One of the most irritating parts of bike repair is being thwarted in a task because you need a simple but very specific part. Bike shop workshops always have racks of plastic drawers full of tiny little parts, many of which are essential for just one job.
Your biscuit box is essential but, like a good compost heap, it must grow over time and cannot be bought wholesale! Start one now. A biscuit box is any container into which you drop odd nuts and bolts left over from other bike repairs. Then, when you shear off an essential bolt after the shops have closed, your box of bits can save your bacon.
Useful items to keep in your biscuit box include M5 and M6 Allen key bolts in lengths from 10mm to 45mm, crank bolts, cable end caps and ferrules, threadless headset top caps with rude slogans on them, an assortment of odd washers and spacers, valve caps and valve lockrings, loose ball bearings and the scraps of chain that are left over every time you fit a new one.
A proper workstand is probably your most expensive investment. Almost all the procedures listed in the main part of this book are easier if the bike is held steady with both wheels off the ground. Working standing up is easier than working crouched on the ground. A workstand also allows you to turn the pedals and wheels and observe everything working.
Take care where you clamp the bike into the stand. The best place is the seatpost. Try to avoid clamping onto the tubes – these are thin, and you can dent, or even bend, them too easily. Wipe the jaws of the stand before you clamp the bike into it, so you don’t scuff the paintwork. If you’re tight for storage space, look for a workstand that folds up when you’re not using it.
The next level down from a full workstand is a propstand, which keeps the back wheel off the ground and holds the bike upright. These are relatively cheap compared to a workstand and a good compromise if you’re not ready to commit to a workstand. If you have nothing, then improvise. Avoid turning the bike upside down – bikes don’t like it. Instead, find an obedient friend who will hold the bike upright and off the ground at appropriate moments.
You need enough light to see by, especially for close-up jobs such as truing wheels. Most repairs are messy too, so if you’re working indoors, spread an old sheet on the floor before you start to catch things that drop and to protect the carpet.
Ventilation is important. Any time you use solvents or spray, you need enough air circulating to dilute chemical fumes to harmless levels. Anything powerful enough to sweeten your bike will probably damage your body.
The same goes for bodily contact with substances. Consider wearing latex or nitrile gloves. This saves loads of time cleaning your hands and reduces the quantity of chemicals absorbed through your skin. Lots of jobs involve removing something dirty, then either cleaning it or replacing it, and then fitting it. You must have clean hands for the last part of the job – there’s no point fitting a clean component with dirty hands.