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So you want to build your own “bike shop” in the garage?

Posted by RL Policar On November - 16 - 2010

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I’m not necessarily speaking in terms of selling bicycles out of your garage, but a place where you can wrench on your own bike and perhaps a few of your friend’s bikes. For those that have been to my tornado torn garage, they’ll know that I’ve got a pretty messy set up, but it works for me. Here’s a few tips to help you create your own repair shop.

1. Basic tools. You can find your most basic tool kit from online retailers like Pricepoint.com, Nashbar.com and etc. They generally run about $45-$50 per kit. These tool kits usually has most of the items you’ll need to work on bikes such as a cassette tool, chain whip, bottom bracket tool and a set of allen wrenches just to name a few.

2. Repair stand. This is a worthwhile investment. If you don’t have a repair stand, get one! Its way easier to work on bikes if you have a stand. You can get them through some of the same online retailers that I already mentioned. Sette offers 2 models that are very affordable. One is a wall mounted unit that sells for about $58 and the floor stand model is around $90. Other brands can cost up to $150. If that seems expensive to you, just remember, it is an investment. Every time you work on your bike, you’re saving money.

3.Air compressor. I have a small pancake style compressor that I bought used for $50. These are great in airing up your tires and for cleaning your bike.

4. Vise clamp. I actually don’t have one of these yet…but I sure wish I did. There have been so many times when I really needed to use it. Get one, you’ll eventually use it.

5.Truing Stand. These run about $60 and up. But if you don’t want to get one of those, check out the video below.


6. Optional items. The following aren’t “must haves” for your shop, but it sure does make it more fun to be in there.
-Stereo. Gotta have the tunes when you’re wrenching.
-Mini Fridge. You keep beer in there, and only beer!
-Parts washer. This is another one of those things that I consider an investment. I found this gem @ the local Harbor Freight for $44. I use Simple Green as my solvent and this sucker cuts down my parts cleaning time in half. What’s great is I can remove my whole drive train and place it in the tank then scrub away. Once I’m done, I usually use my air compressor to dry out the parts then I spray a bit of lube and then it’s back on the bike.

If you think that’s quite bit of stuff to have in your garage or the price tag might scare you, don’t worry. Personally I’ve collected all my stuff through the years and often bought stuff used. My mini fridge was given to me when I was helping my friend move. My stereo was also a freebie. Craigslist is a great place to find tools. I’ve often seen mini-fridges listed for as low as $25 and parts washers for about the same price.

Anyhow, once you get your shop going, you’re actually going to start saving money. Why? How? Dude, just think about it, if you wrench on your own bikes, there’s no need to take it in to the LBS and pay all that labor. In fact what I would do is this…let’s say you need a tune up, find out how much that would cost from your local shop, rather than taking it to them, do the work your in your garage and “pay yourself.” Set that money aside for more bike tools!

9 Responses to “So you want to build your own “bike shop” in the garage?”

  1. Kagi says:

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the tools that you’ll need to work on vintage bikes — I’m pretty sure that a lot of people get started in bike mechanics by picking up an old junker and getting it on the road for next to no cash.

    So, I’d add:

    1. Freewheel pullers. These may or may not be come in new ready-bought toolkits — I don’t know. The most common, by far, is the Shimano (Park Tool FR-1), but you may also find yourself needing the older SunTour 2-prong and 4-prong tools (FR-2 and FR-3). Others exist, too, but probably aren’t worth buying unless you happen to need one.

    2. Crank cotter press — makes an absolutely huge difference, and definitely won’t be in a modern ready-bought toolkit. You can buy a good one from bikesmithdesign.com; a cheaper alternative is an automotive ball joint separator (try Sears).

    3. Dremel tool and lots of bronze-wire brushes. For removing rust from chrome in small places, especially around spoke nipples. On larger parts, use plain fine-grade bronze wool. And if the tool kit you buy doesn’t include a cable-housing cutter, you can use the Dremel to cut/file the ends of cable housing flat.

    4. PB Blaster penetrating oil. OK, it’s not a tool, exactly, but you’ll need it.

    5. And, if you work on old British bikes, you’ll need a set of Whitworth wrenches. Cheap ones are available on eBay.

    Otherwise, tools for old bikes are pretty much the same as what you need for working on cars: metric box-end wrenches and sockets in smaller sizes (6 to 20 mm), needle-nose and channel-lock pliers, phillips and flat screwdrivers.

  2. Jeff says:

    Great post RL. I remember seeing pics and videos from your “shop” but as someone trying to design the “ultimate cyclist garage” myself, I’d love to see pics of other folks’ garages. I need some inspiration!

  3. RL says:

    Kagi,

    Great tips!

    Thanks,

    Jeff,

    Good to hear from you. I’ll send you a couple snap shots of my garage, but let me clean up a bit first. its a mess!

    RL

  4. Rider says:

    Parts washer … how does that work?

    Right about the bike stand … invaluable.

    I bought a cheap one and regretted it.

    I now have a Park Tool one mounted to my work bench.

    I also have an old roll-about microwave oven stand that my wife wanted to throw out.

    I built (after a quick trip to Ace Hardware) a means to mount the Park Took bike clamp on that oven stand, so now I can roll it outside on nice days and do the work in the sunshine.

    A nice setup.

    That Park Tool bike clamp cost me about $100. I blanched at first, but now don’t even think about it — a worthwhile investment, and I’m glad I got a good, sturdy bike stand/clamp every time I use it.

  5. RL Policar says:

    Rider,

    The parts washer has a pump in it. Basically it circulates the solvent from the bottom to the top in which a bendable hose allows you to wash the parts. Works, but not as great as the professional kind where the heated solvent melts away the grease.

  6. Guest says:

    For only 250 more, you could have bought a real air compressor. I HATE those direct drive POS. They should be banned in all forms. Get a nice, quiet, belt driven one.

    Mine is a Hausfeld 20 gal. Of course I also use it on the car.

  7. RL says:

    “For only 250 more” ???

    That’s not pocket change. If I had an extra $250 I wouldn’t spend it on an air compressor in which I only use to air up my tires. I’d spend it on more tools or supplies like cables and housing.

  8. Jood says:

    Thanks for this. I am starting my item as we speak. Tired of grubbing off of Leon’s garage. Plus its a good way to learn on your own. Bought a cheap stand but probably will return it now because of everyone’s recommendations. RL, where’s the walis ting ting for cleaning up? I have a box full of them from baguio if you need one lol

  9. RL Policar says:

    oh man, I haven’t used one of those in over 20 years! But I think I can find them here too. I’ve seen them in Little Saigon before.

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