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How screwed up the bike shop business has become,

Old 06-15-21, 02:54 PM
  #1  
CheGiantForLife
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How screwed up the bike shop business has become,

Had to buy a used part and install it myself. Makes me realize how screwed up the bike shop business has become, especially combined with the fuggled economics of the TechLand area. All of the good mechanics I knew have quit and moved somewhere else, because it's simply too expensive to live here on the $15-20/hr a bike mechanic makes. Even a top mechanic with 20 years' experience probably doesn't make more than $25/hr, otherwise the economics of the shop don't work. You can't live on that when the median home sale price is $1 million.

Now, shops are mostly staffed with high school or college age kids who live with their parents and only know how to assemble new bikes, and have no exposure to older parts or how to work on anything that the shop doesn't sell. It's more like a car dealership service department model, except that bikes don't have warranties, so they do little follow-up work on complex problems.

The last good mechanic I knew owned his own franchised mobile bike shop business, called Velofix. He sold it and took a job at Boeing. I learned this from the replacement Velofix guy, whom I had to call because the rear wheel on my road bike was out of true. I don't have a truing stand to deal with that, so a mechanic had to do it for me.

I've been thinking about this seeming paradox lately: when the cost of living in an area goes up dramatically, the quality of life goes down, even for the people most able to afford it. I wonder if an economist has done a more rigorous analysis of this effect, but it's something I've observed in several places. TechLand is just the most extreme case.

The bike shop example is one. Lots of bike shops have closed, because they can't afford the rent anymore. The ones that survive focus only on selling the most popular brands in large volume (want a Specialized? There are about 30 shops around here that all sell the same Spesh bikes. Want a BMC? There are two shops, and one recently downsized to a space half as big as they previously had.) Landlord is going to rent to whoever can pay the most, and that usually means a corporate brand like a Walgreens rather than a private small business.
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Old 06-15-21, 03:03 PM
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indyfabz
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Maybe where you live.
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Old 06-15-21, 03:10 PM
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Back in the day, we fixed our own bikes, and cars. Neither was too complicated, and were more reliable!
gm
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Old 06-15-21, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by CheGiantForLife View Post
Had to buy a used part and install it myself. Makes me realize how screwed up the bike shop business has become, especially combined with the fuggled economics of the TechLand area. All of the good mechanics I knew have quit and moved somewhere else, because it's simply too expensive to live here on the $15-20/hr a bike mechanic makes. Even a top mechanic with 20 years' experience probably doesn't make more than $25/hr, otherwise the economics of the shop don't work. You can't live on that when the median home sale price is $1 million.
Whereabouts are we referring to here?
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Old 06-15-21, 03:25 PM
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What’s wrong with buying a used part and installing it yourself?
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Old 06-15-21, 04:16 PM
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I think "workforce housing" is the current term for the issue OP describes. Further discussion will probably get this moved to the newly resurrected P&R.
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Old 06-15-21, 05:03 PM
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The shop I deal with has 2 mechanics. One is the manager and been in the business for 25+ years. The other is in his late 60s and has been in the business longer than dirt.

Now the new Trek store has 4 "kids" that didn't know my 2015 Emonda SLR was made by Trek. And when I asked the mechanic a question about my Bontrager floor pump, he said he never used one. At lease they have a clean bathroom and water bottle refill station.
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Old 06-15-21, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by GlennR View Post
The shop I deal with has 2 mechanics. One is the manager and been in the business for 25+ years. The other is in his late 60s and has been in the business longer than dirt.

Now the new Trek store has 4 "kids" that didn't know my 2015 Emonda SLR was made by Trek. And when I asked the mechanic a question about my Bontrager floor pump, he said he never used one. At lease they have a clean bathroom and water bottle refill station.
Wait wait wait, Trek made the Emondas back in 2015? Shoot I could have sworn it was Grant Petersen. I swear that bike looks like a Rivendell.

The kids are sometimes good but yeah they lack knowledge and in many cases a lust for knowledge and improvement but I also know some older than dirt mechanics who are kinda the same, the stuff I need to know about working on bikes stopped needing to be updated in 1994. A good mechanic should be willing to learn be hungry for work and want to be around bikes and help people. Learn the product know you are a salesperson weather your title reflects that or not and be ready to say "I need help" which is a phrase a lot of mechanics I know don't like to utter or they love to run to me and utter it not that I am great at actually doing the work but I am good at soaking up information and knowing certain useful tidbits everyone should know but doesn't always bother to learn or check.
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Old 06-15-21, 07:46 PM
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I'm finding all the places around here that sell bike parts have whippersnappers working there. And a whippersnapper at one of them told me "there is no such thing as 27 inch wheels, they are 27-1/2".
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Old 06-15-21, 07:54 PM
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Old 06-15-21, 07:55 PM
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need to move to portland we have lots f shops and lots of decent mechanics.
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Old 06-15-21, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by CheGiantForLife View Post
Had to buy a used part and install it myself. Makes me realize how screwed up the bike shop business has become, especially combined with the fuggled economics of the TechLand area. All of the good mechanics I knew have quit and moved somewhere else, because it's simply too expensive to live here on the $15-20/hr a bike mechanic makes. Even a top mechanic with 20 years' experience probably doesn't make more than $25/hr, otherwise the economics of the shop don't work. You can't live on that when the median home sale price is $1 million.

Now, shops are mostly staffed with high school or college age kids who live with their parents and only know how to assemble new bikes, and have no exposure to older parts or how to work on anything that the shop doesn't sell. It's more like a car dealership service department model, except that bikes don't have warranties, so they do little follow-up work on complex problems.

The last good mechanic I knew owned his own franchised mobile bike shop business, called Velofix. He sold it and took a job at Boeing. I learned this from the replacement Velofix guy, whom I had to call because the rear wheel on my road bike was out of true. I don't have a truing stand to deal with that, so a mechanic had to do it for me.

I've been thinking about this seeming paradox lately: when the cost of living in an area goes up dramatically, the quality of life goes down, even for the people most able to afford it. I wonder if an economist has done a more rigorous analysis of this effect, but it's something I've observed in several places. TechLand is just the most extreme case.

The bike shop example is one. Lots of bike shops have closed, because they can't afford the rent anymore. The ones that survive focus only on selling the most popular brands in large volume (want a Specialized? There are about 30 shops around here that all sell the same Spesh bikes. Want a BMC? There are two shops, and one recently downsized to a space half as big as they previously had.) Landlord is going to rent to whoever can pay the most, and that usually means a corporate brand like a Walgreens rather than a private small business.

Do you actually want references to economic papers or books on land value?
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Old 06-15-21, 09:19 PM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by gringomojado View Post
Back in the day, we fixed our own bikes, and cars. Neither was too complicated, and were more reliable!
gm
Sorry, but old cars were not more reliable.
Tim
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Old 06-16-21, 04:40 AM
  #14  
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Not even close to being more reliable, but probably easier to fix with a hammer.
Modern cars (and bikes) are so much better, and that means more complexity.
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Old 06-16-21, 04:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Herzlos View Post
Not even close to being more reliable, but probably easier to fix with a hammer.
Modern cars (and bikes) are so much better, and that means more complexity.

I don't think there's been any comparable change in reliability for bikes, it's always been a relatively reliable machine. And a simple single speed bike can be just about the most reliable of them all.

Car complexity has made them more reliable in that it's really the electronic controls that have curbed the IC engine's tendency to slowly blow itself up. A lot of independent mechanics shops closed a few years back as they couldn't afford the ever escalating number of electronic devices needed to service a car.
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Old 06-16-21, 05:19 AM
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I think I would rather buy the part and install it myself, then have some know it all young adult do it.

My LBS has 3 mechanics, 2 in the back working on the drop off's and one guy up front that helps the walks in and does sales. He'll do quick air ups or set up a Tubeless tire, dropped chain, etc and shoot the crap with you as he does it. They also do an summer apprenticeship with some local kids to teach them the in's and out of bike repair.
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Old 06-16-21, 06:48 AM
  #17  
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Originally Posted by gringomojado View Post
Back in the day, we fixed our own bikes, and cars. Neither was too complicated, and were more reliable!
gm
I've been learning how to work on my own bikes, because while I have two bike shops in my area, one is 30 minutes away by car and the other is 45 minutes in another direction. I wouldn't mind taking my bike to one of them but it's a bit inconvenient.
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Old 06-16-21, 06:50 AM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by tkamd73 View Post
Sorry, but old cars were not more reliable.
Tim
Not more reliable, but simpler and arguably easier to work on.
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Old 06-16-21, 07:18 AM
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I picked up a used frame that I really love only to find out that the BB appears to be siezed in it. Soaking a couple days with PB Blaster, using the Pedro's tool to screw the BB tool to the spindle and then tapping the wrench with a mallet is the max of my abilities and didn't dislodge it, so I'm planning on taking it in to the local shop where they may have better tools/a mounted vice to get it out. Debating on whether to put masking tape on the downtube saying "Italian thread, loosens counterclockwise" because I don't know how many of them would have seen those before and don't want them to accidentally make it tighter (probably how it goes siezed in the first place when a previous owner tried removing it), but I also don't want to offend them if I get one of the experienced guys who actually knows what he's doing. I've definitely gotten questions before about the tiresavers I had on one of the bikes I'd brought in for something because they'd never seen one before. Doesn't help that I like to ride exotic, vintage bikes that I build up to suit my needs in ways other than they would typically be done.
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Old 06-16-21, 07:18 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by gringomojado View Post
Back in the day, we fixed our own bikes, and cars. Neither was too complicated, and were more reliable!
gm
Back in the day? Heck I've been fixing my own for ever, If you want to ride you need to learn how to fix it, that's why we have a tool bag under the seat. Same goes for your car, amazing what you can see if you just open the hood! Don't be afraid it's how we learn.
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Old 06-16-21, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by GlennR View Post
The shop I deal with has 2 mechanics. One is the manager and been in the business for 25+ years. The other is in his late 60s and has been in the business longer than dirt.

Now the new Trek store has 4 "kids" that didn't know my 2015 Emonda SLR was made by Trek. And when I asked the mechanic a question about my Bontrager floor pump, he said he never used one. At lease they have a clean bathroom and water bottle refill station.
Don't be afraid of these kid mechanics, they're going to replace us old guys and most of them are pretty sharp. They learn and grow up fast, I see it happening all around me in all jobs not just bike mechanics.
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Old 06-16-21, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by CheGiantForLife View Post
Had to buy a used part and install it myself.
What was the used part?
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Old 06-16-21, 08:35 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Mark Dominck View Post
Don't be afraid of these kid mechanics, they're going to replace us old guys and most of them are pretty sharp. They learn and grow up fast, I see it happening all around me in all jobs not just bike mechanics.
One of my earliest jobs was a bike mechanic at a shop when I was 17. They hired me because I had plenty of experience working on bikes (started around 10 years old) and it showed. I suppose it helped that I rode my bike (a Raleigh I bought from the shop!) there and hung around every other day.

It was a long time ago but I don't remember messing up any repairs. Mostly what I remember was lots and lots of routine, relatively simple repairs.

Shops will not hire, or keep, anyone who can't properly do the job.
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Old 06-16-21, 08:38 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by CheGiantForLife View Post
... I had to call because the rear wheel on my road bike was out of true. I don't have a truing stand to deal with that, so a mechanic had to do it for me...
Did you price out the cost of a truing stand and a decent spoke wrench? Just wondering how you evaluated your options.

The simplest option, of course, is to true the wheel in situ. That's how we did it back in the 1970s, unless you were a wheel builder.
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Old 06-16-21, 08:45 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by himespau View Post
I picked up a used frame that I really love only to find out that the BB appears to be siezed in it. Soaking a couple days with PB Blaster, using the Pedro's tool to screw the BB tool to the spindle and then tapping the wrench with a mallet is the max of my abilities and didn't dislodge it, so I'm planning on taking it in to the local shop where they may have better tools/a mounted vice to get it out. Debating on whether to put masking tape on the downtube saying "Italian thread, loosens counterclockwise" because I don't know how many of them would have seen those before and don't want them to accidentally make it tighter (probably how it goes siezed in the first place when a previous owner tried removing it), but I also don't want to offend them if I get one of the experienced guys who actually knows what he's doing. I've definitely gotten questions before about the tiresavers I had on one of the bikes I'd brought in for something because they'd never seen one before. Doesn't help that I like to ride exotic, vintage bikes that I build up to suit my needs in ways other than they would typically be done.
I would put the warning on.
For these things I weigh the potential outcome. Having a guy say "I know that" vs having a guy totally screw up the bike frame.
It is no exaggeration to expect modern bike mechanics to not understand vintage bikes.
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