Do You Fix Your Own Bike? (Poll)

I’ve been putzing with my bike more than usual lately. Just this evening I pulled off its pedals to move them to the steel bike my friend David lent me. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I am not Mr. Mechanic, so anything I do maintenance-wise is a departure for me.

But that got me wondering…how many of you like to mess with your bike? This time, instead of just soliciting answers in the comments, I’m going to try something new. I’ve created a poll.

I put the answers to the single poll question in ascending order from least mechanically inclined to most mechanically inclined, as I see it. Because of the way WordPress polls work, you’re limited to a single answer — so here’s what I’d like you to do: Pick the answer that covers the most involved repair or maintenance task that you do. If you adjust the limit screws on your derailleurs, pick that answer — and we’ll assume that you also lube your chain and fix your flats.

I’ll let the poll run a few days, then report back. Ready? Here goes!


  1. Mel Hughes says

    I agree with Tom. I learned working in a bike shop. But once you have a few tools there are an incredible number of sources of information on how to do just about anything with a bike. The internet and especially you tube are almost limitless… Add to that endless downloadable product support documents and very active customer support at companies like Phil Wood and Paul Components and your ability to find answers to problems as well as how to perform the maintenance necessary grows. A lot has changed since I was wrenching in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. But on-line, I have been able to find out answers to everything I forgot or needed to be re-educated about.

  2. says

    I just bought an iPhone app called “Bike Repair”, it’s a step by step guide for how to fix just about anything on a bike – it’s quite excellent. Now that I’ve got that, I fear no repair.

  3. says

    On the poll, I put the “I changes tires and tubes and oil my chain” but I just got done doing a handlebar swap on both the wife’s and I’s bikes too. I do the extras that, that don’t have to be “adjusted”. Alas, I’ve forgotten how and don’t trust myself to “adjust” it right and sadly can’t afford the “special tools” that make the job easier. :(

  4. says

    I think novice cyclists (including myself occassionally) are too worried they will damage their bike while trying to do their own maintenance. It’s a bicycle, not a space rocket, and it’s pretty hard to do permanent damage to one. If you get in over your head and nothing seems to work, you can always throw up your hands and bring it into the shop.

  5. archergal says

    I’ve replaced chains, cassettes, brakes, & adjusted deraileur and brakes. I can rebuild a non-cartridge bottom bracket. Wheels, however, are a closed book to me. I can loosen or tighten a spoke, but I don’t because I don’t have any idea what I’m doing. O.o I should take a class so I don’t feel so stupid about it.

      • Mel Hughes says

        I felt the same way abouit wheels until I built a few. While there are certainly a great variety of ways to build them, most of the conventionally spoked wheels and rims are pretty straightforward. They are certainly no more complex than a bottom bracket. They just have more parts. I’ll bet there is someone in your area who builds or services wheels that would be more than happy to spend a little time sharing that knowledge…

  6. David says

    Im constantly tinkering with my Cervelo, my main road bike, and my 1981 SR which is a bare-bones single speed. I bought a bike work stand and one or the other is constantly sitting on it. I really appreciate the skilled bike mechanics. I am a total hack, but I love to tinker.

  7. Mel Hughes says

    The basic tools you need for a bike are really pretty minimal for most of the wrenching you do. A set of metric Allen Wrenches in sizes up to 6mm can usually be had in a multi-tool for less than $10. A chain breaking tool or a master link may be a little more. A set of metric wrenches or ratchets up to 14mm can be used on many other things as well. A bike stand is a tremendous luxury but not a necessity. But a decent place to prop up the bike makes life very good. A set of needle nosed pliers or a small set of needle nosed vice-grips would round out a basic kit.

    Anything you add to this, cone wrenches, cable pullers, headset wrences, crank extractors, bottom bracket wrenches, or pedal wrences have the great added value of lasting forever! I still use cone wrenches and brake “3rd hand” tools I bought in the early 1980’s. The only thing that has changed with things over the years is that handles have gotten grippier and some newer tools (think cable pullers) have been introduced. Some freewheel units and cassette units require a special tool for removal. But once you have it, they don’t wear out. All in all, for less than the price of a new wired speedometer, you can have most of the tools you will need for 95% of the maintenance you will do on your bike. That is an awfully good return on investment in my eyes!

  8. mattdykstra says

    Mel –

    Agreed. I got a kit from Nashbar or someplace like that about 12 years ago – think it was around $50 – and it had everything I needed for quite a while. As I’ve been tinkering on more bikes and doing more stuff, I’ve acquired other tools. I hit the jackpot a while back – found a guy who was getting out of cycling but had a full set of tools and a lot of spare parts. I was able to buy everything cheap, then sell off some of the duplicates and parts I didn’t need – to the point where whatever’s left now is basically free.

    My only gripe with bike tools is that I’m forever coming across different standards for things like bottom brackets – and just lack the one tool that will fit that particular standard! I’m gradually trying to build up the collection – buying the tool is often about the same cost as getting the shop to do it – but it’s frustrating staring at something I can’t fix until a tool comes in!

    I still haven’t tried wheelbuilding – I’ll true wheels, but haven’t built one up yet.

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