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Working at a bike shop doesn't guarantee competence.

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Working at a bike shop doesn't guarantee competence.

Old 06-05-10, 10:20 PM
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nahh
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Working at a bike shop doesn't guarantee competence.

With recent threads about paying to have a bike assembled, and other threads, it seems many people seem to think that everyone who happens to work in a bike shop are somehow expert mechanics.

Having worked in a couple bike shops, I can assure you that not every person working there is actually competent at fixing bikes. Getting a job in many bike shops is an easy way to hang out with like-minded people and smoke all day.

I'm not saying all bike shops are full of people who have no clue, but many are. When you're looking to get work done, especially something like set up a bike worth thousands of dollars, make sure you actually find out if the people are competent. Don't just assume any guy working in a bike shop is able to do it. Many times, you (yes, "you") could build a bike just as well as that guy with the grease on his hands at the LBS.

discuss.
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Old 06-05-10, 10:27 PM
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Well, that's true to an extent. I work at a bike shop and am a ****ty mechanic. Then again, I do sales and don't work on bikes. And as far as the mechanics go, some are better than others. Pretty much the same in any workplace. Just because someone does a certain job doesn't mean that they are the best person for it or that someone else doesn't do the same job better.

It's just human nature. Even though you love it and it's your job doesn't mean you're a whiz at it. Some people like the challenge. Others enjoy the job and are naturals at it and still there are others that are very good, but loathe it and so don't do their best work.
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Old 06-05-10, 10:51 PM
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i used to work as a motorcycle mechanic when I was in college... I'd NEVER take my motorcycle to a shop after that experience... NO EFFIN WAY... i've got the tools, I'll learn to do it myself thank you very much... and if I don't have the tools I'll get them and then learn.... with RARE exception, most wrenches work back there, sadly, because they aren't competent for other higher paying/higher responsibility jobs... this is by no means a swipe at the competent shops out there, just that in my experiences, the large majority of wrench spinners are complete monkeys...
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Old 06-05-10, 10:57 PM
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pretty accurate assessment. sometimes the mechanics are too young/inexperienced to do anything besides basic stuff on common bikes.
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Old 06-05-10, 11:22 PM
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Originally Posted by nahh View Post
With recent threads about paying to have a bike assembled, and other threads, it seems many people seem to think that everyone who happens to work in a bike shop are somehow expert mechanics.

Having worked in a couple bike shops, I can assure you that not every person working there is actually competent at fixing bikes.
Getting a job in many bike shops is an easy way to hang out with like-minded people and smoke all day.

I'm not saying all bike shops are full of people who have no clue, but many are. When you're looking to get work done, especially something like set up a bike worth thousands of dollars, make sure you actually find out if the people are competent. Don't just assume any guy working in a bike shop is able to do it. Many times, you (yes, "you") could build a bike just as well as that guy with the grease on his hands at the LBS.

discuss.
This is perplexing. I spend a lot of time in bike shops, but I work on my own bikes. I have not once seen any of employees smoke or smelled smoke on any of them. I am a moderate smoker myself, but would certainly not smoke if working at a bike shop. It seems wrong for some reason I cannot put my finger on, but then there's the image stuck in my mind of a younger Sheldon Brown holding up a wheel in one hand, with a heater in the other.
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Old 06-05-10, 11:39 PM
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hey bonz50 i have ten years experience with bicycles, and another eight with motorcycles, I do it because I like it, I have run both bike and motorcycle shops, I am smart enough to do whatever I want and I am. some people I have worked with are monkeys, but they tend to get weeded out, (like I asume you did) because they can not handle the responsibility of being responsable for the lives of others. If I screw up people die, if a computer geek screws up a program does'nt work. I have no Idea the kind of shops you have been to, but there are lots of competent mechanics out there, just keep your eyes open.
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Old 06-05-10, 11:39 PM
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When I was a shop mechanic, I still had plenty to learn from the head mechanic, and the sales guys came to me for all sorts of advice. I almost wondered if they knew which brand of brakes were on their own bikes, and if they knew what a barrel adjuster does.
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Old 06-06-10, 12:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Roadposer View Post
hey bonz50 i have ten years experience with bicycles, and another eight with motorcycles, I do it because I like it, I have run both bike and motorcycle shops, I am smart enough to do whatever I want and I am. some people I have worked with are monkeys, but they tend to get weeded out, (like I asume you did) because they can not handle the responsibility of being responsable for the lives of others.
nice assumption, but no, I left willingly cuz I was in college bettering myself and my job prospects, I worked there for the summers while I was taking summer classes so I could get done sooner... I also did it cuz I enjoy it, still do it as a hobby in my garage, but I stand by my experiences with local shops (be it car, motorcycle, snowmobile, atv, or bicycle)... the ~majority~ are monkeys that I wouldn't let hold my wrench much less place it on my ride... the exceptions I wrote about earlier are, or could be, guys like yourself... if you are one of the good guys, great, I applaud, but being around this stuff for 30+yrs has taught me a few things...

If I screw up people die, if a computer geek screws up a program does'nt work. I have no Idea the kind of shops you have been to, but there are lots of competent mechanics out there, just keep your eyes open.
fwiw - computer guys, depending on the company, also have live-and-die jobs... ask the guys at toyota who write the ECU programs on the prius as an example...
and guys that do stuff for Big Pharma co's, if they make mistakes it can trash an entire batch of medicine that makes it to public hands... just sayin, computers have more life and death stuff going on than most people realize, and often those types of screw up can cost not just a life, but LIVES, many of them... its not all email and web surfin, feel me??

cheers bro!!!
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Old 06-06-10, 01:34 AM
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2 LBS's in my area have both screwed my stuff up. I wished they would let me come back there and spend a little more time to get it done how I would like. So, I bought my own tools and do it myself. The thing about going to a bike shop is that you don't know who is going to work on your bike. Its like going to a pro cuts and getting your haircut by the random stylist, 1 out of 5 times you walk away proud of your $9.99 haircut. But mostly it leads to disappointment.
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Old 06-06-10, 05:17 AM
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Depends on the shop. a *good* bike shop that values its reputation among knowledgeable customers will make sure that all their mechanics are competent. The others, well... Don't go to those ones.

That having been said, I haven't taken my bike to a shop since moving to Denver last fall, and I don't see any pressing need to do so in the looming future.
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Old 06-06-10, 05:49 AM
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You could say the same thing with just about any business selling a service. Think of restarurants. Just because you happen to be paying for a meal doesn't mean there is a world class chef who has spent considerable time and effort to make you a quality meal. Find a good restaurant with a quality chef who cares and you know you have found a place worth eating at. Same thing with LBSs.
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Old 06-06-10, 05:59 AM
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As with any profession, there are competent mechanics, and Bozo the clown without the make-up.
I do 95% of my own work on bikes and, since I occaisionally flip bikes, I've worked on quite a few, typically with complete success with any repair. Still, most bike mechanics I run into are more knowledgeable than I am. I've met a couple who should not be allowed to touch a wrench, but most are very capable. I've only had one experience where the mechanic completely screwed up a derailer adjustment. I won't slam the profession because of one incompetent.
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Old 06-06-10, 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by RJM View Post
You could say the same thing with just about any business selling a service. Think of restarurants. Just because you happen to be paying for a meal doesn't mean there is a world class chef who has spent considerable time and effort to make you a quality meal. Find a good restaurant with a quality chef who cares and you know you have found a place worth eating at. Same thing with LBSs.
+1

Rowan and I had a bit of a laugh when we ate at a place in London. There must have been a run on a particular pasta dish because one of the kitchen staff suddenly dashed out, and then returned with arms full of bags from the local grocery store ... the bags contained pasta sauces. If we'd had a kitchen, we could have created the meal we ate ... boil pasta, open tin, pour contents of tin on pasta ...........
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Old 06-06-10, 06:43 AM
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Just like anything...there are good shops and there are bad shops. Probably more bad than good. Best to just lean how to work on your bike.
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Old 06-06-10, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by tFUnK View Post
pretty accurate assessment. sometimes the mechanics are too young/inexperienced to do anything besides basic stuff on common bikes.


I like how young is associated with does not know what a tire is.

Not saying you said quite that, but I get that feeling from customers a lot.
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Old 06-06-10, 07:00 AM
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I guess that I don't get the point.

Everybody is on a learning curve. Everybody makes mistakes. Bike shop employees are no different in those respects than anybody else. I think there is a tendency on BF for everybody to post their bad experiences as proof to a stereotype that all bike shop workers incompetent. That's simply not true. It's not even close.
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Old 06-06-10, 07:28 AM
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I get my bike worked on at a shop with a large open work area, so you can stand around and watch the wrenches do their thing if you want to. I've seen them do stuff that would take me an hour to do in about five minutes. I have complete trust in them.
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Old 06-06-10, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I guess that I don't get the point.

Everybody is on a learning curve. Everybody makes mistakes. Bike shop employees are no different in those respects than anybody else. I think there is a tendency on BF for everybody to post their bad experiences as proof to a stereotype that all bike shop workers incompetent. That's simply not true. It's not even close.
+1

Good shops know the limitations of their employees and while they do train/educate them, they also verify their work. There is a word for it.. oh yes, "apprenticeship".
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Old 06-06-10, 08:26 AM
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A bigger problem is the shops 'employees' who do little more than hang out at the shop to collect a paycheck. They work there for 4 or 5 months and all of the sudden they are experts, as if they acquired decades of knowledge through osmosis. Reading the catalogs and industry rags doesn't make you an expert, much less a quality shop employee.

My other peeve is that they believe certain things are beneath them, like pushing the broom or taking out the trash. You know I did to GET a job in a shop 25+ years ago? I volunteered, w/o pay, to clean the bikes and the service area! I actually heard one of the employees at my shop say that they weren't going to clean the backroom/storage area b/c they didn't want to get dirty. Really, GTFO!

They sit around and talk about 'old-school' when they've been on the bike for a year. I'm not saying you have to be a historian, but don't question the guy who brings in his steel Merckx as to why he'd want to ride "such a heavy bike..."!

My favorite is the morbidly obese employee that extolls the benefits of riding, and his love for it, to customers. If you loved it so much, you wouldn't weigh 275...at 5'8"!!!

Here's a tip for newbie shop employees... "Mouth shut, eyes and ears open..."

My grandfather once said that the smartest man doesn't know everything, but he knows where to find the answers to those things that he does not know!
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Old 06-06-10, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by damocles1 View Post

Here's a tip for newbie shop employees... "Mouth shut, eyes and ears open..."
+1. well put.

@Toddorado: At the shop that I made a bank at last summer, most of the employees' days were spent smoking and sitting around. I made so much because we worked on commission, and could make $200 working for 3-4 hours, and then leave. The people standing around didn't get paid much, maybe $20/day if they did a tune-up or changed a tire.

that said, I would never take my bike to that shop. ever.
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Old 06-06-10, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Roadposer View Post
hey bonz50 i have ten years experience with bicycles, and another eight with motorcycles, I do it because I like it, I have run both bike and motorcycle shops, I am smart enough to do whatever I want and I am. some people I have worked with are monkeys, but they tend to get weeded out, (like I asume you did) because they can not handle the responsibility of being responsable for the lives of others. If I screw up people die, if a computer geek screws up a program does'nt work. I have no Idea the kind of shops you have been to, but there are lots of competent mechanics out there, just keep your eyes open.
Many times every day your life is in the hands of "computer geeks" and a whole host of others working in the nerdy professions.
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Old 06-06-10, 01:58 PM
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At my local shop, they're not all experts, but they're also not afraid to have the more knowledgeable guy do it if they can't.
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Old 06-06-10, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by damocles1 View Post
A bigger problem is the shops 'employees' who do little more than hang out at the shop to collect a paycheck. They work there for 4 or 5 months and all of the sudden they are experts, as if they acquired decades of knowledge through osmosis. Reading the catalogs and industry rags doesn't make you an expert, much less a quality shop employee.

My other peeve is that they believe certain things are beneath them, like pushing the broom or taking out the trash. You know I did to GET a job in a shop 25+ years ago? I volunteered, w/o pay, to clean the bikes and the service area! I actually heard one of the employees at my shop say that they weren't going to clean the backroom/storage area b/c they didn't want to get dirty. Really, GTFO!

They sit around and talk about 'old-school' when they've been on the bike for a year. I'm not saying you have to be a historian, but don't question the guy who brings in his steel Merckx as to why he'd want to ride "such a heavy bike..."!

My favorite is the morbidly obese employee that extolls the benefits of riding, and his love for it, to customers. If you loved it so much, you wouldn't weigh 275...at 5'8"!!!

Here's a tip for newbie shop employees... "Mouth shut, eyes and ears open..."

My grandfather once said that the smartest man doesn't know everything, but he knows where to find the answers to those things that he does not know!
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Old 06-06-10, 03:43 PM
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I'm certainly not an expert. I do feel that I'm competent, however. There is some room in between, you know. If I don't know how to do something, it's probably because I've never done it before, so I have no problem asking an older guy to show me the ropes. Also, with a few exceptions, it's hard to actually screw something up beyond repair. Mostly the less experienced guys like me just take longer to do the same job.

In my opinion, smaller shops tend to be better at wrenching. The apprenticeship system works especially well when there's not a mad rush to catch up with a long repair queue. Also, fewer mechanics means better communication.

I'm trying my best to do that eyes open, mouth shut thing.
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Old 06-06-10, 07:57 PM
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I did not not mean to pick on computer geeks, you guys are right, they do way more then most peole think.

I do not know what the shops are like in your guys towns, but can judge from the dissapointmen what it's been like, mabey as a mechanic I have been fortunate to know good work and be able to read those mechanics who know and those who don't.

I would say try your local shop talk to the mechanic to see how knoledgable they are, and if something is wrong take it back and complain, be nice about it but let them know it's wrong, this way you can get it done properly and they know they screwed up, if you do not come back then they did a good job. If they continualy screw up (more then once) then go somewhere else, or like others learn to do it yourself.
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