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As mechanics, are we ept?

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As mechanics, are we ept?

Old 03-04-22, 08:01 PM
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As mechanics, are we ept?

It seems to be an article of faith that most of us are better mechanics than the average mechanic down at the LBS. But are we, really? My guess is that a lot of us achieve excellent results by working at glacial speed. We can afford to be as careful as we want, and have "perfect" as our goal. The LBS can't. They've got move jobs through quickly, and recognize that "perfect" is just one point in the middle of the much wider "acceptable" zone. I consider myself to be an excellent mechanic, but if I went to work at a bike shop on Monday, I'm pretty sure they'd fire me by Friday.

Also, we're old, and have learned to seek advice when we need it. Your typical shop mechanic is a lot younger, and maybe more likely, when in doubt, to power ahead and hope for the best.

Who around here is, or has been, a professional shop mechanic? How good (or bad) are amateurs like us?
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Old 03-04-22, 08:05 PM
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Oh no.

I'm inept and I know it.
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Old 03-04-22, 08:09 PM
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I'm great ... working on my old bikes. But yeah, I work at a glacial speed. I will say it's a new 21st century glacial speed, so I have that going for me (for now).
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Old 03-04-22, 08:10 PM
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I am waaaaay beyond amateur.
Basically, I'm a hack, with some daring.

where's that resto-mod pic? Pardon the front wheel qr on the ds.

And for Dutchmen speaking Italian

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Old 03-04-22, 08:30 PM
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I have never been a bicycle mechanic and I follow these words of wisdom when working on anything. There is always something to learn, take your time to do it as few times as possible and think before you do.....If I ever feel I am ept, then I might be missing something. Even the most ept mechanics miss things. A few to ponder.

Best, Ben

Voice recognition may sometimes create odd spelling and grammatical errors

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Old 03-04-22, 08:38 PM
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I’m good.
I’m not shop fast.
I’m not shop equipped.
I’m not shop consistent.
I take a lot of breaks, and I nap at times.
I also drink and wrench.

No way I could work in a shop.
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Old 03-04-22, 08:40 PM
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Well I think I used to be pretty good. I managed a shop that moved a lot of $200 bikes through the doors in 1982 at least enough for $1M in sales. But that was 40 years ago, and I'm not sure I can beat shop rate these days. I think my biggest problem would be that I have been doing refurbishing lately and would start to do the same with a build or repair. I would need to be back in a shop environment for a number of weeks to get back into a groove for working on bikes and also learning the ins and outs of the newer shifting packages.
My thinking is that the cleanest simplest mechanisms were the Campy Record and SR. No extra parts and just cable systems to make everything work. Smiles, MH
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Old 03-04-22, 08:43 PM
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I’m sure there is a lot of truth in what you say but I will also counter with this story:

An old friend of mine, BITD a fairly accomplished bike racer but, even now, 35 years later, I wouldn’t call him a particularly skilled mechanic, even though he is very much mechanically adept. Anyway he tells me of the time when he worked in a bike shop in the 80’s. He had a passing knowledge of bike repair and he cribbed from a book he had hidden by the work bench. Every once in a while the book would mention a tool he wasn’t familiar with, so he’d yell out to the boss “Hey Bill, where’s the (insert tool name here)? “ “Third drawer down in the left!” and he’d figure it out from there. So if you had a sub par repair job from a bike shop in LA in the 80’s, maybe he was your guy.

Same guy also once took a job as a breakfast line cook and he is definitely a much worse cook than bike mechanic, even now.
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Old 03-04-22, 08:48 PM
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I am unquestionably slow, often referring to the advice of others and watching YouTube videos, but I am fairly conscientious. Having learned my trade in the 90s, I would also say that there is a whole realm of modern shop skills I simply have no knowledge of despite owning some more recent bikes. This would include cable routing for integrated bar-stem-frame combinations, anything electronic other than charging my head and tail lights, press-fit bottom brackets and so forth. Other than a willingness to learn, I fear I would be a terrible shop employee today.
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Old 03-04-22, 08:51 PM
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Professional mechanic= solving other people's problems + working at production speed + constantly being asked "why" and BTW bring your own tools.

Been there done that : one summer. That was Ace Cycle World, Honda dealer Chicago years ago.

Anyhow all Nuts and Bolts. I enjoy working on my bicycles, riding them even more! Old school Campagnolo, mechanical poetry
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Old 03-04-22, 08:53 PM
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I agree that having time on your side can make a big difference, but I’ve also been learning my limits.

My local mechanic is a boss. I once asked him how he tests new mechanics. He said he makes them build a kids bike. No one has ever gotten it 100% right.
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Old 03-04-22, 08:54 PM
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A repair or installation done correctly is the only acceptable outcome.

It matters not the label (LBS or expert or amateur) on the mechanic’s apron.
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Old 03-04-22, 09:11 PM
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The older we get, the more ept we think we were. Speaking mostly for myself.
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Old 03-04-22, 09:55 PM
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I'm only 5-6yrs removed from wrenching in a shop, so I have done everything short of electronic groups. Management at that one didn't care for me much as I preferred to fix bikes instead of high-pressure upsell parts/completes and I haven't been overly impressed by the other LBS in the area, so I'll sooner buy the tool than pay to have someone else do work.
I've been pretty savvy over the years with tool purchases, along with some as-needed purchases means I can do almost anything myself. BB and fork steerer threads are about the only times I foresee myself making the trip up to one of the Good shops in Seattle.
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Old 03-04-22, 10:18 PM
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I worked in two shops from 1986-90 in the SF Bay area, but I actually think I'm a better mechanic now after another 30+ years of experience. I couldn't build wheels then, didn't want to deal with index shifting, but i did learn how to overhaul Sturmey Archer AW hubs and suffered through repairs of crappy department store bikes back in those days. I'm also cognizant of what I don't know how to do, which might have not been as true back then. I had my LBS install mechanical disc brakes on one bike and hydro on another and would use them again for similar tech.

I did triumph today in removing crankset arms that initially seemed to have munged extractor threads, but i defeated them with a different puller and lots of leverage. One is always more ept with the proper tools.
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Old 03-04-22, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclophilia
A repair or installation done correctly is the only acceptable outcome.

It matters not the label (LBS or expert or amateur) on the mechanic’s apron.

As hobbyist wrenchers, time is on our side. Can I adjust tension on cone bearings in 45 seconds? No. Can I do it in 5-10 minutes? Yes. The job is done and that is all that matters to me.

(In a past life I was a chef and I would work at a frenetic pace but I can still make those same dishes but it takes me longer. Result is the same so, again, I am happy with that.)
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Old 03-04-22, 10:28 PM
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Slightly pedantic - the word is “apt”.
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Old 03-04-22, 10:59 PM
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Originally Posted by RustyJames
Slightly pedantic - the word is “apt”.
But the opposite of apt is not “inapt”!

I always that apt meant appropriate, not competent.
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Old 03-05-22, 12:05 AM
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I also weigh in under the "slow and methodical" camp. I wrench on industrial equipment for a living so working on a bike is a simple pleasure that brings me great enjoyment.
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Old 03-05-22, 12:51 AM
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Most here are apt to be ept.
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Old 03-05-22, 02:30 AM
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I'm slow. I can build a bike from a bare frame in about 2-3 hours. At least an hour of that time is spent looking for a tool that I just put down a few minutes earlier.

Even taking time out of the equation I'm not as good as the best mechanics at my local shop, but I'm usually happy with my results. I'm not always happy with the shops' work.
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Old 03-05-22, 02:40 AM
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Adept is the antonym of inept, and "ept" is a back-formation of inept.


As for me, I'm more than a little adept at wrenching old-school NR/SR stuff - except wheelbuilding. Frankly, I'm just too lazy to give that a go. That said, mechanical aptitude is a strength, and learning to wrench on modern stuff would most likely be successful as I like to tinker, and seem to have an innate sense of how mechanical things go together.

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Old 03-05-22, 03:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K
I'm slow. I can build a bike from a bare frame in about 2-3 hours.
It takes me that long just to cable it up and tape the bars.

Sometimes, it feels like it takes that long just to get the brake levers in the right place.
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Old 03-05-22, 04:04 AM
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I like stripping down bikes and building bikes from frames and components I've bought or have in the spares box but I must admit to the odd moment of stupidity. I've cut down a steerer tube in completely the wrong place (forgetting the mantra of "measure twice cut once") rendering that fork absolutely useless for that frame. I've also built a bike and put the pedals on finger tight with a view to getting the pedal spanner out after enjoying the cup of tea that Mrs. Welshboy has brought out to me. Fast forward to the following day when I'm on the front of the bunch when my left hand pedal detaches itself from the crank and I acrobatically end up in a ditch at the roadside (thankfully, we ride on the left in the UK). Instead of my life flashing before my eyes I had the memory of NOT getting my pedal spanner out.
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Old 03-05-22, 04:16 AM
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Face it, the mechancs of a bicycle aren't that complicated. If you can get the shifting adjusted so that it shifts, and the brakes so that they brake, and get all the bolts tightened so nothing falls off, there is nothing a "professional" bike mechanic has over you. There is no hidden mojo or some unspoken trade secrets in there that cause a layman to never achieve the level of someone who does it for a living. Especially not when there is no baseline; not even in countries where the concept of vocational training is historically more organized and standardised than it is, to my understanding, in USA.
I, being the owner and vthe user of a ike i care about, will possibly be more dilligent and picky about the quality of my work...
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