Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Should you work on your own bike? That is a very good question. It's one that I get asked often. I also see talk about it on various blogs/comment sections. People have very strong opinions (as they often do when they don't have to attach their real name). Here's my humble opinion on home wrenching. If you're doing it for fun, or for a learning experience- yes, work on your own bike. If you're doing it to save money- no, don't do it.

Bikes appear to be simple machines. You can see almost every moving part on them, so they don't seem as mysterious as a car or refrigerator.  But there is enough going on with bicycles, enough to know about them, that people (such as myself) make bicycles their careers. It takes a long time, and a lot of (expensive) mistakes to get good at bike service. You don't know that the Deore hubbed wheel you bought on Amazon won't fit on your track bike until you do it. You're going to spend $15 on a chain whip you don't need, because you have a freewheel. Your going to have to buy extra front derailleur cables, because you'll fray them from too many adjustments. And that's all ok because that's how you learn. But it's not cheap.

There are lots of things you could do to save money. You could make your own clothes- fabric is cheap- but you probably don't. Unless you enjoy doing it. You could bake your own bread- flour is cheap, yeast is free- but you probably don't do that either. Unless you enjoy baking (and yeast hunting). If you're not having fun, you're wasting time and money on a pain in the ass activity.

Back to the folks who like to tinker- there are tons of resources for home mechanics. I'm sure you already know about the internet- which is great and has some good nuggets of information. It also has giant boulders of bad/mis information. So where does one go for easy to find good, reliable information? (Here comes a not-so-subtle plug) Your friendly, local bicycle shop. That one guy on that one forum can't tell you what's compatible with your bike, but I can, because you can bring it into the shop where I can see it and we can talk about it. Mechanics (I guess I can't speak for all mechanics...), many mechanics I know really do like talking about bikes, and the technical aspects of them. Our friends and loved ones are tired of hearing us talk about chain wrap capacity, so if you want to know about it please ask! If your mechanic is too cranky to answer your questions- find another one. We're not all cranky, I promise.

Really I just wanted to say, if you don't want to work on your own bike, don't feel any pressure to do it. You aren't a bad bike owner, you're just good at not doing things you don't find fun. If you do find it fun, and you want to tinker- do it! And use your LBS as a resource.


  1. Nice Post!

    I think another reason to go to a mechanic, even for people like me that like to tinker, and more so for people who don't, is that sometimes a mechanical chore that you need to do will get put off and put off and you end up not riding as much as you would otherwise.
    My touring bike was that way- it had been sitting in the basement for months because I was intimidated about adjusting the rear derailleur (since I know squat about it). I'm sure I could have figured it out given a couple of hours to play with it, and a internet connection to the shade of Sheldon Brown, but I never seemed to find that couple of hours.
    I brought it to you, and 5 minutes and $7 later, I could safely shift without fear of putting the chain in the spokes, and now I'm itching to go on some nice long rides on it.

  2. I started working on my own bike to save money, and I'll concur that it was not a quick way to do so. With all the tools I bought, and a few trips to the LBS to undo a mistake I had made, it might have been *more* expensive at least for the first year. These days it pays for itself though.

    More important for me is the turnaround time. In the busy season, even a simple repair can take days if you leave it with the shop. That might be OK if you are a weekend warrior who can drop off on Monday and pick up on Friday, but if you're a commuter who needs the bike every day, you really can't wait. So that's the #1 reason I do my own repairs now, and it also gives me greater confidence in taking on long rides - knowing that I can adjust a derailleur or break a chain or do many other things that might need taking care of.