If you ride a bicycle, you’ve probably noticed that every once in a while, your bike needs a little love. This can be anything from minor adjustments to the cables and brake pads to overhauling the bearing systems, from replacing parts to truing wheels, and everything in between. Even if you’re comfortable doing the simpler repairs, if you don’t have the know-how or the tools for the more complicated issues, you probably still take your bike into a shop – and a second opinion about what that mystery rattle might be never hurts either.
When it comes to bike maintenance and repair, if you’re going to ride regularly, it’s a good idea to know the basics at least (you don’t want to be stranded if you flat on your morning commute). And if your riding is a little more ambitious – if you’re planning a bicycle tour that could take you off the beaten path – you might want to familiarize yourself with some more complex repairs, since it could be a while between bike shops. Regardless of whether you’re learning to change a flat or build a wheel, there are a plethora of resources out there for the aspiring bike mechanic.
Books and Websites
One of the best places to start, especially if you’re just getting in to bike repair, is at your local library or on the internet. These resources are not only FREE, but are also pretty comprehensive. An hour or so on the internet or with a good bike repair book, and you’ll have a good idea of what’s involved with the repair you want to do, the tools you’ll need, and step-by-step instructions. If you’re patient and like the self-guided approach, this can be a great way to learn more about repairing your own bicycle. A great place to start on the internet is Sheldon Brown’s website or an online bike forum; and while there are many wonderful bike repair books out on the market, a great one to start with is The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair.
Local Repair Classes
If you like a little more instruction when it comes to tackling bike repair (or if you’ve attempted the self-guided approach and got stuck), your local shop might offer repair classes. Often, shops have beginner, intermediate and advanced level classes, taught by experienced mechanics, or if not, you might find something similar through a technical college or continuing education program. While there are exceptions, these classes are usually BYOB (bring your own bike), and since Montague bikes are built using industry standard parts, you could even do the class with your folding bike.
There are several advantages to a bike shop class over the self-guided repair approach. The obvious one is that you have someone showing you how to do it – if you have a question, you can ask. You don’t have to worry if you’re doing it correctly because if something’s not working, your instructor can help you get back on track before you get back on your bike.
You also have access to a complete shop’s worth of tools. For many people, one of the major barriers to doing their own bike repair is not having the right tools. By doing a class at a shop, you get to use everything you need, and can decide which tools are worth the investment for you. It’s also a good way to meet other cyclists who live in your area.
Depending on your level of interest and schedule, you could also enroll in a program at a bike mechanic school, such as the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland and Portland, OR or the Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs, CO. Both of these institutions offer classes for the beginner as well as the experienced mechanic. These are all-day, every-day classes (rather than a couple of hours after work), and the programs last anywhere from a week to a few months. While a 2-, 3-, or even 6-week course won’t turn you into an experienced mechanic over night, the intensity of these programs will give you a firm grounding for any future classes or bike repair you might want to do. These classes cost more than the typical bike shop class, but also involve significantly more instructional time.
Do You Repair Your Own Bike? How did You Learn?
Do you like to work on your own bike? What’s your favourite/least favourite repair? Did you teach yourself, or did you take a class? What did you find most helpful when you were learning to work on your bike?