|My old Peugeot PX-10E came with this toolkit. It was actually quite nice for its time, but the lack of Allen wrenches limits its usefulness on modern bikes and components.|
The owner of a shop in which I worked once said, "You know what would make me rich? Selling more bike tools!"
He wasn't referring to the money he would make from the tools themselves. The real profit, he explained, would come when customers would try to use them. Let's just say that the results sometimes weren't pretty. When he was in a particularly grumpy mood, he'd tell a customer who mutilated his bike, "Play mechanic, pay mechanic."
Reading Velouria's post today in Lovely Bicycle! got me to thinking, many years after the fact, about what that owner said. (Going to that post is worthwhile for the photos of her bike alone, not to mention what she says and how she says it!) Velouria raised the question of just how beneficial it actually is to do one's own bike repairs or modifications. She astutely points out that it's not a matter of saving money: In fact, beginning do-it-yourselfers routinely spend far more money on the wrong parts or tools, or by ruining said parts or tools through misuse or mis-installation, than they would have paid for a shop to do their work. And, if you have no inclination or desire to do, or learn, bike mechanics, you probably won't do a very good job.
On the other hand, she points out some very good reasons for some people to do their own work. They include some of the reasons I do my own: I have several bikes, I often change components and accessories, and I have taken, and plan to take, trips into places that don't have good bike shops, or any bike shops at all. Plus, I've ridden enough that I know what I want on my bikes.
And, interestingly (and disturbingly) enough, I am glad to have acquired my skills before undergoing my gender transitions. While the guys at Habitat have been helpful and honest, as some other mechanics and shops are, there are still others who try to take advantage of, or simply denigrate, female cyclists. And, I have to admit, when I find shops and mechanics who employ double standards, I feel a kind of smug pride (as shameful and dangerous as that can be) when I ask a question and they either try to mislead me or simply hide the fact that they don't know the answer.
I must say, though, that some shops are trying to change. I saw the owner of one when I was on my way home from work one night, and he asked why I hadn't stopped by. I told him that the last time I was there, the sales person tried to sell me something that not only wouldn't have fit my bike, but would have been dangerous. He apologized and I have since returned to that shop. It's nearer than Habitat to where I live but doesn't have the same selection. However, they are handy when I need a tire or chain or some other part for a next-day ride.
Anyway....Back when I was teaching myself basic repairs from the first edition of Tom Cuthbertson's Anybody's Bike Book, how could I have guessed that I would get paid to play a mechanic, and that those skills I was learning as a teenaged boy would help me to become an independent, confident...middle-aged woman? How could I have predicted that the middle-aged woman would be riding bikes he put together?