The importance of DIY and learning about one’s bike:

Why DIY and why learn about your bike - a post-pandemic perspective





Since the start of the pandemic, one major talking point amongst cyclists, bikeshops, and anyone remotely attuned to the bike industry has been the shortage of bicycles and bike parts. GCN for example has made a video on these pandemic-related shortages -- pointing out that it wasn’t just a sudden, huge demand for bikes and bike parts, but disruptions to the global supply chain, which has had a knock-on effect on material costs and availability of raw materials.


Many effects on the bicycle parts market due to the pandemic such as parts shortages, and an overall increase in bikes and cyclists but not as many parts to go around all point towards the benefit of learning some basic bike mechanics, as well as learning

Parts shortages: some bike parts aren't even available until over a year from now!

about bike parts and their suitability for different bikes.


This kind of knowledge about one’s own bike is useful, pandemic or not. Knowing at least a few things about your bicycle and/or bikes in general is really important — for example, having an idea that something is worn out, or a bit wrong or off, can help loads in diagnosing potential bike problems yourself, which can save unnecessary hassle and extra money spent down the road. In terms of pandemic times, knowing a bit of DIY and about your bike and bike parts can help you:


- Be more knowledgeable about how often parts wear out, when something is worn out and needs replacing, how to repair stuff. This in turn will encourage less waste!!

- Understand the second hand market and online shopping better


Nearly all of us here at the shop have had some background in DIY bike spaces, where we’ve been able to discover bike mechanics in an atmosphere where we are able to work on our own bikes, learn from each other and teach each other. Shout outs to Helsingin Pyöräpaja, 56a bikespace, London Bike Kitchen, Turun pyöräpaja, and Kotkan Pyöräpaja in particular! These kinds of spaces are incredibly useful for those who are DIY minded and/or DIY curious. So we see the importance of learning about the bicycle as relevant for feeling empowered and confident in riding and fixing one’s bike.


Another useful aspect of a bit of DIY that the pandemic has shown, and that was mentioned already is that it generates less waste. We cyclists like to think that we are super environmentally friendly, and compared to other ways of getting around we are. However, the bike industry still depends on NEW bicycles and NEW parts to keep the capitalist machine we run in going. This in turn relies on virgin materials and resources, and the generation of a lot of excess waste (inner tubes, aluminium) that could be recycled back somehow. Finding and using second-hand bikes and parts, and seeing the value in that -- or at the very least realising scarcity exists in the world -- is hugely important in finding more sustainable ways out of the pandemic.



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Some recommended basic things to know about your bike and bike bits

(starting with the easiest and most essential to learn):

- How to pump your tyre

- How to clean and oil your chain

- Recognising worn out brake pads

- Recognising when your tyre needs pumping, and knowing/seeing how much to pump it to


- How your own pump works

- How different bike pumps work, or how to pump a different type of valve

- How to use a 15mm spanner and 5mm allen key

- How to patch an inner tube

- How to replace your tyres. ESPECIALLY if you get a flat and need it changed asap

- (Having your own tools with you helps)


- Understanding tools and tool usage. Including understanding when something is stuck vs you’re just turning it the wrong way, or using the tool badly, e.g. when NOT to put all of your power into loosening or tightening something

- Understanding threads, especially where reverse threads are on a bicycle

- Starting to recognize when something feels or sounds wrong (Note: when there is a sound something usually is wrong! It would be a good idea not to ignore it)

- Knowing names of all kinds of bike parts, starting with your own bike

- Knowing some special, unique, or specific aspects or parts on your bike, maybe even what useful name or number is attributed to it (like the brakes: V? Canti? Disc?)

- Similar to the previous point, be aware and trying to grow your knowledge of the plethora of different designations and standards of frames and parts (e.g. Are your tyres 32-622 or 54-559? And what’s 700cx32 doing there?!), which can be confusing and rather intimidating!


- And on and on….!


Remember that it’s always ok to ask someone who knows, whether an amateur or pro. Again, bike kitchens are a good source of knowledge. We’re also happy to give advice too.


DIY resources:

Cyclistazine now has an online zine library, and it’s amazing !!!

From CZ Zine Library:

- “Is That Secondhand Bike you Want to Buy Junk?”

- “A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance Zine”

- “Fix a Flat Zine”

- “Bicycle Maintenance by UBC”

Sheldon Brown’s website

Park Tool’s youtube channel

How to Build a Bike” by Jenni Gwiazdowski (A copy is at Helsingin Pyöräpaja)

The Chainbreaker Bike Book” by Ethan Clark and Shelley Lynn Jackson

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