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Dudette
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Since I started getting into mountain biking about 4 years ago, I've been fascinated with all of the mechanical aspects. I've had a good friend help me ugrade some parts on my first hardtail and help me convert an old Diamondback to single speed. Now I'm in the process of getting ready to build up my first frame - a Misfit diSSent. I find the whole process exhilirating and intimidating at the same time...afraid to make a mistake and potentially ruin an expensive part, but wanting the satisfaction of being able to say "yup, I built that!" Anyone else care to share their experiences/advice?
 

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Bored Carp
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1,596 Posts
I worked as a mechanic years ago. I can do a mean overhaul on your 1" headset-having, 3-piece bottom bracket, old school bike...
 

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I have worked on my bikes since I was a kid and my sister's Peugeot 10 speed came with a few wrenches, and have always enjoyed it, doing all my own maintenance except fork overhauls. Like you, though, I was a little intimidated starting with a bare frame...I ended up doing the parts I was comfortable with & having the shop do the rest. They also ended up making some good parts picks for me I wouldn't have done on my own, like the carbon bars or choosing the right headset spacers. I tend to hang onto my bikes for a long time, so I was kinda old school & not up on the newer stuff like they were. I've had more trouble getting stubborn old parts off bikes than breaking new ones while wrenching.

Working on your bike at home can also pay off on the trail with knowledge & confidence - once after a minor fall I couldn't get my cleat back in the pedal, but when I looked down I saw it was because the pedal was attached to my shoe and only the axle was on the crank! Even though I didn't have the proper tool (who has C clip pliers with them?), I was able to re-attach it on the trail with a multitool & a rock & it saved me a lot of walking, probably in the dark.
 

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Don't worry, be happy!
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8,141 Posts
I am the prime bike wrench at our house. Mainly, I got a)tired of waiting for DH to do stuff, and b) paying for simple tasks.

I've built two bikes. One, I took my old HT and went through it, changed out the cassett from 7 to 8, cantilever brakes to v-brakes, new fork etc and it has second life as a commuter. I also built a SS out of an old Mongoose Pro Ti HT. That was a lot of fun too. DH thought I was nuts when I asked for a Park stand for Xmas a few years ago.

I do all basic maintenance, but I leave things like disc brakes and headsets to the pros.
 

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Birthday Collector
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2,610 Posts
Saw this thread showing in the forum list... From my perspective - learn to do everything you can! No reason why you or anyone (of any gender) who has an interest or any amount of mechanical inclination shouldn't be able to do the adjustments or repairs on your own bike. It can get you "out of the woods" on your wheels instead of your heels, and be a way to get satisfaction if you enjoy the project. As a long-time mechanic I have taught more of my female friends to do repairs than my guy buddies. I have to say one of the "fairer sex" is probably the best mechanic of all my local friends. She competed on a national-level adventure racing team and was the team's mechanic. She enjoyed it and is pretty darn good. Of course, I got a few midnight-before-the-race phone calls with a "how does this thing come off...?" questions, but really didn't mind. Tools and equipment can get expensive, and so can ruining an expensive part, but weigh the cost of having the tool (and how often you'll use it) against the cost of having it done as often as you will need. Also, the parts - as you learn you'll be able to do more. At the very least, know how to change a flat and adjust your gear and maybe brakes (if they are cable operated) for your rides so you can get out on your own. Some basic wheel-truing helps too - it doesn't have to be THAT straight if you have disc brakes! Just do it!
 

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I had tinkered a bit in the past making adjustments and such. Kinda limited skills, but I could do some basic adjustments.

This fall, I decided that I wanted a 29er before next race season. I was shopping around and just happened to see a small Gary Fisher Paragon frame in the classifieds here on MTBR. I decided to go ahead and buy it. From there, I started asking around about parts and also started researching what I might want. I selected every part based on what I thought would work for me.

Now, I'm slowly putting it together. My husband got me a tool set and I've added some items (torque wrench, allen head sockets, etc). I also have a couple books (Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and the Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair) and will research or ask questions on the internet when I need additional information. It is very slow going. I will spend a couple of hours and just get a few small parts assembled. However, I'm figuring it out and it's very cool to see it coming together.

For me, it's coming down to lots of research and just chipping away at it a bit at a time. I also step away from the project for the evening if I start to get frustrated or confused at all. Usually, when I go back to it with a fresh outlook a day or two later, I have the patience and a clear mind to figure out what was stumping me. I'm hoping to have it done this week....Yay!!!!
 

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Dudette
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1,475 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This is great! This year for Christmas I asked mostly for tools and a repair stand. I received a lot of raised eyebrows, but I was serious! I made a list of tools I would need for my first build (despite the fact that a lot of people say you can make your own headset press). I got the stand, the Big Blue Book (hooray!), hex wrenches, bottom bracket tool, and shop hammer. I've been slowly accumulating other tools like crankset puller, cable cutters and things like that. I just purchased a star nut setter and crown race setter. Mind you, I don't plan on tackling this all by myself just yet - my friend has generously offered to be around to supervise and offer suggestions. I installed my seatpost collar and seatpost and saddle, and I got my rims lined with tape and installed my tubes and tires on my wheels myself and installed my rotors. Put my grips and brake levers on my handlebars. Next step is to have my bottom bracket faced and chased and the headtube and fork faced as well and make sure they are ready for installation. I never even gave that a thought before coming on here and finding out that unless they say that has already been done before the frame ships out it's a good idea to have it checked/done before installing parts if you want them to go on smoothly and last. I'm a stickler for details and don't want to do anything haphazardly so now it's off to a shop to have that part done. But I'm really excited about the whole process and love learning how to do all of this. I am getting so much satisfaction in being able to do things myself and knowing if it breaks, I can at least diagnose and hopefully fix it.
Great stories - keep 'em coming!
 

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I love wrenching on our bikes and find it very rewarding. I started with shift cables as these have to be replaced often, and have worked into fork installation, hydraulic brake bleeding, and now I can build a new frame up from the ground. The only thing I dont do is build/true wheels, work on frame pivots, or get inside the forks other than to change a spring. The Park book is great and so is their website. Whatever you cant find there can be found elsewhere on the web. The first time you do something it will take 3x longer than it should, but this will improve over time. The advantages are many; no waiting for the shop, no driving to the shop, understanding your bike on a new level, knowing that you did the job right, with none of the distractions that the poor bike shop guys have to deal with all the time.
 

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Wrench wench

I am truly impressed at all the mechanix in the lounge! Now who is going to design the "wrench wench" t-shirt for us???
 

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Dudette
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1,475 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
mtbxplorer said:
I am truly impressed at all the mechanix in the lounge! Now who is going to design the "wrench wench" t-shirt for us???
That is awesome!! I love it - great idea - anyone?
 

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Are we there yet?
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794 Posts
I'm one of the gals that got to learn from ATBScott. I agree it's totally intimidating and frustrating but also gives you a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Just this past week I helped a kid on the HS MTB team with a break down. A male ride leader was helping another kid with a flat tire and they were having trouble getting the back tire on. It felt pretty good being the one to help them out.

I've opted to take my learning to a new level and registered for the UBI Bike Maint school. I'll be spending a full week learning all the ins and outs from the pros and be a certified wrench at the end of it. Ironically, just registering has me motivated to learn as much as I can before the class.
 

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Dirty South Underdog
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I love working on my bike! My BF "taught" me how when I got my 2nd road frame and needed to switch the components over from the old frame... and by "taught," I mean he showed me all of the tools then sat around and drank beer while letting me figure it out (and interjecting if I was going to screw something up) :D

Like a few others, I'm not great with wheels- partially because I'm spoiled w/a really great wheelbuilder friend
 

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I definitely like working on my own bikes too - especially building new ones. Everything from the process of figuring out exactly what parts I want and what will work together to getting it all operational is really fun. And I do a lot of my own maintenance, but my husband has a lot more experience (and willingness to do things like dismantling forks...). And I've trued my own wheels but have never tried building one. But it would be fun to try one of these days.
 

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Yep. Been working on my bikes since the 80's when I built a Scapin SLX frame with Record, then later upgraded to Index shifting.

Now there are newer technologies like suspension and hydraulic brakes and I've been learning as I go. Just did the air shock service on my RP23 rear shock, and bled my brakes.

Best advise I can give is to have the right tools and instructions, and don't try to do more than you are comfortable doing. Manufacturer sites and sites like Park offer instructions; look at those first before deciding if you can do it or if it is better done at the LBS.

At a minimum, any serious cyclist who wishes to do their own basic repair should be able to:
A. Fix a flat and repair a tube.
B. Adjust cable brakes (if you have those).
C. replace brake shoes and center hydraulic brakes.
D. Adjust shifting and replace shift cables.
E. Replace chain and replace bad links.

Many of those things may need to be done on the trail, so I consider them essential to learn even if you don't plan to do regular wrenching. And the best time to learn them is not when you are stuck on a ride.
 

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Ditto Connie

I like to build stuff (it was a way of keeping brain cells when I was running around after two toddlers!), and maintain it, but my husband will do things like forks. It's very therapeutic!
 

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Don't be afraid!

Don't be afraid of working on your own bike! With the exception of instances when you cut something, chances are you will not break anything by working on your own bike. The worst thing that usually happens is that you get the bike so out of whack that you need to take it to your LBS. But that is rare - you can usually fix the any bad adjustment you've created. Remember too to keep track of small pieces and don't work on your bike when you are in a time crunch - you will lose something or forget how to put it back together.
 

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IttyBittyBetty said:
Don't be afraid of working on your own bike! With the exception of instances when you cut something, chances are you will not break anything by working on your own bike. The worst thing that usually happens is that you get the bike so out of whack that you need to take it to your LBS. But that is rare - you can usually fix the any bad adjustment you've created. Remember too to keep track of small pieces and don't work on your bike when you are in a time crunch - you will lose something or forget how to put it back together.
+1 on keeping track of the pieces and not working in a time crunch. I for one am not too proud to draw a picture, right a note, or at least place the pieces in order somewhere so they go back in the right order & the right direction!
 

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Andrea138 said:
I love working on my bike! My BF "taught" me how when I got my 2nd road frame and needed to switch the components over from the old frame... and by "taught," I mean he showed me all of the tools then sat around and drank beer while letting me figure it out (and interjecting if I was going to screw something up) :D
When I bought a new bike recently and wanted to swap forks from the old bike to the new one (old bike had a better upgraded fork), my BF pulled out all the tools, explained what I needed to do, then said "go ahead and get started and call me if you get stuck". I called a few more times than I like to admit, but it got done with only one visit to the LBS. I learned a lot. Much better than watching someone else do it.
 

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mtbxplorer said:
+1 on keeping track of the pieces and not working in a time crunch. I for one am not too proud to draw a picture, right a note, or at least place the pieces in order somewhere so they go back in the right order & the right direction!
My boyfriend is an automotive mechanic, and he's really anal about lining up parts in the order that they came off (for cars & bikes). It makes it waaaay easier when you go to put them back on.
 

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Dudette
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1,475 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Just got my bottom bracket faced and chased and had my head tube faced too - so it should be ready to go - as soon as I am ready :D!

Have most of you installed your own bottom brackets/cranksets before? Mine is external and I've watched it done before - just a bit nervous...I just think about what can go wrong if you cross-thread it or what if I can't get enough torque myself? I have a wonderful guy friend who is more than willing to help - but I'd love to surprise him by showing up with a few things that I did myself...apart from the wheels and rotors and seatpost/collar/saddle.
Another question - have any of you worked in a shop before - or just volunteer and observe? I don't really care so much about getting paid - I just want to learn - and if it did lead to a few paid hours here and there then that would just be gravy. I have never seen women wrenching before in a shop and not sure how someone would take it...laugh and think it's a big joke or get stoked that a woman was interested in that kind of thing?
 
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