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Wanting to get started in wrenching

Old 10-23-16, 08:04 PM
  #1  
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Wanting to get started in wrenching

I have a confession: I don't know jack about working on bikes. I have loved bikes and bicycling since I was 5, but I have never acquired the skills to do my own work, beyond the bare minimum basics.

Mostly this is a matter of not having the right tools. I'm willing to learn, I've got the internet and potentially books at my disposal. I'm looking at this basic tool set on Amazon, and I'm wondering whether this is a good choice to get started. I'm open to other suggestions, keeping in mind that I don't have a huge budget to work with.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01C6ZQN02/

Also, my interest lies mostly in classic and vintage steel bikes; I don't know whether this makes much difference.

Any wisdom, resources, and suggestions from those that do this, both on the amateur and professional level, is appreciated greatly.
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Old 10-23-16, 08:29 PM
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1. Get an old bike
2. Take it completely apart
3. Clean everything
4. Replace consumables
5. Put the bike back together
Repeat

After a few bikes you will be a master
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Old 10-23-16, 08:30 PM
  #3  
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My opinion? As a former USAF aircraft mechanic, 35-year motorcycle shop owner/mechanic and now bicycle mechanic I'd tell you DONT BUY CHEAP TOOLS! Buy the very best tools you can afford. If you can't afford good tools, wait and save, until you can afford them.

Don't buy a tool kit as there are tools in it that won't be of use to you. A good set of hex wrenches, a good set of flat blade and cross point screwdrivers, a chain whip, the correct cassette removal tool, a good shop grade chain tool, pedal wrench, an excellent cable cutter, a bottle of your favorite chain lube, tri-flo type oil, a tub of grease, a copy of Park Tools Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair will be a good start and allow you to start learning how to maintain and work on your bike. As you gain experience you'll find what additional tools you will need and want.

Last edited by Davet; 10-23-16 at 09:12 PM.
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Old 10-23-16, 11:25 PM
  #4  
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What Davet said. Wholeheartedly agree. There are some really good videos on YouTube from Art's Cyclery, Global Cycling Network and Global Mountain Bike Network to get you started. Some shops also offer clinics. You might want to check on that to.
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Old 10-24-16, 06:41 AM
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Thanks for the tips so far, folks! I also realized right away that first and foremost, I need a decent bike stand. Trying to work on a bike without one is a pain!
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Old 10-24-16, 06:48 AM
  #6  
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Go volunteer at the local bike coop and fix a few. You will quickly find what is needed and have folks around to share their expertise.
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Old 10-24-16, 07:32 AM
  #7  
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The skills needed to work on a bike are no different than the skills needed to work on most any other mechanical system.

If the OP doesn't have basic mechanical experience than any opportunity to work on anything would be a benefit. Materials, threads, fasteners, lubricants, torque, etc. - it doesn't have to be bikes.

There is a difference between someone who knows how to follow instructions and an experienced mechanic.


-Tim-

Last edited by TimothyH; 10-24-16 at 07:38 AM.
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Old 10-24-16, 08:00 AM
  #8  
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Just do it. Even the mistakes that you make can be benefits when you allow yourself to learn from them.

Don't get intimidated over what tools you need. You'll be surprised at how far you can get with just a 5mm allen key. Pick up whatever other tools you need as you find need for them. Step up in quality when you buy a cable cutter because you'll use it a lot and a cable cutter that leaves one strand uncut is a PITA. I learned to tune bikes hanging my bike by it's front wheel from a garage rafter.

Good luck! Have fun.
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Old 10-24-16, 08:03 AM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
The skills needed to work on a bike are no different than the skills needed to work on most any other mechanical system.

If the OP doesn't have basic mechanical experience than any opportunity to work on anything would be a benefit. Materials, threads, fasteners, lubricants, torque, etc. - it doesn't have to be bikes.

There is a difference between someone who knows how to follow instructions and an experienced mechanic.
-Tim-
Totally agree. I just posted about this on another subforum. I'm always reluctant to post on the mechanics forum because I'm not a mechanic. I can build a bike from frame up sure and have installed general stuff on my own vehicles such as fuel pumps, water pumps, radiator, gas tanks, alternator etc. My uncle Joe was a mechanic, sure he could rebuild an engine but that's not what made him a mechanic. It's the way they think and can figure out almost anything mechanical.
Still as long as it's not a job, wrenching can be a lot of fun. So just do it OP.
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Old 10-24-16, 08:05 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
1. Get an old bike
2. Take it completely apart
3. Clean everything
4. Replace consumables
5. Put the bike back together
Repeat

After a few bikes you will be a master
This.

As a starting point, you'll need a stack of hex wrenches, screwdriver, adjustable crescent wrench. That will get you most of the way there. You'll figure out 90% of the bike specific wrenches you'll need before the end of the first bike. Note that many are brand specific though
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Old 10-24-16, 08:06 AM
  #11  
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I made a work stand for $0 from scrap lumber and a bicycle front axle. It looked like of like a saw horse. The bicycle axle clamped the front fork and the bottom bracket rested loosely on the opposite eid of the sawhorse. You have to think about the sawhorse legs so the bicycle crank doesn't hit when you turn it. Not as nifty to store as the commercial folding stands but the price can't be beat.
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Old 10-24-16, 08:18 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I made a work stand for $0 from scrap lumber and a bicycle front axle. It looked like of like a saw horse. The bicycle axle clamped the front fork and the bottom bracket rested loosely on the opposite eid of the sawhorse. You have to think about the sawhorse legs so the bicycle crank doesn't hit when you turn it. Not as nifty to store as the commercial folding stands but the price can't be beat.
there should be some kind of award for that kind of thinking! i can picture what you have clearly in my mind but it never would have occurred to me to do it that way
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Old 10-24-16, 08:20 AM
  #13  
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Merely taking something apart and reassembling is a rote process. What will help you the most is observing the function of the various parts, how they interact, and wear patterns. Written instructions will typically be much more accurate and thorough than videos, especially at sheldonbrown.com and parktool.com, and often will explain more of the why rather than just the how. Videos can be helpful in seeing the live process, but I would advise caution, as some do not use proper techniques or have outright errors.
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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; 10-24-16 at 08:36 AM.
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Old 10-24-16, 08:23 AM
  #14  
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Originally Posted by johnnyace View Post
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01C6ZQN02/
Also, my interest lies mostly in classic and vintage steel bikes; I don't know whether this makes much difference.
The kit in the link has many tools that are useless for bikes made before the mid 90's or so (torx L wrench set, supplied Bottom Bracket wrenches) and is lacking in some basic necessary tools such as threaded headset wrenches and freewheel (older style rear sprockets) removal tools. Hard to tell for sure but those tools don't look to be quality pieces either. Get the tools as you need them and as mentioned already, buy quality. You can sometimes find good used tools on Craigslist, Ebay, Bike swap meets, shops going out of business, etc. Get a couple of smaller sized JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) screwdrivers for all the tiny Phillips style screws on any Asian made parts. Makes stripping screw heads much less likely. With all the different standards for bike parts over the years occasionally you'll come across a task that requires an expensive tool that you may only need once in which case a trip to the local bike mechanic may be less expensive.
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Old 10-24-16, 08:33 AM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by cny-bikeman View Post
Merely taking something apart and reassembling is a rote process. What will help you the most is observing the function of the various parts, how they interact, and wear patterns. Written instructions will typically be much more accurate and thorough, especially at sheldonbrown.com and parktool.com, and often will explain more of the why rather than just the how.
I agree. But you can get pretty darn far tearing a bike down with a wrench and few hex wrenches. You need knowledge or access to it when you're putting it back together and adjusting.

Also - I would just go with a few cheap basics to start with. Splurge for nice stuff if/when you find out what cheap tools annoy you or wear out. Tool costs can get exorbitant pretty quickly. I've picked up some tools from bike shops looking get rid of nice but cosmetically worn tools.
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Old 10-24-16, 08:47 AM
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I still think it best to do some research before starting, as it makes it much more efficient to use the proper tools and techniques, as well as knowing what to look for as far as wear, alignment, etc. Working on an older bike requires very few specialized tools, notably cone wrenches, spoke wrench, chain tool, crank arm extractor and perhaps a pin spanner. Even good ones are not going to cost very much. General tools should also be mainly of good quality, as they will be used for more than just the bike.
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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; 10-24-16 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 10-24-16, 08:51 AM
  #17  
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Read books on Bicycle Mechanics. Use the Library in your Town..
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Old 10-24-16, 08:53 AM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
The skills needed to work on a bike are no different than the skills needed to work on most any other mechanical system.
..and many of the skills needed are not limited to mechanical systems. Logic, math, basic physics and observation all are critical in order to successfully work on bikes.
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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!
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Old 10-24-16, 08:54 AM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I made a work stand for $0 from scrap lumber and a bicycle front axle. It looked like of like a saw horse. The bicycle axle clamped the front fork and the bottom bracket rested loosely on the opposite eid of the sawhorse. You have to think about the sawhorse legs so the bicycle crank doesn't hit when you turn it. Not as nifty to store as the commercial folding stands but the price can't be beat.
Yes, I can picture this. That deserves a MacGuyver Award.
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Old 10-24-16, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Crankycrank View Post
The kit in the link has many tools that are useless for bikes made before the mid 90's or so (torx L wrench set, supplied Bottom Bracket wrenches) and is lacking in some basic necessary tools such as threaded headset wrenches and freewheel (older style rear sprockets) removal tools. Hard to tell for sure but those tools don't look to be quality pieces either. Get the tools as you need them and as mentioned already, buy quality. You can sometimes find good used tools on Craigslist, Ebay, Bike swap meets, shops going out of business, etc. Get a couple of smaller sized JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) screwdrivers for all the tiny Phillips style screws on any Asian made parts. Makes stripping screw heads much less likely. With all the different standards for bike parts over the years occasionally you'll come across a task that requires an expensive tool that you may only need once in which case a trip to the local bike mechanic may be less expensive.
Lots of great advise so far regarding tools, thanks everyone. I'm really glad I started this thread and asked, rather than just pulling the trigger on a cheap tool kit, and regretting my purchase later.
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Old 10-24-16, 09:12 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by cny-bikeman View Post
..and many of the skills needed are not limited to mechanical systems. Logic, math, basic physics and observation all are critical in order to successfully work on bikes.
My point is that there is a a "feel" for things which a mechanic develops over the years. This only comes from experience. An aspiring bike mechanic with little experience should not limit himself to just bikes and should look for any opportunity to gain experience.


-Tim-
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Old 10-24-16, 11:33 AM
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I cut my teeth learning to work on supercharged jet skis. I messed up a lot of stuff, but got functional towards the end of that hobby.

When I got into cycling, I decided I wanted to learn to work on them as well. They are much less complicated than working on a supercharged jet ski. Really basic mechanical principles at work. If you have turned a wrench on anything mechanical in the past, then this will be easy.

Bikes do have very specific tools once you get past the basics. Unless you are opening a repair shop, you really only need the ones that apply to your bike(s). Might as well buy the good stuff when you need it.

When I would take my bike into the shop, I'd ask if I could watch and learn when they worked on it. Then I started watching GCN and similar videos online. Everything you really need to know is on YouTube/Google at this point. I invested in a bike stand and then started working on stuff as I went, asking questions here when I couldn't find the info online.

Now I've built a couple of bikes from the frame up and work on several friend's bikes for fun. I enjoy it. I find it fun to tweak my bikes until they are working as close to perfectly as possible. Improves my enjoyment of riding them as well. By far my favorite bike I've owned is the one I built.
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Old 10-24-16, 11:52 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by johnnyace View Post
I have a confession: I don't know jack about working on bikes. I have loved bikes and bicycling since I was 5, but I have never acquired the skills to do my own work, beyond the bare minimum basics.

Mostly this is a matter of not having the right tools. I'm willing to learn, I've got the internet and potentially books at my disposal. I'm looking at this basic tool set on Amazon, and I'm wondering whether this is a good choice to get started. I'm open to other suggestions, keeping in mind that I don't have a huge budget to work with.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01C6ZQN02/

Also, my interest lies mostly in classic and vintage steel bikes; I don't know whether this makes much difference.

Any wisdom, resources, and suggestions from those that do this, both on the amateur and professional level, is appreciated greatly.
Do you have any basic tools already? Metric allen or hex wrenches, screw drivers, small wrenches and socket set?
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Old 10-24-16, 12:05 PM
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How about the OP get a part time job in the bike shop working along side experienced mechanics?

There used to be such a thing as an apprenticeship. Some trades still have it.


-Tim-
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Old 10-24-16, 12:14 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
Do you have any basic tools already? Metric allen or hex wrenches, screw drivers, small wrenches and socket set?
I do have basic tools. The stuff I don't have is cable cutters, BB tools, headset tools... the bike-specific tools, I guess you could say.
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