Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Slingin' Wrenches

Bike Shop tales returns today with a tale from the pit of Advantage Cyclery............

Advantage Cyclery was located very near a trail head that was/is immensely popular with the recreational cycling crowd. It was in the first block of a downtown area that was rapidly on the upswing from the nadir of activity experienced downtown in the 1980's. With hybrid and mountain bike sales at an all time high in the area, Advantage Cyclery was often swamped with work and customers all day, everyday, all summer long.

This meant that the repairs were not only being scheduled, but were walking in the door constantly. Add in the new bicycle sales that required the requisite kick stand, water bottle cage, bar ends, saddle change, and computer installation, and you have the recipe for frazzled shop mechanics. Don't even ask to have that rack installed!

So it was that on a typical summer day, we would, between two mechanics, do 18 scheduled repair jobs on average along with uncounted walk ins and new bike accessory installations. Wrenches were being slung! Many times, we would be doing things assembly line style, just to keep up. I would do certain new bike jobs as the other mechanic would do walk-ins, or vice versa, and we both would do repairs as well. Sometimes we had three guys back there, but not always, and some days it was just me. All day. Which meant upwards of 10 to 12 hours of non-stop wrenching.

Yeah. It was really busy at times. Stressful? You bet! Sometimes we would be trying to get out of there at 8pm and people would keep walking in the shop/back door for flat repairs, air for their tires, and derailleur adjustments. It wasn't uncommon to be stuck after hours for up to another hour. This was usually our grumpiest time of the day for the mechanics. We were looking forward to hitting Mainly Lou's, or Toad's for after work beers and grub. (Sometimes we wouldn't have eaten all day!)

I remember one evening, when the other guys had bailed out already, and I was locking up the shop. I was about to walk out the back door, lock up, and go have a beer when I heard someone in the twilight ask if they could come in for a "quick air up". You know, I had learned a thing or two already in retail. That sort of phrasing really doesn't ever mean that is all the customer wants.

"If I could just get you to do so-and-so, I'll be outta here right away." Yeah, how many times had I been bitten by that one? Too many times. I knew how that went. Customer comes in, then as you are just about to wrap it up, they say, "Oh! And could you take a look at my wheels, I have this clicking noise that comes around when my Cousin Jim rides this bike, and....blah, blah, blah........" An hour and a half later the customer has finagled a free tune up outta you and you see them scoot out the door with a hurried "Thanks!" and no offer of money, or beer, or nuthin'! Nope! I wasn't falling for this one on this particular day.

So, I turned and looked at the guy, who was dismounting and about to pick up his bicycle, when I said, "No. We're closed for the day. Sorry!" He responded in disbelief, pleaded with me to open up the door, and made a reference to how if I didn't help him, he was going to say "bad things" about Advantage. I looked him straight in the eye and said, " Look, I have a life outside of this place, and I am supposed to get off at 8pm. It's already way past that time, and my work day is over. If you want us to look at your bike, we open again at 10 in the morning and we close at 8 at night. Good evening!"

I turned, locked the door, and walked away. I can't remember if the guy said anything behind my back or not, and frankly, I didn't care. 

I do remember the beer tasted extra good that night.

Next Week: Bike Shop Tales Returns...............

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