Why I do my own bike maintenance and repairs
I love working on my bikes! That wasn’t always true, though.
A couple years after I started riding I became interested in doing my own bike maintenance and repair. I was tired of relying on others to keep my bikes running, and I also found (not naming names) that some–not all–shops simply don’t do very good work. I hated having to take my bike to the shop, wait a few days for the maintenance or repairs to be completed, drive back to the shop, pick up my bike and then find that there were still issues. That drove me nuts. More seriously, I personally know riders who have been seriously injured due to bike shop incompetence and/or indifference.
If you do take your bikes to a shop for repair and maintenance, it’s vital that you pick a good one. Ask around and get recommendations from experienced riders in your area. I know several LBS wrenches who will treat your steed as if it’s their own, so let me know if you need a local recommendation.
Anyway, in 2011 I decided to carve out a section of the garage for a dedicated home bike maintenance and repair shop. I started off with a fairly nice selection of tools and supplies, and over the years I added more advanced/specific tools and supplies whenever I’ve needed them. Today my shop is more or less professional level, and can handle just about any repair under the sun.
I’m fairly mechanically oriented, and I’ve never shied away from learning new things, but when I first started learning bike maintenance I found it to often be frustrating. Even though I grew up working on cars, bike maintenance was an entirely different animal.
I didn’t make the learning process easy on myself: I cut my teeth on my full suspension mountain bike with hydraulic brakes, and a couple of hardtail mountain bikes. One of my first big projects was replacing my Fuel EX 8’s stock drivetrain (cassette, chain, cranks, front and rear derailleurs, front and rear shifters, bottom bracket) with full XO gear. I also replaced the stock wheels with American Classic tubeless, the saddle, the handlebars, the stem, the grips and more. Believe it or not, everything turned out great!
The satisfaction I felt after that early success greatly outweighed the frustration I sometimes experienced when I was first learning. I was hooked.
Here’s my bike shop with photos, video and a complete up-to-date listing of all tools and supplies. The video is horribly out of date, but it’s interesting in the sense that shows how my shop looked when it first “opened” for business. The photos are a little dated, but I keep the list of tools and materials current. I really should take all new photos and shoot a new video.
None of my bikes have been to a bike shop for repairs or maintenance in almost five years. The only thing I’m not yet comfortable doing is wheel building, and so I have used professional shops for re-lacing of wheels. Wheel truing, though, is something I’m very comfortable doing here at home.
I do wish my shop had air conditioning. Spending a few hours in the shop when it’s 100°F outside is just a little uncomfortable. I’ll admit that I’ve considered moving it inside, into my home gym. I may still do that.
Because taking bikes to the shop can be inconvenient, lots of cyclists who don’t do their own work blow off the routine maintenance that should be done on a regular basis. Bikes that are not properly maintained are not going to run as well as they should, and can even be downright dangerous to ride.
Florida summers are particularly hard on bikes. Dirt, sand, humidity, rain, sweat… all these thing wreak havoc on your bike. In addition to my quick pre- and post-ride maintenance items, I do a full teardown once per week, inspecting, cleaning, lubing and replacing parts as needed. You will never see me show up for a ride with a dirty drivetrain. Never.
The shop tools are definitely an investment, but with as much as I ride I’m pretty confident they have paid for themselves a few times over now.
These days bike maintenance is something I find relaxing and enjoyable. I love bikes. I love being around bikes. I love thinking about bikes. I love talking about bikes. Bike maintenance is yet another way to enjoy the sport when I’m not actually out riding. The satisfaction of doing my own work is immense, and I know the job is always going to be done right.