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Getting one's hands dirty(34 posts)

Getting one's hands dirtyWannabe
May 24, 2002 7:07 AM
I have been reading up on bike maintenance and will be using an older bike to get my hands dirty for the first time doing less routine work, like bottom bracket rebuilds or headset work, etc.

Before I undertake these things (esp bottom bracket), are there some words of wisdom from posters here that would be helpful? Things to look for, tips, tricks, etc... I will be working with shimano com-PO-nents.


Dont do itonespeed
May 24, 2002 7:18 AM
I leave the technical work to the experts. It is just the way I am.

If there is a problem and something is ruined due to my mistake, I have no recourse. If I paid someone else to do it, they will pay.

Opinions will differ, but I would rather not get my hands any dirtier than wiping the sweat and road grime from my face. And the occasional tire/tube change.
Don't be a dilettante...get in there and fix it.cory
May 24, 2002 7:41 AM
FWIW, I'm just the opposite--I've had "real" mechanics screw up so much stuff that I'd rather do it myself and be sure it's right. It sometimes takes longer, and I may make a few false starts, but at least I CARE if it's right. I'm not going to leave anything loose because the phone rang or a customer came in or I wanted to go to lunch.
'professional mechanics'SteveO
May 24, 2002 7:49 AM
(sorry, this pertains to motorcycles).

My neighbor stopped by sporting his new custom fenders the shop just put on his new harley

While admiring artistry, I couldnt help but ask him 'uhhh, where's your Axle nut?'


The Darned shop reinstalled the wheel without replacing one of the axle nuts. He's quite lucky his ride home was only a few blocks.
Living here in NYConespeed
May 24, 2002 7:50 AM
I drop my clothes off at the laundromat, eat out every night, had my gas turned off to my stove (heat comes with the building) becuase I never used it and the limited space I already have because I live in this city, it behooves me to get someone else to do it. My time is worth to much.

I just dont have the time or the space to deal with it. My time is worth more than me playing around with wrenches in a confined space. I would rather ride than wrench.

I have 2 road bikes and 1 track bike. If one needs fixing I always have another to ride; I am never left bikeless.

There is nothing "Don't be a dilettante" about this approach.
my perspective on the same topic...SteveO
May 24, 2002 8:01 AM
1. Space - A few wrenchs take up a lot less room than two spare bikes.
2. Time - I can cook a dinner a lot quicker than ordering one from a restaraunt.
3. I too drop my clothes off at the laundromat, because i CANT STAND DOING LAUNDRY.

Having said that, if i lived in NYC, i'd eat out every night too, but not because of efficiency.
I am lazy. Also, I cannot cook to save my life. nmonespeed
May 24, 2002 8:22 AM
number 1 suggestionDougSloan
May 24, 2002 7:31 AM
My best suggestion is get the right tools. They make a world of difference, versus trying to do everything with a screwdriver and a pair of vice grips.

I like to do everything myself, short of building wheels. It's a lot of fun, and you never have to wait on a shop to do something.

Having several bikes helps, though. If one is down for repairs, you have a backup. That way, you don't have to stay up all night putting something together, or miss a ride.

May 24, 2002 7:39 AM
bikes are simple. The difference between the proper repair and 'screwing something up' is in the tools

For the labor charged for a service or two, one can pick up the few tools necessary.
number 1 suggestionWannabe
May 24, 2002 7:40 AM
Thanks, I have purchased a set of tools. I wouldn't think of doing even the most minor task without the appropriate tool.

NahMel Erickson
May 24, 2002 8:07 AM
The most rewarding experience you can have is to finally fix something with ONLY a screwdriver and a vice grips. Makes you appreciate the right tools all the more. Teaches you patience and humility. Keeps the band aid company in business. You learn new words. You also get new parts and a new paint job for your bike. The long hours you spend wrenching and re-wrenching keeps you away from the TV. The benefits are just too numerous to mention.
...a little spoiled arent yah?SteveO
May 24, 2002 8:10 AM
duct tape alone can fix anything.
Before there was duct tape...Mel Erickson
May 24, 2002 8:28 AM
there was black electrical tape. I'll never forget it from my youth. One of my parent's friends worked for the power company and had access to cases of the stuff. He also had nine kids. Everything was fixed with the stuff. A memory I will always cherish. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
Which set do you suggest? nmMSA
May 24, 2002 8:32 AM
Which set do you suggest? nmJekyll
May 24, 2002 9:38 AM
If you want to do it on the cheap get the Lufo kit that's marketed by all of the major on-line retailers. Has almost all (Shimano) tools you will need for around $45 ( The quality is not that of park but for tinkering and not professional wrenching it will do.
Or, you can get the following from Park (too lazy to look up numbers) Shimano cassette and bb tools (if you have DA also need the bb star nut spanner), chain whip, good set of allen wrenches (including 8mm), chain tool, spoke wrench, if your hubs require it, cone wrenches. Nice to have would be a cable cutter, torque wrench, truing stand.
Do itJekyll
May 24, 2002 7:38 AM
To me a large part of the enjoyment of this silly pass time of ours is the machine itself. The elegance and simplicity of the idea and refinement of the execution is marvelous. Learning how to work on your bike is a large part of the satisfaction of riding (at least to me). I enjoy spinning wrenches on my bikes almost as much as I like riding them.
Take your time, ask questions, get a few proper tools and enjoy. If you get in over your head (which if you are at all mechanically inclines is pretty hard to do) go to the shop and get help.
If you have the time and inclination and can't figure out how to do something between asking questions here, checking Zinn's books, surfing and there is something pretty wrong with you. Bikes are just not that complicated. I would not start frame building on a whim but maintenance of a BB is not brain surgery.
When other people work on or assemble my bike, I feel like I'm riding some one else's machine. Kind of lose the "Zen" of the thing that way.
re: "bikes are just not that complicated"SteveO
May 24, 2002 7:43 AM

I find it humerous that 30 years ago, every 10 year old boy knew his bicycle in and out; could assemble, dissassemble or swap parts blindfolded. Nowadays, heaven forbid something on the bike rattle, or its going in the shop!

The most ironic part, is that with cassettes, integration, cartidge bearings, etc, maintenance today is FAR EASIER than when we kiddies all did it.
Thirty years ago...rwbadley
May 24, 2002 8:28 AM
I was twelve. For some reason I decided to take apart my freewheel for cleaning. Not take it off. Take it apart.

I didn't realize the freewheel contained approximately 1200 tiny ball bearings. Along with springs, and other assorted items.

These ball bearings proceeded to find their way to the floor, down the incline to the drain. Disappearing would be the correct way to describe it.

I wish everybody could experience the thrill of learning bike mechanics during their formative years. It's never too late, I say do it!
Thirty six years agoterry b
May 24, 2002 9:27 AM
When I was twelve I had a three speed Raleigh and a new single speed Schwinn Stingray. Junior Engineer that I was, I concluded the logical upgrade was to move the three speed hub to the Stingray, thus being the only boy genius on Grand Avenue with a three speed Stingray. So I took both wheels apart and tried to lace the three speed hub into the Stingray rim. Big problem - different size spokes. My father had a fit.

I agree, it's too bad that bike mechanics seems to be a art of the past. But then bike riding seems to be in decline as well. My friends and I spent all of our time on bikes, all the way through college. Don't see that anymore.
bicycling decline and the college years...SteveO
May 24, 2002 9:31 AM
i agree,

even though i consider myself an 'active' cyclist, i can guarantee i spent more time in the saddle during college, putzing around campus on the beach-cruiser, with an ever-filled 'beer holder' on the handlebar.

Kids just dont seem to ride anymore. Then again, when youre bussed to school since age 5....
Wow! another example of the best intentions gone awry lolrwbadley
May 24, 2002 10:28 AM
Terry, That is indeed a good one! I will be chuckling all day over that one. Thanks!

I've always said a less than perfect ending can cause amusement at a later (sometimes much later) date.
Or simply,
Caca Pasa; tomorrow we laugh!
re: Getting one's hands dirtybrider
May 24, 2002 7:52 AM
It's VERY satisfying work. Knowing your way around the bike is a big confidence builder. THe biggest hurdle is getting the feel for bearing adjustment. Most cartridge bearings have taken the "feel" out of it, but hubs will still take a little experience to get the right amount of tension.
Read the directions first....DINOSAUR
May 24, 2002 7:52 AM
I've done minor bike maintenance on my bike. My major problem is I dive headfirst into some project without completely reading all the instructions. Also before taking something apart play close attention to how it all goes together. Some bike maintenance books (suck as Zinn's) don't have detailed illustrations. Draw little diagrams if you must. And having the right tools is absolutely necessary.....
Read the directions first....ajgibbons
May 24, 2002 8:09 AM
Allow me to congratulate you on one of the best Freudian slips I've seen: "Some bike maintenance books (suck as Zinn's) don't have detailed illustrations." I agree!

Also, I agree with the importance of "little diagrams". Another useful trick, particularly with old bike parts, is to put washers, spacers, etc. on a loop of string as you remove them. It's amazing how the order of things seems so obvious when you take them off and such a difficult puzzle when you're reinstalling.
Yikes, I did it again..DINOSAUR
May 24, 2002 8:44 AM
Gads, my new bifocals are giving me trouble. But maybe "sucks" would be a better word than "such". Case in point, I took my front Ultegra der off my Klein and had a heck of a time getting it to work again. After hours I stopped and took a close look at the Zinn book. 'ANOTHER NOTE' "Some front derailleurs have a cam screw at the end ot the return spring to adjust the spring tension. For quicker shifting to the smaller rings, increase the spring tension by turning the screw clockwise one-quarter or one-half turn." I had taken this little screw out and had a heck of a time trying to get it back in. Such for reading all the instructions...
What are the most basic tools suggestedtexfan
May 24, 2002 8:00 AM
to start doing your own wrenching. Not really interested in the hard core stuff like replacing headsets or bottom brakcets, just basic maintenance and minor repairs.

I see that Nashbar has a toolkit for around $50.00. Too little? Too much? Not necessary?

Thanks for the info

Dont get the nashbar kit.SteveO
May 24, 2002 8:05 AM
Not all the tools will fit your specific bike; for the same 50 bucks, you can buy the individual pieces you need for your specific bike.


cone wrenches (2 sizes; front and rear are usually difft sizes)
Chain whip
Cassette tool
Hex keys
Crank puller
BB wrench/remover
headset/pedal wrench (though a large and tiny crescent wrench will due fine here)
my levelsDougSloan
May 24, 2002 9:00 AM
Level 1:

tire levers
small L hex wrenches
chain tool
screw drivers
small adjustable wrench
small emergency tools

Level 2:

cassette tool
chain whip
pedal wrench
cone wrenches
spoke wrench
cable cutters
needle nose pliers
T handle hex wrenches
small tooth hacksaw
bench vise
fine tooth files
grease gun

Level 3:

small 3/8's drive ratchet
3/8's drive hex sockets
3/8's socket for bb tool
bottom bracket tool
bb lockring tool, for Shimano
small open end wrenches
crank puller
bike stand
heavy duty chain tool
Park clincher tire tool (works fantastic)

Level 4:

seat tube clamp for bike stand
headset press
headset cup remover
lower headset race remover
derailleur alignment guage
torque wrench
steer tube cutting guide
3rd hand brake tool (sort of useless, really)
cable puller (same thing)

Level 5:

wheel building/truing stand
wheel dish tool
spoke tension guage
spoke threader
thread chase tools (reamers?)
May 24, 2002 9:19 AM
i neglected the tire levers, spokewrench, chaintool, which should belong in my 'basics'.

guess i was assuming theyre already in the seatpack.
comprehensive list.SteveO
May 24, 2002 9:23 AM
(omitted, however 'chain-ring bolt wrench' - level 2).
yup, missed that oneDougSloan
May 24, 2002 9:58 AM
If I were in my garage I could do a much better job at this.

I'm sure we could come up with many more.

I have a slotted screwdriver that I filed a notch in the middle of the blade to use to push brake caliper springs back in. Works great. I don't know of a ready made tool for this.

Looked at the Park Tool site for some others:

Chain stretch guage (i.e., a ruler)
peanut butter wrench (for fixed gear bikes)
threadless nut setter
floor pump (duh?)

Oh, look, someone already did this:
Zinn and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance orMel Erickson
May 24, 2002 8:16 AM
Barnett's Manual. In other words a good repair manual. Buy tools as you need them. Kits often have tools you'll never use. Buy good tools. Park makes good ones but there are others, I have an eclectic assortment. Ask your LBS if you can watch their best mechanic do the tasks you're interested in. If they balk offer to pay, money well spent.
do it and my pearls of wisdomgrandemamou
May 24, 2002 8:17 AM
It's not rocket science. Mechanics are not all they are cracked up to be. Most of the guys doing the routine stuff are kids with very little knowledge and very little incentive to get it right. The only thing that you would probably not want to do is prep a new frame. The tools are very expensive and there is a certain amount of skill involved.

1.Read the instructions very well then when you think you understand them, read them again.

2. Don't overtighten things. Threads are very sensitive, especialy on light weight parts and frames. It's really easy to cross thread or snap a fastner.

3. Plan on everything taking twice as long as you anticipate. It's no fun staying up till midnight trying to put things together.
re: Getting one's hands dirtyempacher6seat
May 24, 2002 8:37 AM
I'm learning how to wrench in a different way. I didn't buy a book, I bought an old beat up bike. I find it fun just to tinker with it, take things apart and see what's going on, and what makes them work. It probaby takes a bit longer then reading out of the book, and I'll most likely need detailed instruction to do soem more complicated tasks, but for now I am find it very enjoyable.