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How are your mechanical abilities?

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How are your mechanical abilities?

Old 07-19-07, 07:39 AM
  #1  
Bike-a-Boo
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How are your mechanical abilities?

Mine are somewhere between non-existant and minimal. I can fix a flat and lube my chain, and that's it. Even fixing a flat takes me forever and gives me anxiety.

I'm starting to have the opinion that if I want to rely on my bike as my main mode of transportation, I need to do some serious brushing up in this area. This morning, I was about to ride off to work, but I couldn't pedal. My chain was somehow messed up (note the technical terminology that I use ). Because I'm clueless mechanically, I was stuck.

Funny thing is, when I drove a car everywhere, I had even less knowledge about car maintenance and repair. I feel that there is a bigger need to be more self-reliant in order to be car-free / car-lite. Maybe I need to look into whether I can buy roadside assistance for my bike!
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Old 07-19-07, 07:45 AM
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I got a start last weekend by buying a thrift shop bike for $18, stripping it to the frame and transferring the components to my old bike as an upgrade. I always tried to do as much of the mechanical work on my cars as I could to save the cost of labor, but I was never very good at it and I absolutely hated it. I found last weekend that bikes are a LOT easier to work on and that I really enjoy working on them. My project for this weekend is to put the bottom bracket from the the thrift shop bike on my commuter.
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Old 07-19-07, 08:09 AM
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My mechanical abilities are just good enough to keep my all my bikes out of the LBS tech's hands for many years, and that's at 3500 to 4000 miles a year.
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Old 07-19-07, 08:19 AM
  #4  
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Originally Posted by Bike-a-Boo View Post
I'm starting to have the opinion that if I want to rely on my bike as my main mode of transportation, I need to do some serious brushing up in this area.
Yep!
grab yourself a book, or peruse Park Tool's website, maybe get yerself a beater or x-mart special to practice on. these skills will be very handy.

i consider myself reasonably competent, built a few bikes, rebuilt a fork or 3, bleed hydro brakes...

the tools can be a bit of an investment (i think i have 4 different bottom bracket tools) but will be WELL worth it as the bike becomes your main steed.

Cheers and best o luck
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Old 07-19-07, 09:01 AM
  #5  
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my apt looks like a bike store/repair shop

always done my own work, and always will

for $3-$400 you can have every tool needed to do just about anything to a bike including building wheels
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Old 07-19-07, 09:13 AM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by pedex View Post

for $3-$400 you can have every tool needed to do just about anything to a bike including building wheels
Which is cheap, cheap, cheap, when compared to my collection of automotive tools. My bike tools basically fill one drawer in one of my roller tool boxes.
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Old 07-19-07, 09:29 AM
  #7  
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Lennard Zinn has a book called Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance, and a similar book about road bike maintenance. I would imagine that by studying one of those books a person of average intelligence could perform 90% of the repairs/maintenance a bicycle requires. Mr. Zinn writes in a clear, concise and often humorous way and I would go so far as to say that he makes bike repair seem fun!

This book was the best $20. I ever spent and has saved me MANY trips to the local bike shop!


Having said that, I also am a firm believer that you can always try to make a repair and if you #### it up badly THEN you take it to the local wrench to fix your mistakes!

https://www.zinncycles.com/
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Old 07-19-07, 09:30 AM
  #8  
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I sold my auto tool collection and bought bikes and bike tools when I went car free. After having 23 vehicles and having driven 1.1 million miles I had quite the collection of auto related crap.
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Old 07-19-07, 10:17 AM
  #9  
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Most bike maintenance stuff is very simple, a complete tear down and rebuild can be done in a weekend if you plan ahead for parts and stuff. I just did a complete tear down and rebuild of an old Giant Iguana MTB. Total parts bill including new tires, tubes, cables and brake pads was probably around $80. By coincidence I had to have brake work done on my big dually truck...$650 I don't have that much in any two of my bicycles and tools. You just acquire the tools as you need them, and buy the best you can afford. I am getting ready to spring for a new truing stand, the one I have now is one we cobbled up out of an old steel bed frame and I want one that does automatic centering.

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Old 07-19-07, 10:21 AM
  #10  
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The nice thing about bikes is that everything is right there in front of you and pretty self-evident: just by looking at how the parts look and what they're connected to pretty much lets you know what they do and how they work. I would never dream of working on an engine unless I absolutely had to, but most bicycle maintenance issues are just a matter of time and tools. I'm not the least bit handy, but I've found that routine repairs and maintenance are so easy even I can do it.

Anyway, I suggest:

1. Buy a book called Bicycle Maintenance and Repair by Todd Downs (Rodale Press, 2005). It costs $20, but it gives step-by-step instructions on how to do just about everything on a bike. It even has pictures.
2. Some bike shops offer classes on bicycle maintenance and repair; maybe that's something that's worth looking into.
3. Even though I do most of the work on my own bike, I still take it into a bike shop once a year for a complete tune-up. It's well worth the extra money; it prevents major breakdowns from even happening, and makes repairs during the rest of the year pretty trivial.
4. Invest in decent tools. Trying to fix a bike using a multi-tool and a swiss army knife is an exercise in futility.
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Old 07-19-07, 11:11 AM
  #11  
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OK...follow-up question. If I buy a cheap used bike to practice on, where should I buy parts?
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Old 07-19-07, 11:20 AM
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I'm pretty good at walking my bike to one of the three bike shops along my commute.
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Old 07-19-07, 11:27 AM
  #13  
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Is there a bike co-op or some place near you that sells used parts?
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Old 07-19-07, 11:50 AM
  #14  
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Originally Posted by jamesdenver View Post
I'm pretty good at walking my bike to one of the three bike shops along my commute.
Me too!! I got a flat this morning on the way to work, took it to one of the shops I knew. $10, no more flat.
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Old 07-19-07, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by james denver
I'm pretty good at walking my bike to one of the three bike shops along my commute.
Originally Posted by gharding
Me too!! I got a flat this morning on the way to work, took it to one of the shops I knew. $10, no more flat.
Interesting to get opinions from the other side of the fence. Do you worry that you might get stranded somewhere a lot farther from your LBS? Do you have a back-up plan? I actually do not have a LBS anywhere near my route, so I probably couldn't take this approach and still make it to work anywhere close to on time.

Originally Posted by donnamb
Is there a bike co-op or some place near you that sells used parts?
I've never heard of this. I did a little research just now and I couldn't find anything in my area that fit the description.
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Old 07-19-07, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Bike-a-Boo View Post
OK...follow-up question. If I buy a cheap used bike to practice on, where should I buy parts?
don't. Just take it apart and put it back together. you'll need to buy tools though. You should find an old bike on craigs list, which can be found for the same price as an xmart bike, but you'll actually care about it/want to use it when you're done.

Bikes are way easy to maintain, almost everything can be done with a set of allen wrenches. Exceptions being removal of cranks, bottom bracket, headset, casette, pedals stuff that you may never need to do, or you'll do when you want to change components. Very unlikely that any of those parts will keep you from getting to work

To keep yourself from getting stranded, all you really need to know is how to change tubes, and fix a snapped chain. Both are very easy to do.

For general maintence; learn how to keep the chain clean, change brake pads, adjust shift cables, true wheels.
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Old 07-19-07, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Bike-a-Boo View Post
Interesting to get opinions from the other side of the fence. Do you worry that you might get stranded somewhere a lot farther from your LBS? Do you have a back-up plan? I actually do not have a LBS anywhere near my route, so I probably couldn't take this approach and still make it to work anywhere close to on time.
My backup plan is the subway. I intend on learning how to fix a flat and will be getting a repair kit in the future, but when I'm in Manhattan in the middle of the day, there's something like 10 bike shops on my commute.. getting stranded isn't a huge worry for me. And getting to work late isn't a huge issue at my office, luckily!
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Old 07-19-07, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Bike-a-Boo View Post
Interesting to get opinions from the other side of the fence. Do you worry that you might get stranded somewhere a lot farther from your LBS? Do you have a back-up plan? I actually do not have a LBS anywhere near my route, so I probably couldn't take this approach and still make it to work anywhere close to on time.
I'm primarily a city biker and my commute is all residential and retail. I can easily grab the bus or train if needed without too much delay (And few LBS's are open at 7-8am.)

This wonderful small commuter facility is near my house, and I've used them a few times for a morning tube replacement or tune up on the way to work.

That said I do want to do a long weekend tour somewhere, out to the country and just motel it for the night. Before I commence that I'll get more comfy with a patch kit, or maybe do a basic bike repair class at an LBS.
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Old 07-19-07, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by onetrack
don't. Just take it apart and put it back together.


I'm going to end up scratching my head, staring at a bunch of parts on the floor of my garage.
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Old 07-19-07, 03:54 PM
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There isn't much that I haven't done when it comes to bikes other than weld a frame from scratch.

My current bikes if anyone cares
1999 Specialized Hardrock Comp FS
2003 Specialized Rockhopper FSR Comp

All work was performed by yours truly.
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Old 07-19-07, 04:46 PM
  #21  
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I like this book and the park tool website.
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Old 07-19-07, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Bike-a-Boo View Post
.... Maybe I need to look into whether I can buy roadside assistance for my bike!
Bicycle Repairman!!!


~
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Old 07-19-07, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Bike-a-Boo View Post


I'm going to end up scratching my head, staring at a bunch of parts on the floor of my garage.
I should have clarified. I'm not saying completly dismantle the bike in an afternoon and hope you can remember how to put it back together (though I can see how you got that from what I said).

Use the bike to practice changing tubes, and using a chain tool till you are comfortable. Then you won't be afraid of getting stranded. Then use the cheap bike to practice matainence procedures. If you need to replace a part on your bike, go to your practice bike to see how that part goes on the bike. After a while, you will gain confidence in your abilities, and should be able to attend to any mechanical need your bike has (provided you have the tool for the job).
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Old 07-19-07, 05:17 PM
  #24  
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If you buy an older bike (say, 1980s or earlier) you will probably want to have a flat head screwdriver and a phillips screwdriver-- and a lot of the stuff will be fixable with a good 6inch adjustable wrench. Allen keys may be no use.

Those old bikes are often pretty good for learning to fix because they don't cost much and occasionally more modern bikes have been redesigned in ways that make them require more odd tools to fix.


I'm going to end up scratching my head, staring at a bunch of parts on the floor of my garage.
When you get to that point, let us know and we'll help you sort it out.

A couple things you ought to learn about early on is cables and cable housings for brakes (and for shifting if you use a multispeed bike).

If you do dismantle brake and shifting stuff on an old bike there isn't all that much you can do to make it difficult to put back together.
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Old 07-19-07, 05:37 PM
  #25  
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Every single part on my Surly Crosscheck has been removed or replaced at least once. The only components remaining on the frame that came with the bike (acquired in a trade for two other bikes) are the brake calipers. I've even replaced the fork and headset. The only thing I haven't done is build the wheels.

My two fixed gear bikes I've also built from the frame up.

So I guess my skills are pretty good.
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