Maintenance Work: Do It Yourself or Leave to the Pros?


By Robert Annis
As a bike racer, let me confess to some of my darkest secrets: I can’t tell the difference between a BB30 and a PressFit 30 bottom bracket. I can’t even instantly rattle off the number of gear inches on any of my current bikes.
I know dozens of cyclists who share my secret shame. When it comes to maintenance, I can lube my drivetrain, change a cassette and little else. When my more knowledgeable friends start to ramble on about rebuilding a front suspension fork, I listen intently, but they might as well be speaking Latin.
I’ve made efforts to learn how to properly adjust my derailleur or replace my shifter cables, but -- much like my riding this year – it’s slow going.
Experienced SRAM Neutral Support mechanic and Indy Service Course owner Matt McKinney says less mechanically adept riders should at least have an understanding of how their bike should work.
“It is important to be able to notice, understand and troubleshoot an issue, either in the garage or on a ride,” McKinney said. “Personal mechanical aptitude governs what a rider should handle themselves. Keeping up on service intervals is more important to a rider (than being able to do a) MacGyver-like repair.”
Road side repairs – changing flats, and making simple derailleur and brake adjustments – should be mandatory knowledge for every rider, said Scott Irons, owner of Indy Cycle Specialist and an accomplished bike mechanic.
“That knowledge can keep you from walking or ending a great ride early,” Irons said.
The next time you’re in your local bike shop for a routine repair, ask your mechanic if you can watch and ask questions. Take notes or film what he’s doing with your camera phone. If the shop isn’t too busy, you can even ask if he’ll walk you through the repair so you can get the hands-on experience you need.
While I might not know my way around an offset brake wrench yet, I know other riders who fancy themselves amateur wrenches, but mostly manage to muck up their rides. So what jobs should be left to the pros?
Cat 4 track and cyclo-cross racer Jeremy Crumbaugh considers himself a decent amateur mechanic, having built up two bikes from the frame up. He handles most of his own jobs, except for tasks such as headset installation and BB30 crank installation, both of which require special tools and can result in frame damage if botched.
If you’re trying a repair for the first time, be sure to make note of what you’re taking off your bike and in what order. Use a guide such as Bicycling Magazine’s Bicycle Maintenance & Repair or a YouTube video as a reference along the way. If you screw up and something breaks, stop what you’re doing, put your bike on your rack and head to your local shop. When you get there, explain exactly how the repair went off the rails. Sure it might be a little embarrassing, but it will help them diagnose and fix the problem. 
Ace mechanic Josh Prater’s rule of thumb for less-experienced home mechanics? If you can fix it with your hands, or an allen wrench, have at it. If it requires a screwdriver, leave it to the pros.

This Article Updated October 2, 2013 @ 03:23 PM For more information contact: