Sunday, May 04, 2008

The fast fix

I once took an overnight flight to Salt Lake City, then jumped in a rented minivan and got to Moab in time to hit the Slickrock Trail after lunch. Two hours, one broken derailleur and a few patches of skin later, I came to understand that “Slickrock” and “sleep-deprived” is a very dangerous combination.

At the end of the day, I stood in Rim Cyclery minutes before closing time with a new XT rear derailleur in my hand, dreading the prospect of installing it by headlamp, in a campsite, with minimal tools and no work stand. When he realized I planned to carry the derailleur out of the shop in a box, the surprised shop guy said, “You don’t want us to install it for you?”

When I explained that I was in a hurry because my brother and I were planning to ride the next morning, the guy told me I could swing by after breakfast and my bike would be ready. His tone indicated he was surprised that he had to explain this.

The next morning, I walked out of the shop with a belly full of breakfast burrito, and a bike that shifted like a dream all day long. It was a revelation to find a shop that would do a repair without keeping a bike for three days. I had been doing almost all of my own bike maintenance for years (and still am) because I was unwilling to leave my ride in one shop or another for days at a time.

When my brother busted a shifter and shredded a tire in Fruita during a morning ride a couple of years later, a shop mechanic repaired repaired his bike while we grabbed a sandwiches for lunch. We were back on the trail that afternoon.

Three-day waits for routine repairs just ain’t the way things work in places like Moab and Fruita. Those shops there know that customers are burning cash and vacation days to ride, not wait. Bikes have to roll in and out the door like they’re going through an Indy 500 pit stop, so mechanics learn to specialize in fast turnaround times.

I don't mean to bash bike shops—I have friends and relatives who work in them, and they're my all-time favorite stores—but I think it’s a shame that bicyclists everywhere can’t count on fast, in-and-out service that keeps them riding every day. It’s no fun for anyone to drop off a bike and know it’s going to sit in the back room for 72 hours before a 30-minute repair will be done.

Imagine telling the average American whose cable TV service has just gone dark, “Oh, we’ll get someone out there in three or four days.” Most people wouldn’t stand for it. Hell, if there were a big NASCAR race coming up, an enraged Billy Joe might get boozed up on Coors Light and park his Ford pickup in the cable company's lobby at 2 a.m..

I realize that shops in mountain bike towns generally deal with more customers who are pressed for time (and ride high-end bikes in generally good repair), while shops have to deal with things like kids’ bikes, long-neglected bikes, and the sales and tune-up rush that comes with spring. But wouldn’t it be great if you could drop in and get a new bottom bracket the same way you can stop and have your car’s oil changed while you wait?

5 comments:

xavier novell said...

good blog !!
from catalonia - barcelona.

salut i bike !!

Anonymous said...

At the shop where I work part time ( www.rideyourbike.com ) we do all repairs on the spot, while you wait. Maintenance, that is, overhauls and tune ups, are scheduled by appointment, and it sometimes may be a month before you can bring your bike in for its appointment, but we always make sure that it will be safe and proper to ride until then. We even do XtraCycle installations while you wait (sometimes two in one day). The drawback is that riders sometimes have to wait a while in the shop, but we have plenty of reading material, cats, legos, and other fun stuff. Val

D A N O said...

I would think its all about the volume the shop has.

In spring our LBS's get hammered and a week and a half wait for "maintenance" is not uncommen.

I now have a small fork problem but I'll live with it for another month cuz I can still ride it and wont give it up....

Anonymous said...

this evening i ate a great supper, watched the news,went for a walk w/ my wife and daughter and had a very relaxing night. at 10pm my cell rings, it's john from paramount cycles, telling me my bike is ready! THAT'S 10PM folks! he has been closed since 7pm or the last customer, and yet there they are doing repairs while all of us are enjoying the nice weather. it would be nice if you could have just one mech do quickies, like an express lane, but in this time of year that just don't happen, once they get thru the crunch, it does happen. i've had fork oil changed w/ in hrs off leaving the bike, i had a shifting issue i could not dail in and had it fixed while i waited just 2 weeks ago when it was getting nice and the shop was slammed ON THURSDAY at about 1:30 pm. i was a wrench from '86-'94 full time, from there after part time in places. worked the summer of '90 w/ mavic and their race support program (after that,fixing bikes in shops was to easy)so i understand "the fast fix" but we pay for the ones who don't plan ahead and get their bikes ready for spring before spring gets here!
i understand that no one plans a break down, that's the result of riding--stuff happens, but if you need a repair and can still use your bike, call ahead, make and apptmnt, ride untill then and drop off on that day. chances are you'll have your bike back that day, i did. i also try to do and get what i need during the week, then i'm one less person adding to the wkend maddness. bottom line is we can't change those who wait till the last min. all we can do is to not be one of them.

thnks again john!!! george jetson.

linda morgi said...

Hey Tim!
Get this: in the town I moved to they don't even take your bike if you didn't make an appointment 2 weeks before!!! Well, they would take it, but keep it for weeks...
With an appointment you'll get it back the day after you brought it. Still not what you wish for if you busted your derailleur...
For me this signals the bike industry is getting way too much customers.