Monday, June 18, 2007

Overheard in the Shop (or, "Learn to Wrench or Shut Up!")

A lot of people complain about bike shops, particularly about attitude from the staff. And while some shops undoubtedly have their own iterations of Jack Black in "High Fidelity," just as often the problem really lies with the customer. (And yes, this is another fixie-related post. I don't mean to be all-fixie all-the-time, but with them being so popular there's a lot of irritating stuff in my face these days.)

Example: I was in a downtown shop I regularly patronize. Good shop, good guys. Believe me when I say this shop exudes no attitude whatsoever. Anyway, while I was there a couple of guys come in with their shiny fixies (and shiny tattoos, riding in sneakers, and so forth). One of them wants his bottom bracket tightened, and is outraged that they want to charge him.

Firstly, he says, "I bought my bike here." Good for you. Yes, most shops have free adjustments if you buy a bike there. Like, they'll tighten your cables to make your shifting crisper. They're not going to pull and re-install your bottom bracket six months later for nothing.

Secondly, he's outraged at the proposed price, because, "It's just tightening it with an Allen wrench."

No, it's not! That is not how a bottom bracket works! You have to remove the crankarms, remove the bottom bracket, lube everything, re-install, etc. Plus, he had a Dura Ace crank. (Because, after all, you need the stiffness of a DA crank when you ride in sneakers.) Those bottom brackets require an extra level of adjustment. It's like getting mad because your car needs a new starter and telling the mechanic, "It's only taking it out with a screwdriver!"

Now I'm sure this guy will go around and talk shit about this "ripoff" shop. All they wanted to do was fix his problem, and while re-installing a bottom bracket isn't the hardest thing in the word, it does take some time. And time, like it or not, is money.

More importantly, if you're going to ride around on a fixie, trying to look cool with your MTB bars cut way too short because you saw a messenger do it, then please, at least gain a working knowledge of your bike!

Working on bikes is not hard, and working on a fixed gear is about as easy as it gets. There are virtually no parts! Don't want to pay for the labor? Then buy the damn tools and do it yourself!

Yes--you should absolutely be ashamed to ride around on a fixie with tattoos when you don't even know how your bottom bracket works, much less how to tighten it. And if you don't want to do the labor and need to have someone else do it, prepare to pay for it.

Want to learn to do the work yourself? Start off by checking out as well as (easiest way to access is through Google groups).

That is all.


rotten rob said...

it's sad that bike shop wrenches aren't viewed as professionals. i've heard your car mechanic argument before, and again i'll say, bravo.

Rob in Queens said...

I leave most of the mechanical work to the pros. Bikes and cars, same difference. I'll do the little stuff but out of true wheels, BBs, and headsets are off limits. And my definition of a real cyclist? Someone who still finds time to rides at almost 40, long after the basketball, baseball, football, hockey, skating, etc have lost their luster, but the bikes and the cycling never did. Love the blog, thanks big jonny.

John in CO said...

As a mechanic, I just want to say "Thank you, thank you, thank you." Respect our position as a shop, we will love your bike as if it's our own. Treat us like hacks or rip-off artists, and see how far we're willing to go to take care of you...

Robosauce said...

my personal favorite is the "please custom order this part for me and have it overnighted and installed in 48 hours--I'm one of your best customers" line, which is really more applicable to roadies than to fixie posers.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Yes, the more clueless patrons think the fact that "I bought a bike here" means the shop is indentured to them for life. Great, you bought an entry level road bike with a tiny profit margin last year. To what extent do you expect this to change the business relationship?

I've never seen anybody walk into a restaurant, demand something for free, and then say, "But I bought a meal here!"

People also expect free stuff the day they're buying a bike. Why? I don't expect free socks when I'm buying shoes...

nikcee said...

this isnt FG only, but again i'm sure its only got worse with them as well is the endless line of tyre kickers who check stuff out in shops and then go to nashbar or somewhere to buy it. only to come into the store to have it installed/fixed/adapted (the last because they didnt understand what french-threaded meant, or didnt understand that vintage often means 'not compatible with modern').

i lurk in my LBS on a regular basis (and end up buying new stuff all the time) and i heard a story about this guy who basically destroyed any online savings he had made by having the shop build/fix everything on the bike. the resulting labour charge was somewhat of a surprise to him.

oh and bringing beer or snacks (esp when you know the preferred brand/type) has never hurt my rider/wrench relationship.

Philip Williamson said...

I've really been enjoying your blog, even though I know if you saw my bike you'd arrange an intervention.

Your point about people trying for free stuff when they buy the bike reminded me of going for a ride with a friend. He couldn't believe I hadn't tryed to talk the shop down when I bought my (deeply discounted) mountain bike. He spent TWO HOURS dicking them out of a free waterbottle.

And they hated him forever.

Paul said...

I was walking into Trackstar (I know...I know...) the other day, and someone was walking away with their brand new NJS frame when one of the guys from trackstar said something about the drive side and the new njs guy said "which side is that?" Blows my mind how you can blow that kinda money on a frame and not know which side the "drive side" is.

Disgruntl Ed. said...

Interesting. In the early days you are fond of bold face, and you say "fixie" with no discernible distaste.



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