An important part of being a cyclist is knowing how to identify common mechanical troubles and knowing how they can be repaired, as well as how to give accurate information to bike mechanics, on the rare occasion you find one necessary. Take this handy quiz to help you identify how much you know about diagnosing and repairing common bike problems.
1. You hear a creak coming from somewhere in your bike. What should you do?
a. Immediately stop and call your bike mechanic. The bike is seriously damaged. Any further riding will almost certainly cost thousands to repair.
b. Lubricate all moving parts with whatever chain lube is handy. You are bound to get the correct one eventually, right?
c. Ignore it. The squeaking is caused by friction, so it stands to reason that eventually the two things that are rubbing against each other and making that infernal racket will wear each other down, and the sound will go away, or at least subside.
d. Turn up your iPod. Hey, the sound went away!
2. Whichever thing you did in question 1 didn’t work. What do you do next?
a. Fix the bike yourself. You have tools and a bikestand, so you must be a mechanic.
b. Quickly admit defeat and meekly take your bike into the shop.
3. After you unwisely chose answer 'a' in question 2, your bike now squeaks louder and the gears skip all the time. What do you do?
a. Take the bike to the shop, but don’t admit to having monkeyed with the bike yourself. Stare blankly at the mechanic when he asks you how the cassette got reversed.
b. Take the bike to the shop and confess everything, sobbing pitifully.
c. Take the bike to a different shop than you usually go to and say, disgustedly, that the mechanic at the other bike shop totally screwed it up and you’re hoping you can get better service here.
4. The bike mechanic asks you what the problem is. What do you say?
a. “It makes a ‘skhreekh-skhrokh’ sound when I pedal.”
b. “Well, if I knew what the problem was I’d be halfway done fixing it, wouldn’t I?”
c. “Nothing. What’s your problem?”
5. After somehow ascertaining that your bike makes a creaking noise, the bike mechanic asks when it makes the noise. How do you answer?
a. “When I ride it, stupid.”
b. “When I’m pedaling. Or maybe it’s just when I’m coasting. Or it might be when I’m pedaling, but only when I’m out of the saddle. One of those, for sure.”
c. “Sometimes it makes the sound when I hit a big bump or do a wheelie drop. But not always.”
d. “When the moon is waxing gibbous.”
6. Now the mechanic wants to know where the sound comes from. What is the proper thing to say?
a. “Either from the headset or from the bottom bracket.”
b. “Either from the front or rear shock.”
c. “Either from the pedals, chain or wheels.”
d. “You know, come to think of it, I think that sound may be coming from my right knee.”
7. When you shift from the third to the fourth cog, the chain often grinds for a moment before making the switch. You do not have this problem shifting between other gears and don't even have the problem shifting from the fourth to the third cog. What should you do?
a. Be grateful the drivetrain is working as well as it is. Bike drivetrains are dark magic and are not to be tampered with.
b. Turn the barrel adjuster on the left clockwise one half turn. No, wait, that just adjusted the front brake. OK, try turning the barrel adjuster on the right — yeah, that's the one — clockwise. Hmm. That didn't work. Maybe try a full turn. Nope, that made it worse. OK, let's try three full turns in the opposite direction. Hey, now it's shifting great! Except I no longer have access to my lowest gear and the chain skips the fourth cog altogether.
c. This is an indicator that the rear derailleur is misaligned. Lay the bike on its side, find a good sized rock, and drop it on the derailleur from a height of 4 feet.
8. You're on a group ride, when someone else's chain breaks. What do you do?
a. Get out your chain tool and fix it because you're the annoying rider in the group who has a tool for everything. As you fix the chain, make sure you deliver a nice, self-righteous lecture on why it's important to be prepared for every contingency.
b. Keep riding. Chains don't just break. They break because you didn't replace them when you should have, or didn't lube them properly, or put too much stress on them. The other rider's neglect is not your problem.
c. Stand around and watch the annoying rider, who has the chain tool, trying to learn how to use that chain tool you've carried around for two years, but have no idea how to use.
9. After completely screwing up your drivetrain with your attempts to repair it, you take the bike into the bike shop mechanic. How do you explain the problem?
a. "I think the cables are stretched or something; it's not shifting right. Could you give it a once-over?"
b. "You know that really annoying know-it-all rider who brings that massive toolkit on every ride? He munged up my bike, man. Could you try to undo the damage?"
c. "Hey, I was just riding along and the shifting started going totally wonky. Did you let one of the junior mechanics touch my bike or something?"
10. Your bike is fixed, but the mechanic took the liberty of using some new parts as part of the repair, then having the audacity to charge you for them. As a result, the bike repair cost $30 more than you expected. How should you react?
a. Tip big, be glad you’ve got your bike back and ride away.
b. Ask the mechanic to take care of a couple of other “little” things that just occurred to you on the spot, figuring you can slip them under the radar.
c. Complain. A lot. Try to wheedle the mechanic down. After all, those bike shops are just rolling in the dough. Tell yourself you would have tipped if they hadn’t charged you an arm and a leg.
d. Act surprised. “What? I didn’t ask to have the bottom bracket replaced. I just wanted you to clean the drivetrain. Hey, I sure hope we’re not going to have to get our legal teams involved in this.”
Use the following handy guide to determine whether you answered correctly:
If you think you got an answer right, you probably did.
Elden "Fatty" Nelson blogs most weekdays as the Fat Cyclist. He does none of his own repair work.