What is stopping people from maintaining their bikes themselves?

Stopping you from maintaining bike yourself

Doing your own routine bike maintenance has many benefits. You can instantly fix your bike, without relying on the timetable of the local bike shop. You can save significant amounts of money on bike shop repairs. It can also be reassuring to know that if something goes wrong, you can fix it. So why don’t more people maintain their bikes themselves?

This was a question I set out to find the answer to, when we surveyed over 1000 London Cyclist readers about their bike maintenance habits.

The findings below are incredibly interesting and they are also the basis of a new online bike maintenance course that we’ve designed and will be launching soon.

Feel I’ll mess things up and it will be embarrassing to go to a bike shop to fix it

We’ve all had that moment where we’ve been putting together some Ikea furniture and we suddenly become stuck. With a puzzled look on our faces we consult the manual and then go and make a cup of tea, promising to do it later. On your bike, that’s your means of transport to work. It can’t wait till later.

There’s also a fear of messing something up and then been laughed at the local bike shop. Personally, I’d change my local bike shop if I was expecting to be treated like that, but that’s an issue for another blog post.

My wheel will fly off as I pedal down the road

“Still slightly scared I’m not doing things properly and that half way through my commute to work my bike will just fall apart!”

This is another common concern, and very similar to the one above. However, this is where the M-Check comes in so useful. It’s a simple checklist you can follow to discover any issues with your bike and make sure it is safe to ride. I’ll be sharing the M-Check video from our bike maintenance course here on the site next week.

I don’t have the space

“Space and the Mrs objection to using the hall as a workshop”

A concern that I can really relate to is a lack of space to maintain your bike. This is especially true in London. Bikes can be messy and take up a lot of space. If you’ve not got a garden or garage, then it’s hard to find a spot to maintain your bike. We’ll cover solutions inside the course.

Lack of tools

“Having all 1001 tools needed to do any repair that isn’t changing a tire and even then you need tire levers.”

A decent, full bicycle maintenance toolkit will set you back around £90. There are places in London, such as the London Bike Kitchen, where you have access to the tools you need to maintain your bike. However, that may be a little far away. There’s no easy way around this, other than to bite the bullet and buy the kit. You’ll make your investment back after two or three repairs. Another option is to start off with a cheaper kit at half the price and go from there. I bought my tool kit for around £90 and since then I’ve done countless repairs and even built my own single speed bike!

Don’t have the time

“The time it might take – I’d like to take a basic maintenance course but it’s hard to find the time!”

A number of respondents said they simply didn’t have the time. That’s understandable, everyone is busy these days. Bicycle maintenance definitely feels rather slow at first during the early hesitant stages. However, once you get past that initial hurdle, you grow in confidence. From then, armed with the right knowledge, you feel more willing to dive in and complete the repair.

Lack of knowledge

“I lack a real knowledge but I would love to learn.”

This is the most obvious one but I hope most people are open to learning!

I’m sure a few people will be able to relate to the above objections. I’ll have more details on the course we’ll be launching soon. If you’d like to be the first to know about it, please make sure you are subscribed to the newsletter below.

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15 Responses to What is stopping people from maintaining their bikes themselves?

  1. Chris 24/10/2012 at 4:35 pm #

    There are a few DIY bike rooms/co-ops that have tools, some parts and experienced volunteers on hand to offer advice and help, so you can maintain your bike yourself.

    One of the best is London Bike Kitchen http://lbk.org.uk/

    The rates to use such places are cheap, or even free as with 56A http://www.56a.org.uk/bikeworkshop.html although the level of work you can do at them varies. At LBK, you could build a bike from scratch but 56A is more about repairs to keep you on the road.

    Nothing more self empowering than repairing/maintaining your own bike!

  2. Andrew 25/10/2012 at 8:36 am #

    Don’t assume bike repairs done at your local shop will be of better standard than you can achieve yourself.

    I once had a mountain bike serviced at a shop and the very next ride the rear axle froze solid because the cones on the rear bearing had been over tightened. I was left stranded on the trail 8 miles from home.

    I now do most maintenance myself and find YouTube to be a fantastic resource.

    • Colin 25/10/2012 at 8:48 am #

      I second Andrew’s response about YouTube. I’ve recently started trying to fix all my bike issues, and YouTube has been incredibly useful.

      The only problem I have now is that I live in a first-floor flat, so it’s hard to find the space to clean and fix my bike.

      • Gary 31/10/2012 at 1:36 pm #

        Clean you bike in the shower……….

  3. Dunc 25/10/2012 at 12:22 pm #

    There are lots of great resources available to help people repair their own bikes, like our site: madegood.org. Take some time to learn new skills. You’ll be amazed at how much satisfaction you’ll get from doing it.

  4. GrahamL 25/10/2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Since getting back into cycling three years I’ve acquired a few of the basic tools and repaired punctures, changed tyres and even a chain !! and fine tuned the front derailleur.

    I’ll continue to ‘give it a go’. You Tube is good, but the Park Tools blue repair book is worth the investment also. My wife has a bike now so there is no way I could afford to take the three bikes in our household to a shop for every bit of maintenance required.

  5. David 26/10/2012 at 10:31 am #

    I’ve recently just got back into cycling. A few years ago I acquired a mountain bike (rigid) from Freecycle and it’s been in generally good shape. With a common sence approach I’ve used YouTube and online articles and so far managed to maintain an repair it myself. I’ve alos done services and repairs on my kids bikes and my kids’ friend’s bikes too!

    Gear indexing, wheel truing, crank repairs, chains, brakes, new brake and gear cables. YouTube really is brilliant!

    Of course I like a challenge and I am interested in learning how to do this. I don’t expect everyone is like me though. plus I’m a Yorkshireman and hate paying for anything 😉

    • GrahamL 26/10/2012 at 12:04 pm #

      Me too. Yorkshireman with shallow pockets :))

  6. barton 26/10/2012 at 1:57 pm #

    There are some things I will do. Small brake adjustments, cleaning/maintenance, and such. I will of course change/patch my own tubes because of necessity – but I have been known to be too lazy, & if the shop is close I will just have them do the switch for me.

    I once, with the help of both Park Tools book and YouTube changed my own rear brake pads. THAT was a disaster. Who knew they could be put on backwards (there weren’t any markings/directions making it obvious). The NOISE immitted from my bike as I braked scared everyone – and may have caused a coronary – and they didn’t exactly work, either. Karl, my mechanic, and I have now come to an understanding: I keep the bike properly cleaned, and do the small repairs and he handles anything having to do with replacement (other than tubes) and the serious adjustments that could be a safety issue!

    As nice as it is to be able to do your own repairs – and necessary at times due to geography or how flush your wallet is at a given time – using a bike mechanic isn’t exactly an evil (it is good for the economy as well). You find a good one who knows you, how you ride and how you like your bike, and you will always be golden. And more than likely, in my experienced, not charged for a lot of the quick adjustments that need to be done.

  7. philcycle 26/10/2012 at 5:54 pm #

    “Tools are too expensive” – Don’t buy a kit, which is very likely to contain tools you will not need immediately and may be of poor quality. Instead, read up on the job you want to do and only buy the tools you need. Make sure they are good quality (compare prices at tool shops, engineering suppliers and cycle shops). As you gain confidence expand the jobs you do and purchase the relevant tools as they are needed.
    Try the local library for a range of books and the internet for a wide range of advice. Also, try talking to your riding companions about maintenance. You might even find one who is willing to help out, or a few who could club together to buy a ‘tool pool’. (You might even make a social event of routine maintenance!)

  8. Ed 26/10/2012 at 6:49 pm #

    “I’ve recently just got back into cycling. A few years ago I acquired a mountain bike (rigid) from Freecycle and it’s been in generally good shape. With a common sence approach I’ve used YouTube and online articles and so far managed to maintain an repair it myself. I’ve alos done services and repairs on my kids bikes and my kids’ friend’s bikes too!

    Gear indexing, wheel truing, crank repairs, chains, brakes, new brake and gear cables. YouTube really is brilliant!

    Of course I like a challenge and I am interested in learning how to do this. I don’t expect everyone is like me though. plus I’m a Yorkshireman and hate paying for anything 😉 ”

    And quite how drunk were you at 10.30 this morning when you posted?

  9. Christine 27/10/2012 at 7:59 pm #

    Look out at Lidl for tools! This year I got a great tool kit for £25 ish which has pretty much all you could need – to the level of crank tool, bottom bracket tool etc.etc.

    True, they’re not exactly Park Tools quality, but they’ve been getting me through overhauling mine, my friends’ and my brother’s bikes. Did crack one when getting into my brother’s bust, ungreased and cross-threaded bottom bracket, but that was kind of inevitable and still is cheaper than either bike shop or the new bike he was going to buy!

    Also definitely check out what your local borough offers – Lewisham was offering day long bike maintenance courses for £10, either beginner or advanced level, and it gives you a lot more confidence to take apart something when you’ve seen what’s inside it and how it works.

  10. Jonomc 05/11/2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Well after only a year of cycling – I was able to spend about £4k on a new bike – but rather than have something put together with what people though I should have – I decided to make the bike up with the bits I wanted.

    I took my time read the manuals and watched utube etc. I am fortunate that I have plenty of space and I built into the buying cost the cost of buying the tools (it pays to get good ones rathder than suffer with the inferior ones).

    By the time I had finished I had all the tools except for a bearing press (got the done at the LBS for £10) and I now can fix every part of the bike myself.

    The main thing was that because it was my own pride and joy I really took muy time to get everything MM perfect – even if it meant doing the job 3 times. The bike is perfect and 3,000 miles later I have not had one issue.

    I did get the bike service 3 months after I had built it and the guy at the shop said it was put together perfectly. Now there is nothing I can’t fix on my bike (except wheel truing) and I have every tools you could ever need!

  11. Jonomc 05/11/2012 at 2:38 pm #

    sorry forgot to say – by buying the bits seperately – looking for the best offers and on ebay – I was able to get a bike built for about £1,500 less than if I got it off the shelf and into the bargin I now have all the tools I could ever need.

    Finally I find the whole process of building / maintaining a bike very relaxing and enjoyable rather than a chore.

  12. Troy 04/02/2013 at 10:41 pm #

    About 2 years ago I purchase a road bike to help me take my own advice, as I would give others, which I wasn’t doing. At the time I was looking for a comfortable way to get into shape – lose some weight. I must say, get a good bike could be costly, that is, if you get one of those top class bikes 🙂 In any case, I found out that taking care of your bike requires a clear mind and a pinch of patience 🙂 And, if you don’t have those two key things, your bike life could be painful. Now, I believe I have somewhat conquer that challenge and actually increase my knowledge about getting your bike and yourself in shape in some easy steps. You could check out my site Bike-Maintenance to better understand what I’m talking about.

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