5 Things I Wish I Knew Working on My Bike for the First Time

My first exposure to building and working on bikes was in the fall of 2016 when I took a job working for Sun & Ski Sports in Franklin, TN. I had a coworker who helped me to learn to build bikes and check them before they were picked up to go home from sales when I took the position of bicycle coordinator there. I have learned a lot since my early days of wrenching, and now am certified by Trek as a repair technician, and there are some things I feel like would have been really helpful to know when I first started down this path.

rear derailleur limit screws

Everything About Limit Screws
Understanding limit screws, the specifications of the derailleurs, and how they interact with cable tension plays a huge role in understanding how to properly adjust derailleurs. Sometimes when having shifting issues getting into the big ring or into the climbing gear in the back, I would think limit screw, when really it was cable tension. Since then, I have learned a few tricks to know which one it is, and even tricks to use my limits to set my cable tension when the cables have stretched.

Measuring Chains
The first time I installed a chain I made it too long multiple times. I also routed it incorrectly. Now that I know better, I highly recommend people search how to do this correctly, so you don’t make my mistakes. Depending on the bike, the way I measure a chain varies, but I now only get messed up when I run into bikes with front triple chainrings on road bikes. Also, the direction your chain faces can make a difference too.

Bearings Need Grease
Also, bearings, that they exist, and where they go on a bike. I will happily admit my ignorance to anyone about this. I didn't know what a bottom bracket was, or really much about the bearings in the headset of my bike either. I did learn these things quickly, and have even installed almost every common type of bottoms bracket at this point. The most embarrassing moment of this was when I discovered my bearings were not only getting worn in my headset, but also that sweat had seized all of the spacers onto my steer tube at the time.

Complexities of Cable Routing
My Felt B16W has full housing and guides within the frame for the housing. This makes it easy. Now, my Trek Madone, Domane, and Crockett, all have internal cable routing with no full housing aside from brakes. My Domane and Crockett have pretty similar routing, but the Madone with fully internal cables and wiring is a whole other animal. There are also complications when cables get crossed, or the worst cable routing to deal with, which is the zip tie in the middle of the frame of the Trek Remedy that holds all of the cable housings to keep them from rattling.

2018 liv pique 3

Disc Brakes are a Thing
So, when I first really started getting into my bikes, I didn’t know too much about disc brakes. I came from road and triathlon, so even road disc brakes were not super common where I came from yet in cycling. Now, I am all about them, but there was a serious learning curve when it came to brakes for me. I am now experienced in bleeding both road and disc brakes from Shimano, Sram, and TRP.

While I have learned a lot, there are always new things I can learn. There are new things like 12-speed road groups, entire gravel group sets, and synchronized shifting on electronic group sets. I will never find a day when there is not something new I should learn about bicycles. Also, I will never know everything about bottom brackets, because I feel like there is no possible way to know everything about them.