The new LBS


Oh. Hello. I nearly forgot this was here.

Today I’d finally had enough of the slow leak. I had a flat twice a day. I would usually have patched it myself but time for that sort of thing is in short supply with 3-year-olds in the house. So I took my Raleigh to the new LBS.

There are two local bike stores near me. One is fantastic—great service, good stuff to browse, Surly frames. It’s a small shop and I’m there enough that they know me. I would go there for everything but it’s a 45-minute walk back home when I have to leave my bike for repairs. Again, the old days: a lovely walk! Maybe I’d stop for dinner. Now: I’d have to schedule that time two weeks in advance.

The new store, however, is a five-minute walk away. They’re a major brand dealer, much bigger space—they’re friendly and they stock a bunch of odd and unmainstream things you could previously only find here online, like Basil bags. But: not great service. The first time I went in I had them order me a part but they never called about it. The second time they told me my hub was dead when it was instead a problem with the bottom bracket (thank you, other shop!) The third time was tonight.

I’ve had my Raleigh for ten years and it’s now nearly 40-years-old itself. I’ve taken it—and other bikes—to a lot of shops in that time and I’ve discovered the Sturmey Archer hub is simplest test of whether they’re any good or not.

I brought in my slow leak, which was in the rear tire. Nobody here patches a tube with the wheel on, so the guy who took my bike set to work decoupling the indicator spindle from the shifter cable. He couldn’t get it apart, so he asked the other mechanic how to do it. Right then I knew. I knew I was going to leave that shop with my shit all misaligned. One of them was a mechanic and the other was not—maybe he was a salesman helping out, I don’t know.

Now I’m not the kind of smart guy who brings a bike in for work and then proceeds to offer helpful commentary on everything they’re doing wrong. I’m sure they love that. Instead, when he pulled out a 700C tube for my 26″ wheel, I went off to browse.

When I rode away, my rear brakes had gone completely soft and the shifter cable was so taut that I had to lean against the lever to push it down. When I came back, luckily for me the guy who worked on my bike was on the phone. The other mechanic—who clearly knew what he was doing—put my bike on the stand and set everything back to where it should have been when I left.

But what if I didn’t know what I was talking about? I would have gone home and spent months on a bike with a bad brake and an impossible shifter. And nothing turns people off to bikes more quickly than bikes that don’t fit or work properly. A car with iffy brakes and a soft clutch—not the safest thing in the world, but perfectly fine to drive because the hydraulics in the machine are between you and the road. It’s different with bikes because you’re physically connected to those systems. It’s uncomfortable to ride when that’s not aligned.

Also: sloppy work! I could hardly believe my bike came out worse than it went in. At least the leaky tube was staying inflated for half the day. So that’s the end of repairs at new LBS. Sorry, fantastic shop! I should never have opted for convenience over you, a place I know will always get it right.

6 Responses to “The new LBS”

  1. Could you put the Raleigh in the Bakfiets and truck it down to the small LBS? It could certainly handle the weight, though it might be a little ungainly.

  2. 2 Matt

    Maybe! I’m sure people have. But it would be super ungainly—might have to take off the front wheel.

  3. 3 Lucienrau

    Yeah, I’ve had a similar experience. I was building up a new bike and had them run the cables since I didn’t have time. They cut the steerer tube as well even though I’d asked them not to. It ended up ok for that bike but I would have preferred to experiment before I settled on the position even though it would have probably ended up the same. Combine that with an ordering mishap (they misunderstood what I wanted even though I’d explained what I want 4 times) I just go to the small LBS or order online, though with a toddler, I have no wrenching time. I’m an ok mechanic, but self taught so if someone in a shop knows less than I do, I’m very wary. The female salesman at the new shop is nice though and they’ve been very nice to my daughter so we go in periodically to play with the helmets, push bikes and bells.

    My only complaint with the good LBS could be more knowledgeable about how to adjust mechanical disk brakes, but that’s forgivable, other than that, they’re stellar. I’ve been meaning to try out the one on Broadway at some point, but it’s a bit far from the East Side. Though I have to avoid the good LBS these days because they just started carrying Bromptons and if I go there too much one might follow me home even though I don’t need it. The greatest thing about it is the park across the street so if you go in for a smallish issue, the kids can run around while waiting for it to be fixed.

  4. 4 Matt

    They carry Bromptons now!? I’m done for.

    Agreed. Lovely shopkeepers, nice place to browse with the kids, but I don’t want to have to take a repair home and have to doublecheck it. That’s the whole reason I brought it in in the first place—I don’t have the time either.

    Also that park is great.

  5. Seems to be an epidemic of mediocrity…

    I have many mechanical abilities, but quite often don’t have the time. Nothing irks me more than to pay a “professional” to do something, then have to correct their work afterwards, or take something back and have them correct it. I have had this issue with bike repair, auto repair, appliance repair, etc, etc ad nauseum.

    I have no clue what the answer is, except to build up a list of reputable people you trust and deal only with them.


  1. 1 I’m not a mechanic, but I play one on TV « Bikes Can Work

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