Bike Repairs

Monday’s stage of the Vuelta was won by Zabel, who managed to get one past Pettachi, which given the latters current form was no mean feat. Meanwhile Richard Virenque (Quick Step-Davitamon) and Sergio Pérez (Labarca 2-Café Baqué) were expelled after using their team cars on a climb. Not much more detail on what happened, but seems a bit harsh on face value. Yesterday was a rest day and today’s 162km stage takes the peloton from Utiel – Cuenca. More from Spain over here.

How much to charge for a spoke to be replaced in a wheel?

A simple question but one that I reckon uncovers a can of worms within the bike retail trade. On a recent discussion suggestions on this topic ranged from the idea that the work should be done for free while a coffee is made for a good and regular customer through to £20 for the half an hour a through job should take (involving taking off tyre, tube and rim tape, loosening the tension on all the spokes, inserting the new spoke, retensioning and truing, stressing the wheel and finally checking the tension and the wheel for being in true, before reassembling it as it was brought in for repair).

The fact that someone thought that they were being ripped off to be asked for £10 for this work just goes to show that people really don’t appreciate the work involved. Now personally I am one for doing most work on my bike myself and after over twelve years fiddling and working on bikes, there isn’t much I can’t do. Building wheels is one thing that getting a second opinion on is something that I’ll consider, because there is much more to it that most people think.

Now I can lace a wheel up, but I don’t have a wheel jig, so I need to find a workshop with a good one before I can consider doing that. The jig I learnt to true wheels on was a French masterpiece of engineering that weighed about 250lbs and was engineered to last. I’ve recently found out that they now fetch £500. You can buy a cheap jig for a tenth of that, but it won’t do the same job to the same accuracy. Accuracy might not seem important, but when you’ve got bikes worth thousands of pounds, then it seems ridiculous to skimp on a tool that allows this expensive equipment to be kept running within the highest levels of precision.

Then there are different levels of skill when it comes to mechanics. This doesn’t have to certificated on paper, often the best mechanics are known only by word of mouth and may never have sat a qualification, but they know the ins and outs of bikes, because they have been working on them for large portions of their lives and it’s become ingrained in them. Any one can attempt to true a wheel, but a wheel can only be trued perfectly by a skilled set of hands.

Skilled workers tend to command a premium price, like specialists in any field if you want their time and experience, you have to pay for it, but you benefit from the investment. Bike shops that don’t charge a minimum service charge for this time and effort are not going to be able to pay their staff a wage that will retain them and stop them from looking for better paid work else where or becoming disillusioned and de-motivated.

Suggesting that work be done for free, just because you are a good and regular customer is like sticking two fingers up and saying fuck you, why should I pay? If you don’t want to pay learn to do the work yourself or get stuffed.

Author: Cris Bloomfield

Usually mountain biking in the North.

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