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How screwed up the bike shop business has become,

Old 06-16-21, 08:48 AM
  #26  
AlmostTrick
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I found my truing stand on CL for $20. Sanded and painted it so it would look nice.

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Old 06-16-21, 09:48 AM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by CheGiantForLife View Post
Had to buy a used part and install it myself. Makes me realize how screwed up the bike shop business has become, especially combined with the fuggled economics of the TechLand area. All of the good mechanics I knew have quit and moved somewhere else, because it's simply too expensive to live here on the $15-20/hr a bike mechanic makes. Even a top mechanic with 20 years' experience probably doesn't make more than $25/hr, otherwise the economics of the shop don't work. You can't live on that when the median home sale price is $1 million.

Now, shops are mostly staffed with high school or college age kids who live with their parents and only know how to assemble new bikes, and have no exposure to older parts or how to work on anything that the shop doesn't sell. It's more like a car dealership service department model, except that bikes don't have warranties, so they do little follow-up work on complex problems.

The last good mechanic I knew owned his own franchised mobile bike shop business, called Velofix. He sold it and took a job at Boeing. I learned this from the replacement Velofix guy, whom I had to call because the rear wheel on my road bike was out of true. I don't have a truing stand to deal with that, so a mechanic had to do it for me.

I've been thinking about this seeming paradox lately: when the cost of living in an area goes up dramatically, the quality of life goes down, even for the people most able to afford it. I wonder if an economist has done a more rigorous analysis of this effect, but it's something I've observed in several places. TechLand is just the most extreme case.

The bike shop example is one. Lots of bike shops have closed, because they can't afford the rent anymore. The ones that survive focus only on selling the most popular brands in large volume (want a Specialized? There are about 30 shops around here that all sell the same Spesh bikes. Want a BMC? There are two shops, and one recently downsized to a space half as big as they previously had.) Landlord is going to rent to whoever can pay the most, and that usually means a corporate brand like a Walgreens rather than a private small business.
Not everyone lives in an area that the median house cost a million dollars. But a good bike mechanic is worth every dime he makes. Sadly far too many cyclist know almost nothing about the mechanics of their bikes.
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Old 06-16-21, 10:56 AM
  #28  
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Not in socal. My LBS (I do all my work except bleeding disc brakes) has 6 - 8 excellent mechanics, charges $100 per hour for shop time and has a 2 - 4 week backlog at all times although they will do simple jobs immediately at times.
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Old 06-16-21, 11:06 AM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by Herzlos View Post
Not even close to being more reliable, but probably easier to fix with a hammer.
Modern cars (and bikes) are so much better, and that means more complexity.
That is generally a true statement, However all coins have two sides, which is why people get upset with newer tech.

"Modern cars (and bikes) are so much better, and that means more complexity." What creates the backlash is the inability for many to fix themselves due to a proliferation of standards, and its opposite - proprietary tech, primarily to lock you into a brand, and a lack of spare parts versus the replacement of an entire component, which may or may not be unavailable due to a manufacturers' change for the sake of change. This complexity means many needing to rely on mechanics (bike or car) and/or dealerships (car or bike) where the philosophy is R&R (remove and replace). Add to this the delays in getting a repair appointment, the days in waiting for parts/component availability (I am not referring to current unique challenges), and many peoples total lack of understanding anything mechanical and a total unwillingness or curiosity in how something functions, and the frustration becomes obvious.

Modern cars mechanically are much better, and a lot of that is due to better materials (any of the older riders remember the days of buy the car on Monday, rust on Tuesday before anti-corrosion treatments of the body panels) and assembly techniques. However, a quick review of the Consumer Reports reliability guides show most reliability issues relate to electronics and sensors, and their expense to replace. The old saw comment that, "I bought a new car because the ashtray was full", has been replaced by "I got the car because the infotainment screen died."
Modern bikes, IMHO, shift better than friction shifting, especially for high count cassettes (for MOST riders), tires are far better, and drive trains work very well within a system. However, once a part of that system becomes unavailable, the "fun" begins. Case in point is replacing a brake/shift lever combo for older group series. Whereas before a good mechanic would previously replace the parts, now many will tell the rider it would be cheaper to get a new bike, while extolling the newer tech and often far higher price.
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Old 06-16-21, 11:19 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
Did you price out the cost of a truing stand and a decent spoke wrench? Just wondering how you evaluated your options.

The simplest option, of course, is to true the wheel in situ. That's how we did it back in the 1970s, unless you were a wheel builder.
When a friend on a ride groused about his wheel needing to be trued, I pulled over and told him I had found a truing stand. When he stopped and turned around to look, I turned my bike upside down and showed how the brake calipers and pads could be used for truing. He said he had never heard of that. ANOTHER case for rim brakes...
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Old 06-16-21, 11:45 AM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
I think "workforce housing" is the current term for the issue OP describes. Further discussion will probably get this moved to the newly resurrected P&R.

See "Employee housing"

https://jobs.erwsd.org/why-work-for-us
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Old 06-16-21, 11:55 AM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
Did you price out the cost of a truing stand and a decent spoke wrench? Just wondering how you evaluated your options.

The simplest option, of course, is to true the wheel in situ. That's how we did it back in the 1970s, unless you were a wheel builder.
I bought a really junky used bike a couple months ago.

The only purpose of this bike was to strip parts off and learn stuff.

Flipped the bike upside down and watched the RJ video on truing. Not 100%, but much better and I learned in the process.
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Old 06-16-21, 12:41 PM
  #33  
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There is not enough time nor words to explain the areas where our economy has changed over the past 50 years; and the impact of all those changes.

However, I believe that it is a correct assessment that people will not pay 3 times the amount for the same service so a bicycle mechanic can earn $50/hr and sustain a lifestyle in expensive areas.

If you really think about it, someone will pay an HVAC tech whatever they need to pay to get their A/C working and maintain their comfort level during the Summer heat wave.

At the same time, that person will ride their bike at speeds that will result in death, but complain about not being able to find a good bike mechanic to overhaul their disc brakes.

John
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Old 06-16-21, 12:54 PM
  #34  
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Bikes are made in low-wage countries. When a shop charges $100+ per hour for service labor, replacing is often cheaper.

Last edited by James1964; 06-16-21 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 06-16-21, 02:01 PM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I don't think there's been any comparable change in reliability for bikes, it's always been a relatively reliable machine. And a simple single speed bike can be just about the most reliable of them all.

Car complexity has made them more reliable in that it's really the electronic controls that have curbed the IC engine's tendency to slowly blow itself up. A lot of independent mechanics shops closed a few years back as they couldn't afford the ever escalating number of electronic devices needed to service a car.
Fair point, I was thinking more reliability for cars since bikes are pretty simple mechanically anyway. The technology has definitely improved and brought advances, but those are mostly performance/ease of use rather than reliability. The only reliability improvements I can think of are things like tyres with better puncture resistance, and better manufacturing quality.
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Old 06-16-21, 02:14 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by 2old View Post
Not in socal. My LBS (I do all my work except bleeding disc brakes) has 6 - 8 excellent mechanics, charges $100 per hour for shop time and has a 2 - 4 week backlog at all times although they will do simple jobs immediately at times.
Bleeding brakes is like easier than inflating a tire !
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Old 06-16-21, 02:26 PM
  #37  
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Originally Posted by CheGiantForLife View Post
Bleeding brakes is like easier than inflating a tire !
Thanks for telling me something I already know. Have had it done once and, since the price of a kit was more than the cost to bleed, I had the shop do it.
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Old 06-16-21, 03:44 PM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by Mark Dominck View Post
Don't be afraid of these kid mechanics, they're going to replace us old guys and most of them are pretty sharp. They learn and grow up fast, I see it happening all around me in all jobs not just bike mechanics.
Only if they are mentored.

I've seen many "young people" think they know everything and don't know their limitations.

I work on vintage Volkswagens and have helped many people locally learn how to work on their cars. Most 20 somethings never ask about torque specs while more "mature" people understand that.

Last thing you need is for an untrained mechanic to under torque the stem so the bars slip or over tighten it and the bolts snap.
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Old 06-16-21, 04:50 PM
  #39  
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In my hometown, the LBS had a revolving door of high school kids who loved bikes. I was one of them and I loved it. I spent the night in the summer assembling bikes all night because I wanted to.

In my early 20’s, I worked at other shops, mostly for the discount to support the racing habit.

Teenagers and guys in their early 20’s are a bit cocky and careless. They’re hard workers but a shop manager who double checks their work is essential. And yes, even the one who fired me did the right thing.

It’s a very different thing to be able to mess with your own stuff, then tinker again when it’s not right, until perfection. To mess with something once and let it out the door is another skill entirely.

20+ years later my attention to detail has changed. I’d be an excellent mechanic now but I’ve gravitated towards a career where that same attention is rewarded quite a bit more elsewhere.

So the OP really makes some sense to me.

Other than learning to fix your own bikes, I can’t think of a solution.
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Old 06-16-21, 05:00 PM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
It’s a very different thing to be able to mess with your own stuff, then tinker again when it’s not right, until perfection. To mess with something once and let it out the door is another skill entirely.
+1
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Old 06-16-21, 06:00 PM
  #41  
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What do you do about it?

A lot of people already have a good knowledge of how to fix bikes. I would encourage those who don't to learn. Then you don't have to rely on others.

In the future we will buy more and more online.

You probably want a spare bike you can ride while waiting for parts.
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Old 06-16-21, 06:53 PM
  #42  
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Originally Posted by tkamd73 View Post
Sorry, but old cars were not more reliable.
Tim
true but one could usually repair his/her bike and car by ones self

don't tell me what FORD means!
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Old 06-16-21, 06:57 PM
  #43  
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Figure Out Road Derailleurs?
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Old 06-16-21, 07:55 PM
  #44  
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With all of the info, tools, parts available online….seems silly to go to a bike shop. The hassle of driving there and the limited selection of parts/accessories keeps me away.

A few clicks online and I have the parts/tools I need in 48hrs.
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Old 06-16-21, 07:58 PM
  #45  
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Originally Posted by GBK233 View Post
With all of the info, tools, parts available online….seems silly to go to a bike shop. The hassle of driving there and the limited selection of parts/accessories keeps me away.

A few clicks online and I have the parts/tools I need in 48hrs.
Some people have no skills.

From my experience, most triathletes can't even clean their bikes let along service them.
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Old 06-16-21, 08:02 PM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by GlennR View Post
Some people have no skills.

From my experience, most triathletes can't even clean their bikes let along service them.
Agreed. Many people are too lazy to become self sufficient. They’ll spend countless hours on Facebook and Instagram….but can’t be bothered to google how to clean a chain, index a derailleur etc etc

I run into it A LOT in the automotive business. Young and old who have no idea how to put air in their tires….let alone do simple things like changing an air filter.
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Old 06-16-21, 08:06 PM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by 2old View Post
Not in socal. My LBS (I do all my work except bleeding disc brakes) has 6 - 8 excellent mechanics, charges $100 per hour for shop time and has a 2 - 4 week backlog at all times although they will do simple jobs immediately at times.
$100 an hour to work on a bike? Yikes. A fool and his money…I suppose
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Old 06-16-21, 09:17 PM
  #48  
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Probably peanuts compared to what the auto dealerships average. Might be an instructional experience for you to stand outside the shop (The Path in Tustin, CA) and tell all the individuals having service work done that they're fools.
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Old 06-16-21, 10:27 PM
  #49  
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Originally Posted by GlennR View Post
From my experience, most triathletes can't even clean their bikes let along service them.
It's not that they don't know how to clean and service their bikes, they just don't want to do it after they pee on them.
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Old 06-16-21, 11:24 PM
  #50  
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I don't remember a time where bike shops were not full of young people barely making a living. If you actually did find a shop where the tech was over 30, 9/10 he was the owner. The bike business is and always will be boom and bust.
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