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How screwed up the bike shop business has become,

Old 06-17-21, 04:04 AM
  #51  
downhillmaster
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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.
Million dollar homeowners not being able to afford a truing stand sounds like the real problem here.
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Old 06-17-21, 05:25 AM
  #52  
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"$100 an hour to work on a bike? Yikes. A fool and his money…I suppose"

This statement disgusts me. Gotta wonder what biz the person who posted this is or was involved in. How do they justify what they earn? Bike mechanics is a skill acquired like any other skill. It takes time and commitment to learn, just like programming, law, doctoring, diesel mechanics, or carpentry. For some reason bicycle repair skills are only worth minimum wage. Makes no sense to me.
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Old 06-17-21, 05:50 AM
  #53  
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Originally Posted by GBK233 View Post
$100 an hour to work on a bike? Yikes. A fool and his money…I suppose
never owned a business ? The small engine repair shop near me has a sign above the counter "$90.00 hour labor charge ".
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Old 06-17-21, 05:58 AM
  #54  
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Originally Posted by GBK233 View Post
$100 an hour to work on a bike? Yikes. A fool and his money…I suppose
A fool and his lack of business model knowledge…I suppose.
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Old 06-17-21, 05:58 AM
  #55  
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$100/hr equates to about a $200k annual salary if the shop is busy enough for a 40hr work week. OTOH, I'd wager than $70 of that $100 or thereabouts is going to the shop, and not the mechanic.
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Old 06-17-21, 06:04 AM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by downhillmaster View Post
A fool and his lack of business model knowledge…I suppose.
based on how many bike shops that go out of business….I’d say that bike shops routinely miss the mark when it comes to their choice of business model. The 3 shops I’ve visited this year….had a woeful selection of bikes and accessories….and were quoting people 2-3 week turnaround times on “tune-ups”.

While I’m sure there is a group of people that will are happy to pay someone $100 an hour to do simple work that a caveman can do…..far more quietly shy away from shops because of the price and/or long turnaround times.
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Old 06-17-21, 06:07 AM
  #57  
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^ I'll give you one example. The barriers to entry to a doctor's career are these. The need to gain entry and perform at a nearly perfect level at a 4-year institution undergraduate in the sciences. Let's say that demands a particular intelligence, drive and commitment. And the price? Let's guess $220,000. Then there's the medical school selection process, which pits the best against the best for a limited number of slots. Once accepted, you could expect to pay another $370,000 to get through to your residency. The average resident isn't being paid very much, barely enough for housing, food and maybe a car in the city in which the hospital is located. Let's say that's a break-even for the three-to-six years that residency takes. Now you're ready to enter your practice. Among the operating costs will be medical malpractice insurance, whose costs will vary depending on your specialty. If you're a surgeon, expect to pay $30,000 to $50,000 per year for that protection.

If you are part of a medical group, much of the overhead costs can be spread, but the needed staff must all be paid, and paid competitively. Doctor's don't function on their own, mind you.

So, what were the start-up costs for just the training, and the time needed? Let's say 11 years and over $600,000, and you haven't made any money yet. But you will have the capacity to diagnose, treat, reconstruct or restore complex systems and parts of the human body.

Now do you think that a bike mechanic and a doctor's pay should be closer together?
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Old 06-17-21, 06:16 AM
  #58  
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
"$100 an hour to work on a bike? Yikes. A fool and his money…I suppose"

This statement disgusts me. Gotta wonder what biz the person who posted this is or was involved in. How do they justify what they earn? Bike mechanics is a skill acquired like any other skill. It takes time and commitment to learn, just like programming, law, doctoring, diesel mechanics, or carpentry. For some reason bicycle repair skills are only worth minimum wage. Makes no sense to me.
Lawyers, doctors, bike mechanics..... One of these is not like the others.
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Old 06-17-21, 06:18 AM
  #59  
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Originally Posted by GBK233 View Post
based on how many bike shops that go out of business….I’d say that bike shops routinely miss the mark when it comes to their choice of business model. The 3 shops I’ve visited this year….had a woeful selection of bikes and accessories….and were quoting people 2-3 week turnaround times on “tune-ups”.

While I’m sure there is a group of people that will are happy to pay someone $100 an hour to do simple work that a caveman can do…..far more quietly shy away from shops because of the price and/or long turnaround times.
You visited 3 bike shops in the midst of a worldwide pandemic with an unprecedented demand for labor and parts.
Good stuff
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Old 06-17-21, 06:21 AM
  #60  
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
20+ years later my attention to detail has changed. I’d be an excellent mechanic now but
I’ve gravitated towards a career where that same attention is rewarded quite a bit more elsewhere.
Coding? Accounting?
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Old 06-17-21, 06:35 AM
  #61  
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Originally Posted by Mark Dominck View Post
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.
"Back in the day" you could get your car running with a matchbook cover to gap the points, and some basic tools to adjust your derailleurs.

I was a regional technical specialist for an import car manufacturer for about 30 years, after spending 10 years before that as an ASE certified master tech at dealerships. Here's a little advice for you. If your modern car stops running on the road, call a tow truck, because your chances of lifting the hood to see what's wrong are slim and none without very specialized equipment.

If your Di2 system develops some serious issue, you may need the SM-PCE02 PC Interface Diagnostics Tool (about $270, if you can actually find one) and a computer, which I doubt you'll have with you in your under seat tool bag. If you have an SRAM e-tap system, hope you're in an area with good cellphone coverage so you can use the app, and hope it's not a BT communications issue, or you're stuck.

If you drive a car from the 60s, or ride a bike with downtube shift levers, you're probably okay. Anything modern, not necessarily so.
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Old 06-17-21, 06:56 AM
  #62  
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Originally Posted by Bald Paul View Post
If your Di2 system develops some serious issue, you may need the SM-PCE02 PC Interface Diagnostics Tool (about $270, if you can actually find one) and a computer, which I doubt you'll have with you in your under seat tool bag. If you have an SRAM e-tap system, hope you're in an area with good cellphone coverage so you can use the app, and hope it's not a BT communications issue, or you're stuck.
That's hardly a majority of bicycle repairs, though, I might think. Based on what I see, totally anecdotal of course, most bikes are in the shop for minor repairs and adjustments that any 20-something who watched a few Park Tool videos can do.

People nowadays are programmed to believe that doing manual labor is a bad thing, and as such they have no tools and few if any skills, so they are more than willing to bring their bikes to the shop to fix a flat tire or silence a noisy rear derailleur. My neighbor is one such example; he pays an electrician to come to his house to replace the bulb on his porch every time it burns out.
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Old 06-17-21, 07:09 AM
  #63  
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There's a much lower cap on what a bicycle mechanic can realistically charge that doesn't apply to car mechanics, carpenters, etc. Most bikes are worth well less than $1000, so there's not a lot of room to charge for labor and parts before it becomes cheaper or about the same to buy a comparable new bike.
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Old 06-17-21, 07:24 AM
  #64  
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Originally Posted by Bald Paul View Post
"Back in the day" you could get your car running with a matchbook cover to gap the points, and some basic tools to adjust your derailleurs.

I was a regional technical specialist for an import car manufacturer for about 30 years, after spending 10 years before that as an ASE certified master tech at dealerships. Here's a little advice for you. If your modern car stops running on the road, call a tow truck, because your chances of lifting the hood to see what's wrong are slim and none without very specialized equipment.

If your Di2 system develops some serious issue, you may need the SM-PCE02 PC Interface Diagnostics Tool (about $270, if you can actually find one) and a computer, which I doubt you'll have with you in your under seat tool bag. If you have an SRAM e-tap system, hope you're in an area with good cellphone coverage so you can use the app, and hope it's not a BT communications issue, or you're stuck.

If you drive a car from the 60s, or ride a bike with downtube shift levers, you're probably okay. Anything modern, not necessarily so.

What percentage of the bikes out on the road today have an electronic shifting system? 1%, 2 maybe? And the only alternative is downtube shifters? Seriously? A "layperson" can still work on the vast majority of shifting systems currently in production and use without the need of much of anything in terms of specialized tools.

I don't think there are many repair shops that are going to be able to make it on just servicing elite road bikes, so yes, the shops are competing with DIY to an extent no longer seen in car repair..
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Old 06-17-21, 08:10 AM
  #65  
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Originally Posted by GBK233 View Post
While I’m sure there is a group of people that will are happy to pay someone $100 an hour to do simple work that a caveman can do…..far more quietly shy away from shops because of the price and/or long turnaround times.
The GM of my office has a di2 hydraulic disc road bike. He could spend a couple hours learning how to bleed brakes, buy tools, then spend a couple hours working on the whole process- or he could pay a shop to do it since its a rarely needed service. He could spend a couple hours learning how to set up di2 and customize everything- or he could pay a shop to do it since at his level its a set it and forget it service.
Lets not get into wheel maintenance/repair.

A caveman couldnt do any of those services, to be clear. It seems like you are intentionally trying to insult bike mechanics.

Sometimes people value money over time while others value time over money. Neither is right or wrong.
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Old 06-17-21, 08:13 AM
  #66  
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Originally Posted by Reflector Guy View Post
Lawyers, doctors, bike mechanics..... One of these is not like the others.
Barriers to entry are different for a bike mechanic, even if the mechanic needs specialized training. I fully agree there.
You think the mechanic at the shop is making the same hourly rate as a lawyer? You should look into what private practice attorneys charge.
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Old 06-17-21, 08:24 AM
  #67  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
You think the mechanic at the shop is making the same hourly rate as a lawyer?
No, of course not, That was my point.
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Old 06-17-21, 08:29 AM
  #68  
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
^ I'll give you one example. The barriers to entry to a doctor's career are these. The need to gain entry and perform at a nearly perfect level at a 4-year institution undergraduate in the sciences. Let's say that demands a particular intelligence, drive and commitment. And the price? Let's guess $220,000. Then there's the medical school selection process, which pits the best against the best for a limited number of slots. Once accepted, you could expect to pay another $370,000 to get through to your residency. The average resident isn't being paid very much, barely enough for housing, food and maybe a car in the city in which the hospital is located. Let's say that's a break-even for the three-to-six years that residency takes. Now you're ready to enter your practice. Among the operating costs will be medical malpractice insurance, whose costs will vary depending on your specialty. If you're a surgeon, expect to pay $30,000 to $50,000 per year for that protection.

If you are part of a medical group, much of the overhead costs can be spread, but the needed staff must all be paid, and paid competitively. Doctor's don't function on their own, mind you.

So, what were the start-up costs for just the training, and the time needed? Let's say 11 years and over $600,000, and you haven't made any money yet. But you will have the capacity to diagnose, treat, reconstruct or restore complex systems and parts of the human body.

Now do you think that a bike mechanic and a doctor's pay should be closer together?
Way off base.
A surgeons median salary is around $400k per year.
Residents earn a salary so not sure why you stated ‘11 years and you haven’t made any money yet’
Especially after you even referenced them earning enough to afford housing, food, and a car.
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Old 06-17-21, 08:43 AM
  #69  
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I would say people generally underestimate how difficult it is to be a skilled bike mechanic that fixes things so they don't come back. When most of us fix our own bikes, it's a bit of an iterative process and we don't judge ourselves too harshly if we don't get it right the first time. Not to mention the people that screw things up and finally have to get the bike shop to clean up their mess at great expense. Working at the shop has shown me how often this happens. It's not every day, but a couple of times a month someone took a small issue and made it into a big issue.

The wait, especially right now, is a totally different matter. If you only rely on a bike shop for maintenance then n+1 is an imperative.
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Old 06-17-21, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Reflector Guy View Post
That's hardly a majority of bicycle repairs, though, I might think. Based on what I see, totally anecdotal of course, most bikes are in the shop for minor repairs and adjustments that any 20-something who watched a few Park Tool videos can do.

People nowadays are programmed to believe that doing manual labor is a bad thing, and as such they have no tools and few if any skills, so they are more than willing to bring their bikes to the shop to fix a flat tire or silence a noisy rear derailleur. My neighbor is one such example; he pays an electrician to come to his house to replace the bulb on his porch every time it burns out.
Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
What percentage of the bikes out on the road today have an electronic shifting system? 1%, 2 maybe? And the only alternative is downtube shifters? Seriously? A "layperson" can still work on the vast majority of shifting systems currently in production and use without the need of much of anything in terms of specialized tools.

I don't think there are many repair shops that are going to be able to make it on just servicing elite road bikes, so yes, the shops are competing with DIY to an extent no longer seen in car repair..
Oh, I agree, 95% of bicycle repairs can be done with a little knowledge and some basic tools. Yet, I know some who still can't adjust an indexed shifting system, and some things (like facing headsets, bottom brackets, and disc brake caliper mounts, for instance) require some pretty specialized tools that are expensive, and won't be used often in an individuals toolbox - so it's not worth buying them. Less expensive to take it to the LBS and let them handle it.
I just laugh when people say to open the hood of their modern day car when they have a problem. Heck, I was *THE GUY* in the New England area that got called when a dealership had a technical issue they couldn't seem to solve. I know enough so that, should my car ever just stop running on the road, I don't even bother getting out before calling roadside assistance. If you don't have a laptop and the proper diagnostic software, you're just wasting your time.
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Old 06-17-21, 09:32 AM
  #71  
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The economic "geniuses" who think a given hourly rate is too high probably don't realize the cost of operating a business, rent, insurance, 401K plans, medical insurance, vacation, worker's comp, etc (provided by many shops; if one place does it, they all need to or won't be competitive).
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Old 06-17-21, 09:40 AM
  #72  
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
For some reason bicycle repair skills are only worth minimum wage. Makes no sense to me.
Welcome to the economics of the retail bike shop. There is just no money to be had in its business model. Every shop owner struggles to make a profit and eke out a living.

If they could charge more for the service, and there was a decent profit margin on new bikes and components, they could pay their workers better.
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Old 06-17-21, 09:46 AM
  #73  
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Old 06-17-21, 09:54 AM
  #74  
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Originally Posted by Bald Paul View Post
"Back in the day" you could get your car running with a matchbook cover to gap the points, and some basic tools to adjust your derailleurs.

I was a regional technical specialist for an import car manufacturer for about 30 years, after spending 10 years before that as an ASE certified master tech at dealerships. Here's a little advice for you. If your modern car stops running on the road, call a tow truck, because your chances of lifting the hood to see what's wrong are slim and none without very specialized equipment.

If your Di2 system develops some serious issue, you may need the SM-PCE02 PC Interface Diagnostics Tool (about $270, if you can actually find one) and a computer, which I doubt you'll have with you in your under seat tool bag. If you have an SRAM e-tap system, hope you're in an area with good cellphone coverage so you can use the app, and hope it's not a BT communications issue, or you're stuck.

If you drive a car from the 60s, or ride a bike with downtube shift levers, you're probably okay. Anything modern, not necessarily so.
You got me there Paul, not much point in lifting the hood on these new cars. However I'm living in the past with down tube shifters and drive a 65 f350 truck and I like it that way. I'm amazed at how things have changed in the last 20 yrs.
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Old 06-17-21, 12:25 PM
  #75  
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Originally Posted by CheGiantForLife View Post
Bleeding brakes is like easier than inflating a tire !
Yet BF is filled with complaints about presta valves vs. schrader valves, broken valves, and pumping technique, etc. Never assume anything is easy. Some people are masters at creating disasters.



Or as Clint Eastwood once said, "A man has to know his limitations." Once you know (and accept) you will open your the wallet.

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