Gas station without pumps

2019 January 23

Mediocre experience at the local bike shop

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:24
Tags: , ,

My bicycle was in need of some care this past weekend (bald tire, worn brake blocks, worn chain), so I decided it was time for a tune-up.  I usually do all the work on my bike myself, but the closest bike shop to me (now called CycleWorks, previously Sprockets) has changed hands repeatedly in the past few years, and I am a bit worried that they may not last long.  So I decided to spread the wealth a bit and pay for a tune-up.

I called them up to see if they could do a tune-up over the weekend—I wanted the bike for commuting on Tuesday (Monday was a holiday).  They said that they were closed on Monday, but if I brought the bike in on Saturday, they could have it ready by Sunday, unless it needed some part they didn’t have.

I brought the bike in on Saturday shortly after they opened at 9 a.m. and explained what I wanted.  The only unusual request was that I wanted the packing grease removed from a new chain and replaced with a dry lube like White Lightning or T9.

Early in the afternoon on Saturday, they called me and said that the bike was ready.  The promptness of service was quite pleasing, and they did seem to have used dry lube on the new chain.  I ran a few errands on Saturday, and found that the brakes were not well adjusted—the cables were loose enough that I was almost bottoming out the brake levers before the brakes engaged.  I could fix it with the barrel adjusters, but I used up almost the full travel on one barrel (which should be reserved for wear on the brakes, not the initial adjustment).

Tuesday morning, on my way up the hill, I shifted into my lowest gear and the chain came off into the spokes.  It turns out that they had the rear derailleur adjustment off by a full index step and they hadn’t set the stops on the derailleur correctly.  This is the sort of problem I would expect of an amateur or a new trainee, but not from a professional bike mechanic I was paying an $80 labor fee for.

This morning I took half an hour of my time to adjust the brake cables and the rear derailleur correctly, also doing a little truing of the rear wheel to keep the rim from rubbing on the new brake blocks.

I won’t be going back to CycleWorks for a couple of years—time to give them a chance to hire or train competent staff (or go out of business).  I’ll have to try the next closest bike shop, which is 0.2 miles further away.  (Santa Cruz is blessed with an abundance of bike shops, which makes it fairly easy to find one that meets your needs and your tastes and is within walking distance—for years Sprockets was a good match for me, but CycleWorks doesn’t seem to be.)


  1. Sounds like issues worth finding out on the way UP the campus hill, not down.

    Comment by RFon — 2019 January 23 @ 12:12 | Reply

    • None of the issues was “urgent”: the brake blocks were worn, but not down to the metal, the chain was worn but not skipping, the rear tire was bald, but still had a fair amount of rubber. I could probably have gone another 300 miles or more with no problems. So this was just routine maintenance to avoid problems, not anything that I would discover by having an accident.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2019 January 23 @ 15:18 | Reply

  2. I was a bike mechanic/shop manager for 10 years. Those issues are inexcusable. Making those mistakes is actually hard to do. The term “professional” bike mechanic is a bit of a misnomer. Very few bike mechanics attend any type of school or training program. Most learn initially on their own bikes or on the job. It is very easy to get a mechanic that knows very little about how to adjust caliper brakes or properly stretch a derailleur cable after installing it. Because they work at a bike shop will not make them “professional”. The only way to be sure you get a good mechanic is to know the shop and have them know you. Sad but true. Recumbents require special attention because of the length of the cables.

    The shop owner needs to know about the poor service so he/she can correct the issue before the shop gets a bad reputation and goes out of business. A bike shop lives and dies by reputation and word of mouth. You paid $80 expecting quality service. Do not accept poor service. As a shop manager I would want to know so I could fix it and make the customer happy. The customer would spread the word that the shop takes care of their customers.

    Comment by gflint — 2019 January 24 @ 07:14 | Reply

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