Is it more cost effective to be your own mechanic?

Questions about bike hire abroad and everything light bike related. No off-topic chat please

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by carbon2329

I know the immediate answer, people with think and say, is yes, but is it, for everyone?

Take me for example:

-I ride about 9000 miles a year (or about 14,400 km)
-The weather here is dry and roads are clean
-I use 2-3 bikes (road) (I sold two, last year, and have one bike now...and "one-on-the-way" :) )
-I keep my bikes VERY VERY clean

In the past 4-5 years I have had a mechanic do:
diagnose a need for a new section of cable housing (Easy to diagnose by a mechanic and relatively inexpensive with labor and parts)
-One Mavic hub over-haul (Easy for mechanic to diagnose & relatively cheap with labor & parts)
-change bars & tape (once or twice)
-change stems (once or twice)
-change cranks (once or twice a year )
-Build bikes (not so cheap, but requires all the parts and expertise....BUT how often is it needed)
-----so not a lot done, but have bikes build up

I have done the small stuff:
-bought and installed cassettes myself
-installing pedals (I know...easy, but I am just being thorough)
-computer parts and pieces (I know...easy, but I am just being thorough)
-bike fitting (I don't do my own fitting, but I know how to replicate it on new builds)

I buy a new bike every two years (about), so with changing frames etc... is it effective to buy all the proprietary tools (and time) to do all this myself;
-torque wrenches (I buy WW stuff)
-BB stuff
-housing stuff
-I don't even know...what I don't know

Or is it more cost effective to just use the LBS just when needed...which isn't THAT often.
(I went all last season just having one crank swapped...that's is.
Does if justify the cost to get all the parts and pieces and tools to do it myself...not to mention the time to learn it all...and the possible cost of destroying something ;))

What are your thought's?
Last edited by carbon2329 on Wed Dec 18, 2013 11:53 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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by aaric

You're pretty much your own mechanic already :P

Torque wrench: You probably should have one already for working on stems, seatposts, etc. Though, I'd wager your LBS mechanic isn't using one, except if he's doing a job he doesn't do that often, and is being extra careful for some reason. You could probably do fine with a couple torque keys.

Housing stuff consists of buying a housing cutter. Pretty cheap, really. Pays for itself its first use.

BB stuff, really depends on what you have - a traditional shimano bb wrench is less than $20. Pays for itself its first use. BB30 tools aren't that much more.

There's really not that much more to buy...perhaps a steerer cutting guide, hack saw blade. Truing stand perhaps. Wheel building would be considered a bit more advanced, and has a few more tools, and is probably best left to the experts unless you want to invest the time into learning it.

I tend to like having the ability to fix my own bikes. Its not just the cost to pay the shop, its the time required to drive there and back twice, and the availability: those times when the shop isn't open. Being able to tear down and replace a crank bearing on a Friday night for your Saturday morning ride is quite helpful.

Park tools has quite a few tutorials on their website too - its a pretty good resource.

by Weenie

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by carbon2329

I do have a torque wrench, but it is for lower torques, so I would need a lager one for BB, Cassettes, cranks etc...correct?

Perhaps I should just learn the basics like:
-bar tape
-BB (if I use the same two cranks that shouldn't be an problem)
-swapping cranks
-swapping stems and bars

And leave the other stuff to the LBS
-cable housing
-steerer cutting

I still wonder about installing things like EE brakes or headsets, or iLinks or PF BB's (is the cost of the tool worth getting If I only install it once and then perhaps a few years later at the soonest as it wears out...(again, I use multiple bikes so they don't wear too fast "knock-on-wood")

Does that make sense?

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by mdeth1313

What tool for eebrakes and/or ilinks? I use both and I installed them on my bike. No special tools required. Takes a bit of getting used to w/ the eebrakes, but nothing terrible. Besides, once they're set up, it's pretty much a done deal. I've had to change cables and adjust housing length since, but no issues at all.
Speedplay is the devil!

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by eric

The best things about doing my own work is that I can take the time to do it right, and I dont have to take the bike to the shop, wait in the shop to be helped, leave the shop, come back later, wait to be helped, and take the bike back home. That time adds up. Between work, family, training and sleep my life is alreeady pretty full.

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by mdeth1313

This, and if you've got high end (high cost) WW equipment, finding a shop you trust w/ your stuff can also be a challenge.
Speedplay is the devil!

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by prendrefeu

Adding to the WW-aspect of things: most mechanics will not do the "necessary" things for a true WW build (ie, make the cable loop as short as functionally possible, work with delicate nylon bolts, etc:.)

Tools get acquired over time, or simply borrowed (example: how often do I need to use a cutting guide? Not often enough to justify buying a new one, so I've borrowed in the meantime). Once you have a tool, "it's for life." Slowly I'm replacing my need for the mechanics, the only tools I have yet to acquire are the aforementioned cutting guide of my own, a nice truing stand, and bearing presses for hubs. At the moment the only thing I really need a mechanic for are wheel-related things such as bearings/truing/building. Soon enough though, I will be entirely self-sufficient for all of the foreseeable mechanical work.

A true (hu)man should be able to fix everything in their own domain or at least have the knowledge necessary to solve problems when faced with one.
Yes, even if you've gone "electronic" you better know how it wires up, how to fix the CPU, how it actually works, and how to solder wires together.
Lack of knowledge and skill makes one dependent upon others.

Will bike mechanics go out of business? Nah, there will always be people who either don't know how, don't want to know how, don't have time to do it, aren't willing to put in the time & effort to become mechanically skillful, or are simply lazy. That's been the case even when we were moving with horses & carriages: most people had that wheel fixed from a mechanic, but a select few chose to fix it themselves and learned woodwork, blacksmithing, etc:.

So is it more cost effective? In the short term, no. It takes time, money (tool acquisition), and effort.
Is it a worthwhile investment for your self ? Yes. Immeasurably so.
Exp001 || Other projects in the works.

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by Skorp

I work as a bikemechanic in a workshop.

If i were the normal cyclist with no technical work or education i would do all the jobs which require special tools in a workshop.

I would learn all the basics like:
Changing tyres
Changing wheels
Changing stem
Changing saddle
Changing cranks
Changing pedals
Adjusting gears and changing wires
Bleeding brakes

The stuff i would let a good LBS do:
Cutting seatpost, handlebars or steerertube
Truing and tensioning wheels
Changing any bearing
Reaming, facing and rethreading
Service on forks

A good workshop will know the tricks, and have the proper tools for this stuff.
Your pressfit BB won't creak, the cutting job won't be crookid and the bearings will roll as smooth as possible.

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by Rick

To me, it seems like you can always save enough money on the first incident to justify any tools that you need.
I don't consider myself gifted in mechanical operations in any way, but I do have a lot of experience on bikes, motorcycles, various hobbies, etc, so bike mechanics seems pretty simple to me. You can take the time to be really finicky, and if it isn't perfect you know who to blame...then you can get them to fix it the next time for free.

My carpentry experience came in handy for cutting fork steerer tubes. I have a fine-carbide-toothed electric miter saw that walks through carbon like it isn't even there ! :lol:

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by bombertodd

I couldn't find a decent bike shop with in a hour drive from me so I ended up learning myself. Between manufacture PDF's, YouTube videos, and forums it's pretty easy if you can follow instructions. The tools do add up but they are yours forever, and tools rarely wear out or break. Some will go extinct with new technology, but usually they are the cheaper tools. I think it's cheaper to work on your own bike. I have a few friends who swear by some shop they trust and they are happy, but their bills for labor is high (shops and mechanics need to make money, I get it) and I couldn't justify it. As someone else mentioned doing it yourself means you can take the time to do it right and exactly how you like it.

One good tip I'd recommend is buying housing/cable in bulk and invest in a nice pair of housing cutters. I have a pair of Jagwire's that I like. Bulk housing/wire will save you money and you can replace often without braking the bank. A nice pair of cutters makes the job actually enjoyable.

Good luck with whichever path you choose!

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by Geoff

Most on WW probably do their own work because they don't trust anyone else to do it.

It is a good idea to learn to service your own ride. It is pretty easy. The only problem comes when you need specialty tools, which can get expensive (check-out Campagnolo's chain tool). There is no shame in getting your LBS to do the stuff that you need those specialty tools for.

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by carbon2329

Skorp wrote:The stuff i would let a good LBS do:
Cutting seatpost, handlebars or steerertube
Truing and tensioning wheels
Changing any bearing
Reaming, facing and rethreading
Service on forks

A good workshop will know the tricks, and have the proper tools for this stuff.
Your pressfit BB won't creak, the cutting job won't be crookid and the bearings will roll as smooth as possible.

This is probably wise and most cost effective.

Also, the idea of doing more of the small stuff myself would be nice. I DEFINITLY get tired of taking things in and then picking it back up and then there is the inevitable thing they forgot to do or the shifting is terrible with OEM parts (and that is why I took it in...and it still shifts poorly and then I have to take it in AGAIN.
It has gotten so bad that I actually make a list now of things that are needed and what parts I take in and will need to take back. So, when I pick it up, I go over what was needed to be done and what I should be taking home with me.
Last edited by carbon2329 on Thu Dec 19, 2013 6:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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by Butcher

One thing for certain, Not all people can be mechanics. Some brains are just not wired for it. So, Shops will always be around. As a Shop Foreman and now an owner for over 25 years, I know this to be true.

As manufacturers are making/designing parts, the amount of robots are getting more and more. This allows for easier disassembly but also items that can no longer be disassembled too [[ie plastic welded seems].

Also, the liability that manufacturers run into, they insist I [as a mechanic] am not able to set it up as well as the factory and will not allow me to fix anything. We will not mention software too [to fix things the bad hardware].

Mechanics, like Doctors, practice what they do. As the years go by, they get better with all the practices and experiences. Usually the good ones have more 'practice' but that is not 100% the case.

I for one want to do everything and that means everything. From putting on a roof in my house, to drilling holes in my carbon frame for a completely hidden EPS SR groupset. Auto Technician is my trade and I have worked on some of the most expensive/rare cars in the world. There is nothing I can't do without the right tools. The fact is, believing that, has allowed me to be backed into a corner wondering why I did that.

You should do as much work as you can, mostly because, when you are broken down somewhere, you can resolve an issue and get home [without using the ultimate tool, the cell phone]. Obviously, time, tools, and ability seem to be the usual culprits that get in the way of fixing anything. Again, with more practice the better you will get. Trust me, in the beginning it's frustrating, but after a few years, you will laugh at yourself or others as they accomplish easy tasks that you have mastered.
Last edited by Butcher on Sat Dec 21, 2013 4:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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by mattr

Anything that needs a tool that costs over about £50/€80 should be a bike shop job.
Anything less than that, I'll buy the tool and do it myself. (I can get from one end of a tool box to the other without skinning my knuckles)

By the time I've got the bike to and from the shop and paid for 30 minutes labour (few jobs using the more expensive tools take more time than this) it's usually cheaper to diy it. And I've not got any tools that I've not used several times, so it must be working.
Only exception to this is servicing forks, mainly as i hate getting oil everywhere.

Wheels is something everyone should try, even if it's only for fun (not a wheel you intend to ride!)

by Weenie

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by carbon2329

One thing I always wonder whether I should bother to learn is to overhaul a hub.

For example: I have a set of Mavic Ksyriums SL I have had for 7 years. They started out as daily riders, now they are only ridden on the trainer.
They have been service once in 7 years and are now still in good shape. If I take the tie to learn how to overhaul them, I may not need to do it for years (maybe 5-7 even) but I would take 2-3 hours to do it (and hopfully correctly) then forget how to do it 9over the next 5-7 years) and then it all starts over again.

Or do I just take it to the LBS and have them over-haul it for $30-$50 (once every 5-7years).

I guess learning will increase skill with everything but I just wonder.

I also don't have a ton of free time. I am a professional, have two kids, a house blah blah blah.

Is it worth the 2-3 hrs (and hope it's done right and haven't ruined it) or just pay the $30-$50 + the 10min drive both ways.

:noidea: :noidea:

So, I wonder if certain things are better done by me and others by the LBS. (like stated above)(cost-wise)

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