learned the other stuff, fix a flat,gear adjustments, wheel,seat,wrap,derailleurs,cables installments in books I bought and from the library there wasn't a Internet back in the 80s. Now if I have a question I come here. When I needed a bottom bracket installation tutorial I went to you tube. Now I've done several. I built a few bikes from frame however will not, cannot build wheels. Best wishes.
texaspandj is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 12:48 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Central CA
Posts: 1,408

Bikes: A little of everything

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 6 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Originally Posted by lostarchitect View Post
1. This web forum!
2. Trial & Error
3. Sheldon Brown and Park Tools websites
Raiden is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 12:55 PM
Calamari Marionette Ph.D
SquidPuppet's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: Coeur d' Alene
Posts: 7,883

Bikes: 3 Chinese Gas Pipe Nerdcycles and 2 Chicago Electroforged Boat Anchors

Mentioned: 74 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2349 Post(s)
Liked 8 Times in 8 Posts
1. Took stuff apart
2. Stared at the pieces and thought for a long time
3. Stared some more. Thought a lot more.
4. Cleaned the pieces, applied grease, and reassembled.

If I failed at 1-4 (not uncommon) I'd ask the mechanics at a shop.
SquidPuppet is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 01:38 PM
The Drive Side is Within
Standalone's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: New Haven, CT, USA
Posts: 3,328

Bikes: Road, Cargo, Tandem, Etc.

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 86 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 1 Post
In 1989 I read in some library book about hanging a bike from rafters with two loops of rope -- one around the quill stem and one over the nose of the saddle.

Replaced the post-type FD on my mother's old Atala with a schwinn branded "le tour," replaced cables and pads and such, and never looked back. I was 11.

I pretty much followed the "take things apart and look at them" model of self-education.
The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley
Standalone is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 01:50 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 101
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Being mechanically inclined, just decided to take on the work myself. Started with the take apart, look at, clean, put back together approach. Then started watching vids on youtube... you can learn a LOT there!(and BIKEMAN4U is just too funny not to watch!)
Also the aforementioned references, and the forum here for fellow bikers insight and expertise when in a jam
bikernew is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 02:24 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: SoCal
Posts: 6,517
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 273 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
rms13 is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 02:29 PM
Senior Member
Andy_K's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Beaverton, OR
Posts: 12,177

Bikes: Yes

Mentioned: 309 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1794 Post(s)
Liked 67 Times in 51 Posts
Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
2. Making dumb mistakes.
This, I think, is how most people learn most things. I would elaborate a bit more. Here's how I remember the process working:

1. Read sheldonbrown.com to find out how to do something.
2. Try it myself and get it wrong.
3. Read Sheldon's page again.
4. Try again.
5. Take the bike to the LBS to be fixed. Ask if I can watch them fix it. (I can't remember the answer ever being "no" but I'm talking about simple things like brake and derailleur adjustment.)
6. Read Sheldon's page again and compare it against what I did and what the guy at the LBS did.
7. Try again.

As wonderful a resource as it is, Sheldon's web site doesn't cover everything so I eventually had to substitute other resources for reference (most Lennard Zinn's books and YouTube videos) and I got into things that were complex enough that the LBS wouldn't have let me stand by and watch as they fixed my mistakes, but by that point I had enough of a feel for things to generally be able to figure it out on my own.
My Bikes
Andy_K is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 02:30 PM
Old fart
JohnDThompson's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Appleton WI
Posts: 20,700

Bikes: Several, mostly not name brands.

Mentioned: 122 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1834 Post(s)
Liked 163 Times in 119 Posts
Started out as a poor college student trying to maintain my bike on a low budget. So I bought some books.

Got a job in a bike shop for a few years, then got a job in a bike factory for a few more years, then got more bike shop jobs.

It's good work, but don't expect to get rich.
JohnDThompson is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 02:33 PM
Str*t*gic *quivoc*tor
mconlonx's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 7,551
Mentioned: 45 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7006 Post(s)
Liked 45 Times in 32 Posts
Trial and error.
Magazine articles. (din't have no fancy-shmancy interwebz back in tha day *spitoon*)
Working on my own bike.
Building up my own bike from components to finished bike.
Going to bike mechanic school.
Working in a shop.

Now, I teach others to work on bikes at a local high school adult ed course.
I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.
mconlonx is offline  
Old 05-17-16, 04:58 PM
Proud hobo biker
jimmie65's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Schertz - New Braunfels area
Posts: 807

Bikes: 2019 Surly Ogre, 2016 Giant Anyroad 2, Lightspeed Roadrunner trike, SE Tripel (in process)

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 201 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
I picked up cheap (or free) used bikes, tore them apart and put them back together. Watched lots of Youtube. And read through almost every post on the forums.
And yet I still don't know a damn thing.
jimmie65 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.