Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Bit Of A Rant From A Bicycle Mechanic

Not all bike shops are created equal...
The saying goes, "Never paint with broad strokes". This referring to making "blanket statements" about anything, you being too simplistic, not giving the subject any, (or enough), thought. We're all guilty of this from time to time. I'm no exception.

This is about bicycle shops like the one I work at. Independently owned and operated shops, usually owned by a single individual. Not corporate chain outlets, or big box joints. No, this is about a dying breed. The "local bike shop".

I was a bit tweaked off yesterday. I was on that social network site a lot of folks use when I saw a thread that caught my attention. It had to do with a crank arm falling off a bicycle. A crank arm I am familiar with, and yes- this one has a tendency to fall off if you don't look after it. (Some knowledge I will point back to later, by the way, so take note.)

A commenter made a statement something to the effect that "..those bike shops have high school morons putting their bicycles together, so what do you expect." See- that kind of statement is where I draw the line.

Okay- I am not going to pretend I know why this particular bicycle had its crank arm fall off. It very well may have been the fault of the bike shop, but may not have been either. You see, not all bicycle shops have "high school morons" putting their new bicycles together, and some even have seasoned, knowledgeable assemblers doing their work. It is like anything else you buy. There are levels of crap, some decent shops, and a few outstanding ones. Guess what? If you are a consumer, it is on you to figure out which is which. 

See, that's where this whole perception of bike shops by some folks is all jacked up. "LBS" retailers are not all a bunch of stupid, price gouging, moronic grease monkeys,  unlike what you might think from reading internet forums and other mindless chit-chat. In fact, some of us would have been able to tell you to check that FSA non-driveside crank for pinch bolt tightness, because they have a tendency to come loose and, well, the crank arm likes to work itself off the spindle, you see. Just, you know.....check those bolts from time to time, (like you should anyway), and you'd have been okay. It's part of the deal folks. Bicycles need maintenance. Yeah....that's another thing that is on you to take care of, one way or the other. 

And again- there are bad apples out there. I get that. But most of us care. Most of us want to help you out, and yeah....we do this for a living, so we need to make money, just like you do.

Okay- nuff said. Hope that makes some sense.


Ἀντισθένης said...

Look, I agree you should be offended when it is said all are morons, but maybe it is just a Toronto thing, but most shops are staffed and owned by morons. I return to Toronto's Urbane Cyclist and Hoopdriver, but no others. And was it my responsibility to find them when I have a job and two kids and a wife? Inevitably yes, but you can see how I might have lost my patience...

Ari said...

The consumer thinks they have no responsibility in having a bicycle. We routinely fill tires and oil chains. Every time we do that service we point out how they need to buy a floor pump and a can of lube. They look at us like frightened deer. It is your bike and one must give it a once over so you don't kill yourself.

Guitar Ted said...

@ Ἀντισθένης: The experience of finding a good bicycle mechanic, (or plumber, car mechanic, doctor, dentist, etc), is always a struggle, but well worth it in the end when you do.

I do not come right out and say this in the post, but the best experiences will be had when you establish a relational interface with a business. The businesses have a responsibility in that too, just like you do. As in any relationship, negativity, confrontational behavior, and dishonesty have no place.

Hope you find something like that for your bicycling needs in Toronto sooner than later.

Jeremy said...

Well said!!! If I don't know the answer or how to fix something you take it to someone who does. Like I say, "I get paid to do what I do and others get paid to do what they do."

Guitar Ted said...

@Ari: True. Even the owners manuals for bicycles and for components you buy aftermarket stress checking your bicycle before every ride.

I think part of the issue here is that as a culture and society, we have been weened off of doing mechanical maintenance. Look at cars, as an example. No one, (well almost no one), works on their own cars anymore these days. When I was a kid, "shade tree mechanics" were everywhere. Or how about almost any aspect of life? The norm is "No user serviceable parts inside". We're taught not to fiddle with stuff. (Which isn't always a bad thing)

mw said...

i took pride in every turn of the wrench when i was employed as a shop mechanic and shop manager

The Los said...

True. After 20 some-odd years of working as a bike mechanic, it still amazes me that people think bikes require zero maintenance, and that they bear no responsibility in finding good mechanics if they're unwilling to do the work themselves.


Mauricio Babilonia said...

Well put. Thank you, Mark.

Key "truvativ crank arm fall off" into your favorite internetz search engine and see what you get. The complainer could just as easily have done that as start a bitchfest on social media, and it would have been more productive.

Bike shops are owned and run by humans. Bicycles are owned and maintained by humans. Humans are by their nature imperfect, thus so will go the relationship between any two groups.

Some bike shops are better than others, so caveat emptor.

Shops that are indeed staffed by morons don't last long. Anyone who claims that all, or even most, are staffed by morons may want to take an overdue look in the mirror. From an objective point of view, the customer's actions play an important role in the quality of service that they receive.

Yeah, sometimes bike shops mess up. So what? As if other businesses don't? Personally, I've come to the conclusion that my imperfect LBS is pretty damn important, and it's worth it to me to pay a few bucks more there than I might over the internetz for most of what I buy.

As usual, YMMV.

MrDaveyGie said...

I love my LBS, been going there for 30 years and have seen three sets of owners come and go. I have always enjoyed seeing the highschool kid(s) learn the trade from other shop experience. I have broken bike parts 2 years after purchase and have obtained free replacement. Try that with a warehouse in Singapore.

cDub said...

Wow. Little did I know what ire my crank arm post would inspire.

Just for the record, my LBS was/is rad and took care of the crank are situation with the quickness.

I am admittedly a novice in the bike mechanic department and probably deserved (some of) the RTFM treatment, but really I was just seeking info from people who know more than me. Something I use the web for all the time.

So, I accept the need to learn more, and again, nothing but love for my local shop.


Guitar Ted said...

@CW: I think it was a commenters comments posted after your thread was started that I am referring to. Nothing you stated made me "rant" this post, for the record. But, as I sated up there in the post, I draw the line at a certain point with regard to "name calling" and "blanket statements" about the service industry I am employed in. A point of pride, perhaps, but there it is.