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What taught you the most about bicycle mechanics?

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What taught you the most about bicycle mechanics?

Old 05-10-18, 11:06 AM
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What taught you the most about bicycle mechanics?

The reason I'm asking the above question is that I love riding bicycles but can't do too much mechanical work on them. I can do simple things involving tires and handlebars but couldn't change brakes or shifters or a derailleur or anything involving ball bearings. I'd like to be able to get to that point, as I'm in the process of overhauling two bikes I have and it would save me a lot of money on labor and also, hopefully, be quite fun. Now that I have two bikes it feels more freeing because I don't have to work on one "urgently" since I can ride the other. One is just for fun road riding, the other for utility, and I may get another ice-on-the-road exclusive with year round studded tires since I'm soon moving far upstate NY and plan to live as car free as possible, and they have snow on the ground for a large part of the year.

My thought is that taking apart a bike and putting it back together, bit by bit, would be good, but I won't have anyone teaching me. There are plentiful resources on the web, of course, but its still a bit complex alone.

Is there a part of a bicycle or a component system that is best to start with? I.e. the headset or drivetrain or shifting mechanism? I'm switching one of my bikes from grip shifters to friction thumb shifters and want to start there.

Basically, any information regarding the best way to go about this is useful, including even specific tools or projects or whatever, whether or not they are specific to my situation.
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Old 05-10-18, 11:24 AM
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I don't know if there's a best place to start, but changing brake levers/ shifters is as good as any. Maybe changing a chain too. There are tons of brilliant tutorials on youtube (I find RJ The Bike Guy's videos are really easy to follow) so I'd just learn each stage as you reach it. Taking bikes apart and rebuilding them is a lot of fun, and the only reliable way to learn is by doing. You'll get it wrong a few times at the start but that's ok. Once you get those rookie mistakes out of the way you'll gain confidence quickly.

And if you're working on old bikes, chances are you'll find plenty to challenge you for some time to come with seized/ rusted parts and so on. Just grab a wrench and get started, you'll soon get the hang of it.
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Old 05-10-18, 11:37 AM
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https://www.sheldonbrown.com/ I find videos to be spotty, of widely varying quality, from great (many of those from members of this forum) to dismal.
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Old 05-10-18, 12:04 PM
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Sheldon Brown is very good and I also like the Part Tool website. https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help
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Old 05-10-18, 12:09 PM
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Building up a bike from the frame. Sheldon (RIP) was a member of BF and would answer even the dumbest question.
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Old 05-10-18, 12:18 PM
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"RJ the bike guy" on youtube has a ton of videos on reparing bikes.

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Old 05-10-18, 12:28 PM
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Old 05-10-18, 12:32 PM
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Just hop right in. Pay attention to how you took a thing apart & reverse the process when reassembling. For the most part remember to grease all bolt threads and use a torque wrench where practicle. A cheap torque wrench, although often not necessary, is $20 at Harbor Freight and for the most part keeps you from egregious mistakes and perhaps more importantly, offers piece of mind. Of course some here will scoff at the idea of using a torque wrench at all, citing "mechanics feel." Others will laugh at any so-called "precision" tool that doesn't require a second mortgage to pay for. Whatever.

Jump right in, the water's fine. Buy a tool here & there when the need arises, & don't be afraid to go to a shop for a bail-out once in a while. I still don't build wheels, & on ocassion $10 or $15 to pull a crown race or whatever is well worth the savings over usual shop prices.

Oh...and a head-lamp. You'll wonder how you ever got along without one.
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Old 05-10-18, 12:37 PM
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Trial and error, Google, YouTube in that order. But, the best thing would be to find someone local to help you out and show you the tricks. Personally, tinkering on bikes and cars when I was a kid helped me learn how to use tools properly, and learning the newer systems/tech using the web fills in the gaps. If you happen to be in the SF Bay Area I would be happy to help you out.

One piece of advanced advice: always use a soft touch when working on bicycles. Ham-fisting wrenches and fasteners on a bike is a recipe for total frustration.
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Old 05-10-18, 01:06 PM
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I think that the key thing is to try some operation, and to give yourself the luxury of time and to allow for the possibility of failure in the short term. Make up your mind that you're going to do it, eventually. And stick with the task til you succeed. But pick a task, and try something.

If you can find a cheap bike on Craigs list that you can resurrect that might be very good experience.

Keep in mind that experience is mistakes repeated many times until you don't make that same mistake anymore. So be prepared to strip bolts and break stuff. If you buy replacement parts at a local LBS, they may be able to coach you if you ask for help.

It is probably not a good idea to buy a new CF bike with full Dura Ace or Record components, and challenge yourself to a field replacement of your handlebars using nothing but a multi-tool when you're 50 miles from home and 20 miles from the closest inhabited building. Start wiht small stakes (the cheap CL bike) and work where your comfortable and when you're not under time pressure.

BTW. it may be useful if you have a vise to buy some 6mm or 8mm bolts and put then in the vice and intentionally strip them, so that you have some sense of how much torque they can handle. Even better if you can buy or borrow a torque wrench so that you can see that the actual torque values needed to strip those bolts. This, better than learning about torque by stripping a titanium bolt in your stem, leaving a broken off stud.
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Old 05-10-18, 01:08 PM
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I started working on bikes as a kid. A bit with dad's help, quite a bit on my own. They are pretty simple. Oh, and that was before YouTube

So, as @base2 mentions, just dive in. You may make a few mistakes (best not to make the mistakes on multi-thousand dollar bikes/components).

I figure that there is nothing that I can break that I can't fix. Life is a learning experience.
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Old 05-10-18, 01:11 PM
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Echoing others here, RJ the Bike Guy on YouTube is probably best.

Much as I like GCN and Park Tool, they have super clean workshops, often show modern bike components, and no clever solutions besides paying $25 on up for specialty tools. If you don't understand some of the bike theory, it can be tough to understand what's happening--and then it's just kinda blindly following instructions--which sometimes doesn't help you fix your bike.

But RJ covers a lot of grittier, older, more obscure, less staged repairs/maintenance. And for some jobs, he has homebrew tools, which he shows you how to make and use. Like, I needed to cold set the rear dropouts on a vintage frame--RJ has a tool for that to help accomplish in a reasonably controlled fashion--it cost a trip to the hardware store and about $5 in metal rod, nuts and washers.
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Old 05-10-18, 01:12 PM
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I second the suggestion of buying an older bike on Craigslist, taking it apart and putting it back together. That will teach you a lot of basic stuff and at a low cost since you can sell the bike for what you paid for (and perhaps a profit). I'd suggest buying an older, less expensive bike as they tend to be more forgiving.
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Old 05-10-18, 02:01 PM
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Working on cars, mini bikes, go-karts, lawn mowers and other machines when I was a kid and a teen taught me how to work on bikes.

Once basic mechanical skills are learned they are easily transferable from one type of equipment to another, for the most part. A few specific techniques have to be learned for bikes but it wasn't a big deal. Picked those up from the interwebz.

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Old 05-10-18, 02:44 PM
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Truthful answer for me is I learned the most from working professionally full time, followed by attending the United Bike Institute. But before either of those, I was a pretty good home mechanic. Some good things for learning:
-When I started working on my own bike, I bought Bicycling's Guide to Bicycle Maintenence & Repair (which is a decent book), but more importantly, I decided to follow their recommended maintenance intervals religiously, which led to a lot of chain cleaning and hub overhauling etc. I'm actually less diligent now but it was good practice. The takeaway is that trying to track maintenance intervals and performing their service, and by doing repairs on an as-needed basis, is kind of nice because it will acquaint you with a lot of things, reinforce the most common tasks, and will require smaller chunks of time invested than comprehensively overhauling bikes.
-Favorite resources are/were Sheldon Brown, Park Tools, and don't forget the actual official service manuals that most brands have freely available to the public (for example, Shimano's are at si.shimano.com).
-I volunteered at a bicycle cooperative which improved my diagnostic skills as well as acquainting me with a wider range of bikes. This was also a lot of social skills development.

But yeah, I'd mostly recommend learning recommended service intervals for your own bikes, diagnosing any problems you perceive with your own bikes, and performing service as needed. When you feel like you have a good overall sense, then perhaps something like a comprehensive overhaul of a bike could fill in some of the gaps.
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Old 05-10-18, 02:48 PM
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not having the right tools on hand sure made me creative

its a learning process, pull it apart and see if you can get it back in one piece, if not, you can "sheldon brown it"!

being the only right handed male in my street also helps, everyone shows up here for a quick fix
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Old 05-10-18, 02:51 PM
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Sheldon Brown. Very thorough and easy to read. He also got me curious in fixed gear bikes. After a point, forming a relationship with your local bike mechanic can really become a useful resource for work-arounds and other tips. All the mechanics I know are more than happy to dispense information if asked.
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Old 05-10-18, 03:12 PM
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Some bike shops offer free mechanic classes.
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Old 05-10-18, 04:20 PM
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The situation at hand is what teaches me the most…..usually under duress. Thankfully there are sites like this….and Youtube…..to help. I am new here and I don’t have my 10 posts yet. When I do I will have some questions for all of you.
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Old 05-10-18, 04:48 PM
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Not going to respond to each post individually, but these are all very helpful responses. Thanks everyone! (and everyone to come).
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Old 05-10-18, 04:53 PM
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Where do you live?

Another good way is to volunteer at with an org that builds (or rebuilds) bikes for kids.

My son learned a ton at the Community Cycling Center in Portland volunteering to rebuild bikes for their Holiday Bike Drive. He is a certified volunteer, and at 14 can strip a bike down to ball bearings and completely rebuild. He can also build wheels.
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Old 05-10-18, 05:06 PM
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My Dad, Lyn Funkhouser and Sheldon Brown. Dad because he taught me at a young age that a machine is just a machine.
Lyn for my first hands on with real bicycle tools, and Sheldon because he could make logic out of the mostly illogical.
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Old 05-10-18, 05:22 PM
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A lot of people learned a large part of what they know right here on bikeforums. They try stuff and then get into trouble, and we walk them out of trouble. So that is an option for you, too.
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Old 05-10-18, 05:41 PM
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My dad I guess. I would tighten and replace spokes as a kid and change around seats and handlebars and stuff. Bicycles are really easy though, pretty much anyone can do them. Things have changed a little since then but probably for the easier easier not harder. The biggest worry seems to be incompatible parts ie you change your cassette now you need to change your chain and derailleur, things like that.
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Old 05-10-18, 05:51 PM
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After wrenching on my British cars for the last 40yrs, bicycles are quite simple.
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