Great bike mechanics - dying breed ??

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by lspeedguy, May 12, 2016.

  1. lspeedguy

    lspeedguy New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2016
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    In previous years I've driven roughly 50 miles once a year to a favorite "old school" mechanic for a tune up and inspection before the start of the Summer season ; as part of the brake inspection/adjustment he would first true each wheel - this makes perfect sense to me.

    This year I went to a shop closer to home and the pads were far away from the rims , barrel adjusters were set so that there was no room for fine tuning , & the wheels weren't trued .

    I realize that I'm only comparing two shops but I still get the sense that as time goes by there are fewer and fewer people willing to really learn the bike mechanic trade .

    Do any of you out there feel the same way ??
     
    Tags:


  2. Corzhens

    Corzhens Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,287
    Likes Received:
    122
    I am lucky to live in a small suburban town with several bike shops. I find their attendants (who are also their mechanics) able and willing. Maybe that is the reason why bikers from other cities flock to the bike shops here more for retrofitting and remodelling than for purchases. The bike shops here also have complete parts and accessories that includes the latest helmets and riding getup.
     
  3. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2005
    Messages:
    11,945
    Likes Received:
    1,036
    In my area the mechanics are...not so good to adequate and I know of two I would trust to work on my bikes. Even then I would carefully inspect and verify what had been done. Bikes have become much more complicated in the 45 years I've been wrenching on my bikes and those of friends and team mates. There is less margin for error, manufacturers' design can be down right retarded, delicate and despite careful workmanship still present poor performance and durability.

    In short, working on good quality road racing bicycles has become a much more exacting science.

    When you pay some kid fresh out of high school $10/hour to learn the art and science of wrenching on a 15-pound machine that literally holds the fate of the rider's life in his hands...it's a scary thought.

    Good mechanics are worth their weight in gold, but even the best are paid like lot boys on a used car dealership in the bad part of town.

    If you happen to get lucky enough to establish a good working relationship with a really dedicated wrench turner, treat him well. A 6-pack of the good stuff, a Benjamin or a Grant slipped into a good sandwich wrapper or a gift card to his or her favorite restaurant will damned near guarantee your bike will be in top shape and as safe as a road bike can possibly be. Donuts for the shop also go a long way! Trust me on that!
     
  4. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2004
    Messages:
    4,625
    Likes Received:
    369
    Not a dying breed, the problem is retaining them at the low wages that LBS's pay them. The LBS gets a high school kid into the shop and trains them, the kid stays through college and graduates, most college graduates are not going to stick around for a $12 an hour (average pay) job so they're gone because it's very difficult to get by in this world on just $22,000 a year. This is the way it's always been since as far back as I can remember and I've been around LBS's for over 40 years. On a rare occasion you'll run into someone who started as a teen and for some reason stays with the job for years and years with no motivation to earn more money doing something else. Personally I think bike mechanics are way underpaid, they should be at least around $22 an hour, the mechanic is a combination greeter, sales person, and service person, they are the ones that make the business succeed or fail, it doesn't do a bike shop much good to have a person trained to fix bikes only to them leave every 4 to 5 years, they need to be paid more. Of course an LBS owner will scream about paying someone that kind of money because it will chase away customers with higher priced repairs, but if all shops paid more the customer would have no choice. In today's world more and more adults are becoming less capable of doing even simple mechanical repairs because cars have all gone toward computerized systems thus making it all but impossible for a person to learn mechanics by working on their own cars, so more and more people are bringing bikes in for repairs. This is a perfect time to raise bike mechanics salaries.
     
  5. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2003
    Messages:
    3,233
    Likes Received:
    95
    Where I work an $80 basic tune (the price just went up) gets you wheel truing, hub and bb adjustment (if applicable), derailleur adjustment (including hanger straightening and front derailleur alignment), brake adjustment (including pad alignment and retracting the adjusters), headset adjustment, safety check, chain lube and wipe-off, tire inflation, and the damp rag bike wipedown. Granted, some of us do a better job, but we try to make it a uniformly thorough service.
     
  6. Jcycle

    Jcycle Active Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2015
    Messages:
    599
    Likes Received:
    36
    Yeah I don't think they are a dying breed. I do think it's a skill-set easily picked up by cyclists and the need for them is shrinking. Many cyclists are their own mechanics. Also the low wages for the job doesn't help.
     
  7. lspeedguy

    lspeedguy New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2016
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks everyone for great replies ; many talented and ambitious young people will naturally seek out other options and career paths and pay potential is certainly a factor ; I also think there could be pressure on small shops with a few employees to get repairs done fast .

    The mechanic I mentioned in my initial post is the owner of a small shop and wears all the hats ; at Christmas every year I'd bring him a bottle of Johnny Walker ( red or black ) or some top shelf cigars - Campy Bob is right , I think real craftsman are worth their weight in gold and treating them well goes a long way towards building a relationship .

    Thanks again !!!!
     
  8. dabac

    dabac Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2003
    Messages:
    2,278
    Likes Received:
    139
    "Great" is always tricky, as then you're talking about something exceptional.
    Those things are too rare to really follow any distribution curves.
    Sometimes they're there, sometimes they're not.
    But the number of good bike mechanics is probably directly proportional to the number of people being willing to pay what it actually costs for a thorough service.

    As an example:
    A colleague of mine asked if I could help him sell a bike he had that wasn't being used.

    "Sure" I said, "bring it over".

    Closer inspection revealed a mid-80s bike with very little mileage and mostly stored well.
    And a very mid-80s color scheme.
    Although a good-quality bike from the start, by now it needed all bearings repacked, all cable sheaths replaced, etc etc.

    Nothing actually difficult in any of these, only a decent number of posts on the task list.

    as an example, let's look at the pedals.
    If repacked, the original pedals would probably last thousands of miles and/or another decade.
    But I can get some basic department-store pedals for $5.
    It'd probably take me maybe 30 minutes in total for pulling the pedals off, taking them apart, clean them out, count out and install the right number of really tiny ball bearings, etc before the pedals are back on the bike again.
    And the bike might sell for $50-80.
    Apart from the warm, fuzzy feeling of a job well done, and with a minimum use of resources(other than time)
    there's simply no point in doing the thorough job.
    It wouldn't make the bike more sellable. Or up the price any.

    Or cables.
    On my own "nice" bikes, I use stainless cables, with the ends kept from fraying by silver solder/braze.
    Takes (proportionally) a lot of extra time, but sorta handy every now and then.
    Now, unless my shop is set up assembly-line style, with one station standing ready to solder-seal cable ends, setting up doing the job and stowing away the tools, the flux the solder etc, will probably add another 20 minutes of work.
    How many would be willing to pay for that?

    I'd LOVE to work for someone who said "do this to the best of your ability, and I'll pay you a liveable hourly rate for it".
     
  9. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2005
    Messages:
    11,945
    Likes Received:
    1,036
    That is how you treat those that work for you...with genuine respect for their skills and services.
     
  10. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2004
    Messages:
    4,625
    Likes Received:
    369
    I agree, if the mechanic is good then do something nice, I don't do what you do but I do tip about 30 to 40% of the bill, problem is I rarely go in anyways. Once I went in when a problem popped up while on a ride and I didn't have the tools to fix it on the bike, the shop took my bike in right away and in 10 minutes and $10 later I was done, but I had a $20 bill on me so I gave it to them and told them to keep the change, while $10 isn't a lot it was 50% of the bill. This is why I always carry about $50 on my rides (I've upped the amount over the years due to inflation).
     
  11. Djordje87

    Djordje87 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
    Messages:
    151
    Likes Received:
    16
    This is true unfortunately. There are a lot of mechanics out there but only few of them really count as good ones. I had my situation when my bike was stolen and I found it and it was in a pretty bad shape. My father took it to some stores where they repair bikes and they did 'what they could'. Basically nothing. So I took my bike and left it at a local mechanic who doesn't have a store but instead has 60 years of experience or more. He was born in 1933 which makes him 83 I think. He fixed my bike in one day. It is better then before.
     
Loading...
Loading...