We went on a bike tour with my wife in July, and before that I wanted to get her bike into the best shape possible. I had a funny-disappointing experience at a bike mechanic in Graz. It's still bugging me, so I thought to just blog it out. If you want to read some positive story, skip my blog today...
This bike is a nice bike, made in France, with a nice paint job, and a lot of attention to little details that parts match in colour, curved matching rack, and so on. I made most of the service on it myself, but it has a special rear brake from Shimano, called a roller brake. It was weak on stopping power, and as suggested in the manual, I took it to a bike repair shop, instead of getting into it myself.
First question came: Where to go to get the bike repaired?
It's like for cars, giving the bike to a mechanic is a kind of a trust. I leave the bike there, I pay, I get it back, and I trust they worked well. I went through a long list of bike mechanics in my life, (like dentists), but I never found the "perfect one" in my neighborhood.
Now, I live in Austria, and some time ago, in 2003, I had a really good experience at the shop Wenninger in Graz. That time I asked them to shift my hub-gears for better hill climbing, by making the rear wheel one ratio bigger. This needed to calculating the proper gear ratios, changing the cog-wheel, changing the chain, etc. They made a good job, and I thought to return.
So, I made a day trip to the shop to Graz. Upon entering, I noticed unfortunately the senior mechanic who used to work there is not there anymore. However, I trusted the young guys (new for me) with the job.
I had three requests:
1. Change, repair, fine tune, or do something with the rear brakes so it works.
2. As they open up the rear wheel set, change both tubes to Schrader type (the one used for cars and can be pumped up at the gas station). My goal was to have all of our bikes finally on the same valve system, and being able to set the pressure. Usually, I change tubes myself, but if they dismantle the wheels anyway, let's get it done now.
3. Check the front forks, somehow during braking it vibrates back and forth. It brakes well, but the vibration is not normal.
* They look into the rear brakes, but cannot promise big changes, they said it's a system that is bad by design. Unfortunately, I could only change it coaster brakes, which are 200 Euro for the hub only.
* For the front suspension forks the feedback was they are of low qualiy, they need to be exchanged. The cheaper is 70 Euro, but I can get the better version, with lockouts, for 90 Euro. Hah, the whole bike cost 500 Euro, upgrading the forks for 20% of the price... I decided to go for it, as it promised to solve the problem, for the better version for 90 Euros. Plus work: 40 Euros.
However, they had on stock only in black. After some back-and-forth questions, it turned out they can order the better version in matching silver colour, but only for next week.
* Changing the two tubes is of course no problem, 15 Euros with material and work for each of them.
This was on Thursday, and they estimated that the bike will be ready on Tuesday next week.
I call them on Tuesday, they say the bike is ready, I can pick it up. I was already busy for Tuesday, so I said I'll get there on Wednesday to pick up, in the morning.
All happy, and joyful, to get the bike in new shape, I make the trip to Graz, and show up at 10:00 am in the bike shop.
Then the surprise came: they didn't even touch the bike! They asked me to come back at 2 pm.
All my day is lost, but we need the bike for the trip, so I agree to come back later.
I came back at 2 pm, bike is ready. However, the mechanic working on the bike is not there, only the owner. I should pay and take the bike.
I decide first to check the bike. I cannot see the brakes fixed, but I see the front fork is a new one with new inner tubes, but the rear tube is the old one. What's going on?
They get the mechanic who worked on the bike.
In fact, he found it complicated to dismantle the rear wheel and look into the brakes, so he didn't fix it (so no fixing the brakes, no changing the tubes).
However, he changed the front forks, and the tubes in the front wheel.
I check the front forks, it turns out it's the simple non-lockout version, but they still list 90 Euros on the bill.
Totatlly disappointed that the rear-brakes are not fixed, what can I do, the time has passed, we need to bike, I pay, and go.
As I roll, I notice the front fork still have the funny movement as before. I check again, it still does.
I decide to get back to the shop, and ask if it can be adjusted. Another guy comes now (maybe the owner?), and it turns out, this fork is still of "low quality", and the same behavior is expected. I'm totally disappointed - they suggested me themselves to upgrade the forks to solve the problem! I have two options, either I get a pro front fork for 600-800 Euros , or he can switch back to the old fork.
I decided to get the old fork back. Fortunately, I got the price of the forks (90 Euros) back, unfortunately, not the cost for the work hours for changing the forks (40 Euros).
So, now, we have the bike, with
- rear brakes not fixed, although this was my primary task to be fixed; back home I notice the chaingard holder is broken.
- the old fork changed back and forth for 40 Euros
- the front tubes upgraded for 15 Euros to car-valves, the rear tubes are the old ones with Presta-valves
I'm just laughing in myself... two full days and 55 Euros spent, and all I have is a mixed valves on my bike. I never had such a bad experience in a bike shop in my life before.
I was hesitating to tell which bike shop it was, but then, I had such a negative experience.
If you happen to live in Graz, the one single bikeshop to avoid is Radsport Weninger - Fahrrad Weninger Verkauf und Reparatur in Plüddemanngasse.
Consequences for me?
I decided to invest in some quality books and tools for bike repair, and do as much as possible myself. When touring, I will have to do it myself anyway.
I think I will contact Shimano, and ask for some specialist that they trust, and knows how the rear brake works.
On a positive note, we tested the bike extensively on steep hills, and see how it behaves. In the end, we decided to go touring in Slovenia with the bike as it is, with special attention on the forks and brakes, and stop whenever we experience any troubles. The tour went well, we couldn't roll down hills as fast as we wanted, and had some mental-energy spent on the worry about the bike, but in the end, we finished the tour without problems. More about it later, Slovenia was beautiful.
If you have good suggestions for books, DVD, youtube videos, websites on bike repair, please let me know!
What do you repair yourself?
How do you choose a bike mechanic?