Repair and Maintenace: Where did you learn- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    GBD
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    Smile Repair and Maintenace: Where did you learn

    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?

  2. #2

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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.

  3. #3
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    Sheldon Brown, Park Tool, Zinn books on Bike Maintenance, this and other bike forums and doing it!
    Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save

  4. #4
    Nightriding rules SuperModerator
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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"

  5. #5
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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.

  6. #6
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    That would be a mix of working in a shop about some 15 odd years ago, reading, and Web support, Thanks Sheldon. Also I was not afraid to take things apart and explore a bit on my own if there was limited info.

  7. #7
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    i am a kinesthetic learner so i learn by doing. i also like to tinker with many things and very mechanically inclined. learned from parktool's site and sheldon brown.

  8. #8
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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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  9. #9
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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.

  10. #10
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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.

  11. #11
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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.

  12. #12
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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...
    "...the people get the government they deserve..."
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  13. #13
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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.

  14. #14
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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.

    Good Dirt
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  15. #15
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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...

  16. #16

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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.

  17. #17
    GBD
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    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

  18. #18
    RIDE DIRT
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    My dad rides road so he taught me what tools are for what parts. I've learned a lot just by taking apart my bike and putting it back together.
    Quote Originally Posted by Demo-9
    Pinkbike called... They want their question back.

  19. #19
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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.
    Training on Hills Builds Character, That's How I Got To Be One!

  20. #20
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    I learned a ton from the man Grumpy. I was lucky enough to be given a chance to work in his shop when I was in high school and part of college. Bill knew a ton about fixing bikes and always showed me how to do things right on a bike.

    I owe him one!

    -Joe

  21. #21
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    Links provided:

    Quote Originally Posted by GBD
    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
    http://www.amazon.com/Zinn-Mountain-.../dp/1884737994

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/

    http://www.parktool.com/repair/

  22. #22
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    Opened a used bike shop Davis, CA with my dad. He's worked on bikes all his life. We cut our teeth on rusty huffys and free spirits. Burnt out on those after a few years and got a job at a national outdoor retailer. Assembled a ton of new bikes and repaired a ton too. Got Barnett's certified. Worked at a family-owned high end shop with a great reputation and learned a lot about suspension and hydradulics, carbon fiber and Ti. Moved to AK. Currently freezing butt off.

  23. #23
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    I learned from trial and error, buying tools and reading books
    Attached Images Attached Images

  24. #24
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    A lot of bike shops provide classes. My shop also has workshop time, you pay by the hour and use their tools and have the mechanics around to answer questions. Also in most urban areas there are charities where you can donate your time fixing bikes. I'm still in the learning stage myself so I spend a lot of time trying to pick stuff up on these forums.

  25. #25
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    As a kid, my father worked a lot. If my bike had a flat, it could have been a week before it got fixed. I became self taught in basic bike repair at about ten or eleven. Then I had a paper route. Basic bike repair became the bike must seriously work every day.
    I'm a diesel generator tech for over twenty years now. There's a drawer in my Snap on box dedicated to Park Tools. I'm self taught and I'm thinking of getting the Park book since my new bike has all sorts of new stuff on it that may require looking at some directions (and YEAH BABY) buying a couple of new tools.
    I like turtles

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by gmcttr
    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.
    I never did get my coaster brake put back together so I could lay down a long patch of rubber. It still worked fine after all my efforts and stopped me when it needed to, but it was never good enough to really get that good skid every kid strived for.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmodavis
    Sheldon Brown, Park Tool, Zinn books on Bike Maintenance, this and other bike forums and doing it!
    +1 on that.

    I go to a bike collective now which has given me experience of a lot more bikes and repairs than i would get working on my own bikes. Rebuilt a shimano 3 speed a few weeks ago, Sturmey archer is up next http://velocipedebikeproject.org/

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by ernestrome
    +1 on that.

    I go to a bike collective now which has given me experience of a lot more bikes and repairs than i would get working on my own bikes. Rebuilt a shimano 3 speed a few weeks ago, Sturmey archer is up next http://velocipedebikeproject.org/
    Just checked out the website. Its a really cool project and great opportunity for community service. Keep up the great work!

  29. #29
    GBD
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    I see alot of people referring to books, so i am looking out for some of zinn's currently. thanks for the pics byke dood, that shows what i want to have
    i am really getting into it now, i love the tools and the fact you are making your own bike perform better and are not reliant on anyone. it will be great if i ever go on a long bike trip.... one day

  30. #30
    Too busy looking good
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    Cool thread!

    My experience is similar to others posted here. I tinkered with lots of stuff as a kid (lawn mowers would cringe when they saw me) and in college ended up with a masters degree in mechanical engineering/materials science. Now I work in software and bike repair is my only outlet for tinkering.

    The internet is a great resource for repair tips, as good as any book I've seen. Tools are expensive, but if you accumulate them slowly over time, as your skills improve and you tackle progressively harder repair jobs, then it softens the financial impact.

    Currently I'm building a Surly 1x1 up from scratch and having a blast!

  31. #31
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    I enjoyed reading all the posts.

    My experience has been similar to alot of others' here. The only thing I have to add is...

    As my skills grew I offered to work on all of my friends bikes as well. I did it for free, but usually got some beer for my troubles. It gave me exposure to a lot of different bikes and components, and I learned a lot that way. I somehow managed to always know what I could and could not handle and never had to bring someone's bike to the LBS for something I screwed up; but I always told my friends up front that I would pay for it if I broke it.

    DRS

  32. #32
    Rod
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    My dad was a jack of all trades type of guy and he basically refused to pay someone to do something that he could do or figure out himself. I grew up working on cars, lawn mowers, tillers, go carts, my bike, etc. I was always tinkering on something. After that I graduated to rebuilding truck engines and now I don't find it hard to work on my bike. I've rebuilt my free wheel, taken my crank apart, rebuilt my hubs, and next is my front fork.

  33. #33
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    For me, it all started in the 2nd grade when I learned that WD40 is not a good chain lube. Plus, I had to learn how to change my own tires because I kept flatting in the shortcut through the field on the way home from school. Just having some basic curiosity into how things work and that if I have to pay $15 for a tool or pay $30 for a mechanic to fix it, I'd rather buy the tool and learn how to use it myself.... the internet (and mtbr, park tools, sheldon brown, etc) is priceless.

  34. #34
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    It started for me because I had a really cool shop and used to ride with the guys that worked there a lot. They'd get sick of me coming in all the time so they used to make me fix my own stuff. I'd also spent a lot of time as a teenager pulling my bike apart and putting it back together. I'd be fixing flats all summer long because of the notorious Double Gee prickles around where I lived.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by gap_rider
    Just checked out the website. Its a really cool project and great opportunity for community service. Keep up the great work!
    Yeah, it's a cool place and a lot of fun. If you have a local bike co-operative or similar you should give it a go, you'll learn a lot.

  36. #36
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    I worked as a professional auto mechanic for over 25 years, and still have all my hand tools. Picked up bike specific tools as needed, did not attend Barnetts, but did buy the manuals. That and the links already posted provide me most all I need. Sometimes I get thrown for a loop or mess sumthin up, but that is just the ongoing edjewmacation process.

  37. #37
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    I agree with FnH about taking a class or two at a local bike shop -- there should be one offering classes in your area. A "basic maintenance" class should get you through the day-to-day basics such as changing tires, adjusting brakes and maybe even adjusting the geartrain. That will at least keep you safe.
    The next class will teach you how to overhaul bearings: wheel hubs, bottom brackets, and steerers/stems. That will save you some decent money, and help some major components last a lot longer.

    BTW, if you're more interested in road bikes, Zinn also writes a great road bike maintenance book.

  38. #38

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    My dad has owned a bike shop since '72. Hung out there when I was a kid and assembled bikes for $5 each. Started doing more and more stuff on my own. My dad or one of his employees taught me what I needed to know. Supplemented that education with an inquisitive mind and lots of patience. I still go back home and work at the shop sometimes.

  39. #39
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    wow, i forgot how ANTI - LBS mtbr always was. you can tell some of that in the posts here. i used to be that way when i was really active here years ago.

    i learned the same way most people learned with one notable exception - NO BOOKS. there wasn't internet either, at least i didn't have it.

    you start out and fix little things here and there. you get a better understanding. you pay for the tool instead of the labor. then you take on the friends' bikes.

    but one thing i learned unquestionably is that you can begin your learning that way, but you can only finish it in a shop. an honest to goodness legitmate full service bicycle shop. i started at the LBS and it opened my eyes to so many things i never knew (and i never brought my bikes in unless it was to process a warranty.)

    (que heart music) i always got by on my own! without the LBS but i only knew what was relevant to my bike and my friends' bikes. i learned about every kind of bike once i got to the shop. and of course, spent a couple years there.

    a lot of guys here don't like the shops. some have had bad experiences (gods know i did) some can't see the price, i sure as hell never did. but one thing to keep in mind is that (generally) the shop knows a hell of a lot more than you give them credit for and they are an excellent source of helpful information. but you have to remember that they somehow have to stay in business and they get paid like sh!t. and every time you come in to ask them about doing something on your own, you are asking them to essentially reduce their own pay. their knowledge is their job security and i can't think of anyone who would willingly part with that when their salaries are so meager to begin with.

  40. #40
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    I almost think working on things such as bikes and cars is a trait that is passed down by heredity. I'm 26 years old and have been working on cars since I was 12 so as long as I do my research and have the right tool for the job, there isn't anything I don't think I can do that will prevent me from doing it right. Again, the key is having the right tool for the right job and to have at least some kind of knowledge of how things work. I'm not sure how other people think, but when I see something like an internal combustion engine, I tend to "mentally" place myself inside it and see exactly how each component work together to accomplish the job. So now only do I see how things work, I can see how things can break and see what I need to do to fix it if need be. I learned the basics of cars and bikes from my father, who in turn learned from his father who was an engineer for Rockwell, North American, and Boeing.

    As for repairs to my vehicle and bike, there are a few tools that I just don't justify the initial cost for me to buy, so that's when they are taken to the shop; for example, I just had my head tube reamed and faced, and my truck only sees the shop if and when it needs the tires balanced or when I need an alignment. Everything else I do on my own.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Byke Dood
    I learned from trial and error, buying tools and reading books
    Nice workshop and setup Dood

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Byke Dood
    I learned from trial and error, buying tools and reading books
    Quit showing off a$$hole!
    man i wish i had what you had
    "If women don't find handsome , they should at least find you handy."-Red Green

  43. #43
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    Where did I learn? From breaking stuff on my bike

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by }SkOrPn--7
    Nice workshop and setup Dood
    Cool shop I don't mind looking at other folks setups, even if mine is a garage with a tool box and a Black & Decker workmate for a bench. Hey we did add a kerosene heater this winter so we could work in the cold.

  45. #45
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lbsigman
    Again, the key is having the right tool for the right job...
    You can take care of that with the right tool... It's easier to do than you might think.

  46. #46
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    random web site with good complete manuals

    In google search "poehali" plus the item of interest such as headset, freehub, etc. . .

  47. #47
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    Mar 2008
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    many good suggestions on where and how to learn. my advice is that your first step should be buying a good stand. having a well made and stable stand will allow you to work properly and with good vision. then learn the simple maintenance stuff like bleeding and adjusting brakes.

  48. #48
    Au'Right!
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    Dave's Recycled Bikes way back in '96 as a shop rat.
    Problem: "Bike has trouble going up steep hills."
    Fix: Recommend pressing harder on the pedals.

  49. #49

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    I recently bought a used trek 6500 and while it looked pretty the components had been swapped out with a walmart bike's. I thrashed that bike on my first mountain ride. I read a whole bunch of websites (including plenty of 9 year old threads from this one), watched plenty of youtube videos and saved up during the cold winter for quality bike parts and a sette tool kit plus additional specialty tools I knew I'd need. I stripped down the frame and read about how to do something before I did it, where to and not to put grease, figure out correct chainlength for a new drive train, and someone always had the problem before me and received answers from people who had the same problem before them. My bike ended up beautiful and I am so proud of myself everytime I look at it. A tool kit is $50, my LBS charges $50 for things you don't even need a tool set for.
    This was my first true mountain bike and it feels good to walk into my Lbs and know more than employees that work there.

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