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Where are the self taught wrenches out there?

Old 12-18-20, 05:25 PM
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wrenchwench90
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Where are the self taught wrenches out there?

What are some things that you would do to learn all about bikes and how to fix them? I'm very interested in hearing about how others ideas for what makes a exceptional mechanic. With the winter just started there are not any shops in my town hiring right now, so I'm doing all I can to research and work on the bikes I have at home (2 MTB Roadmasters a fixed gear and my 10 speed fuji).
Besides good cataloging habits, proper re-lubbing/repacking hub and BB bearings, and literally disassembling and re-lacing A DOZEN wheel sets, what would you do to practice at home?
Thanks for your input!!
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Old 12-18-20, 05:37 PM
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https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/repairs.html
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Old 12-18-20, 05:39 PM
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Learning the trade in bike shops the early 1970s, after building my first wheel (badly) at age 14 in the mid-1960s, the most important thing I learned was to respect the strength limits of materials. Unfortunately, you had to break a certain number of bolts to learn that, in the days before the common use of torque wrenches.
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Old 12-18-20, 05:55 PM
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My opinions alone...

Keep doing what you're doing and do real repairs also. As in "fix" the bikes, not just replace parts. Buy some old beaters at garage sales and fix them up and sell them at your own garage sale. You won't make much money if any but you'll learn a lot.

My first job as a mechanic was when I was 17 living in Ohio back in the early 1970's. The shop was owned by an old guy named "Al". Al also ran a mower repair shop in the basement. The first bikes I was given to repair were kids coaster brake bikes. They would have seized-up hubs, broken frames, bent forks were common, bent handlebars, badly twisted wheels, and badly dented rims from hitting curbs, etc.

I was expected to FIX these bikes, not replace parts. I can't tell you how many 100's of rims I banged-out to get the rim dents out. I learned how to braze and weld from his mower repair guy and repair/straightened frames and forks. I hated it at first, but then got to love it because I had to get creative to pass Al's approval. When I was ready Al taught me about Sturmey-Archer hubs. Yes, back in the day over-hauling those 3-speed hubs was a regular thing. I then graduated to "10-speeds" after he saw how well I tuned my Raleigh Super Course.

What I learned from Al served me well in bike and ski shops all the way through college. Well, that and working as a carpenter's helper in some of my first construction jobs. I became a "carpenter" when the guy I was working for turned me loose on laying out the framing for a house (I taught myself how to "read" blueprints). That's a whole different story...

Now, I know you're asking yourself, "Nobody does that now. Why should I learn how to do that?". The reason is those are skills that most bike mechanics don't have, at least not most of the ones I see. They are becoming lost skills. Those are marketable skills that translate to working on high-end bikes eventually. The other skills are learning how to really tune any bike so it rides 10x better than it did before...oh, and learning how to straighten the most badly bent wheel.

I'm 62 now and look back on those days at Al's Bike Shop fondly. Al was quite the character but he really knew his 5hit!
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Old 12-18-20, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by drlogik View Post
My opinions alone...

Keep doing what you're doing and do real repairs also. As in "fix" the bikes, not just replace parts. Buy some old beaters at garage sales and fix them up and sell them at your own garage sale. You won't make much money if any but you'll learn a lot.

My first job as a mechanic was when I was 17 living in Ohio back in the early 1970's. The shop was owned by an old guy named "Al". Al also ran a mower repair shop in the basement. The first bikes I was given to repair were kids coaster brake bikes. They would have seized-up hubs, broken frames, bent forks were common, bent handlebars, badly twisted wheels, and badly dented rims from hitting curbs, etc.

I was expected to FIX these bikes, not replace parts. I can't tell you how many 100's of rims I banged-out to get the rim dents out. I learned how to braze and weld from his mower repair guy and repair/straightened frames and forks. I hated it at first, but then got to love it because I had to get creative to pass Al's approval. When I was ready Al taught me about Sturmey-Archer hubs. Yes, back in the day over-hauling those 3-speed hubs was a regular thing. I then graduated to "10-speeds" after he saw how well I tuned my Raleigh Super Course.

What I learned from Al served me well in bike and ski shops all the way through college. Well, that and working as a carpenter's helper in some of my first construction jobs. I became a "carpenter" when the guy I was working for turned me loose on laying out the framing for a house (I taught myself how to "read" blueprints). That's a whole different story...

Now, I know you're asking yourself, "Nobody does that now. Why should I learn how to do that?". The reason is those are skills that most bike mechanics don't have, at least not most of the ones I see. They are becoming lost skills. Those are marketable skills that translate to working on high-end bikes eventually. The other skills are learning how to really tune any bike so it rides 10x better than it did before...oh, and learning how to straighten the most badly bent wheel.

I'm 62 now and look back on those days at Al's Bike Shop fondly. Al was quite the character but he really knew his 5hit!

That's so amazing!! I volunteer at a bike co op in New Haven about 3 times a week, and I've just learned so much. I might have a job lined up in the spring, so I'm trying not to lose momentum at home. Yeah those sturmeys are nuts, I have two rear wheels from vintage 3 speeders!!!
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Old 12-18-20, 06:48 PM
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It is going to be tough going for a lot of shops for a while, we can't get parts so we are having to let folks go. We will need to hire people and now is the best time to do it but with little money and product coming in we really can't.

One of the best things you can do is take it apart and put it back together. Start with the simplest bike and learn from that. Also if you have spare parts and a frame, building up a bike from the ground up is good learning. I learned a lot from working in a shop and not having much of a choice between sales and service as I had to do both and I loved it. Now I can go back to sales and various other tasks but I still wrench at home and sometimes in the shop when everyone else is just too busy to get it done or when someone doesn't know what to do. I am not a good mechanic by any stretch but there are things I have learned about some oddball stuff that I occasionally get to use which is nice and I can generally find compatible parts and such and can prevent people from making a poor mistake (at least if I can catch it in time). I have learned a lot building up bikes and taking bikes apart and figuring out what tools I need vs what I want.

I will say this, have good quality tools that you own. Go into that shop with your own box (or at least tools at the ready) a car mechanic will own their own tools and you should as a bike mechanic (aside from some of the bigger stuff you rarely use) Having your own tools means you will likely learn how to use them correctly and take care of them. If it is a shop tool it is the classic "I don't own 'em so who cares" my old shop had a lot of broken chain tools and missing tools and stuff like that because people just didn't care.
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Old 12-18-20, 07:12 PM
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I started with Tom Cuthbertson's "Anybody's Bike Book" in the 1970s. It was enough to teach me the basics for maintaining my 1970s Motobecane.

Nowadays I pore over forums and video tutorials looking for tips from experience mechanics. Takes a bit longer but there's information on almost any question I might have.

Beyond that, it's mostly about tools, tackling the job, making mistakes and gaining experience.

And there are still some jobs I take to my favorite LBS to be done properly. I can't justify the cost of some specialized tools that can't be replaced with the makeshift tools I can afford.
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Old 12-18-20, 08:09 PM
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I still have that (and Bike Tripping).
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Old 12-18-20, 08:23 PM
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Read the directions and learn to troubleshoot. If you can learn to do these things then you can accomplish practically anything. I often joke that instructions exist to tell me I'm right once I've finished the job but if I'm dealing with something new or uncertain I've got no problem sitting and reading, can save time and can definitely save headaches. If something doesn't seem to work right ask yourself why and really look at what is happening.
I taught myself to fix bikes, did every repair myself and read the directions so that when I got my first real race bike I bought the frame and the parts, frame was a DeRosa from an LBS and the parts were from bargain hunting nashbar catalogs and ebay. Built it fully myself and second week I had it I had to stop in another shop for a tube due to a flat. Owner was checking out the bike and asking where I got it built. Explained I did it and asked if he had any openings, got a job the next week there.
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Old 12-18-20, 08:39 PM
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I’m not a mechanic, so my advice may not be helpful. And it really is just my opinon and not based on any knowledge of the industry.

I’ve worked on cars, bikes, boats, etc. over the years. For stuff in my wheelhouse, I’d stack up my work against a lot of professionals except in one area... time.

With enough time, I can get something as close to perfect as anyone, but I would make a lousy mechanic.

If you want to be a working mechanic, I think you need to understand the problem and be able to fix it correctly is a reasonable amount of time. It doesn’t matter the trade, it is just having that ability to get it done and not tinker.

John
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Old 12-18-20, 11:01 PM
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A good strategy is avoid the box store bikes like Roadmasters etc. Often they didn't function well even when new. Silk purse/sows ear.
It's hard to build self confidence and ability when you work on a bike that nobody can make perform well without a major parts upgrade of the entire drive train.
Look for stickers on the frame that state Cr-Mo (chrome moly) steel and butted tubing. They will be above the bottom feeder level with the other parts having a higher level of functionality. IOW, repairable.
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Old 12-18-20, 11:32 PM
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I do all of my own bike work, but that doesn't make me a "wrench" who would be anything but a nuisance in a real bike shop. I also do most of my own home repairs, but I can tell you a huge difference between myself and a professional tradesman such as a plumber or electrician. Those folks get the job done quick.
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Old 12-19-20, 12:04 AM
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Unfortunately, these days being a bike mechanic is much more complicated. Pre 2000 bikes, with a basic tool kit you could perform most repairs. Today, Learning to repair is the easy part, having the specialized tools is the expensive part.
Between forums, websites and Youtube, pretty much any repair lesson is at your finger tips, but with so many brands, their proprietary parts and the latest tech, it seems that with almost every bike, a new tool is needed.
Take your time and learn the basics, even though by today's standards, the basics are still much more than what they used to be.
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Old 12-19-20, 06:21 AM
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Time in the saddle makes a cowboy, and all cowboys start at home doing chores on the ranch.

Start working on your own machines, neighbors machines, junk machines found on the road. A very basic set of tools will get most of the job done, just a few bike specific tools are needed to do hubs. The skills develop over time and with repetition. Utube videos for some things are OK, however in-person training provides the fine details and exposure to the tricks of the trade. I find Shinamo documents invaluable, but one must take the time to read and comprehend the instruction provided. I learn best by reading and doing, but you may do better with videos.

As for getting a position in a bike shop that will be depend upon what skills you bring to the table. A 14 year old kid came into the shop this past summer after working on his bike. He wanted someone to look it over to make sure he did things right. Installed and bled brakes, new drive train, and repacked hubs. Everything was perfectly done. Told him to apply for a position in two years. He laughed and said he already had a job. That's the kind of person bike shops so desperately need! Come to find out he used utube videos and natural ability to get the job done.
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Old 12-19-20, 06:22 AM
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Instead of trying to learn "about bikes" in one shot, wait until something breaks or wears out and then buy the tool(s) and part(s) to repair/replace it. Learn one tool and one procedure at a time and, eventually, you will know everything you need to know about YOUR bike. Then, if you're interested and ambitious enough, use your tool collection and the knowledge you've gained to learn about other bikes and how to service them.
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Old 12-19-20, 06:30 AM
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I taught myself how to fix a bike by taking my bike apart when I was in high school and then putting it back together. One thing I learned is that it's a heck of a lot easier to take something apart than to put it back together right, : )
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Old 12-19-20, 07:30 AM
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I thought myself bike repair starting with a crescent wrench and a screwdriver working on my own BMX bike. I learned by fixing something that broke, “dialing in” something that I wanted to work better, or replacing a part that I wanted to upgrade. As I learned more, I was able to try more ambitious projects. As I graduated from single speed kid’s bikes to road bikes, my skills also grew.

My skills increased exponentially when I started volunteering at a co-op about ten years ago, as did my respect for full-time bike mechanics who can work efficiently. Volunteering at a non-profit can also make you understand what the right tool is for a job and will often let volunteers use those tools. This helps for those expensive tools for jobs that are few and far between like pulling a crown race or pressing a headset.
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Old 12-19-20, 07:36 AM
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Plan on having a second job.
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Old 12-19-20, 07:38 AM
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If there's a non-profit shop nearby, offer to volunteer. Often there are some pretty good volunteer mechanics who can teach you some good habits, and you'll see a variety of problems. Of course, that's not a good option right now with this bug that's been going around.
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Old 12-19-20, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by wrenchwench90 View Post
What are some things that you would do to learn all about bikes and how to fix them? I'm very interested in hearing about how others ideas for what makes a exceptional mechanic. With the winter just started there are not any shops in my town hiring right now, so I'm doing all I can to research and work on the bikes I have at home (2 MTB Roadmasters a fixed gear and my 10 speed fuji).
Besides good cataloging habits, proper re-lubbing/repacking hub and BB bearings, and literally disassembling and re-lacing A DOZEN wheel sets, what would you do to practice at home?
Thanks for your input!!
My approach is when something is broke, fix it. If it's not broke, leave it alone. Unless I want to do an upgrade just for the heck of it. Learning is dictated by need. I can handle pretty much anything on my bikes but I don't do wheels. I'll true them up if they're slightly off, but I'm not building..not worth my time. Better to pay an expert.

I don't know what cataloging habits are. Once a year I go through my parts boxes and donate anything I don't anticipate needing to the local co-op.

In the past couple years the majority of my maintenance activity is: replacing brake pads, installing tubeless tires, new shift cables, and oiling the chain. And once in a while wiping the dirt off my bikes. I did build a gravel bike from frame up as well. That was fun.
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Old 12-19-20, 08:59 AM
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Since I was a young kid I have always been mechanically inclined and took things apart to see how they worked ( Mom called it destructive lol) and by the time I was 11 I was taking apart and fixing my 20" bikes, then my uncle taught me how to true a wheel and I got really good at that. At the same time I was into mini bikes, go karts and motorcycles which I learned to take apart fix and keep running and by the time I went to a vocational school for small engine repair I could already tear a engine down and put it back together and get it running which made me top in the class at the get go and really only learned procedures & trouble shooting from there. All I need to fix anything is a good manual lol. To me bikes are easy to work on but at the same time can be a pita lol, anybody can take something apart but learning what caused the failure and how to overcome problems along the way is what makes a good mechanic.I work on anything that's broke! what's the worse that can happen either I fix it or I don't (75% I do), Cars, bikes, electronics make no difference to me. Health is the only thing that gets in the way now that I'm older but I have taught myself many other fields of repair. Mechanics like me used to be everywhere but from what I've seen we are a dying breed,most mechanics today are parts changers.

Glenn

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Old 12-19-20, 09:49 AM
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A good mechanic can do the most with the least, and therefore will work on anything equally, whether the bike is top of the line or chain store. The client is the most important component, because the bike is nothing but decoration without them to ride it.
Your tools should feel natural in your hands, and your eyes should be on what you are doing with your hands feeling the job through the tools.
I like to build my workshop around me as I take on new tasks, and regularly spend an hour or two looking around places like DIY stores, handling the tools, brackets and stuff to imagine how I could build special tools from then. I buy the deadest bikes I can that has the parts I want to work on, because with them we have the least fear of getting it wrong.
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Old 12-19-20, 11:37 AM
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Waiting for OP's ten posts to be complete so he can post the link to his online course.
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Old 12-20-20, 07:09 PM
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Strip down your bike to the bare frame and clean/polish it. Repack/Replace the bearings, even if they are "sealed." And then put it all back together. It's good practice, and you will have a smooth running machine. Feeding two birds with one scone.

I'm hardly self taught, but I can't really say I've ever been to any real school either. A lot of what I've learned has come by way of mistakes and a little bit of luck. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, and never deny a little intervention from lady luck. That's my advice.

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Old 12-21-20, 06:40 AM
  #25  
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Problem solving and basic mechanical aptitude are "must haves" to be a good mechanic. When you have exhausted the repairs and maintenance items on your own bicycles, seek out the bikes of neighbors to repair. Do this work for free, of course.

Then identify other things that might benefit from repair. Don't shy away from anything. Washing machines, meat grinders, sewing machines (pre-plastic 1960s Singers, for example), and the like. Learning to diagnose, to see into the mind of the designer (how a device was intended to operate), and figuring out how to correct what's wrong...these are the skills you'll need.

Invest a lifetime in fixing things for others. This will bring its own rewards.
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