I’ve always done my own cycle repairs. As a youngster, it was simply because I liked taking things apart to see how they worked and then trying to put them back together again. Given that I had an extremely basic tool kit and an even more basic understanding of bicycle components and their repair, the result often left a lot to be desired.
However, I persevered and as the years have gone I’ve acquired the knowledge and tools to look after my fleet of bikes. In fact, I’ve taken it further than that and build my own wheels and once tried my hand on a frame building course.
Yet today, I often find myself looking at new bikes and wondering where to start when it comes to routine servicing, never mind trying to fix a serious problem.
Originally this used to be the case with mountain bikes when they began to feature hydraulic disc brake systems and ever more complicated suspension linkages and multi-adjustable shock options. It is now starting to be the same with road bikes too as electronic shifting becomes ever more prevalent.
For the longest time, if the bike’s gears didn’t shift properly is was normally because the cable had stretched and the indexing had gone out. The fix was simple enough; a quick twist of the barrel adjuster at the rear mech. If the problem persisted it might be that the gear hanger was slightly bent. Again, this was something that could easily be fixed, at least on a steel frame. Now, if I was presented with a bike running Di2 and told it wasn’t shifting properly I wouldn’t know where to begin.
It’s not just the complexity and rise of technology that I find difficult to keep up with. There is also the issue of ever changing standards for parts like headsets and bottom brackets and the tools need to fit and service them. Rather than simply needing the appropriate spanners and only having to worry about whether the bottom bracket had English or Italian threads, these days you have to consider bearing presses and pullers, cup sizes and more besides.
The absurdity of situation struck me recently when building up a new frame. I had been told it had a BB30 bottom bracket shell. Fair enough I thought until I discovered that there are different BB30 cup options. Nothing like going shopping for a bottom bracket and then standing there looking utterly bewildered when asked which BB30 cups you want by the shop assistant. It’s especially bad when your reply of BB30 gets the reply of which BB30, 42 or 46?
The next time I get a frame I think I’ll admit I’m getting old and just take the frame to my local shop, hand over my credit card and let them have the headache of working out what’s compatible and what tools they need to make everything fit and work correctly.
If I feel the need to work on a bicycle I’ll take my old, steel, rigid, single speed mountain bike apart and rebuild it with fresh brake cables and clean grease in all the cup and cone bearings. I know how to do that and I have the right tools.
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