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Learning bikes better by assembling a few

Old 02-10-13, 02:14 PM
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Learning bikes better by assembling a few

Hi, all,

I decided 2013 is going to be the year where I learn a lot more about bikes, besides just riding them. So I bought a stand and some tools, took a basic maintenance class, and I'm just finishing up my first project. I figured I'd start easy, so it's a fixed-gear bike from a kit (eighthinch.com).

My question for you all is, what's a good second project? I'd like to end up building my own randonneuring bike--my current brevet bike is a low-end road bike with stuff bolted to it, because back when I bought it, I didn't know I'd get interested in distance--but I figure I'll do a couple of simpler projects first, and work up to it.

A commuter with one chainring and a rear derailleur, maybe?

Thanks!
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Old 02-10-13, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by noteon
Hi, all,

I decided 2013 is going to be the year where I learn a lot more about bikes, besides just riding them. So I bought a stand and some tools, took a basic maintenance class, and I'm just finishing up my first project. I figured I'd start easy, so it's a fixed-gear bike from a kit (eighthinch.com).

My question for you all is, what's a good second project? I'd like to end up building my own randonneuring bike--my current brevet bike is a low-end road bike with stuff bolted to it, because back when I bought it, I didn't know I'd get interested in distance--but I figure I'll do a couple of simpler projects first, and work up to it.

A commuter with one chainring and a rear derailleur, maybe?

Thanks!
If learning is your objective, buying new bikes is an expensive way to go about it. See if there's a local bike Co-op, or a charity that collects and refurbishes bikes for poor kids. Or buy garage sale bikes, fix them up, and give them away or save them for a Christmas toy drive. I can think of no better way to celebrate the spirit of Christmas than to give a bike to a child who otherwise wouldn't have one.

You can also do your own thing by buying used bikes, fixing them up and selling them at low cost to people who can use them for basic transit. In many cities, you can find locations where these people gather for day work every morning.
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Old 02-10-13, 02:34 PM
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Go for it.

Try starting on old non-suspension mtbs - usually cheap, easy to find, and plenty of spare bits around. Oh, and be prepared for plenty of frustration and dead-ends.

I started like you about 3 years ago and I've bought and flipped about 50 bikes since then - no real money in it, but it's great fun. I also volunteer at a community bike scheme and have rebuilt at least 100 bikes.

It's a great feeling when you can fix your own bike and know enough to help another cyclist who's broken down at the side of the road. Also it's nice being a bit of a hero to the neighbours' kids when you sort their bikes out.
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Old 02-10-13, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
........ I can think of no better way to celebrate the spirit of Christmas than to give a bike to a child who otherwise wouldn't have one. ........
My first bike was a USED bike from Santa, while the bratty neighbor kid got a NEW one. It was a valuable life lesson. Life isn't always fair!

FB pretty much covered it.
I started by working on my own bike through necessity and then expanded into "flipping" bikes on CL.
I'll never make money, because I probably buy $3 worth of tools for every $1 "profit".
Stay away from the box store bikes and other bottom end stuff. There are many you simply will never get to work right with out way too much money invested. Kind of like rebuilding a YUGO.
Start with the simpler repairs, like servicing bearings & cables, tuning DER's and expand as your confidence grows.
Things like BB replacement/service, wheel truing/building or whatever direction appeals to you.
Understanding how to repair the old is about the best foundation to build the new.
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Old 02-10-13, 02:41 PM
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You can find bikes on Craig's List that have been collecting in garages. Usually at grandpa's house that he bought as the kid grew up. The last seven I bought were $100. One for the wife, one for parts, two at the recycle yard and three sold for $35.

They had all been through 3 kids and had a lot of use. I learned a lot.
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Old 02-10-13, 04:55 PM
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All useful. Thanks!
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Old 02-10-13, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun
My first bike was a USED bike from Santa, while the bratty neighbor kid got a NEW one. It was a valuable life lesson. Life isn't always fair!
You might have taken away that half a loaf is better than none, though I can see where that might not have occurred to you until later.
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Old 02-10-13, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Or buy garage sale bikes, fix them up, and give them away or save them for a Christmas toy drive. I can think of no better way to celebrate the spirit of Christmas than to give a bike to a child who otherwise wouldn't have one.
you go, my man!
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Old 02-10-13, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by ka0use
you go, my man!
Not me. Tip your hat to Moses Mathis the Bicycle Man of Fayetteville, NC who has refurbished and donated thousands of bicycles for Christmas over the last 20 years. This isn't a feat most of us have any hope of duplicating, but we all could find the time to do one and start from there.
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Old 02-10-13, 07:47 PM
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+1 Forget the new bike assembly for learning. First, its an expense path to learning. Secondly, assembling a bike with new parts and where everything works does not result in much learning.

Pick up a neglected bike at a garage sale, thrift store, or from a neighbor. Tear it down to the frame, and rebuild it. Old rigid frame MTBs make great projects!

If you don't have a pile of tools, head to a nearby co-op. They probably also can provide an older bike to build up at negligible cost, as well as technical guidance.
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Old 02-10-13, 08:03 PM
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I may do one more new one (and sell it after, same as this one), just so I know how things are supposed to go together before I start encountering things that aren't put together right, but I like the used/giveaway angle a lot, both for the educational value and the community contribution. Much appreciated.
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Old 02-10-13, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
If learning is your objective, buying new bikes is an expensive way to go about it. See if there's a local bike Co-op, or a charity that collects and refurbishes bikes for poor kids. Or buy garage sale bikes, fix them up, and give them away or save them for a Christmas toy drive. I can think of no better way to celebrate the spirit of Christmas than to give a bike to a child who otherwise wouldn't have one.

You can also do your own thing by buying used bikes, fixing them up and selling them at low cost to people who can use them for basic transit. In many cities, you can find locations where these people gather for day work every morning.
I would heartily second the recommendation to look for a bike co-op or other source of in-person support, but seek out someone who will help you understand the why of what you are doing rather than just how to make an adjustment. You must understand how a component works and interacts with other parts, the rider and the environment if you are going to "learn a lot more about bikes."

In my experience putting together a bike is a costly way to learn, and not primarily in terms of money. It takes a lot of time to acquire, disassemble, cull out parts and put together bikes, and you can do so without ever finding the most efficient or even the proper way to do procedures. I would also caution you against giving away bikes until you are sure you know how to prepare one safely. Trial and error is mostly error, and "if I make a mistake at least I learned form it" is one of the most illogical concepts I have heard. If one makes a mistake that covers only know one of innumerable ways to be wrong. One learns from a mistake only when the correct solution is the next step, whether presented by someone else or by seeking out accurate information.

What bike you work on next is irrelevent. What's important is that you develop your knowledge, observation and problem-solving skills. To start on your own, try learning everything you can about one component, such as a derailleur. Start by moving it in every direction, with your hand, pulling on the cable and using the lever, what it looks like as it moves, seeing how it accomplishes what it does, what allows it to move and what confines its movement. Then look at books, videos, online tutorials, and technical information about the part, installation and repair procedures. Think about why the procedures work in light of what you observed earlier. Extend that to the things the derailleur interacts with - the chain, freewheel/cassette and cable/levers. Think about how the interaction between parts in a system affects each one.

The reason I suggest the above is that once you do so with a few components (which in this case are part of the drive train system) it should be more natural to approach your task as a careful, knowledgable observer, rather than a simple turner-of-screws. Most "repairs" - that is, working on something that is not Park Tool new and clean, depend mostly on analysis, knowledge and observation, with perhaps 10% comprising action. As the old plumber joke goes: "It's $10 for tapping the pipe to fix it and $200 for knowing where to tap."

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Old 02-10-13, 09:12 PM
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3rd the advice about co-ops. There's a huge stock of parts and advice from lots of people, and at some a continuos stream of bikes that need fixing. No need to buy bikes, or parts, or clutter up your own garage with half finished projects.
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Old 02-11-13, 05:50 AM
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I think you are making this more complicated than it needs to be.

If you want a randonneur/brevet bike, figure out what used bike would be suitable, buy one, and overhaul it, restore it, modify it, maintain it. You will rebuild hubs and bottom brackets and headsets, replace housings and cables and pads, adjust derailleurs, clean and lube chains, true or rebuild wheels, etc. By the time you are done, you will have learned a fair bit about bike repair and will have the bike you want.

I would not do what you are doing, which seems to be to buy new or used bikes, assemble them or fix them, and give them away or sell them. The money you are spending would be better used to buy the bicycle-specific tools you'll need in your workshop. Plus, I wouldn't want someone else riding a bike I built/fixed, until I was pretty experienced in building/fixing bikes.
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Old 02-16-13, 02:28 PM
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Again, thank you for the thoughtful and helpful responses. I appreciate it very much.
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