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The Noob’s Guide To Learning How To Fix A Bike

September 2013

So you’ve bitten the bullet and bought your first nice bike! That new bike smell wafts through the living room as you stare at your beautiful steed in the corner. She’s a beaut, Clarke! You’re committed, excited and rarin’ to go. Three weeks later you’ve got 400 miles on that once shiny steed. She’s now a bit dusty, the wheels have a tiny but noticeable wobble to them and the chain, for some reason, is starting to sound a bit chattery… Ah, it’s time for your first crack at bike maintenance! Woohoo!

Unfortunately you’re afraid to tweak that 16th of an inch wobble in the wheel because you’ve never done it (wheels and spoke nipples settle). Rather than properly clean and lube the chain, you douse it with WD-40 and wipe the dust of with a dry, dirty towel… While doing that you notice that the brakes are too tight on the back and you noticed last week that the rear derailleur wasn’t up-shifting (into a harder gear) as well.

You know one thing: you’re not working on that brand new bike because you don’t know what you’re doing. So you cancel your ride for the next afternoon and schedule your bike at the shop. Unfortunately they won’t be able to get to it for three days – you hang your head and cancel two more rides…

Sound familiar? If you are afraid to work on your new bike – or are you afraid to work on one that you haven’t even picked up yet? Relax. There is a solution, and it’s simple, relatively cheap and you’ll feel like a million bucks when you are done – and not because you now know how to fix a bike, that’s just a bonus.

Here’s what you do: First, download the Bike Repair app! Unless you’re a 1st rate mechanic, you can use this app.. Then hit the garage sale circuit and pick up a cheap $20 used, dusty, gnarly bike – and fix it up. True the wheels, center the brakes and pads, give that old steed’s derailleur an index adjustment, clean and lube the chain, check the head set, adjust the handlebars, brake levers, put new tubes on it, clean out the cable housings – heck, put brand new cables on it! Get that old POS purring like it’s new, then give it a nice bath…

When you’re done, take it down to your local bike shop and donate it to a needy kid who can’t afford a bike (most bike shops have a pipeline to needy folks). You’ll be out maybe $40 and will have given a kid a smile they won’t soon lose.

Now, if $40 is too much, and I realize it is for some, volunteer at your local bike shop to fix up their donation bikes! You’ll be taught, for free, everything you need to know to work on yours and all you’ll be out is a few hours of your time – and you’ll walk out of there knowing you made the day of a kid or three.

Once you’re comfortable in your abilities, get to work on your own steed, and maintain that beautiful bike right. Boeshield T-9 chain lube, clean the cassette and chainrings after every chain cleaning, a quality degreaser, a clean, damp microfiber cloth for the frame… Do your shiny steed right and not only will your bike last forever, it’ll look like a runway model doing it.

1 Comment

  1. […] was kinda scared I might’ve messed it up even worse than before. But then I remembered one of Jim’s recent posts on Fit Recovery, in which he suggested working on an old bike to learn your way around the parts. […]

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