Friday, December 28, 2012

Saving money on bicycles

Yesterday I dug my bike out of its bag, dusted it off, discovered the gears didn't shift and the brakes didn't stop, and took it to my local bike shop, where I yelped "Fix it" and then ran away.

I've never been that assiduous at maintaining my bikes. I suppose this costs more in componentry, but it saves lots of time, and because there's always something wrong, you can hear my bike from miles away as the seatpost creaks/the chain crunches/the shifters clunk/the brakes rub. Which must be a contribution to safety, right?

This time round, the rear mech was bent and wouldn't shift, so after 5 years it was time to get it replaced. The front brake was stuffed, but I hoped a bleed would fix it. I went back to the shop at six, to find the mechanic puzzling over it. He'd had to bleed the brakes (because the fluid reservoir hadn't been screwed down properly last time it was seen to) but even after swapping out the rear derailleur for a new unit, it was still stubbornly failing to shift properly. And the rear brake calliper was jammed. And the bearings in the rear wheel were shagged. And the rear shock needed pumping up. Apart from that, everything was fine.

At length, he worked out the problem was the shifter, not the mech. Well, that was good: new shifters were going to be twenty dollars less than a new mech. More work went on, until he got the old mech back on, and managed to get it to play nice with the shifter too. Another hundred dollars saved.
I was astonished. I've never had a mechanic in a bike shop manage to work his way out of charging for parts before. This man was some kind of strange saint of the velocipede. Feeling guilty at all the work he'd done, I went round the corner and bought him a cup of tea.

After all, a bicycle is a machine that if badly maintained can wreck you. It's best to keep the guy fixing it sweet.

By seven thirty, he'd been at it on this bike for at least four hours, and it was now working almost correctly; the rear wheel didn't foul the disc calliper, the gears worked and we'd got clear on how to fix the dodgy bearings in the rear hub. It was a shame the rear tyre was ovalised: that's another 60 dollars I'll have to spend at some point: another reason not to stuff your bike in a bag and forget about it.
Still, having not bought a new mech or a new shifter for the bike, I've saved over a hundred dollars. I've taken that and spunked it on race entries for next year (and they're all running races, for which the bike is useless). Easy come, easy go.

One of the races (and only one) requests your blood type when you sign up. I'm not a paranoid man, but I worry it's going to be exceptionally violent...


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