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Bicycle Mechanics Broken bottom bracket? Tacoed wheel? If you're having problems with your bicycle, or just need help fixing a flat, drop in here for the latest on bicycle mechanics & bicycle maintenance.

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Old 10-11-06, 06:52 PM   #1
Pete Hamer
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Tips for dealing with LBS mechanics.

This might be a hot button. Hopefully it will be well received though. I put together a list of ways to help people get the most out of their experience with LBS service departments. Feel free to post up your own suggestions from either shop employees perspective or consumer perspective.

Working with your mechanic.

1. Avoid self diagnoses. (be careful what you ask for)
Although it's o.k. to take a guess at what needs to be done to your bike to fix the problem, you should state clearly what the problem is. If you ask the service writer to adjust your gears and don't tell them "it slips when I go uphill", they will simply adjust your gears per your request. The reason that "it slips when I go up hill" might be caused by a worn out chain. Adjusting your gears might be needed but won't necessarily fix the problem that you wanted fixed. I had bike a that was in for a b.b o-haul once. Two days later the guy called me up all pissed off because it still squeaked. He never ask anyone to fix the squeak. He just assumed that it was the b.b. Turned out the squeak was coming from his pedal.

2. Bring your bike in for repair work in the off season if possible.
Depending on the climate where you live there is probably a busy season for you LBS. If you know that you are going to need work done on your bike try to bring it in before it gets really busy.

3. Call ahead on "while you wait" repairs.
If you want something done that is considered a more advanced repair like facing/chasing or disc brake bleed and you are hoping that your LBS can do it while you wait, call ahead first to make sure that there will be a qualified mechanic on duty.

4. Consulting with the mechanic that will be doing the work.
It's o.k. to ask to talk to the person that will be doing the work on your bike but be conscious that he/she might have a repair quote and might not have much time to talk.

5. The mechanic that you see in the back who is working on a bike isn't necessarily ingnoring you.
He/she is helping a customer that isn't in the store but might be coming back shortly. Ideally the mechanic should acknowledge you and let you know if they are able to help you or not. It can be less frsutrating if you understand why they can't help you immediately.

6. No one likes to have someone look over their shoulder while they work.
This includes bike mechanics. If they allow you to watch try not to get in the way.

7. Don't try to use the lingo if you don't know it.
Many times a customer will ask to have their wheel replaced when they really meant to aks to have their tire replaced. A seat clamp is different from a seatpost clamp. It's ok. to point to the part that you are talking about if you don't know it's name.

8. Listen to the message that the LBS left on your voice mail.
Don't just assume your bike is ready for pick up because you see their number on your caller i.d. They may have been calling to tell you that their is a problem and it's won't be done on time.

19. If you have a pet pieve tell it to the service writer.
If you have a particuler way that you like your bars wrapped you should make sure to say something upfront. Don't just get upset because it wasn't done right.

10. Climb the competency ladder.
There are probably some good mechancis working in the shop. It's o.k. to ask for the "recumbent tandem expert". The rookie that you were talking to will probably be relieved that you did. If the first person you talk to doesn't seem to be as competent as you'd like them to be, don't give up and leave. It's o.k. to ask to talk to someone more qualified, just try not to insult the person you are talking to. The shops website might have an employee profile. Maybe check it before you go to the shop so that you'll know who to ask for. The shop I work for has six locations and each one has it's own flavor. One location might have a BMX expert while another won't.

11. When calling the shop, please do not insist on a diagnosis over the phone. Youíll need to bring the bike in for a mechanic to look at.

12. When picking your bike up after having it serviced, test ride it before leaving the store. Itís much easier to resolve any problems on the spot.

13. Get an estimate up when you drop your bike for repair work. If the service writer doesnít offer an estimate you should ask for one. Remember that an estimate is just that, an ďestimateĒ. It is not a guarantee that the repair wonít cost more. The question is, will the shop call you before going over the estimate. Shops might have a policy that they will only go %10 over the estimate without customer approval. Know their policy. Make sure that you let them know if you donít want them to go over $x amount.

14. Maintain open lines of communication. Give the shop a good way to get ahold of you, like your cell phone number. If the mechanic comes across unexpected issues it important that they can speak to you about it right away. If they have to leave a message on your home phone while you are out, you might not get it before coming back to pick up your bike. Itís also frustrating to have to stop in the middle of a job, go hang the bike up, and start a new job. Also, they might bump your bike to the end of the list whne this happens.

15. Educate yourself. Many shops offer repair and maintenance classes. The more you know the better.
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Old 10-11-06, 06:54 PM   #2
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16. Bring the mechanics a box of cookies or a watermelon. You'll get MUCH better and faster service!
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Old 10-11-06, 06:55 PM   #3
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Quote:
10. Climb the competency ladder.
There are probably some good mechancis working in the shop. It's o.k. to ask for the "recumbent tandem expert". The rookie that you were talking to will probably be relieved that you did.
Most rookies will be smart enough to go, "Oh I have no idea maybe Bob can help you with this".
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Old 10-11-06, 07:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Hamer
2. Bring your bike in for repair work in the off season if possible.
Depending on the climate where you live there is probably a busy season for you LBS. If you know that you are going to need work done on your bike try to bring it in before it gets really busy.

3. Call ahead on "while you wait" repairs.
If you want something done that is considered a more advanced repair like facing/chasing or disc brake bleed and you are hoping that your LBS can do it while you wait, call ahead first to make sure that there will be a qualified mechanic on duty.
Excellent tips! If you know you want a tune-up, call ahead and ask what the turn around time is. Can't tell you how many times people come in during the middle of the season, w/ their bike, and get mad when you say you're out 2 weeks. Also, on the 'while you wait repairs' call ahead again and see how busy they are.

17. If you are speaking w/ a mechanic/sales person about a specific thing, whether it be on the phone or in person, if he/she doesn't tell you their name, ask for it. It will make life a lot easier when you come in later and say "Well I was talking to someone who said he could this for me, I don't know his name though".
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Old 10-11-06, 07:55 PM   #5
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Don't know if this applies, but in the skiing world if you need a set of skis mounted right away, the trick is to bring a 6-pack of good beer and your skis to the shop 1/2 hour before the service dept. closes. Is this good etiquette for bike mechanics when you need something done quick that you'd normally have to wait for?
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Old 10-11-06, 07:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FarHorizon
16. Bring the mechanics a box of cookies or a watermelon. You'll get MUCH better and faster service!
Bring a six-pack of good beer and some pretzels and you will get even FASTER service.
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Old 10-11-06, 08:01 PM   #7
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Clean bike?

Don't be dropping off your bike if its nasty and covered in crap. Take one or two minutes and clean your ride off before you bring it in. I'm not talking a full polish job just clean it up a little.

That won't hurt from the mechanics mind set when he starts the job!!!
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Old 10-11-06, 08:16 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HillRider
Bring a six-pack of good beer and some pretzels and you will get even FASTER service.
Unless it's me, in which case make it a half-gallon of chocolate milk and some cookies

Oh, and please do not tell the mechanic (or anyone else) your life's story unless they ask you to. Pay what stuff costs and don't gripe about it, so that someday we get raises If the mechanic does a quickie repair, don't ask "do I owe you anything," but rather get out your wallet and ask what it comes to. And if they say "hey, no charge bro, we know ya," then ask if there's a tip jar

Last edited by mechBgon; 10-11-06 at 08:22 PM.
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Old 10-11-06, 08:46 PM   #9
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Bring a six-pack of good beer and some pretzels and you will get even FASTER service.
If your a hot chick, then dress (in)appropritly
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Old 10-12-06, 01:04 AM   #10
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If your a hot chick, then dress (in)appropritly
I saw this happen today - doesn't work. The mechanic just stumbles around all dreamy-eyed with his head in the clouds all day and can't concentrate on anything. Wear a burlap sack (but the beer idea works).
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Old 10-12-06, 01:20 AM   #11
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I'm drinking yesterdays tip right now. Believe me, I may not remember tonight but I will remember the next time that customer comes in to the shop.
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Old 10-12-06, 01:31 AM   #12
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17. Invest some time in learning how to wrench yourself. $150 investment in tools and a stand and a little know-how will save you a ton of money in the long run. And then you won't have to worry so much about tips 1-16.

Not that I have anything against the LBS mechanics. I just don't have the time to deal with them.

-D
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Old 10-12-06, 03:43 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by mycoatl
bring a 6-pack of good beer
At one shop I frequent, I get the distinct impression this could get the wrench a ration from the shop owner. If I get special attention or service from the wrench, I slip 'em $5.
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Old 10-12-06, 03:50 AM   #14
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At one shop I frequent, I get the distinct impression this could get the wrench a ration from the shop owner. If I get special attention or service from the wrench, I slip 'em $5.
Since I gave up demon alcohol many years ago, a six-pack wouldn't go far in my shop. I'd say thanks and then park it in the fridge for the riding crew after a Sunday ride. Now a 24 oz cup of fresh Colombian coffee might just turn my head. Especially if accompanied by a nice sized breakfast pastry. Pizza works too.
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Old 10-12-06, 04:59 AM   #15
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Before you need the extra help, ask... "What is your beverage of choice?" and make sure to give them what they want.
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Old 10-12-06, 05:44 AM   #16
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cyclepromo has a good point, don't expect good work to be done on a dirty bike. Pet peeve of mine. Particularly with mountain bikes, before and after races. They tend to be filthy. Keeping a bike clean helps with longevity, finish and diagnosing problems too. Plus it's lighter.

- Joel
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