More often than not, when bikes come in for repair, mechanics are forced to bite their tongues. I personally have spent 10+ years in shops as a mechanic, and there are things that you just really wish your customers knew. Small things that would make your day-to-day repair schedule run smooth and efficient.
These small but very important details can improve your mechanic-to-rider relationship vastly. Not only will your favorite mechanic enjoy your company more, you will learn more and grow as a cyclist. So follow along as we discuss the ways to win over your local bike mechanic’s love and respect.
1. Clean bikes make bike mechanics happy
There is nothing worse than pulling a repair tag and finding the bike to be covered in dirt, mud and everything in between. Even a small repair can take twice as long since the mechanic now has to get all the dirt and grime off the bike to determine to cause and solution. I once had a repair arrive so dirty that after cleaning and scrubbing though all the muck we find the frame was cracked. So please clean your bike before you bring it in for a repair. It’s doesn’t have to be shiny and new, just not crunchy and gross.
2. Not all grease is “bike grease”
I once had a repair come in to the shop where the drivetrain (chain, front chain wheel, and cassette) were covered in a solution that reminded me of cake frosting. I asked the customer “What is this?” He replied, “Spray grease… white lithium to be exact.”
Now this customer was not to blame; he was just trying to keep the chain lubed. However, please always use bicycle-formulated products for your bike maintenance. These lubes, cleaners and greases are made just for bikes and the routine wear and tear they see day in and day out. Also the companies that create these products support cycling and cycling related causes, so it’s great to support them back.
3. No “arm chair wrenching” (i.e.- what we do takes time, patience and skill)
Nothing can frustrate a mechanic more than arm chair wrenching. Someone telling you, “So all you have to do is this,” or “If had that tool I would have fixed it.” Please give your mechanic the time and respect they deserve to get the job done. Chances are they’ll let you know what they’re doing and what you can do to prevent it from happening again. Better yet, they’ll invite you to check out the bike in the stand and see the magic happen.
4. Don’t pull the “just riding along” lie
Every mechanic, in every town has heard the words “I was just riding along and poof!” Whether the “poof” is a wheel falling off or a crank snapping in half or the bike just falling apart, we’ve heard them all. There’s no fooling your mechanic and that’s certain. The best way to get the most from your repair is to tell the mechanic the truth. Sometimes it can be embarrassing. Heck, I’ve fallen over at a red light and broken a shifter before. Things happen! Telling your mechanic know the true cause can help them find a more permanent solution for you.
5. Not all components play well together
As the 10-12-13 speed arms races continue more and more, components are becoming proprietary. That means that Shimano 10-speed works only with Shimano 10-speed and SRAM 11-speed with SRAM 11-speed and down the line. It’s hard to deliver the news that a customer’s new 11-speed rear derailleur will not work with their 9-speed shifters.
So before you buy off the internet, talk to your local shop and seek sage advice. Know that the more the cycling industry pushes component development, the more proprietary everything will become. Learn to embrace the new age of many, many speeds.
6. Trust us, we know what we’re doing!
Now I’m not saying that bike mechanics know everything, but they do know what works and more importantly, what lasts. So when you ask your mechanic’s opinion on what will work the best as a replacement part for your repair, trust that they are telling you the truth. They are giving your their honest opinion with no hidden agenda. The mechanic is nothing without the rider. Nothing is better than getting a call from a customer and hearing that an old bike is working better than ever and they had tons of fun out riding. That will make any mechanic’s day!
7. Coffee or cookies can go a long way
Call it “lubing the gears of industry” or “helping the cause,” but coffee and/or cookies are never turned away. I can remember an early morning mid-summer when a customer came in needing a pad replacement for race day wheels with coffee for the whole shop. That coffee flipped the mechanics into overdrive max efficiency mode. Maybe it was the caffeine or maybe it was that someone was thinking about us, but that pad swap and dial in was effortless. The empty coffee cups on the bench were a reminder that small tokens of appreciation can turn a rough morning into a great one in a matter of seconds.