Blog Reader Poll: Do you wrench on your own bike?

I was just getting my bike ready for the Ranchstyle event and I started to wonder how many of my blog readers wrench on their own bikes. Personally, I’m a fully trained bike mechanic and know how to do pretty much everything from building wheels to overhauling forks. I worked for several years as a part and full time bike mechanic and still really enjoy wrenching on my own bike.

These days I’m a bit busier than I was back then and so I’m glad I’ve found a good mechanic to help me out with the bigger jobs. However, I still keep my own bikes up and running, giving them tune ups and changing out parts. Tuning a derailer and keeping your wheels true are some basic skills that help keep your bike running well and help avoid breakdowns on the trail.

Personally, I like to know how to work on my own bike for 2 reasons:

#1 – I hate to wait to get stuff done. I’m pretty impatient when it comes to my bike. I’m probably planning on riding tomorrow and if I need something basic done I don’t want to have to take my bike to the shop, drop it off and wait for it to get done.

#2 – I don’t trust many people to make sure my bike works right. I ride hard and if my bike failed on me for some reason it could spell disaster. I want to know that my bolts are tight, the spokes are tensioned and the bike is set up right, not take somebody’s word for it. I guess I have trust issues…

So, how about you? Do you know how to work on your bike? If so, do you know the basics or do you also know some more advanced mechanic skills? Why do you like to work on your bike? Or, if you don’t know how to do anything, what are your thoughts?

-James Wilson-

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  1. kevin says:

    I’ll do anything but wheels, but that’s a skill I’ll hopefully pick up soon. I had a road wheelset trued by a shop a while back & the mech tensioned the ever loving crap out of a spoke on the front. 30 miles in to my next ride and PING! it snapped.

    Reply • April 23 at 9:30 am
  2. Bob says:

    I love to work on my own bike. I’m lucky to have a very helpful shop down the road (Cactus Bikes) to guide me on the correct techniques and help with more advanced stuff,ie suspension tuning and difficult fixes. But I’ve build my last 3 bikes by myself with help from them on facing and chasing after the fresh powder coat. I’m thinking about trying to build a wheel soon. I love the self sufficent feeling when I’m on the trail and something breaks and I know I can fix it and get on with some shredding!

    Reply • April 23 at 9:45 am
  3. Simon says:

    These days, bikes are one of the few things we use that you can actually see and understand how they work – computers, cars all that stuff is pretty much beyond the regular person to fix, except for the basics. One of the most awesome things about bikes, in my opinion, is that they are still so “analog” in our digital world. I also definitely think there’s a confidence that comes with knowing how to adjust your brake pads or your gears, so you can tweak stuff on the trail if you have to.

    Reply • April 23 at 11:22 am
  4. Glen says:

    I wrench on everything I own. Its just in my blood I can give up control I guess.

    Reply • April 23 at 12:11 pm
  5. Tubby says:

    I do all my work myself for the same reasons you stated. I don’t trust anyone to touch my rides. I just ran a tune up session at my office as well to try an promote cycling to work. We washed and tuned up 30 bikes in 2 hours. I tend to keep all the neighbourhood kid’s bike running as well.

    Wheel building is the only thing I have never tried. I have been thinking about it lately though. That would be a fun project.

    Reply • April 23 at 12:36 pm
  6. michael says:

    i would love to know how to wrench my own steed but i have come back to the sport after 10 years off. v brakes had just come out and i was a hardcore xt thumb shifter user. i used to b able to dismantle my hubs and bb lube my cables and all the other fun stuff that you do when you love your steed.
    10 years on my bike now has hydraulic everything with sealed this and that. brains and no tubes. i am having to learn how all again. so over time i will buy tools and learn so i can nce again be master of my steed and not a slave to bike maintenance bills
    bring it on
    although i have to say if i had the money i would pay a pro to do everything

    Reply • April 23 at 2:52 pm
  7. cookie says:

    Definitely do my own work for both reasons you stated.. also, I hate being raped on the price of parts.. long live the interwebs!

    Last year I got a new bike, so was taking it to the shop for the “free” services. I had an A priority race and had the cranks shear the splines, my race was cut short! the bolts were not tight enough.. I was pretty pissed-off so now I double check everything.. sad really!

    Reply • April 23 at 5:30 pm
  8. bradley says:

    I do most all my own bike work as well, how else could you afford to ride the same hardtail for 10 years. I just got a new full suspension bike and will have to update tools as well. I don’t think that the new bike has a square taper bottom bracket.
    I don’t know if it is a lack of knowledge or care, but I have seen so many wheels come out of bike shops so far out of true.
    Wrenchin’ inspires me to want to ride longer and faster. When I get done with it (normally around midnight because I don’t start until afer the kids go to bed), I just look at it and want to ride.

    Reply • April 23 at 7:55 pm
  9. Dave says:

    I had always wanted to work in a shop.. over the last few years things have changed and I now get to go and wrench a couple of days a week at a friends shop.
    Until then, I had always wanted to wrench on my own bikes but never did.. I am always amazed at how simple a bike really is.
    I love wrenching.. in fact like the reply a couple above me, the kids in and around my neighborhood all know that I’ll fix their rides. So they are always coming over and asking questions…. and watching how they can fix their own bikes…
    The cool thing is, it’s a great way to hang with your kids, and get to know their friends as well.

    To all you who have had a bad experience at a shop, I will say “sorry”, we aren’t all like that.. a pissed off customer is never ever going to come back. Plus, going the extra mile (cleaning a bike, lubing it, etc.) and not charging for it always brings a smile, and repeat business. Word of mouth is the best advertising any shop owner/manager can invest in!

    Reply • April 23 at 11:22 pm
  10. Dabe says:

    I also work on my own bikes. However, I have always worked on everything I own.

    Being able to tune or fix anything that comes up is a great feeling. It is also great to be able to do minor tweaks and keep everything working perfectly as needed rather than waiting until you can get someone to look at it.

    Reply • April 24 at 5:08 am
  11. Sean says:

    I do all the work except wheelbuilding and suspension overhaul. I know several great wheelbuilders in my town, and I let Push do my forks and shocks.

    Anyone with patience and tools can learn to do most of the maintenance and assembly / disassembly required. I started when I was a roadie, I bought a frame and a build kit, and Zinn & the Art of Bicycle Maintenance, and taught myself how to build a bike. I had to have a local shop press in the headset but I did everything else. It was fun and it taught me a lot about how the bike works.

    Anyone who enjoys long backcountry rides should know how to work on his/her own bike.

    Reply • April 24 at 7:42 am
  12. jeffB says:

    Been building wheels and wrenching on bikes for 22 years (built my first wheel at 14). I am actually a trained bike mechanic, and I`m completely retentive about my setup so I work on my own stuff (yeah, I`m one of those guys that can tell if my bars are two millimeters off), but in addition to owning my powder coating shop I work on the side as a service tech in a bike shop. I do everything from rebuilding Campy road shifters to overhauling suspensions. Bikes are very detailed, and that caters to the touch of OCD I have (lol). I`m a tuner at heart, and when I was building high horsepower racing engines I was known for my “touch”…nothing magical, just a knack for things like carb tuning and valve adjustment, and being able to wring the last few drops of performance out through tuning. I use that approach on my bikes. I like a dialed bike, whether it“s mine, yours, or some stuffy roadie with a $13K trophy bike. I know my work is good, so I don`t need anyone else to work on my bike 🙂

    Reply • April 24 at 7:50 am
  13. soundoftheground says:

    yes. everything except wheel builds (truing and maintaining isn’t an issue) and rear shock complete rebuilds.
    i love working on bikes – it’s calming and fun. i also trust very few people to do things the way i want it done and hate feeling like i have to rely on others.

    Reply • April 24 at 9:19 am
  14. Gabe Neymark says:

    I’ve just started fixing stuff on my own bike and I love the feeling you get after you do the first fix on something successfully. So far I’ve put on a new chain, adjusted a very crooked front derailur, and bled my brakes. I’ve also done a lot of smaller stuff.

    Reply • April 24 at 9:19 am
  15. The Real Rob says:

    I’m 100% in agreement James. Pack your own parachute.
    But bring the bike shop a cold 12 pack now and then so they’ll let you use their BB facing tool when you need it!

    Reply • April 24 at 1:35 pm
  16. Dan says:

    Haven’t brought my bike into a shop in a couple years. It’s cheaper and it gets done sooner if I do it myself.

    Reply • April 24 at 5:22 pm
  17. flatlander says:

    Wrench is PART of the sport. Separating the two would be like trying to separate photography from the dark room or photoshop. The two relate and rely on one another: wrenching and riding.

    -buy the tool, take a moment, and learn the skill for the same price as the repair.

    -Sheldon Brown’s ghost will teach you to build wheels. Google Him. Buy a spoke tension meter and a decent truing stand, spend a weekend, and rock the finest wheels you’ll ever ride.

    -Where is there anyone else who cares more about the build and maintenance o my ride than me? Why would I let someone do it for me? I don’t trust anyone to put air in my tires, let alone bolt on my stem!

    Reply • April 24 at 9:07 pm
  18. electric says:

    Yup, wrench it all… i think most guy’s who race do, or they know a mechanic personally. Getting stuff done at a bicycle shop is sketchy, sometimes you never know what you’re getting back and you have to ride/trust it? I do all my own wheel stuff, this is something that bike shops suck at, you need to take your time to get it right… and time is money at the bike shop so “good enough” usually suffices lest the boss catch a mechanic wasting money.

    Reply • April 25 at 5:27 pm
  19. Joe Kim says:

    Absolutely. As with most of the other comments, I trust myself more than some random person in a bike shop. Having spoken with several of them, I feel that I know more than a lot of them do. It makes the sport affordable to me (I couldn’t afford $50 for repair every time my derailleur or brakes went out of whack) and I enjoy the work most of the time.

    Now that I’ve learned wheels to a good degree, I do 100% with the exception of frame facing since the tools are too expensive. Over the winter, I’ve rebuilt my suspension and repacked all my bearings.

    I also find that when it comes time for a trail-side repair, you know your bike better and are able to continue shredding instead of walking back to the car.

    Reply • April 26 at 12:10 pm
  20. Ole says:

    Anything but truing wheels.. 🙂

    Reply • April 27 at 1:48 am
  21. I do everything by my own for exactly the same reasons as you do.

    On the other hand I have to say I really don’t enjoy it. I kind of like installing new parts during off season, but it’s really annoying to spent a lot of hours maintaining bikes when there’s riding to be done;)

    Reply • April 29 at 1:13 pm
  22. Paul Johnson says:

    I do the majority of my bike maintenance myself also. I try to pick up a few new maintenance skills every year so I think I am pretty well rounded these days. Only things I haven’t messed with yet are wheel building and suspension overhaul but that will come soon! I like being self sufficient and most of the bike shops around me can get a pretty big backlog during the season and I don’t like to wait when the riding bug is on me.

    Reply • April 29 at 3:41 pm
  23. Danny Spalding says:

    Me and my dad do most of the little tune-ups up we leave the big jobs up to the shop.

    Reply • April 29 at 5:49 pm
  24. Greg says:

    I do all my own work and just built my first wheel this year, took me a while but
    was way easier than I thought it was going to be. I never wanted to dnf a race
    because of someone else didn’t do somthing right if it broke or came apart I would
    be pissed but it would only be my fault, plus you get to know your bike better
    and save money too.

    Reply • May 1 at 9:54 pm
  25. Richard says:

    Everyone that wrenches all of their own stuff must have buddies that help or taught them. What i learned about maintenacne is prevention by checking things are aren’t loose save a lot of problems and cost later on! With that said, I love to try to fix my bike but I need help frequently. I also help my friends that are worse than I am! I use a shop sometimes too.

    Reply • May 5 at 9:23 am
  26. JimV says:

    I have a favorite shop that I’ve been taking my bikes to for 15 years. The owner has always set my bike up beauifully. In fact, where we bought our house was partly to be close to this shop. If I was turning my own wrench, I’d be doing that instead of riding; given my limited time. Having a guy I trust and a long-term relationship with him is great. And he treats me great, he’ll go out of his way to make sure my bike is ready when I want it.

    On the trail, I can deal with the repairs I’ve had to do alone. Nothin more complicated than adjusting brakes, shortening a chain, whatever. But when I have the choice, I take it to the shop.

    Reply • May 8 at 4:51 pm
  27. As a mechanic who works on a lot of bikes, I’d been thinking about good solutions for my bike as I am using bike in competitions and needs a lot of maintenance, while searching I found your article and seems to be very informative.

    Reply • May 6 at 3:13 am

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