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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all,

Those of you who have read my previous posts know that I have no shame in coming out with total newb questions. I've been biking for about a year, mainly AM, with a crappy bike I plan on upgrading soon. I looked at a Trek Fuel 70 and Fuel 80 today, I plan on looking at some stumpjumpers and a friend's Ibex ignition-3 soon, as well.

However, I don't know @#$! about bikes mechanically. I read the forums here and people say they always bring a spare tube, and honestly, I wouldn't know what to do with a tube even if I did have a spare. When people talk about upgrading/repairing their bikes, I generally would have no clue how to do anything like that. When I asked about hydration systems, a lot of people mentioned that they pack a leatherman, pliers, or multitool when they go out; meanwhile, I have no idea what I might need something like that for when out riding.

So what, in your opinion, should the average rider be able to do, mechanically speaking? What should I learn to repair/replace/tend to on my own? So far, I haven't had any problems with my bike since my LBS gave it a once-over last summer, but I am concerned that I don't have the slightest bit of knowledge of how to fix anything if it does go wrong.
 

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Hairy man
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Grammar Hammer said:
So what, in your opinion, should the average rider be able to do, mechanically speaking? What should I learn to repair/replace/tend to on my own? So far, I haven't had any problems with my bike since my LBS gave it a once-over last summer, but I am concerned that I don't have the slightest bit of knowledge of how to fix anything if it does go wrong.
Fixing a flat (with either a patch or just installing a spare tube) and cleaning and lubing your drive train are the two main things your really gotta know. But there's plenty of stuff you can easily do yourself with a couple basic tools that you'll need to do eventually.

I recommend getting the book Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintainence. It's got stuff in it you'll never want to do, and it's getting a little out of date, but it's got good illustrations and instructions of everything, including fixing a flat.
 

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You should be able to fix a flat on the trail, and at least be able to clean/lube the drivetrain and inspect the bike for obvious issues when at home.

I'm a big proponent of DIY when it comes to mechanical work, a holdover from working on cars, I guess.

When I bought my second bike it was just a frame (with headset half installed and BB chased/faced) and a box of components. I read the manuals, bought a toolkit and Zinn and the Art of MTB Maintenance and went at it.
 

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Ride on
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Dwight nailed the two biggies. Here are some other suggestions:

* Adjust your seatpost/saddle/handlebar/levers - I would have assumed that everyone knows how to do this, but I was in my LBS buying parts the other day when I overhead a customer ask the shop to adjust her seatpost. All you need for these tasks are a set of allen wrenches. This is important for optimizing the fit of your bike.

* Adjust your brakes - V-brakes can be improperly positioned so that they don't work well, or wear unevenly, or even rub on the tire and cause a blowout. Adjusting your disc brakes can reduce rub. It's also good to know when your brake pads need replacement. All you need are allen wrenches, and a Torx wrench if you are going to be removing/installing brake rotors.

* Adjust your gears - Your shifters can come out of alignment during a ride, which is annoying. Typically all you have to do to resolve this is use the barrel adjusters, which don't require any tools at all.

* True your wheels - This sounds more difficult than it is. You need a special tool (a spoke wrench) to perform this task, but it can make a big difference when you use V-brakes.
 

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Old man on a bike
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Can't believe you're doing real "All Mountain" riding without even the ability to change a flat. That's bordering on stupid, or someone who likes long hikes with their bike. You should learn to do pretty much all maintenance items and carry appropriate spares and tools unless you want a really long hike one of these days. I helped a guy today up on the Monarch Crest whose derailer cable end broke off; fortunately I carry an extra cable (and he said he sure as hell would in the future). He would have had a miserable rest of the ride otherwise (and he paid me richly in beer, as he should). Not even being able to fix a flat by comparison is just silly.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Well all right, Bikinfool, don't be afraid to say what you really think, even though it seems that I did post this in the Beginner's Corner. (Also, just to clarify, the trails I typically ride are not terribly demanding, so that's why I didn't become concerned until I started thinking about upping my challenges.) But I figured it would be better to ask about what I should learn to do, rather than wait for a breakdown to happen and then hope some kind soul would come along with the proper tools (and criticisms, it seems).

Thanks Dwight, gunfodder, and Scarpa for the helpful advice; despite how I might sound, I'm actually fairly adept with tools, I've just never had to work on bikes before, so I wasn't sure what I would need to know. I've already ordered a copy of the Zinn.
 

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Old man on a bike
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You're the one with a whole year's experience of All Mountain riding (even though the trails on your mountain aren't terribly demanding) who can't even change a flat posting in the Beginner's Forum. I do think it's stupid to ride a mountain bike without basic knowledge to keep you rolling, YMMV. There's lots of good info not only on these boards, but also at sheldonbrown.com and parktool.com; the Zinn book is very good, too.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Well, unfortunately, I am sort of going at biking alone, because I do not have any friends who are into it, and as such I'm not really sure how or where to learn what I need to know. So anytime you want to come out and teach me a few things, I will have some free beer waiting for you. Thanks for the websites, too. :thumbsup:
 

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Old man on a bike
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I see you're in Illinois, not a great place for mountains. I grew up in Oak Park myself but haven't returned since I was 15; your beer supply is safe from me. I'd be glad to take you for a cool ride; today's ride on the Monarch Crest (near Salida, Colorado) was pretty awesome but the starting elevation of 11,312 feet could be tough on a midwesterner like you. If you ever get out San Francisco way drop me a pm, be glad to show you some good mountain biking. Just keep learning all you can about your bike's equipment, maintenance and trailside repairs will come naturally...and biking can be a solo sort of thing a lot of the time.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Oak Park? Cool, I am in your hometown about once a week, oddly enough. And thanks for the invite; I was only in SF once, but I hope to return. And yeah, one of the things that has really attracted me to biking is the fact that I can go it alone a lot of the time, and that I see photos of so many amazing looking places that people are biking. Since I'm a teacher, I get my summers off, which can obviously work to my advantage in trying out new places.

Thanks again for the advice; I ordered the Zinn, my Camelbak, and a Topeak Alien II today. I am hoping I will pick up a bike by the end of next week, and in the meantime I'll practice all these repairs on my old piece of junk.
 

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A wheelist
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How far are you willing to walk? How far could you walk on a 95 degree day? I've seen people (2 of 'em) eight miles from their base with flat tires.. In the wrong kind of weather and no water, there's a great possibility they would never have made it. Thank gawd for me, my spare tube and a pump - not to mention the ability to use it.

When I asked one of those people why they didn't have flat fixing equipment their answer was "Because I've never had a flat before". The logic of that answer was lost to me.

Same with chains. Break one of those and the walk is the same.

My answer to the first question would be "a quarter mile" so I carry the stuff to fix flat tires (more than one!), ripped tire sidewalls and broken chains. I've had the need to fix all of those things more than once.

Any other problem on a mtb is not quite as likely or as critical.

For your basic question "So what, in your opinion, should the average rider be able to do, mechanically speaking?" my answer would be "everything that doesn't need major, expensive cutting tools (head tube and bottom bracket reaming and facing) or thread chasing tools (bb threads). Everything else is easily doable without major cash outlay.

Check the Park Tool and Sheldon Brown websites for the knowledge you need. Oh yeah check my FAQ too.
 

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Old man on a bike
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Grammar Hammer said:
Oak Park? Cool, I am in your hometown about once a week, oddly enough. And thanks for the invite; I was only in SF once, but I hope to return. And yeah, one of the things that has really attracted me to biking is the fact that I can go it alone a lot of the time, and that I see photos of so many amazing looking places that people are biking. Since I'm a teacher, I get my summers off, which can obviously work to my advantage in trying out new places.

Thanks again for the advice; I ordered the Zinn, my Camelbak, and a Topeak Alien II today. I am hoping I will pick up a bike by the end of next week, and in the meantime I'll practice all these repairs on my old piece of junk.
The guy I helped on the Monarch Crest the other day was a teacher, too. As was my mom. All the more power to you. Here's some photos of yesterday's jaunt to entice you...
 

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Grammar, where in IL are you? I have the same problem where I am starting this sport alone as none of my friends want to do it. Im out in the Glen Ellyn/Wheaton/Bloomingdale area. I dont have much to offer in terms of good trails out here but I hear that there is a semi decent one at hidden lake (check trail reviews). Id be willing to go out on a ride with you if you want company. I am very new at mountain biking and I dont know much about repairs either. I will be buying that zenn book too.
 

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Grammar Hammer said:
Oak Park? Cool, I am in your hometown about once a week, oddly enough. And thanks for the invite; I was only in SF once, but I hope to return. And yeah, one of the things that has really attracted me to biking is the fact that I can go it alone a lot of the time, and that I see photos of so many amazing looking places that people are biking. Since I'm a teacher, I get my summers off, which can obviously work to my advantage in trying out new places.

Thanks again for the advice; I ordered the Zinn, my Camelbak, and a Topeak Alien II today. I am hoping I will pick up a bike by the end of next week, and in the meantime I'll practice all these repairs on my old piece of junk.
Good move! Maybe you'll find you like wrenching after all. When I started MTB-ing I had a hard time fixing a flat. Opportunity to practice didn't take long to present itself ;) and I got that dialed. Then I got more serious about technical riding and the bills for parts and service rose. I stopped the trend by starting to do more myself. Over time I got to fixing drive trains, changing stokes and trueing wheels (okay almost true), and lately even dismantled a fork (and fixed Manitous :madman: 04 SPV). I don't spend much on service anymore. And even the parts bills went down as I buy what I need (regarding quality).

So on the initial question: Pretty simple - the further you venture out from the reach of your LBS (geographically and beyond) as well as potential help on the trail the more you should be able to fix (or the longer be able to walk).
 

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Discussion Starter #15
That would be cool, I'm not too far from you -- I'm in the Darien/Downers Grove area. I have yet to head down to the Palos park, which is supposed to have some very cool stuff. However, I need to seriously purchase a new bike before trying that; my current bike is pretty much barely good for trails.
 

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You might also want to check with LBS to see if they offer a beginner bike repair class...although RIF, sometimes it sucks. I took one and I was surprised at how many people did not know how to change a tire...now they do. Their are probably more people in GH's position than not, but there is hope ( I am reading zinn right now and debating about building up my next ride...need more tools though). Also, hanging out with someone who can teach you is invaluable...my neighbor is the reason I purchased Zinn, workstand, and started reading this board. Get a workstand..."consumer" version...it will make repair work much easier.:thumbsup:

Those pics from bikerfool make me want to cry...dont have that in Houston:sad:
 
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