I learned about this place when I posted about Bikerowave - a similar place in L.A - and a reader pointed out there was also such a place in Anchorage.
There's such a difference between trying to figure out how to do this in a book and having a real live human being gently walking you through the steps. Pointing out where the tools are, and even how to use them if necessary. But he doesn't do it for you, but he'll give you as much help as you need to do it yourself. The picture above came after this next set of pictures.
That scruffy looking old dish turned out to be a high powered magnet so that all the parts I put it were safe from spills. Though I did drop one ball bearing. (They had plenty of others, though I found it. Another I found stuck to the blue magnet after I got a new one. If you look carefully at the top photo, you'll see there are ten ball bearings. One didn't fit right, because there were only supposed to be nine.
Anyway, you can see where the ball bearings are housed. The top image of it, shows it after I took the ball bearings out, but before I cleaned it. The one on the right is cleaned. And then I added new grease.
Then, I was ready to put the bearings back in and take the picture at the top.
Here's where I did most of my work. A steady stream of folks came in and started working on their bikes.
To get to the ball bearings I had to take the freewheel off. I'd never figured out how to do that. In picture A there's a black hole in the middle. I painted it pink in photoshop so you could find it easily. B shows the special tool you need to loosen the flywheel. It's that bolt like item and it has protrusions that go into the pink hole and a similar one on the other side. Then you loosen it.
You can read a book and figure out how to do this. But it's so much easier and faster and fun to have a human being help you. In a place where they have all the spare parts and tools you might need.
At Bikerowave they have a sign in sheet where you put your name, time you arrived, and what work you are doing. Then they charge you $7.50 an hour for bike stand time plus parts which were ridiculously cheap.
At Off The Chain they have a donation box and recommend $5 an hour. Dave and the other helpers are volunteers.
A lot of things are better to read. But fixing a bike, especially when you try things you've never tried before, is so much easier with a human guide than a book. And unlike a place like REI where you drop your bike off and it disappears into the back to be repaired, at this place, getting your bike fixed is a learning experience. And it's affordable.
Here's a link to Off The Chain's website, which says:
"Off the Chain is a low cost, volunteer run, 501(c)(3) bicycle collective open to the Anchorage community. Off the Chain teaches people of all ages and backgrounds how to repair bicycles and strives to increase bicycle ridership, awareness, and safety through community service and education.
Off the Chain is open to the public during shop hours. During open shop hours you have access to our tools, library and advice from our volunteer mechanics. We have an inventory of refurbished bicycles, used parts and basic new parts available."
Winter hours are 3-7 on Wednesdays and Sundays 3-8pm. But call first - 907.258.6822 - to be sure they're open. If they don't have a volunteer or two, they won't be open.
It's on the West side of the old Matanuska Maid building between Northern Lights and Benson.