5 big sticking points that put people off maintaining their bikes themselves

Recently, we ran a survey on the topic of bicycle maintenance. I wanted to know more about readers thoughts so I can better serve them on this blog. The results of the survey are private (won’t be shared with any nasty marketers etc.) but I wanted to post up some of the early insights I’ve been receiving.

Here are some of the most interesting reasons people give for not maintaining their bikes themselves.

1. Not enough space at home

It’s easy to see why this would be one of the top 3 reasons readers gave for not maintaining their bikes themselves. Filling the hallway with a bike stand, getting grease everywhere and annoying your flatmate or wife are amongst the top considerations. Londoners often are not blessed with an abundance of garage space.

This was one of the concerns that most interested me. It’s also a problem I personally face and has put me off bicycle maintenance in the past more than I would like it to. Therefore, I’m going to create a video that demonstrates how to setup an effective home workshop within a very limited space.

2. Can’t afford the tools needed

This is a very real concern. Bicycle maintenance toolkits start at around £120 and run up to £1000 and above. I want to look in to ways of borrowing tools and saving money on the tools you’ll need.

3. Lack of knowledge

We live in the information age so finding bicycle maintenance tutorials is just a quick search away. However, the quality varies wildly. This is something I experienced when I tried to repair my iPhone myself. By following a badly researched YouTube video I ended up doing more damage.

In general I’ve always found bicycle maintenance manuals a little too unnecessarily technical and often lacking in clarity and detail where it is needed. I’d like to address those concerns and see if something could be created that is far more simple to follow.

4. Look foolish to a bike shop

Sadly certain bike shops don’t treat their customers as well as they should. Therefore, you end up feeling bad taking your bike in to the shop for fear of the smirk on the bike shop workers face when you explain what went wrong with a repair.

5. Safety of the bike after you’ve “fiddled” with it

It’s excellent that people have identified this as a concern. No doubt the image of a wheel flying off your bike as you are pedalling down a busy road is enough to cause a lot of fear for any would be home bicycle mechanic.

Fortunately, it’s easy to perform safety checks and if the maintenance instructions include steps to check your work then this fear should never come true. Plus I’ve yet to hear a story of this happening to someone.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the sort of insights this survey has provided. I’m really excited to get started with helping people combat their bicycle maintenance fears and help them look after their bike themselves for both their own pleasure and to save money.

Once again, a very big thank you to everyone who responded.

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13 Responses to 5 big sticking points that put people off maintaining their bikes themselves

  1. Tommi 06/03/2012 at 9:38 am #

    I think you may be exaggerating the price of tools somewhat. You can get a whole lot regular maintenance done with just an allen key or two, screwdriver (in a swiss army knife even), spanner and wire cutters – and you can use the tools for other things as well. I find it’s the special tools that are only useful for single purpose like changing cassette and chain or cranks and pedals – something you may not be doing even once a year – that just may not be worth it, relatively cheaper and surely stress free to simply drop the bike to a shop.

    • Sarah 06/03/2012 at 11:10 am #

      I agree that you can put together a bike kit from various tools that can be purchased relatively cheaply but I don’t have the knowledge to put a kit like that together. Although I’d have need for a screwdriver, I’d want to be sure that I could use wire cutters before I purchased some.

      I certainly find that space for maintenance is a consideration for me as my bike is either kept at work or at the train station. Lack of knowledge is a huge barrier for me too!

  2. Tommi 06/03/2012 at 9:50 am #

    Oh, regarding safety after maintenance. When I was about 13 I fixed a puncture on my back tube, but after putting the wheel back on forgot to properly reattach one part related to coaster brakes. Downhill we go, approaching a (blind) junction I realise I’ve no brakes (second one was not required at the time) – fortunately feet-to-the-ground backup brake still worked.

  3. atlaz 06/03/2012 at 12:01 pm #

    You don’t need many tools. A good multi-tool will handle 90% of what you need for the majority of people. I’m currently away from the place I have my “proper” equipment and other than things like fitting bottom brackets, and fitting/removing new headsets, I’ve done it all with the tool I carry with me when I ride. Of course I do have the luxury of owning crank pullers, chain whips, BB removers, bushing removers and the like but the need for those is so rare you could buy them as you need them.

    So a multi-tool and a book will do 90% of what you need then you build up as you go (not even any need for a workstand with some creativity).

  4. Alexander Baxevanis 06/03/2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Halfords has a bike toolkit for 35 pounds (maybe 30 with a discount they have at the moment).


    It’s got almost all the tools I needed to strip down an old frame and turn it into a single speed bike.

    Sure, the quality of the tools is probably not at the same level as Park Tools (or whatever else you get in a pro workshop), but it’s fine for occasional use.

  5. Freddie 06/03/2012 at 1:35 pm #

    You don’t need £120 worth of tools for basic maintenance, and it’s probably more cost effective to bring it to the shop for anything that needs a specific tool.

    But I’m with everyone on the space. There’s a real limit to what I can do in my small hallway.

  6. ankita 06/03/2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Hi this is ankita form middlesex university, am a media student and we are doing a documentary on London Cyclist’s, are you free for an interview? If yes then do tell me your location and mail me at ankita007ster@gmail.com

  7. Al Barclay 09/03/2012 at 10:28 am #

    So what is needed is an open workshop somewhere in London, with all the tools and a qualified mechanic to help out, where people pay (say) a fiver on a drop-in basis.

    Something like what the Oxford Cycle Co-op offer. Unfortunately they seem to be struggling financially at the moment, so perhaps the economics do not weigh up.

    It’s a shame bike shops don’t do open workshop nights more, but then that might compromise their business a bit. I have heard stories of mythical bike shops in the North that do or used to do things like this.

  8. philcycle 09/03/2012 at 5:47 pm #

    The Haynes manual covers most jobs – and may be available from your local library (borrow it and then decided whether to buy – or put it on your wish list). Read it, or similar, to decide what tools are required before starting a job.
    Basic maintenance tools are really no more than you need to carry when out riding – eg multi-tool and tyre levers. As jobs which need more tools occur make a value judgement as to whether to buy the tools or have a shop do the work.
    Be methodical (eg reassemble in the reverse order of disassembly) and safety should not be compromised.
    Get a friend to help/teach you so you gain confidence.
    Happy maintenance.

  9. Peter K 09/03/2012 at 6:00 pm #

    I do mine on the floor.

    The Halfords kit does for most of the stuff.
    for a community workshop if you live in the East there’s Hackney Bike Workshop
    Which is run by Hackney cycling campaign.

    It’d be nice to have one in the west (where I live)

    Safety wise you’ll be OK if you test brakes etc before you ride, which arguably you ought to do as a matter of course (e.g. the “M-check”)

  10. Natalie 09/03/2012 at 10:24 pm #

    “annoying your flatmate or wife”

    … or maybe even husband? Or perhaps just partner?!

  11. Chris 19/03/2012 at 4:42 pm #

    I’ve sorted a list of tools, an approach buying then, and keeping them sorted if you’d like to see it. It is specifically targeted at trying to remove the fear, and overwhelming elements of getting the proper tools one needs to mend their bicycle.

  12. Cycling Alpe D'Huez 21/03/2012 at 8:58 pm #

    I built myself a cheap ‘project bike’. I didn’t need any flash tools – and although I stayed well away from presing the headset into the frame I did everything else. As it wasn’t my ‘real’ bike, I didn’t have the worry of messing something up. Funnily enough, the trickiest thing wasn’t technical at all, it was trying to get the gear cable sleeves through the frame and out the other end (I had internal cable routing).

    What I gained out of it (apart from another bike, at a cheap price – most of the parts were off Ebay) was the confidence to start maintaining my ‘real’ bike. Admittedly the first ride was a little nerve wracking, but I took it real easy!

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