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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Im new to the world of cycling and know basic repairs, nothing too extensive, and only some cleaning and maintenance skills.

where do you guys pick up your reapir skills?
how did you guys learn to keep your bikes in such good condition?
i have learnt some over videos, but i would like some guidance on harder repairs and better maintenance standards.

but mostly... where did you guys learn/pick up the skills?
 

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Hey, this could potentially be a cool thread. Thanks for bringing up the topic.

First, my disclaimer is that there are a lot of great bike shops out there, including the ones who really live the sport and live on these forums and help and sell to mtbr members. Several of these shops have bailed me out with parts or other advice, along with great prices.

Basically, my initial experiences with the LBS wasn't so great. Every time I would go there for check ups, they would replace something (or something I asked them to check into if it was a warranty job or not. I would get a call a few days later to pick up my bike, which I would, and then get hit with a $200 bill. I never paid, as the pickup receipt even said "no work unless customer is called", which they never did, and I'm not paying. Several times I had to fight it out and ask them to put old parts back in. The last time was a repair for zoke seals, ca 1999 when they had a bad run and they were frequently failing. When I worked in a shop, I would see it all the time in that era myself. These seals were new and blown. I take the bike down, ask if they can check if it was a warranty, then I get a call some days later that to pick it up, no mention of price until I got there- over $200. They changed the seals, decided I needed new bushings in a new fork, and charged me without consulting me. First, seals were available at Cambria for $25 at the time on sale and I told them so. I asked them to put the parts back on that they took off because I'm not paying. They then let me out the door for $25 that I quoted because they acknowledged that they never called me.

I've been a mechanic on different levels for cars, so I figured once I knew the costs of labor for bikes, I'd rather invest in the tools to do it myself, just like how I learned to work on cars before training for it. So that's what I did. Everytime I needed a repair, I would buy the needed tool or make my own (I had some fab machinery at home). I took a couple jobs at a time to build myself up, and believe it or not, much of what I learned came from trail failures, such as derailleurs and other items. Then I started working on forks with Zokes, since they were so easy to service, hubs, shocks, etc. It pays to go slow, feel when you're in over your head and even stop for a minute sometimes to get your bearings right if you're in a jam, lots of patience, etc. It does take daring sometimes, which I'm sure gets some people in trouble. Sometimes when something is so Fubar'd, I feel I don't have much to lose by trying to fix it and if I'm careful, even if I can't, I can get someone else to do it as the manufacturer or the LBS.

So basically, it took years, and there's always something I can learn or learn while working on it. Just be careful about overtightening, being generally hamfisted in any action, and even take pics along the way for orientation and things will be good. I don't have time to go to a shop, the money for these kinds of repairs, nor the trust in the nearby shops, so I do it myself. The shops I was mentioning above would be well trusted, but unfortunately, I didn't, nor do I have now, that level of commitment to satisfaction and safety they serve their customers with.
 

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I learned most of the basic stuff when I worked at a Trek dealer back in Costa Rica during high school holidays... then as JC by '"playing" on my own gear through time....

I eventually got the Zinn book as a "quick reference"
 

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Purchased my own quality tools knowing I was going to get dirty then read books along with searching the net. I took the best advice/tips and tricks from all areas and nutted out what worked and what failed then came up with my own solutions. Trial and error was my starting point the back to the books and searching the net too I understood the more technical things by fine tuning all that info I had absorbed.

Today while still picking up tips/tricks my cleaning and maintenance along with building a bike from the floor up is no longer an issue. I never had the attitude that stripping something down might be too hard I just got in there and did it and if I buggered something up it was placed down as a learning curve. With money saved from taking my bike to the LBS by doing all my own work rather than have them do it even with my early learning curve and quality tools I purchased I know I'm better off by a long way.
 

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Basically by trying to do things myself on my first MTB, then found the Zinn book and learned the proper way to do things and from there have learned and purchased/built tools I needed as I went. Also Park Tools website has some great info along with Sheldon Brown's. never knew the term "kinesthetic" but I guess that's what I am, I learn from taking stuff apart, did it with cameras, cars and now bikes - you trash a few things along the way, but you also learn the hard way and tend to learn fast ;)
 

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Basic skills go all the back to being a kid and learning on the skates, bikes, lawn mowers followed by cars and motorcylces. Learned a lot of what NOT to during those days. Always liked mechanical things so I became a Cert Aircraft Mechanic where I learned correct skills and proper techniques for working on aluminum, carbon, Titanium aong with precision tools and components. When I got into biking after watching Greg LeMond in the tour I started hanging around the LBS where I bought my first road bike in the 80's. Learnd the old school stuff there just hanging out, spending money and voluntering to help around the shop. Same thing when I got into mountain biking I learned a lot from the guys at my local bike shop over the years. I do not need them for much anymore and can probably get a few better deals on line but I still buy a lot from them always stop in to visit. It will always pay divedends if you support a good LBS.
 

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One thing that reduced the barrier for me was to pick up a second bike (garage sale, goodwill store, etc) to take apart and re-assemble. This gives you a bike to learn on without the risk of 'ruining' your main ride. Another thing I did was to make a point to buy a bike-specific tool (cone wrenches, crank puller, etc) every time I bought other parts (tires, tubes, cables, etc). This way I built my tool set without really feeling the pain of dropping a couple hundred bucks on tools all at once.
 

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I started out taking my coaster brake apart when I was about 10. Sometimes you just have to take it apart to see what's there. I got it cleaned up and put back together. You just have to pay attention to the way things come apart.

45 years latter and I have decided that Park Tool's site can save me from a little trial and error.
 

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After resurrecting riding bikes back in the late 80s, a couple of friends pitched together and got me a Park consumer stand for my b-day to get me going. My friends at the bike shop I'd begun to hang out at were very kind and answered a lot of questions. Took apart an the freewheel on my first mountain bike and I was hooked. The head mechanic later became my roommate and I really started to get into it then. Lots of questions for my roommate, internet reading, books, and just plain tinkering...
 

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Dad was a mechanic

so I was around tools a lot and took care of my cars. Once I started working on bikes I just took things apart until I got scared and put them back together again. Then I bought Zinn's. I do anything but it takes me longer than a pro. I still go to a shop or two good friend mechanics to double check something or work on something they are clearly better at than I.

I've built more than a few bikes and wrench on my son's bikes. I always tell him to go out at 80% for a bit until we trust what is going on. He gets this and it has worked well. He races so he leans on them pretty well when all is said and done and we've been successful.

Two tips:
Patience and touch.
 

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Pretty much the same as....

the others. Started out wrenching my own and learned as I went using Zinn, Sheldon Brown's site, Park Tool, etc. to get me going. Later on working for a shop that sent me to Barnetts Bicycle Institute put the polish on, and corrected some of the "bad habits that I had gotten into. From there it's been working on the bikes that has kept knowledge updated. The basic skills aren't hard to learn. Bike Mechanics isn't rocket science. But keeping up with the latest technology can be a challenge sometimes. Granted there are some things that take experience, like the difference in feel of a properly adjusted cup and cone hub as opposed to one that is not, even though neither displays any play in the bearings etc. Other than that, I've pretty much learned though hands on with some help from some really great mechanics along the way. :thumbsup:

Good Dirt
 

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When I first started, I got a quick intro from videos and got more detailed info from websites like Park Tools, etc.. What helped me a lot was my background in engine building, and messing with BMX bikes (18+ years ago)... I've done a few builds and perform all maintenance on my bikes...
 

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"... where did you guys learn/pick up the skills?"

In my dad's basement, book in one hand and wrench in the other (that was WAY before the www).

I'd say there are two types of skills involved. There is the physical skill--knowing how much torque to put on a fastener (with or without a torque wrench (and never blindly trust a torque wrench)). Also physical is knowing the way to push or pull with your body (body mechanics)--more important on bigger machinery.

There is also the skill of logic. This would include the process of troubleshooting as well as the sense of how mechanicals fit and work together.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
This is amazing guys, thanks for your input, this has really helped me build confidence.

i will look out for this "Zinn" book? whats his whole name? does this book cover everthing
oh and who is Sheldon Brown?
i will also now use the park tool website. a lot of you seem to have learned from there.

i fully agree with you all on the fact taking a bike to LBS can cost alot, thats why i have got into repairs myself. i am working on some old bikes i have, mainly one old roda bike.

But what sort of tool you guys make?

anyways, thanks for the interest, i have gained some insight into many ways of going about it.
so im going to use: Zinn, Sheldon brown, Park Tool, and tinker myself :D
 

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As a kid learned the basics from my Dad. Always liked to "fix" things and look inside to see how they "ticked". I think not being "sqeamish" to get hands dirty is important. Worked as an electrician in a steel mill and needed to buy my own tools. When my first dirtbike (Kawasaki 175) broke in 1971 I was in college, and had no $$ to fix it. Bought the shop manual and had some basic hand tools to do it. Knew bike mechanics and racers and asked them TONS of questions!! Read dirtbike magazines and asked lots of questions! Slooowly bought the needed tools and became a motorcycle engine re-builder/tuner. I became very picky builder (makeing sure all seals were oiled/greased, all parts were clean when re-building, all bearing were greased etc etc. These skills I've carried over into bike fixing.
I had mostly Craftsman brand tools. My first road bicycle(in '82) was bought used from a friend who showed me how to re-build it step by step. Started reading cycling magazines and....asking bike mechanics and other riders questions.
As a new tool need came up I bought the apropriate bike tool to do the job. I will admit to trying to save $$ by trying to make my own tools or adapting tools I had for some jobs. Believe me there is nothing like a REAL cone wrench tool!! LOL LOL!!
I don't wish to bad mouth any shop or mechanic but I feel a m very pick to get the job done RIGHT. Since I workk for no one and am retired i take my sweet time on my bike stuff. Ask lots of questions, read, and buy the correct tools for the job. A bicycle is not Differential Equations it is a fairly simple device. BUT it become difficult when we don't understand how its' parts work.
 
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