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Bicycle mechanics: what takes expertise, what does not?

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Bicycle mechanics: what takes expertise, what does not?

Old 02-22-24, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
The real expertise in fixing bikes for money is doing right by the customer. That is a lot of communication and listening. Anybody with the right training can do work on a bike and charge accordingly. However, there's not much sense changing shift cables or derailleurs on a bike (even if they need it) if you discern that the customer doesn't ever intend to shift gears.
No! Educate the customer on why their bicycle (or any other machine) should work as designed, If they won't move from the "I never shift" perspective, sell them on the benefits of removing all those silly bits they won't need, and customizing it to them and their style of riding, cause $$$...
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Old 02-22-24, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by wheelreason
No! Educate the customer on why their bicycle (or any other machine) should work as designed, If they won't move from the "I never shift" perspective, sell them on the benefits of removing all those silly bits they won't need, and customizing it to them and their style of riding, cause $$$...
I think we agree. Listen to the customer, communicate, and then do what's right for the customer.
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Old 02-22-24, 11:43 AM
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What takes expertise is picking a bike and components that DON'T NEED expertise. LOL. Like a Sturmey Archer 3 speed with drum brakes
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Old 02-22-24, 12:04 PM
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I'm thinking of this in terms of the difference between myself, a hobbyist build-and-fix-my-own-stuff kind of person, and my brother, a professional bike mechanic for 16 years.
I can do everything needed to tear down and rebuild a bike plus all the standard maintenance. Some it about as quickly and efficiently as a professional paid mechanic, some of it quite a bit slower. I can run cables and housing, set and adjust derailleurs and brakes and pull chains no problem. I'm getting better at setting headset preload, running internal cables, setting up disc brakes properly and wrapping bars. I can true wheels too. However, those are all a slow process for me with sometimes marginal results.
My brother can do all of that with his eyes closed, as the saying goes. So, wrapping bar tape for example, I can do it but my lack of experience and expertise can be seen. I take it to my brother and he'll hammer it out in a few minutes with a perfect result every time. Same goes for wheel truing. Wheel building is an art I haven't even tried yet.

There's also the point of knowing compatibility between components, how to correctly identify the different square tapers, which bottom bracket is needed for a given two piece crank, etc.

One thing I have found that I'm willing to spend a lot of time on that no paid mechanic is willing to do is deep clean chains, chainrings, cassettes and derailleurs. It's not cost effective for the amount of time it takes to remove individual sprockets, scrub serious grime off with a toothbrush, pull apart derailleurs, pick every piece of crud out and put it all back together. Also, most don't enjoy it. I do and am not on the clock so I'll happily take the time to go through all that stuff.

Last edited by Pantah; 02-22-24 at 02:24 PM.
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Old 02-22-24, 02:17 PM
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@Pantah describes well what I think too. Probably most people can do a great majority of work on their bikes, with minimal instruction. Youtube videos are great. Adjusting derailleurs, brakes, and bearings are all pretty simple (and I distinguish that I'm only talking about mechanical, cable-operated devices here. I leave electronics and hydraulics to others). I think wrapping bars and building wheels requires greater knowledge, which comes from more experience. It also comes down to knowing how to use some of the more specialized tools.

Reading here over the years about the difficulties some people have with various repair procedures, from installing tires to centering brakes to everything in-between tells me lots of folks here would be better off taking their bikes into the LBS. The extraordinary lengths of many rear brake cable loops (and some front brakes) convinces me. But they persist in doing things beyond their abilities, which is fine, and their prerogative, but will always result in my SMH.

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Old 02-22-24, 03:51 PM
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Cup and cone adjustment on hubs, BB, and headset. Ok pedals too.
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Old 02-22-24, 04:18 PM
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Folks assume you need a lot of skill to work on fancy gear, but actually you don't need so much; just a basic level of competence, and the ability to look up and understand workshop manuals.

Paradoxically enough, the real skill and experience is required when it comes to the cheap and nasty junk. You need to know a whole bunch of stuff that's difficult to readily impart via text, and little if any text exists on the subject anyway. And you need to know when something is going to be either a lost cause or a stupid timesink. Cheap junk can get expensive if you have to pay somebody to make it work.
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Old 02-22-24, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by dedhed

Perfection: don’t let it be the enemy of good enough

Never settle for less than Dura Ace 7800. Everything else is good enough.
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Old 02-22-24, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by calamarichris
Never settle for less than Dura Ace 7800.
Too blobby.
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Old 02-22-24, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by calamarichris
Never settle for less than Dura Ace 7800. Everything else is good enough.
I'm a 7402 man, if I was striving for perfection. Which I'm not, so 1055 does the job.
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Old 02-22-24, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by calamarichris
Never settle for less than Dura Ace 7800. Everything else is good enough.
The 25th Anniversary group, based on 7700, is clearly the pinnacle of DA. 7800 is the shark jump.

Last edited by smd4; 02-22-24 at 08:28 PM.
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Old 02-22-24, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
The 25th Anniversary group, based on 7700, is clearly the pinnacle of DA. 7800 is the shark jump.
7700 is more classic looking, my preference in looks. 7800 uses hollowtech II and external bearings, which I love. I'd prefer a 7700 style in hollowtech II.
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Old 02-22-24, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53
What takes expertise is picking a bike and components that DON'T NEED expertise. LOL. Like a Sturmey Archer 3 speed with drum brakes
A dichotomy; IGH with drum brakes, need maintenance less often, but when you do, takes much more expertise, to teardown and reassemble either. That's my rationale for sticking with derailleur systems (and I grew up on 3-speeds, even tore one down to fix it in my early teens, but needed a workbench to do so, something lacking in my current living arrangements). Rim brakes, while simple, I'm less enamored with, given that my surrounding terrain has some long steep hills, so brake use wears the rim sidewalls, and can even overheat rims to spoke pops; My next bike will have discs, hopefully with replacement pads available as cheap as rim pads.
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Old 02-22-24, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo
Paradoxically enough, the real skill and experience is required when it comes to the cheap and nasty junk. You need to know a whole bunch of stuff that's difficult to readily impart via text, and little if any text exists on the subject anyway. And you need to know when something is going to be either a lost cause or a stupid timesink. Cheap junk can get expensive if you have to pay somebody to make it work.
Amen on this.. At the Co-op the repair jobs that require the most extreme combination of experience and expertise are the department-store bikes, especially ones that have been taken apart and put back together by the homeless. The intersection of easy-to-damage hardware with poor tolerances and materials, a potpourri of parts mixed together from multiple bikes, and clients with very little money produce the highest test for a mechanic.
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Old 02-22-24, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
my preference in looks. 7800 uses hollowtech II and external bearings
I have no need for either. What’s the benefit of external bearings?
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Old 02-22-24, 09:12 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
I have no need for either. What’s the benefit of external bearings?
From another of my posts on a different thread:

I have changed from square taper BB, to the "hollowtech II style", which has a hollow tube axle bonded to the right crank arm. The BB bearings do not go deep inside the BB frame shell, but are "external" (I think Phil Wood co calls this "outboard"), fitting between the shell and the crank arms. I REALLY like this system; The ball bearings inside are larger or more of them, it feels smoother, and they are mounted closer to the crank arms, reducing bending moment (and radial loading) on the tube and bearings. I can also take the crank completely off with only an allen wrench. The external bearings require a special wrench, I bought a 4-way one so am set for most styles of these. I opted for "ISO External" bearing standard, it is very common and not proprietary. One person on here, mountain biker, said he feels external bearings go bad quicker, and I said that may be true in his riding environment, due to a) larger seals, b) seal right against the crankarm, so dirt between could grind at seal, c) internal cartridge style BB, seals are further from the crank arms. But my external has worn much better than the previous cartridge internal (street use only, dry only), and adjusting to remove slack in the bearings over time is a 2 minute operation, a big plus for someone like me that does a lot of mileage, and keeping the slack out, proper preload, greatly prolongs bearing life in terms of loading on the balls, and no BB axle radial movement to stretch the seals. With a cartridge internal BB, there is no way to adjust to take out bearing slack when it shows up, and then deterioration accelerates. With external, I stay on top of it, the moment I feel any slack while laterally wiggling the crank arms, I immediately readjust, takes 2 minutes, a touch longer if I take that opportunity to clean out any dirt from between the crank arms and bearings.
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Old 02-22-24, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
From another of my posts on a different thread:

I have changed from square taper BB, to the "hollowtech II style", which has a hollow tube axle bonded to the right crank arm. The BB bearings do not go deep inside the BB frame shell, but are "external" (I think Phil Wood co calls this "outboard"), fitting between the shell and the crank arms. I REALLY like this system; The ball bearings inside are larger or more of them, it feels smoother, and they are mounted closer to the crank arms, reducing bending moment (and radial loading) on the tube and bearings. I can also take the crank completely off with only an allen wrench. The external bearings require a special wrench, I bought a 4-way one so am set for most styles of these. I opted for "ISO External" bearing standard, it is very common and not proprietary. One person on here, mountain biker, said he feels external bearings go bad quicker, and I said that may be true in his riding environment, due to a) larger seals, b) seal right against the crankarm, so dirt between could grind at seal, c) internal cartridge style BB, seals are further from the crank arms. But my external has worn much better than the previous cartridge internal (street use only, dry only), and adjusting to remove slack in the bearings over time is a 2 minute operation, a big plus for someone like me that does a lot of mileage, and keeping the slack out, proper preload, greatly prolongs bearing life in terms of loading on the balls, and no BB axle radial movement to stretch the seals. With a cartridge internal BB, there is no way to adjust to take out bearing slack when it shows up, and then deterioration accelerates. With external, I stay on top of it, the moment I feel any slack while laterally wiggling the crank arms, I immediately readjust, takes 2 minutes, a touch longer if I take that opportunity to clean out any dirt from between the crank arms and bearings.
So… nothing, really.
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Old 02-22-24, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
So… nothing, really.
External bearings have been more durable for me, and lower cost, in terms of frequency of cartridge BB replacement, which aren't cheap, versus external bearings, and I'm still on my first set after several years with a lot of miles and it still feels like new. External is also much faster and easier to remove the crank for cleaning or other service, and can be done in the field on a tour with a mere allen wrench, not needing to carry a crank tool. Hollowtech II style is also lighter; usually that costs you in durability, but in this case no; The axle is larger diameter so can be stronger AND lighter, and the bearings are larger so thus more durable.

I'm a retro-grouch, but this design is a true advance. (Provided it has forged one-piece crank arms, and not "bonded" assemblies.) It's. More. Durable. (At least for road use, mountain may be different.) What's my name?

Last edited by Duragrouch; 02-22-24 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 02-23-24, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
External bearings have been more durable for me, and lower cost, in terms of frequency of cartridge BB replacement, which aren't cheap, versus external bearings, and I'm still on my first set after several years with a lot of miles and it still feels like new. External is also much faster and easier to remove the crank for cleaning or other service, and can be done in the field on a tour with a mere allen wrench, not needing to carry a crank tool. Hollowtech II style is also lighter; usually that costs you in durability, but in this case no; The axle is larger diameter so can be stronger AND lighter, and the bearings are larger so thus more durable.

I'm a retro-grouch, but this design is a true advance. (Provided it has forged one-piece crank arms, and not "bonded" assemblies.) It's. More. Durable. (At least for road use, mountain may be different.) What's my name?
I'm curious what you were doing wrong with cartridge BBs. I've ridden three bikes for over a decade (pausing to knock on wood) without any problems; favorite bike about 50,000 miles, the others somewhat less. IIRC I paid either $35 or $40 for the shop to replace each of two at the beginning of that run, it'll probably be $50-60 if I have to replace them today. I call that durable and inexpensive.
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Old 02-23-24, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
External is also much faster and easier to remove the crank for cleaning or other service, and can be done in the field on a tour with a mere allen wrench, not needing to carry a crank tool.
I don't remove my cranks that often, but it's not too difficult or time-consuming when I do (and with 7700 self-extracting cranks, I don't need a crank tool either). And you may be the only person I've ever met who's needed to remove their cranks "in the field."

Originally Posted by Duragrouch
Hollowtech II style is also lighter; usually that costs you in durability, but in this case no; The axle is larger diameter so can be stronger AND lighter, and the bearings are larger so thus more durable.
I'll give you that they're lighter and stiffer. My cartridge bearings have been fine so far.
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Old 02-23-24, 09:38 AM
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I rode over a railroad track coming in to work today and suddenly heard a bad rubbing sound in the back of the bike. I stopped and looked. Tire and wheel were OK. Turns out my rear rack is rubbing on the top of the tire. The hardware is OK, so it must have been the weight of my stuff bouncing that bent the rack down toward the wheel. I bent it back to what I judged was an appropriate distance from the wheel and was on my way. No manuals, no tools, just simple roadside troubleshooting and a careful eye and hand to bend a part. I felt like there was a little bit of finesse involved in diagnosing the problem, judging where the bend happened, judging where to put my hands to bend it back and judging how far to bend it. An easy repair, for sure, but an example of pure skill that you're not going to learn from a book or YouTube video.
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Old 02-23-24, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
I rode over a railroad track coming in to work today and suddenly heard a bad rubbing sound in the back of the bike. I stopped and looked. Tire and wheel were OK. Turns out my rear rack is rubbing on the top of the tire. The hardware is OK, so it must have been the weight of my stuff bouncing that bent the rack down toward the wheel. I bent it back to what I judged was an appropriate distance from the wheel and was on my way. No manuals, no tools, just simple roadside troubleshooting and a careful eye and hand to bend a part. I felt like there was a little bit of finesse involved in diagnosing the problem, judging where the bend happened, judging where to put my hands to bend it back and judging how far to bend it. An easy repair, for sure, but an example of pure skill that you're not going to learn from a book or YouTube video.
Sounds like you need a better rack, or a better route...
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Old 02-23-24, 12:14 PM
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The fact is a bicycle is a very simple machine for the average guy that know mechanics.

I grew up on a farm and knowing mechanics was necessary, and came naturally. When I was 12 I even had my New Departure rear disc brake assembly apart. These days I do all the external car maintenance myself, and even have overhauled an automatic transmission. I served office machines for 47 years, including a 5000 part IBM Composer. So yes, to me a bicycle is a very simple machine.

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Old 02-23-24, 11:25 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
I'm curious what you were doing wrong with cartridge BBs. I've ridden three bikes for over a decade (pausing to knock on wood) without any problems; favorite bike about 50,000 miles, the others somewhat less. IIRC I paid either $35 or $40 for the shop to replace each of two at the beginning of that run, it'll probably be $50-60 if I have to replace them today. I call that durable and inexpensive.
I bought decent quality cartridge BBs, Shimano low/mid range road, usually on sale so get for $20-30, and I think the durability of the bearings was decent. The problem is, all bearings wear. When they have proper preload, the radial load is spread over almost 180 degrees of the balls or rollers on each side. But when they start to loosen, even a tiny bit, then the radial load is only on 2 or 3 balls or rollers per side, and wear accelerates greatly (especially on the seals, which you are now cyclicly stretching radially). And even if not, now I have looseness in my crank. And that is the problem. I rode a lot of miles commuting, and the bearing durability of the cartridge was not bad at all, the bearing quality was good, but once it began to have a bit of looseness (due to normal and expected wear), I could not adjust out the slack and restore the preload.

With a hollowtech II style, and I'm talking brand-x off amazon from china, I can take out that slack the moment the tiniest hair of it shows up; Just loosen the left arm, torque the end cap, tighten the left arm. (and I usually clean between the arms and bearings) As a result, those external bearings have worn like iron. (EDIT: Maybe just the same amount of wear as the cartridge, but I could adjust out the slack!) May also be the larger bearings and closer to the crank arms, but I think proper preload is key. I'd analogize this to a theoretical headset without any adjustment; You're gonna be replacing it, long before the bearings wear out, due to looseness. That's the problems with BB internal cartridges.

Upon realizing this, for a while for economy, I was running old style BB axle, caged bearings, and cups. But those are a pain to adjust, and a pain to rebuild, but they could be rebuilt almost infinitely (new bearings are $2), until the axle itself starts to spall (and even then, I just reversed/rotated it relative to the crank so no loading the spalled part). By the way, you know how to make that setup more durable? Replace the caged balls with nothing but balls (must be a new matched set), you increase the number of balls by a lot, just takes a bit more skill, greasing the cups heavily, embed each ball into the grease, put together. The cages just speed up factory assembly, but they reduce the number of balls and thus durability. The big problem with that setup was the cup seals were shot, one rain, and the bearings got gritty.

Last edited by Duragrouch; 02-23-24 at 11:38 PM.
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