Wrenching skillz

Discussion in 'Skillz' started by buggravy, Sep 25, 2019.



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  1. buggravy

    buggravy Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Calabasas
    Name:
    Matt
    Current Bike:
    Guerrilla Gravity The Smash
    As I'm closing in on a year of forum membership, and a year of really mountain biking, I like to think that I'm getting near the end of my embarrassing newb questions, but mechanic skills is something I know that I'm severely lacking in. With a few exceptions most of my entries in the "what did you to to your bike" thread should more truthfully read that I drove it over to Pedaler's Fork and had them do whatever I was looking to have done. My question here is, where/how did you learn how to wrench on your bike? I know there are great videos on YouTube showing how to do almost anything, but that's typically predicated on knowing what the actual problem is to begin with, which for someone like myself isn't always obvious. My more immediate concern is trail side maintenance for something more than flat tires, when something breaks and YouTube isn't exactly an option. REI has a trail side maintenance clinic that they offer from time to time, that I've kind of resigned myself to taking for lack of an obviously better option, though I prejudicially assume it's going to be lame. Any other suggestions to shorten the learning curve, other than committing to trying to work my way through issues as they arise, hamfisted though I might be?
     
    Mikie, Luis, Danmtchl and 10 others like this.
  2. UPSed

    UPSed iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Simi Valley
    Name:
    Ed Bottorff
    Current Bike:
    Niner Jet 9 RDO
    I'd like to think I've always been mechanically inclined. As far as bikes go they are pretty basic. Most of what I know has been learned over the years through hands-on experience or websites like www.parktool.com and www.sheldonbrown.com.

    I've been riding close to 30 years though so I might have a slight advantage.

    If you ask me, if you keep your bike in fine tune, which I believe you do, you shouldn't really ever has a major mechanical on the trail.
     
    Grego, Mikie, herzalot and 13 others like this.
  3. DangerDirtyD

    DangerDirtyD iMTB Addict

    Location:
    CA
    Name:
    Chicken Nugget
    Current Bike:
    2018 Guerrilla Gravity SMASH
    Good topic. You tube, trial and error, and observation of my mechanics at LBSs. Some things I won’t perform due to the cost of required specialized tools.
     
    Mikie, Stkx66, Danmtchl and 10 others like this.
  4. SnakeCharmer

    SnakeCharmer iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Crescenta Valley
    Name:
    Mike, aka "Ssnake"
    Current Bike:
    Vassago/Trek
    Youtube for anything that I am unsure of or unfamiliar with, especially for multi-step process stuff. Other than that, I've received great advice here, at my LBS, and in person with fellow riders.

    If I were you, I would be learning only about the specific parts on your bike(s). No need how to know how to adjust multiple brands RDs or brakes, for example. You learn about other stuff incidentally, as time goes on. I keep a library of Youtube videos in my bookmarks to refer back to.

    You are not having much in the way of issues because you have invested in quality components. Harder to learn when nothing is going wrong.
     
    Mikie, Luis, Danmtchl and 8 others like this.
  5. mike

    mike iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Western US
    Name:
    Mike O
    Current Bike:
    GG Smash
    Congrats on the milestone! But....every crusty mountain biker can be pissed at you. Look the bikes you started out riding, and look at the rides and riding you've been doing. Now you want to be an ace wrench, too?! :p:)


    I think most, like me, just started into it through necessity and kept at it. I'm not advanced, and don't mind patronizing shops for some work that I think I'll do a worse job at. I'm mostly interested in doing myself the routine stuff like tires, brake bleeds, builds, and trail-side fixes to get me out of trouble.

    But as Ed implied, being mechanically-minded to begin with helps. I'm not particularly that, but YouTube is there for us hacks. Also, I agree that bikes have never been easier to work on and easier to get dialed.

    Good thread idea!
     
    Mikie, Luis, Danmtchl and 10 others like this.
  6. Sasquatch9billion

    Sasquatch9billion Well-Known Member

    Name:
    trinidad j. mendez
    Bribe the bike mechanics you know with food and beer.
     
  7. mtnbikej

    mtnbikej J-Zilla

    Location:
    Orange
    Name:
    J M
    Current Bike:
    SC Chameleon SS, SC Hightower
    I'm what you would call.....not very mechanically inclined. I tend to be all thumbs. Can't hardly hammer a nail into a board, but you put a bike in front of me, and I can pretty much do it all.

    Contrary to what many....especially in the shops would have you think, bikes are pretty simple machines. Yes, there are some complicated pieces on a bike, but for the most part they are simple.

    I learned a lot by trial and error....but I learned before youtbe and the internet was just starting. Eventually I worked in a shop and learned a lot more.

    The most important things to learn....keep your bike in proper working order. Pay attention to service intervals. Keep chain clean/lubed and measure on a regular basis. Preventative maint'.

    Learn the Basics:
    1. Derailleur adjustment is the one everyone should know. It's not voodoo magic, but it does take a little bit of feel to get it right.
    2. Change your brake pads. Doesn't matter which brakes you have, the process is pretty much the same.
    3. Change tubeless tires. Knowing how to break the bead and get the tire off with help you immensely on the trail if/when you get a flat.
    4. How to build a bike from the frame up....yes, this is basic knowledge. You learn how each component mounts.
    5. How to add/remove air from your suspension. You'd be amazed at how many have not clue on how to do this.

    Be willing to buy the tools....BB socket, chain breaker, cassette lockring tool, chain whip. 2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8mm hex wrenches, T25 torx bit, cable cutters, torque wrench. This will allow you to assemble a bike from the frame up. Watch some yutube vids then try it.

    Things I consider Intermidiate:
    1. Brake install/bleed
    2. Rear shock air can service
    3. Bleed/Adjust dropper posts

    Depending on the brakes....they are from stupid simple(Shimano) to moderately simple(SRAM).....again, yes there are others, but I haven't worked on them so can't comment, but this covers 90% of us. Again, you'd need a few new tools. You can gravity bleed Shimano's from the lever with the funnel. SRAM requires a bleed kit, but it is a pretty simple procedure. Plenty of yutube vids out there showing how to do both.

    Rear shock air can service....sounds super complicated. However, the process it'self is not that difficult. Fortunately you don't need any special tools for this. Swapping out seals and o-rings is really straightforward.

    Bleeding/installing new dropper cables take a little bit of fiddling around, but in all realities, it is all about getting the cable tension correct, or getting the air out of the system. The basic tools will get you by on the dropper cable. Bleeding a Reverb will require a special bleed kit.

    Things I consider Advanced:
    1. Fork Servicing
    2. Wheel Building
    3. Dropper Servicing
    4. Frame bearings

    All the fork manufacturers have service manuals online. All the big manufacturers have yutube vids on how to do this. Some of these require special tools. Some you can hack with standard tools, but the specialty tools make it easier. As long as you follow the directions, it does go somewhat easy. But this is where you can screw things up. Not cleaning the parts, forgetting to put some grease on things, too much/too little/wrong fluids. Follow the torque specs. Once you do it a few times it gets easier.

    Wheel building....not for the faint of heart. You can screw this up....and it is not difficult to do that. There are lots of resources out there, but I have found them to be complicated. Everyone seems to have a different theory on how it should be done. Getting the right spokes/nipples, getting the lacing pattern correct...these can wreak havoc if you get them wrong. If you get those correct, bringing them up to tension, getting them true, relieving tension is just tedious. The first couple you do, plan on them taking a while. With disc brakes and tubeless tires these days, getting them perfect is not as important. A truing stand helps a ton, but many have built them without.

    Dropper servicing....I put that in the same realm as forks.

    Servicing suspension bearings can be difficult. This is where proper tools make things easier.....but not always. Some frames just make it a PITA. Most of the manufacturers have frame servicing info on their sights. Once the bearings are swapped, it is just a matter of making sure everything is greased and torque specs are adhered to.


    Don't be afraid tinker on your bike. As you learn how to work on things, it makes it much easier to understand when something is not working correctly.

    Short of rounding off bolt heads, cross threading anything(pedals in cranks) or overtightening bolts, you really can screw anything up that bad. If you get into a bind, you can always get the LBS(or someone like me) to bail you out.


    As for how to fix things on the trail, there is no easy answer for that. Some of what you need to know, you learn building a bike up from the frame(cutting a chain/installing a cable/adjusting brakes). Things don't always break the same. Having to assess a problem and how to McGuyver it back together just takes experience. After 20+ years, I still see trailside fixes that I would never have thought of.

    Ask if you don't know. Lots of here have lots of years of experience on this.


    I do enjoy teaching how to service/fix/install bikes. Like I tell my friends.....you gotta learn to be self sufficient, having a mechanical away from home/on a trip sucks if you don't know how to sort it out on your own.
     
  8. Redman

    Redman Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Cypress, Ca
    Name:
    Kevin
    Current Bike:
    Santa Cruz Nomad CC 27.5
    If you truly want to learn, sign up for that REI class. Or, find an LBS that offers seminars or how to’s. Hands on is best. Take it a step further... buy an old beater bike and use that to tinker/wrench on. I did that years ago when mountain biking was still relatively unknown. I bought a beat up old ten speed. And learned how to dial in brakes, derailers, & rims. Eventually worked at a bike shop as a 2nd job for a handful of years. Thats where I learned to build bikes frame up. Don’t be scared to get your hands dirty.
     
    Danimal, Mikie, Faust29 and 9 others like this.
  9. Voodoo Tom

    Voodoo Tom MTB Addict

    Location:
    Castaic
    Name:
    Tom Kokkinakis
    Current Bike:
    Mango one, blue one, black one
    Solid advice given already. A well looked after bike rarely needs trail side repair, but you just never know. I say learn everything you can and eventually do most all your own work. I've got too many bikes in rotation to have it any other way. The thought of dropping my bike off and maybe getting it back today or maybe in a few days just doesn't work for me. That and I haven't had much luck with any of my LBS's and many times ended up redoing what I paid them to do. There's not a crazy amount of tools needed and you can acquire them as needed. As for trail side repairs I would definitely learn how to change a shifter cable and half azzed adjust your derailleur at the very least. Oh and carry an extra hanger and cable with you on those remote rides where your phone doesn't work. Seen it happen too many times. After Cannell I parked my Hightower for the week. Following weekend @Mikie and I hit up Golden Eagle. About 6 pedal strokes in I realized crap I must have smacked the derailleur cause this thing sounds terrible and is jumping from one gear to another. After several attempts with the barrel adjuster I had a couple usable gears and figured that would get me through. Then we hit the climb and those gears weren't use able and the chain was jumping in to the spokes. Flipped the bike upside down and a few adjustments and we were rolling again within a few minutes. I should have replaced the hanger and done the full adjust but I didn't want to keep my buddy sitting there that long. Either way we finished our ride vs turning around and going home.
     
    Danimal, Mikie, Faust29 and 11 others like this.
  10. buggravy

    buggravy Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Calabasas
    Name:
    Matt
    Current Bike:
    Guerrilla Gravity The Smash
    Dude, thank you. Fantastic post.
     
    Danimal, herzalot, UPSed and 5 others like this.
  11. buggravy

    buggravy Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Calabasas
    Name:
    Matt
    Current Bike:
    Guerrilla Gravity The Smash
    Yeah, I suppose I'm not much of a dabbler, with anything. Do, or do not, right? Coming into mtb at the ripe old age of 44 sort of took some of the entry barriers away when it comes to gear acquisition, but I suppose added some others. In all seriousness though this forum has definitely been a bit of a fast forward button for me in a lot of ways, from great advice, camaraderie, exposure to places to ride, and strong riders to follow to push my progress. I definitely consider myself very fortunate there. Progress is a drug though, and sometimes I just feel like things can't come fast enough.
     
    Danimal, Voodoo Tom, herzalot and 9 others like this.
  12. SnakeCharmer

    SnakeCharmer iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Crescenta Valley
    Name:
    Mike, aka "Ssnake"
    Current Bike:
    Vassago/Trek
    Just to throw this out there, in a dire situation, you can often fix broken things enough to get you moving again with these simple MacGyver items:

    *zip ties (small and medium)
    *duct tape
    *electric tape
    *super glue
    *bungee cords (as small as you can find)
     
    Danimal, Voodoo Tom, Faust29 and 6 others like this.
  13. buggravy

    buggravy Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Calabasas
    Name:
    Matt
    Current Bike:
    Guerrilla Gravity The Smash
    I hesitated to start this thread, but am glad I did. Thanks for all that has been written so far. I definitely value the wealth of knowledge here, and the willingness to share it!
     
  14. evdog

    evdog Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San diego
    Name:
    Evan S
    I wouldn't hesitate to take the REI course. Might be a couple hours and give you a good start on learning. Youtube is great but there is no substitute for seeing something done in person and being able to ask any questions that pop in your head. Working on your bike with friends who are knowledgeable is also a great way to go.

    As others have said most bike repairs and maintenance aren't complicated, but if you've never done them before there is still a learning curve. There are lots of tips and tricks to make things easier as well.

    One thing I disagree with is that a well-maintained bike won't have mechanicals. Sh!t happens, and you will be better off if you know how to deal with it.
     
    scan, Stkx66, SnakeCharmer and 9 others like this.
  15. Danmtchl

    Danmtchl Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Bakersfield
    Name:
    Dan
    Current Bike:
    2015 Devinci Troy Carbon 27.5
    I was a professional mechanic for 10 years, I am self taught, been working on bikes since I was a kid. But working on mountain and road bikes since 2000 or so. I didn't want to take my bike into the shop and wait till get it fixed. So I just did it myself. I was a stay at home dad for 2 years and when I was looking for a job my buddy who owned a shop offered me a job. The rest is history, started off in a mostly bmx shop and my last shop was high end shop. Learned a lot and always looking to learn something new.

    My advice for anyone looking to learn is ask questions. There are no stupid questions, especially someone wanting to learn how to do a repair in the stand or on the trail. I have learned things from riders on trail. The last shop I worked at we had a wheel builder who has been building wheels for 30 years and built wheels for me before I learned how to do it myself. I would ask about something wheels related and he always gave me a thorough answer to the question and sometimes even show me what I was asking. I don't work in a shop anymore but I still have the knowledge because I asked the question.

    As a matter of face I still have access to Trek U and still do the Shimano S-Tec and SRAM STU courses to keep learning.
     
    scan, Danimal, Grego and 12 others like this.
  16. mountaingirl sara

    mountaingirl sara iMTB Addict

    Location:
    So Cal
    Name:
    Sara Ford
    Current Bike:
    Santa Cruz 5010
    I’m glad you started this thread too!
    Although if I wrenched on my own bike I’d be a bit nervous to go out and ride it, as my mechanical skills are questionableo_O
     
    Danimal, Grego, Redman and 7 others like this.
  17. Faust29

    Faust29 iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Rancho Santa Margarita
    Name:
    Stef
    Current Bike:
    3 SC is now 2 SC.
    I have a pretty simple methodology... I watch a YouTube video, try to fix something, break it, send @mtnbikej a text with a picture of the broken part, and then he tells me how to fix it. Sometimes with no harassment. :p

    Seriously, though... I'll do the very basics, and I have enough basic tools to take everything apart on the bike. My best investment, though, is a decent little torque wrench. Whenever the bike is in the stand, I check all of the bolts quickly. I have a link to both the Hightower and the Chameleon's service pages on the Santa Cruz website, so I can pull up the torque specs that I forget. Every now and then I find a stem bolt that has backed off slightly, or a dropout bolt. Little stuff like that can be bad on the trail, and is totally preventable.
     
  18. BigTex

    BigTex Member

    Location:
    Ladera Ranch
    Name:
    Richard
    Current Bike:
    Pivot Les
    I'd take the REI class- what could it hurt?

    Then apply what you've learned by building a bike.

    Not kidding. I progressed the most in learning about working on bikes by building one. Bought a relatively inexpensive Surly steel frame, bought cheap components and built a rigid singlespeed. I got some help with the stuff that required specialty tools - pressing headsets, chasing BB threads - but the rest I did myself. Didn't teach me anything about drivetrain tuning, but I have other bikes to experiment with in that department (and I'm still pretty bad at it). And I love the bike - it's the one I'll never replace unless it rusts out. Ive upgraded a few things over the years, but it's still pretty much the same bike.

    I'm fairly confident doing most things on a bike - tuning, replacing parts. Some of it I still leave to professionals, such as shock rebuilds, wheels and bearings, but wheels and shock rebuilds are next on my list of things to learn. And the occasional frustration aside, I find working on bikes to be relaxing and therapeutic.

    I just remembered that someone on the Other Forum®™ many years ago put together a wrenching clinic at Fullerton Bikes. That's where I learned to set up tubeless. Maybe it's time to do something like that again?
     
    Faust29, Danmtchl, scan and 9 others like this.
  19. Grego

    Grego iMTB Rockstah

    Location:
    Fullerton
    Name:
    joe
    Current Bike:
    WFO9
    Last time I wrenched on a bike it ended up pedaling backwards.:confused:
     
  20. SnakeCharmer

    SnakeCharmer iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Crescenta Valley
    Name:
    Mike, aka "Ssnake"
    Current Bike:
    Vassago/Trek
    I bet she has skillz.

    Ooops, content deleted.
     
  21. Lost Kiwi

    Lost Kiwi Member

    Location:
    Was UK, now Mission Viejo!
    Name:
    Simon
    Current Bike:
    Nugget Proflex 657
    I've always been pretty mechanically minded, pulling stuff apart and trying to put it back together again. From a bike perspective though I spent so much time at the local shop as a youngster that eventually the shop owner stuffed a wrench in my hand and told me to make myself useful. It grew from there, he showed me how to build wheels, build up frames etc. I lost touch with a lot of the more modern stuff (hydraulic brakes, dropper posts, tubeless wheels etc) when I stopped riding but these days I find a youtube vid and the thing I'm trying to fix in front of me and I can muddle my way through it most of the time with a successful outcome!
    Like @Redman said, get yourself something old, pull it apart to work out whats worn out / broken (and how they come apart) buy new bits to replace worn out bits and rebuild. You don't need much in the way of specialist tools with the old stuff, and bits are cheap. All with the added bonus of a cool retro ride at the end of it all :laugh:
    Bikes are pretty simple things at the end of the day.
     
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