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What to do if you want to get a fixer-upper bike but haven’t got the skills…

Ok, now I know that this isn’t for everyone, and some readers are going to be jealous at what I am about to tell them.  But stick with it, because I will be suggesting a few ideas at the end of the article which makes what I am about to tell you accessible for more than, well, just me.

What am I talking about?

Getting someone to help you out with your fixer, that is, a cheap and nasty bike that needs a serious upgrade.

Getting a fixer upper is good if this is your first road bike or mountain bike

Bike mechanic Alex's hands full of trinkets, bike chain bracelet, Wedgwood, Seattle, Washington, USA
I wrote in my last post about choosing a bike and made a fleeting suggestion that a good idea if you aren’t too sure whether or not cycling to lose weight was for you, then get a bike with a good frame, compromise on the components, and then get upgrades for things like cranks, chain ring, cassette, wheels, saddle, post, brakes and handle bars as funds allow.

In other words, pimp your pushbike (avoiding the bling?)

But what do you do if you haven’t the skills?  I must apologise if I have come across as somewhat knowledgeable in the world of maintenance of your bike.  The best I can do is to work out the basics, and much of that anyone can do just by using the rather splendid bike doctor app on the iPod/iPhone. But what about changing headset, or the cassette which requires specialist tools?

Or avoiding getting the pedals wrong and ruining the threads. (In a future post I will talk about the advantages and fears of buying online and assembling your own bike)

What you need is…a mate who knows what they are doing.

It so happened today that a friend of mine who is yet another Andy (see here for thefirst Andy, here for the second Andy, and I have just introduced you to the new Andy) made something of a revelation of himself.  He is a techy man, designer, musician, chairman of a charity, and has a finger in most pies.  As he said to me today, people are surprised by all the things he does know.

Now in this conversation we were talking about his Carrera mountain bike frame.  He was saying very much what I have discussed previously about not investing too much too early on in the sport, but said that his Carrera had no suspension, but he fancied a hard tail mountain bike.

I asked him if he had considered just swapping out the forks.  Which he hadn’t (obviously now does!)

It was then I pointed out that the only expense would be to have someone do the work.  ’Why?’ he asked, ‘When I can do it myself?’  And that was the revelation.  Andy is also a bike mechanic.

Apparently in the not too distant past he spent some time looking after a fleet of bikes, and would often cannibalize bikes to fix one up from the parts.

Result!  My mashed up rear mech (cassette and derailleur) could be fixed!  I could buy a cassette and he could fix it!  My mind started, unsurprisingly, going into overdrive.  And I could upgrade those forks…and the brakes.  And he could teach me!  Hurrah!

What to do if you don’t already know a friend who is a mechanic…find one!

Right, so bearing in mind that not everyone has an Andy up their sleevy (ahem!) what can the average Joe or Jill do about the lack of maintenance mechanic in their own tool bag?  Here is how you might be able to find someone who secretly used to know, or even knows, enough about bikes to give you a helping hand.

  • Ask your neighbours
  • Ask at a local social group
  • Post a note on the public board, be it digital or otherwise, at work
  • Or even use facebook and ask if anyone knows anything.

It’s always surprising who knows what about bikes, and the best part is that most cycling types are always ready to lend a hand and advise.

What are your experiences of fixing up your bike?  Do you need someone to help?  Where do you go for advice?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Wonderlane

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