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Ham-fisted mechanics: a sad story.

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Ham-fisted mechanics: a sad story.

Old 08-02-11, 06:41 PM
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Ham-fisted mechanics: a sad story.

Be forewarned, this is going to sound like a rant ('cause it is)...

To foreshadow, I was lucky enough to score a virtually unused Zeus 2000 alloy freewheel from the Netherlands; I received it in the mail today. My intention is to put it on a 6-speed wheelset that currently has a virtually unused Everest alloy freewheel.

Everest aluminum freewheels are notorious for stripping out/cracking along the threading on the outboard cogs; unfortunately, I know this from experience - both times while riding. This last unit was one of three I got in a package deal long ago in Phoenix and has been used only for show/short jaunts. However, I've been longing to use this wheelset but have not had either the removal tool for an Everest or a suitable 6-speed freewheel until today. Thus, I decided to take it to my LBS for removal, with the intention of putting the Everest in the display cabinet or selling it on Ebay.

I took it to both local shops; the first treated it very nicely, carefully checking to ensure proper fitment of the removal tool before letting me know that the only tool they had was just a smidgen too wide to do the job. This shop is always super-careful with my stuff. I thanked them and headed for the other shop just down my street. They cater to road bikes, BMX and have a side business in ski/snowboard repair/resurfacing. The owner's an old-school roadie and I go in every few months to BS with him.

Today, the owner was not in the shop when I rolled in at 1715 (5:15 for you non-military types) but for the first time since I've been going there had a hired gun. I handed him the wheel and explained what I needed to have done.

***THIS IS IMPORTANT***

First of all, his reaction: "Wow, this is some really cool old-school ***t!" he exclaimed. As in, he knew this was not something I could run out and buy tomorrow. Second, I did not ask nor imply that I needed it today. In any case, he took the wheel around the corner and back to the workbench; said bench can be seen through a wall cutout next to the front counter. About this time, the owner walked in and we caught up a bit; he finished by inquiring what he could do for me. I told him his man was working on removing the freewheel. We stepped over to the cutout to see the mechanic - and I use the term with a fat tongue in cheek - trying to jam the two-prong remover down over the end cone and wondering why it won't go. I realized immediately that part of the reason was that the skewer was still in the hub; it wasn't going anywhere, though, as his operation had already bent it at a 30 degree angle. I'd been in the shop about 7 minutes by this point.

The other reason: with some removers, the Campy outer cone must be removed first. I won't go into the boring details, especially as I'm sure most of you that do your own maintenance know this. But this guy - he just kept jamming that remover down as though any second it would magically go all the way on and he'd be able to get it off. He then - get this - grabbed up a chain whip! I have no idea what he was thinking at that point, but I got my mouth in gear and halted the operation. I pulled the owner aside and told him that one: I didn't need it today, so rushing was not needed and two: I did not want that "mechanic" to touch it. I trust the owner which was why I went to his shop, you know?

Anyhow, the owner used a rubber mallet to bend back the axle enough to remove it. That's when I noticed the remover prongs had scraped up the alloy on the outermost cog. That really did it for me; I was more than seething but held my tongue. I went 'round to the counter, filled out a labor slip and pleaded with the owner on my way out not to put that guy on my wheel.

Now, the question: should I even pay for this removal tomorrow when I've been told to pick it up? I have a weakened skewer and a chewed-up freewheel that will look like *ss in a display and of course will rake in less money on Ebay now - all because I trusted that my equipment would be treated well.

Anybody else have similar run-ins with clueless wrench-jockeys? I mean, before I did my own maintenance I used to run my bikes in all the time and never had I seen anything approaching this kind of treatment - particularly noting how the guy seemed to know exactly what he had in his hot little hands.

In the end, all I can say is that I'm relieved beyond words that I have the proper tool to remove my Campy alloy freewheel...

Oh, and I'm really looking forward to my One-Star Madman drive-by Don't let me down!

DD

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Old 08-02-11, 06:56 PM
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I'd be in a rage.
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Old 08-02-11, 07:06 PM
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This is why I work on my own bikes.
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Old 08-02-11, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by mazdaspeed View Post
This is why I work on my own bikes.
+1000
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Old 08-02-11, 07:12 PM
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One LBS:
I gave them a 3TTT Ti stem, gratis, for a customer's Ti bike.
They lost the little cap for the stem bolt.
I had them pull a bottom bracket for me, and they couldn't get the R cup off.
Then, they threw away the rest of the DA bottom bracket.
I've seen them strip threads on cranksets, both crank arm bolt threads and the pedal threads.

Not much farther away, about 14 miles farther, is another LBS.
First time I walked in there, I heard a man say "they should have stopped at 8 speeds."
He can work on my bikes any time, and I don't worry about it.
He has a couple of wrenches in there, but when he's there, he watches everything they do.

40 miles away are a pair of LBS shops. Probably 7-8 wrenches work at one or the other.
Each one has a mechanic I trust; the rest of them won't touch a bike I own.
It's nothing personal, but when you pay a shop to pack hubs, they should at least fake it well.

My take is that almost any LBS wrench should be better than me. I'm a rank amatuer and know it.
They have better tools, more experience, and often are trained. I shouldn't be good enough to work at an LBS.
The sad fact is that I'm probably better than 80% of the wrenches around here, and that isn't saying much.
The ones that are good are very good. The ones that are not, well, I'm surprised they get paid.
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Old 08-02-11, 07:23 PM
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Yes, I have had a few hair raising moments from a couple shop mechanics and not all of them were young. I'm sorry you had such an awful experience.
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Old 08-02-11, 07:34 PM
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Broke a spoke a couple days ago. Didn't have time to replace it myself so I dropped it off. Picked it up this morning. Guess they didn't think I'd notice that the replacement spoke was BLACK. Pulled the spoke and took it to a different shop.
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Old 08-02-11, 07:44 PM
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I'm lucky that an LBS tha's about 15 miles away has a real old school mechanic that runs the rather significantly large service department. I would say the average age of the bulk of the mechanics appears to be about 13, but they seem to be very capable wrenches on modern Carbon, sealed bearings, BMX, and fixies.

If I take something in and Jack isn't there, I leave and come back later. He's also a great resource if your older Campy RD, FD, or brake needs a doodad or thingamajig to make it work.
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Old 08-02-11, 07:58 PM
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Having worked professionally on German cars for over 25 years, I can't help but think you have to be a real idiot of a mechanic to mess up a bicycle repair. I mean, bikes just aren't that difficult to repair when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of them. The difficulty to me seems to be the knowledge of the application and interchangeability of the components.

If the shop owner is good, he probably won't even try to charge you. He knows the job got messed up.
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Old 08-02-11, 08:01 PM
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About the only thing I have bike shops do is face bb and chase threads, I can't see throwing down the cash for that special tool. I've been able to manage everything else at home, sometimes I buy a special tool or improvise. Actually, though, just the other day, I took my new Trek 620 to the LBS where I know the head guy and am pretty friendly, because the lower bearing retainer on a Dura Ace 7410 headset looked a little delicate for my medieval implements.

I picked it up, and the mechanic said, "well, I hope you didn't want the steerer cut, because we just put in spacers". I smilingly told him I would have killed him if he had cut down the steerer tube on my Trek 620. But they did get the logo orientation correct because I specified it on the work order.

Close call that, first time I take something in for work in years and it was a near disaster... Reminded me of why I do stuff at home.

Not that LBS people are bad, they are just dealing w/a different market, different bikes, than this old school stuff. There would probably be a lot of horror stories taking a 65 mustang down to the local Ford dealership and so forth.
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Old 08-02-11, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by RobbieTunes View Post
My take is that almost any LBS wrench should be better than me. I'm a rank amatuer and know it.

Robbie, you are definitely being too modest on this one.

From what I have seen of the LBS mechanics around here, few of them know much about vintage bikes, and often, their vintage tool set is less complete than mine. Now on modern stuff, they definitely have an edge. But not on the vintage stuff.

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Old 08-02-11, 08:27 PM
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That guy sounds like a new guy we have in the (auto) shop I work at.
Has a "tricked out" "hellaflush" (seriously - this is the dumbest, least useful mod you can do to a car) old Honda Civic (of course). I figured, when he started, that since he has a car with mods, that he'd know something about cars. As time goes on, and his stifling incompetence begins to mount I realize that he has never done any work to his car, nor knows anything about them (one day he asked what a grease point was - seriously). He's an idiot, and not just with cars. And I dread every day I have to work with that buffoon.
DD, it sounds like you met the same guy. That "Didn't work this time, it'll work next time x infinity" kinda moron. The one who pretends to know what he's talking about so he doesn't feel stupid, even though he makes himself look stupid simply by existing. Seriously, the first thing your guy said sounds like the same thing my idiot would say.
I simply cannot understand how people that stupid are allowed to function in society.
Thankfully it's never happened to me.
But regarding your question about whether you should pay. Provided they get it off without any more damage maybe you could talk to the owner and find out if you could just pay half-price or something in order to maintain a good rapport. And maybe that idiot'll get reprimanded and learn how to handle things for the future - hopefully he can; mine certainly can't.
-Gene-
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Old 08-02-11, 08:35 PM
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I NEVER let any shop, car or bike, do any job that I don't understand deeply myself. The only reason they get the business in the first place, is the job requires specialized tools or some other entreé such as R12 refrigerant that is beyond my means as a private individual. Or it is somewhat labor & equipment intensive, yet correctable by myself, e.g. exhaust system installation, or tire mounting/inflation. Or, e.g. ultimate wheel trueing, I reach the point of diminishing returns with my own effort, and am glad to hire an expert to finish the job. Yes, I would be leery of leaving any routine bike job at the mercy of a given LBS, until I had developed sufficient trust in the individual mechanics, and their supervisor. Since I'm pretty much self reliant, for reasons self-explanatory in this thread, that's not really a big issue for me, at any rate.
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Old 08-02-11, 08:58 PM
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i've had super bad experiences with bike shops, there are not too many good ones, i tried around way back, and decided that it was way more beneficial to learn it on my own and buy my own tool cause of the money i had blown at the bike shops. You'd think that they would be really good at this stuff, but a lot of them really suck.

I took my bike to this place called broadway cycle in toronto way back, they hacked the **** out of my bike.

Most recently i was going down town to go to a bike co-op to borrow/use one of their tools, i know the people there pretty well. Unfortunately they were close on sundays, i forgot, anyways a bike shop named Bikes on Wheels was open, i told them that i just needed them to loosen the freewheel cause i didn't have that tool. It was a french freewheel, a Mallard, i don't have one of those tools cause i don't usually work on french bikes. Anyways the guy said he'd have to charge 12 bucks for that, i really did not want to pay for it, but i needed it done as soon as possible, anyways i saw him trying for a while and he could not get it off, i ended up recieving the wheel with a chewed up where you insert the tool, I was definitely not happy. I ended up having to take that flat o-ring screw off the freewheel and dismantling the whole freewheel, then put it in a vice to take the base off.

I don't get how some mechanics are so rough with other people's stuff, you know they would never be like that with their own stuff so why are they so rough on other people's things. I would definitely be super mad if i was the OP.

LBS suck, the only good lbs that i know of in toronto is Urbane cyclist, i go there all the time to buy parts and stuff, or get help with something i can't do. Their service is wonderful, probably because everyone there actually is a cyclist.

Anyways that was my last time ever going to a bike shop to get service on my bike.

If you guys ever need to learn something to work on you bike, then go on youtube, or post your problem on these forums, they're way more helpful then most mechanics.
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Old 08-02-11, 09:30 PM
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Thanks for sharing your stories - I don't feel so aggravated now as I did this afternoon.

No matter how good the shop, I never take the entire bike in - ever. It's too easy for a simple accident, possibly even caused by a customer, to damage paint or the like before the bike gets to the relative safety of the mechanics area.

This never would have been an issue had I been able to locate my own Everest two-prong remover. These days I limit my shop-time to wheelbuilding/truing in 99 cases out of 100. I've never learned, but more importantly I've never had the desire to learn that trick of the trade. I don't know why, I just know that's an area I've decided is best left to a pro. Since I have been lucky enough to find a fantastic wheelsmith here, she does all my wheels (it was her I first took this removal request to).

Everything else, including custom weight savings, I do myself.

From the stories, it sounds as though it was only a matter of time before it finally happened to me. Since it took some 47 years to run across my first thug mechanic, I suppose I should be appreciating that it was bound to happen at some point.

DD
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Old 08-02-11, 09:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Drillium Dude View Post
why, I just know that's an area I've decided is best left to a pro. Since I have been lucky enough to find a fantastic wheelsmith here, she does all my wheels (it was her I first took this removal request to).
That is interesting that you feel that way. Me, I love wheelbuilding, I think it is the far and away the most enjoyable of any cycling wrenching task. I totally get into the zen of it, plus, you don't really get your hands dirty. FWIW, I'm always looking for an excuse to build up a new set of wheels and when left to my own devices, tend to accumulate an excess of them.

I'm not disputing you or saying you are wrong, though, just interesting different people's take on this chore.
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Old 08-02-11, 09:52 PM
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Building wheels is something I'd love to learn how to do. Maybe this winter...
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Old 08-02-11, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by robatsu View Post
...different people's take on this chore.
Interesting choice of the last word there

And that's exactly what that undertaking is to me, which is why it leaves me cold - and why I hold those that do their own in such high esteem.

Now, hand me a Dremel...

DD
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Old 08-02-11, 10:02 PM
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I have one shop here that I trust to do things on my Fujis, and I'll name them: Fridley Heights Cyclery.

The two guys there are VERY old school. They've been Fuji dealers since pretty much the beginning of Fuji imports. When I took my 72 Newest in to get the RD hangar checked they both had to oooh and aaah the bike. They told me stories of remembering selling the very same bikes, and swapping out the tubular wheels almost immediately on about half?! (Yes, of course, I asked if they had a pile 'o wheels....sadly no )

All the other LBSes here are very into modern stuff. I'll throw gomango a bone here....his trusted shop seems to be good too but I go to Fridley Heights because they guys who run it are genuinely interested in my bikes when I bring them in, they ask where I got them, what condition, I show them my before and after pics....and I have no doubt WHATSOEVER they understand what these bikes mean to me and treat them very accordingly. AND, they're the only two guys there that work on the bikes...
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Old 08-02-11, 11:34 PM
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I had a similar Maillard freewheel incident. I don't have the oversized spline tool. Not much old school shops around me, so I try the neighborhood shop, a BMX and road bike specialty shop. I inform the first mechanic (young 20 something) what I needed. He looks at the 1981 wheel wide-eyed, then proceeds to try to fit a BB cup remover on my freewheel. I said, "That's not going to work!"
Finally the head mechanic, my age comes over and knew they couldn't do it and told the other guy to halt what he's doing. He at least recognized the vintage SR hub and Ukai rim. He was honest about not equipped to work on such older equipment. Advise me to try several shops he knew of.
Wrecked Maillard freewheel and hub averted!

These days, there is a underlying sickness of apathy used to compensate ignorance in the workplace. Not only mechanics. A lot don't care because they get paid either way.

I would pull aside the owner, speak to him about how you feel and conflicted about what took place. You are now lessened a pristine freewheel for its intended display. Voice your concern about his hired hand, and how what transpired may question your trust in his shop. If he cares about his business and his valued customers, he'll do right by you.
If you walk away disappointed and irritated and unsatisfied, you know you're never stepping into that shop again.

[hellaflush]
Man, I had to look that term up! Damn I must be getting old. And yes Gene, that is the stupidest car mod I've ever seen.
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Old 08-02-11, 11:42 PM
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Originally Posted by WNG View Post
[hellaflush]
Man, I had to look that term up! Damn I must be getting old. And yes Gene, that is the stupidest car mod I've ever seen.
I'm only 22 and I had no idea what it was. I tend to keep up with the way that industry moves, but that one slipped by me, and man I wish I'd never found out. I don't understand it all. I have this thing for handling and suspension that actually, ya know, suspends. Dude at work says he has no problems and never scrapes, but he has all of 3 inches of ground clearance and no credibility to speak of, so I don't believe him one bit.
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Old 08-02-11, 11:47 PM
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This is the sort of thing that makes me go into a cold sweat. I'm a vintage mechanic, I like to think I'm reasonably competent and I've never bent or broken anybody's stuff. Ever. But I *also* know enough to know when I'm in over my head, and I'm mechanically apt enough to know that if something doesn't fit, THERE'S A REASON FOR IT and I should stop and figure out *why.* Luckily, the shop I work in has an owner who, disorganized as he may be, is also dedicated enough to have all the PROPER tools we need to be able to deal with the vintage stuff. Honestly, the new equipment is designed to be idiot-proof, because it needs to be. I think the older gear was designed with the idea in mind that the person servicing it would be able to think and use his head a bit. A lot of this stuff has its own internal logic, but there wasn't a whole lot of commonality back in the day.

Ego and pride have ruined far more bikes than honest ignorance.
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Old 08-03-11, 12:06 AM
  #23  
WalksOn2Wheels
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I have a similar fear of bike shops. The one thing I don't do, as others have said, is build wheels. I know one really good wheel builder who built my commuter rim on my rear hub. I recently took a set of wheels for a tension and true to him specifically. He was a little backed up and I didn't mind waiting. I happened to call to ask him a quick question (rim ID) and the guy who answered the phone said today was his day off, but my wheels were being worked on right then.

Now I don't know if he said that because I was calling to have the job rushed and they weren't actually on the stand or what, but I said "No, no, that's fine. Please let XXXXX do it tomorrow. No rush, please." Anyhow, he did them the next day and I was super happy because he said he's been busy with lots of smaller repairs and he didn't want to rush the job because he wanted it done right.

And speaking of bad mechanics, some shops are charging major premiums for basic, basic services. I visited one shop in Dallas where a guy brought in an old Schwinn with friction shift and they told the guy a tune up would be 55 dollars BEFORE parts, such as cables, etc. That's pretty rough in my opinion. Don't think I'll be going back there anytime soon.
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Old 08-03-11, 12:41 AM
  #24  
mortenfyhn
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He damaged it, the shop ought to replace it.

Had a similar experience once, when I asked a bloke at the shop to help med get my Suntour 2-prong freewheel off. the wheel didn't have an axle at all at the moment (this was before I learned that you should use the quick release to hold the removal tool), and after a few minutes in the back he came out with halfway chewed up notches and the freewheel still on. I think there might be enough material left to remove it according to the proper method, but I'm not sure. About to order my own 2-prong remover now.
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Old 08-03-11, 05:52 AM
  #25  
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Thankfully I've got a great LBS only a couple miles away, even though I do 99% of my own work I can always count on them for anything I can't handle or if I just need advice.
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