Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Flip-Flops On Shops

The comments of virtual pal bikelovejones (of the eponymous blog) on my last post got me thinking, as usual. I've visited the shop where BLJ turns a wrench, and if it weren't in a different time zone, it would be my bike shop. Sadly, until they open a Citybikes Way-East, I'm out of luck.

Still, even if you can fix your own stuff and you aren't riding the latest carbon fiber zillion-speed, there are plenty of good reasons to cross the threshold of the local bike shop. Here are mine, in no particular order: 

SOME FIXES ARE BEYOND MERE HOME-WRENCHING MORTALS: I don't have bottom bracket taps. There, I said it. Nor do I have dropout alignment tools. Derailleur hanger alignment tool? Um, does an adjustable wrench with a rag over the jaws (guilty) count? I don't have a headset cup press. Would I like one? Sure. But a $150 tool (because I'm way too snobby for the $70 "home mechanic" model, much less the homebrewed "five bucks at the hardware store" variety) that I'll use once every other year just doesn't make sense. So on the rare occasion that I need more tool than I've got in my personal stash, sure, I'll hand my baby over to the folks who have the correct widgets (though I'm still annoyed at the shop monkey who once mangled the cups on my otherwise perfectly good Dura Ace headset...) 

I CAN'T BUILD WHEELS: Jeez, it's Lame Ex-Mechanic Confessional Night here at The Cycle. Okay, I've read the late, great Sheldon Brown. I've even read The Bible According To Jobst "I'm Much, Much Smarter Than You" Brandt. And with the help of my friend/ex-boss Bill (an outstanding wheelbuilder), I've laced up a few hoops in my day and done fine. Still, I've never had to build with enough frequency that I'd consider myself even average. Being a snob (again) and somewhat paranoid about the mechanical condition of my stuff, that's not good enough -- so I put the spoke wrench down and let the pros lace up my rolling stock when it has to be built from scratch. 

I HAVE WEIRD FEET AND A WEIRD HEAD: Okay, let's not turn this into THAT kind of blog. Suffice to say, mail order shoes or helmets would have to be crazy-arse-cheap before I'd even consider taking the risk (my current mail-order-catalog-house-brand wide shoes being the notable exception that proves the rule). And folks, trying on a pair of shoes or a helmet at the shop just to get the size so you can order them online? Way lame. May karma smite you with a recurring flat. 

SHIPPING SUNDRIES IS SILLY: Bar tape. Brake cables. Lube and other cycle-unguents. Tubes, for Pete's sake (though I'll continue to make an exception for brake pads, at least until someone local comes to their senses and stocks a lot of Kool Stop). Maybe I'll throw some rim tape on top of an online order just to get over a free shipping hump, but bypassing a shop for this kind of thing on a regular basis makes no sense. How much can you really save on a $3 cable, anyway? And unless the pricing models have changed since I was a shop lackey, the shop makes the best markup on these dinky little things too, so you're helping them out at the same time. 

NEW BIKE STUFF IS JUST COOL: Wow, yet another confession from the retro-grouch on the steel bike heavy enough to have its own gravitational field. But yes, I like fondling the carbon fiber zillion-speeds. I won't ever subject one to my carbon-splintering girth, but who doesn't love the "gee whiz" factor of a bike you can pick up with your pinkie? In my shop days, I used to show those bikes to EVERYONE (even the "just looking" crowd) so I could share that "I KNOW! RIGHT?" moment when they almost tossed the bike in the air expecting it to be heavier. Awesome.

So, there you have it, bikelovejones and my other loyal reader(s). Even the worst bike shop (and there are some pretty lame ones out there) still gets a little pre-Thanksgiving love from the Head Turkey here at The Cycle.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. There are reasons to frequent the LBS, and reasons not to.

Sundries: yep, it was just a few weeks ago that I picked up a bottle of chain lube at the LBS.

Wheel: well, I did order a pair of rims through the shop. The price is a little high, but I avoid shipping charges that would have been incurred if they were ordered online. Unlike some bloggers, I enjoy these few opportunities to build a set of wheels, and I do have confidence in them. Lacing is the easy part... truing/tensioning is where the art is.

I'm fortunate in that I've become friends with the shop owner and some of the long term employees. Instead of showing me the latest carbon goodies, they show me the sweet Bob Jackson that they are building up for a local doctor (complete with Rohloff and Schmidt hubs) or the steel Merckx being built up for a dentist buddy.

The hard part is just figuring out what shops have knowledgeable and skilled employees, which shops will make an extra effort for the customers, and which shops are the bike equivalent of Wal-Mart.

Steve in Peoria

Scott Loveless said...

Swallow what's left of your pride and get the Gnashbar headset press. I have one, I use it, I like it, it works.

While you're dealing with your shame, go to the local plumbing supply store and get some PVC pipe that's about the same diameter as a crown race. Cut about 2 feet off the end. This, along with a rubber mallet, is your crown race seating tool.

Put an old wheel and tire on the fork and position it between your feet. Slide the crown race down the steerer. Place the pipe over the race. Lean the whole contraption away from you with one hand and wail away with the mallet that's in your other hand.

bikelovejones said...

I forgive you for everything.
Everything, that is, except the adjustable wrench with a rag over the jaws.
And I'm sure your bike had some choice bits to say when you approached her with that thin,g including yelling at someone to call her lawyer.

Seriously, it's all about balance, and your points are well-taken.

And if we ever do open a Citybikes-East, you'll be the first to know.

Happy riding! --B