I just wanted to recommend the recent post about when doing bicycle DIY is worthwhile, from Lovely Bicycle!, and its comment thread to our readers.
I’ve written before about why I’m learning to do my own bicycle maintenance tasks:
So why is this old bike worth so much effort? Well, first of all, there’s having a bombproof bike at the end of the process that will serve me and my family well, and likely survive another 40 years or more. These old three-speed steel bikes were built to last with minimal maintenance. There’s also the satisfaction and self-confidence that comes with making or fixing something with your own hands, and the practical skills your learn in the process. However, I also have more philosophical reasons to fix up my bikes myself: knowing how my bike works will make me enjoy riding it even more, and I’m teaching my kids by example that it is better to repair and reuse things than replace them. That’s surely worth the trouble!
… So for me, DIY has little to do with saving money or time. (Anyone who has followed my bicycle projects realizes that I have many started, and few finished, at this point – in large part because the life of my young family doesn’t mesh well with my local coop’s hours.) I’m also doing any specialized DIY under the supervision of talented mechanics at my local co-op and using their specialized tools, so the costs and risks associated with my newbie status are significantly mitigated.
I describe DIY projects here because I think they’re neat, and they may be helpful to someone else who is trying to do something similar. I also want to demonstrate that mechanical work on vintage bicycles is not rocket science or something to be intimidated by – if I can figure it out, anyone can. Furthermore, I am gaining enough understanding and vocabulary from these projects that I feel more comfortable talking to bike-shop staffers and people at the co-op – which can only be a good thing, especially when (right or wrong) we girls too often feel intimidated or talked down to by bike guys.
However. I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t get nearly enough time at EBC to do all the projects I have lined up, and I’m getting impatient to see some of them finished – so I’m going to be taking some of them in to the talented mechanics at my favourite LBSs. Their hourly rates are surprisingly reasonable, and I’d really rather be spending my free time during the fleeting days of fall riding my bike instead of working on it. (It’s supposed to be an early & brutal winter this year, if the almanac people are to be believed, and I’m not outfitted for full-on winter riding, so I’ll have more time for such projects while it’s cold.)
Furthermore, I agree with Lovely Bicycle on one crucial point: nobody should feel like they need to be able to fix their bike themselves in order to start riding it. Just go enjoy your bike, guilt-free. As long as you have a great LBS with bike mechanics you trust to maintain your bike for you, you don’t need to take classes from the local bike kitchen, or
hoard (ahem) collect parts from the same decade as your vintage bike(s) (All the more for me. I mean what?). But the flip side of that is: don’t be intimidated by basic bike maintenance tasks. Part of the beauty of bicycles is their intuitive design and simplicity.