Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tricks of the trade: Bike Repairs

My bottom bracket has been getting cranky lately. Pun intended.

Noisy bottom brackets, if you catch them in time, often just need to be taken out, cleaned up, greased and re-installed properly. This takes special tools, but they don't cost much more than having a bike shop do the job once or twice. In my case, I've got many thousands of miles on the original BB, but I've serviced the BB three times now.

Jobs like bottom bracket service might be best left to the bike shop if you're just getting started, but shops will often try to upsell you or get you to replace an otherwise functional part with a brand new one even if you don't actually need it.

It's not that I have something against bike technicians. Some of my best cycling friends are wrenches by trade or they're moonlighting at bike shops in their downtime. My frustration comes from the industry: bike repair doesn't pay the bills; selling new bikes and accessories is what brings home the bacon. The tools to install these accessories are the same ones to fix bikes, and repair is for the most part only provided as a service to keep customers coming back.

Even if bike shops are fair -- and some are much more honest than others -- this is busy season. Bike shops get backlogged. Those of us who rely on our bikes for more than leisure can't always go a week without our bike while it sits in queue to be looked at.

For these reasons, I feel that it's very important for utility cyclists, randonneurs, commuters and bike tourers to have a firm understanding of how to do some basic bike repairs. Start with easy stuff that doesn't require many fancy tools (like changing your inner tube out).

As you run into other minor problems (derailleur adjustments, chain replacement), do some research and see if it's something you can do yourself. Some good sites:

Bicycle tutor
Park Tool Repair
Sheldon Brown

As always, feel free to comment here or drop me a line via e-mail, and I can probably point you in the right direction if you feel like taking a crack at fixing your bike. They're actually pretty simple machines. They're modular, and bikes of a decent quality usually have a lot of standardized components.

In other news, I scored a bell from last night's event at Overland Park city hall. Not wanting to crowd my handlebars any more than they are (you might call me "Captain Dashboard"), I mounted it to my seatpost. It works just fine there.

Oh, and I had a spectator while I was working on the bottom bracket.


amidnightrider said...

Knowing how to do minor repairs is very handy when when home is twenty miles away.

MechanicMatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MechanicMatt said...

You know your comment about bike repair not making money new bikes do, really depends on the shop. I worked for a smaller shop in KC off and on for 5 years, and the repair side brought in probably 40% or more of the revenue for the year. True that higher margins are made off of the bikes, but as the owner used to say to me, "it takes it all to make it". For small shops this can be a big part of the business.

Are you headed to the swap meet Saturday?

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