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Monday, April 14, 2014

Options and advice for cyclists to consider on bicycle maintenance and repair

Options and advice for cyclists to consider on bicycle maintenance and repair
By:  Michael G. Lander
Cyclists have the option of taking their bikes to one of a dozen different bike
shops around Memphis or they try to do the maintenance and repair themselves.
In choosing to do it themselves, they not only can save on labor costs, but they
can become more familiar with their bikes and how they work.
Bicycle maintenance and repair is not usually the first thing that most people think about when they first become interested in cycling.  For me, it never even entered my mind when I bought my first bike.  Like most people, I only saw my bicycle as a way of providing me with many hours of fun, recreation, and exercise and maybe even, later on, as a viable and economical means of transportation in and around Memphis. 

The thought of having to maintain and repair a bike was the furthest thing from my mind because my bike was brand spanking new and, at the time, I was far more interested in the features that my bike had and how cool it looked in its University of Memphis colors.  With an astounding 27 gears, it had a much greater range than the 10-speed bike that I had ridden over 20 years before. 

It wasn't until many months after I got my new bike, when it didn't look quite so new anymore, covered with a layer of grit and grime, that I began to realize that I needed to do something to prevent things from wearing out and breaking down prematurely.  As anyone with a bike knows, it doesn't seem to take long before parts need to repaired, adjusted and replaced and waiting too long to do things will often cost you a whole lot more money in the long run.

Other than the initial purchase of a bike, the next greatest set of expenses for many cyclists will come over time when you either need to fix or to keep your bike in good working order.  In the long-term, these costs will often eclipse and exceed whatever amount that you might have spent in your initial investment in a bike.


The Revolutions Community Bike Shop in Cooper-Young offers Memphis
residents with the opportunity to give back to their community while
they learn more about bicycle maintenance and repairs.
When it comes time to do maintenance or repairs on a bike, it really comes down to two simple choices.  You always have the option of simply taking it to a bike shop and letting someone else take care of it for you or, for the budget-conscious person, you can always consider trying to do it yourself. 

There are advantages and disadvantages (pros and cons) of either taking your bike to a shop or trying to do it yourself (DIY).  Bike Shops can save you time and lessen the amount of hassle and frustration that you might encounter by trying to do it yourself and you can always take your bike back to the shop if you are not satisfied with something.  The downside to them, however, is the cost and the time (sometimes a week or more) spent waiting for your bike to be worked on. 

Being able to work on a bike yourself can be a much more wallet-friendly option that will not only save you some money, but you won't have to wait until a bike shop gets around to working on your bike.  On top of that, by doing it yourself, you also acquire some practical hands-on experience with your bike.  Becoming familiar with it can be especially helpful  if something goes wrong with it in the middle of nowhere.  After making repairs yourself, you will also have a sense of pride that only comes from doing something yourself and not having to always rely on the work of others. 

The only issues that may be a problem in doing your own maintenance and repairs is that you will need to have sufficient space for this.  It may not be worth it if you don't actually enjoy this kind of thing or like getting your hands greasy and dirty.  There may also be a learning curve that comes along with trying to do things yourself that can sometimes be accompanied by a little confusion and frustration in the trial and error process that you may sometimes run into before you get it right.  


Having the proper tools and the know-how can be indispensable
to cyclists no matter where they are.
 You can learn basic to more detailed bicycle maintenance and repairs from videos posted on YouTube and, with your tablet or iPad beside you, you can watch how to do it as you attempt it yourself.  There are videos that demonstrate general maintenance and repairs and step-by-step instructions on how to change a tire and a bicycle chain, clean and lubricate a bicycle chain, adjust a rear derailleur, gears and brakes, clean and repack a hub, truing a wheel, replace a cogset, and how to change a cassette and how to do a tune-up.  If you don't have a repair stand, you can even watch videos on how to make a repair stand yourself. 

In addition to going online, several Memphis area bike shops also offer some very helpful free maintenance and repair classes.   Bikes Plus, Inc has a free monthly tire changing clinic every third Saturday at 2:00 pm, Bike the Planet provides a free maintenance clinic on the first Saturday of every month, Bike World gives an occasional free Bicycle Repair 101 Course, and Victory Bicycle Studio has a free bike maintenance class every Wednesday at 6 pm.  For contact information on these bike shops and a complete listing of all the other ones in the Memphis area, click on this link to the Memphis Cyclist website.

You can also learn about bicycles and how to do some bicycle maintenance and repairs at Revolutions Community Bike Shop.  It is located at the First Congregational Church in the Cooper-Young neighborhood  at 1000 S. Cooper Ave, Memphis, TN.   Each volunteer is expected to give a total of 10 hours of their time to the charitable work to the community bike shop and, in return, you get a free bike for your efforts, which you will eventually put together yourself.  After that, you will have a place where you can then take the bike and do your own repairs on it from that point forward.

In order to avoid unnecessary and costly repairs to your bike in the first place, it is important to do some periodic and preventive maintenance, including a tune-up. 

As a kid, I remember my parents telling me that if I took care of something that it would last longer and, as far as bicycles are concerned, it was advice I have found to be true. 

You may be able to ride hundreds or thousands of miles on a bike, but there is lots of wear and tear on it throughout the time that it takes to rack up that many miles on a bike.  Unless you have the intentions of riding it until the wheels fall of, you will be a lot better off doing some periodic checks, lubricating the chain, and cleaning off dirt and debris, especially if you are riding a mountain bike.  The last thing that you want to ever run into is to have your bike break down during a long-distance bike ride or to have an accident when it could have easily been avoided by a simple check and repair beforehand.

To learn more about bicycle maintenance and repairs, you might want to check out MadeGood.Bikes at http://www.madegood.org/bikes/repairs/.  For those with road and mountain bikes, Todd Downs has written a book, entitled "The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair" that might be a great resource for the do-it-yourselfer. 

Also, if you have some time to spare, there is a very informative and helpful, (1 hour and 24 minute), Youtube video, Bike Garage - The Ultimate Bike Repair Movie Bicycle Maintenance, that may provide you with an overview of bicycle maintenance and repair worth watching before you think about delving into the do-it-yourself arena yourself.

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