The Workshop Blog
Not just for ranting..!
Not just for ranting..!
How much to fix your bike? - Why I can't tell you over the phone without seeing it.
It's a phone call we've all taken here in the workshop - "there's… something wrong with my gears, there's a clunk/click when I pedal/freewheel, there's a rubbing sound coming from somewhere, there's a problem with my brakes, I get this strange vibration/sensation when I'm riding(?)". Followed by - "How much will it cost to fix?"
Now we all have our own subtle differences in how we respond to these calls, but the answer is essentially the same.
'We need to see the bike, to assess what it needs and so what it will cost'
Now, many people are very understanding of this, but it must be said that some are not. In fact far from it. Sometimes this answer leads to a fairly exasperated response from the caller as they feel we are being difficult, unhelpful or just simply obstinate. Nothing could be further from the truth though, it's just that years of experience have taught us that trying to provide estimates over the phone, without seeing the bike, is a fools errand.
So here, without pressure, I will attempt to provide the definitive answer.
Of course I have explained the above (with varying degrees of detail) to many customers over the years. Some are understanding, some not and these are some of the responses..
But we can! As it states on the website the cost for our 33-Step service usually averages between £50 and £100 plus the cost of any parts as required. For the reasons already detailed above though trying to be any more accurate than this without seeing the bike is a bad idea. Also experience has shown that often when you give a high/low range over the phone the customer focusses on the lower price. I've lost count of how many times I've gone to collect a bike and been told by the customer 'I was told £xx over the phone' whereas they (after pushing for a price over the phone against against our advice) had been advised it may be between £xx and £yy + parts.
In addition to the reasons already given. With respect! We'll be the judge of that. If I had a pound for the number of times I'd been informed by a customer they knew what the problem with their bike but when we finally got to see it found that the cause/solution was something else entirely, I'd be a rich man. This is meant as no disrespect to our many customers who are very knowledgable about their bikes but experience has shown me time and time again that quoting from a verbal third party assessment is often worse than not quoting at all!
I am just a lowly bicycle mechanic trying to do my best one day at a time 'cue violins'. If someone else has gained the ability to accurately assess and quote for bike repairs without seeing the bike then please can you ask them if they could come down to the workshop and demonstrate this skill to us?
Seriously though, I would be very cautious of anyone who claims to be able to give you a price without seeing the bike, especially if this price seems very low. Some shops will give low quote over the phone as they know that once they've got you and the bike to the shop if the job turns out to be more expensive then you are a lot less likely to change your mind/go elsewhere.
Many shops do have fixed prices for fixed jobs but again how are they able to know which work your bike will require without seeing it let alone the cost of any required parts?
If you want to get a number of quotes to compare (always a good idea) then I'd recommend taking your bike to some different bike shops and see what they say. Ideally don't just go on price but compare their assessments, what they will do and the parts that will be fitted.
So true! I worked in a bike shop for years and had to try and explain this to people nearly every day. It seems so completely obvious to me - why the general public feel you should just magically be able to pluck the cost out of thin air was always completely beyond me! Thanks and well done.
This blog post will attempt to definitively answer the following questions (and their many variants).
Using the data from the last two years, the answer to 'How Long' is:
|How Long||Upto 24 hours||24-48 hours||2-3 days||3-4 days||4-5 days||5+ days|
|Percentage of Jobs ready (cumulative)||29.9%||70.9%||84.8%||89.7%||92.1%||100%|
The histogram below shows this data in a more easily digestible way. Click on it for a better view.
This was going be in the FAQ but given how often these questions are asked I wanted to dig a little deeper and provide a truly detailed analysis.
Upto now, the standard answer was along the lines of - "80%-90% of bikes are ready to come back to the customer the day after they are collected". By analysing the considerable amount of data within our booking system, it is possible to provide a definitive answer based on the past evidence, rather than just speculate.
They key figure we're looking at here is the amount of time between the collection and when the job is completed and is so ready to be returned to the customer. Very simply (if you like a bit of algebra!): X = Y-Z
X = the amount of time between collection and completion (Aka - How Long)
Y = Collection date/time
Z = date/time when the job is finished. (Fortunately our booking system records z automatically)
So, for example: If a collection is booked for 4pm and the job is moved to finished at 2.35pm the next day: x = 22 hours & 25 minutes
By analysing the data for every booking for the last two years we end up with the histogram and data chart.
Given the most famous quote about statistics ; 'Lies, damn lies and Statistics' - I feel it's important to make a few points.
By delving a little deeper into the data and separating the jobs which are at some point moved to 'awaiting parts' from all the others, we find:
(Just an aside I'm really quite proud of this split. It's always best to be able to complete a bike in one go, both for the customer and as a mechanic. We're constantly expanding our stock of parts to enable this as much as possible and hitting nearly 90% is very satisfying)
Now, of those 89% of jobs is there a significant change in the time taken until they are finished?
|How Long||Upto 24 hours||24-48 hours||2-3 days||3-4 days||4-5 days||5+ days|
|Percentage of Jobs ready (cumulative)||33.0%||77.9%||92.0%||96.4%||97.8%||100%|
Well this is pretty much as expected. Jobs where parts do not have to be specially ordered are completed sooner. And we're nearly hitting that Magic 80% target. The 'things to bear in mind' still apply as well.
I'm assuming (always a dangerous thing to do) that if you're reading this (and you've got this far!) that you have an idea what we do here at SCB - so I'm not going to explain that (link to future blog post?). However, some further points specific to 'how long it takes' are:
We want you to get your bike back as soon as possible, not just for your satisfaction but purely from a business perspective. It makes no sense for us to keep bikes any longer than is necessary, both from a cash flow and logistical point of view. To that end we are constantly looking to improve our service and to provide as quick and efficient service as possible for our customers. To that end we:
There is no magic answer to this question but some things you can do are:
In the past it has been suggested that we could charge for a more premium, 'guaranteed' same day or next day service. Although I appreciate there may be a place for this from a service and business perspective it is something I continue to resist. Given the logistical complexities of what we do (come and observe the workshop in action on a busy spring day, if you're sceptical about that statement!) it could, I feel, make processing bikes more complex. But more so, I have (and will continue to) resist it, because I don't want us to have a two tiered service. Every bike and every customer should get the best possible service (that's what we strive for anyway).
Quite simply, we don't say we will do something, unless we know that we definitely can.
Sometimes customers are frustrated, unimpressed or worse, because we won't guarantee when their bike will be ready at the time of booking. Similarly some customers are unhappy because we will never arrange (or commit to) a delivery until the bike is finished, test ridden and has been written up. We're not being difficult or obstructive, we're just being certain not to make a commitment that we can't be certain of keeping. I think the statistics at the start of this blog post clearly illustrate that our turnaround times are very good, but, they also show that a small minority of jobs take longer. It is impossible to guarantee at the time of booking that your bike will not be one of these jobs. The same applies for arranging a delivery before a bike is finished. I am very clear to all of the staff at SCB that the use of 'absolutisms' is to be studiously avoided unless there is no doubt. Words like must, need, have, can't, will (and will not) leave no room for any other potential outcome if the original statement is to remain correct. Especially when used about events in the future that are yet to even occur! For example: "We will do our very best to have your bike ready for delivery the day after it is collected" is very different to "Your bike will definitely be ready for delivery the day after it is collected" You may think I am being pedantic, but to me this is very important.
Well, when I started writing this I never expected it to become so comprehensive. What else can I say - we really do our best to turn round every bike as quickly as we can. The irony is that there will always be some customers who are not happy that their bike that was collected at 9.30am is not ready for delivery at 4pm the same day, whilst there are other customers who are really pleased (and impressed!) that their bike that was collected at 8.30am is all done and ready for delivery the next day. Cest la vie...
So, (IMHO) the best (and simplest) answer to the question - 'how long will you need my bike for?' is:
Progress is a wonderful thing. It has seen the human race evolve from cave-dwelling mammals into the psychologically and technologically advanced species we are today (well most of us anyway.) What I really want to explore here is how the modern cycle industry is progressing, and why this is not always for the benefit of the average (or even the competitive) cyclist.
The bicycle is quite a simple contraption in concept; two wheels, handlebars to steer, a transmission to turn power from the rider into drive, usually some brakes, somewhere to sit, and a frame to hold it all together. This original recipe has been gradually tweaked, honed and improved over the last hundred-or-so years into the extremely efficient mode of transport it is today.
In the last fifteen years or so bicycle technology has advanced at extreme pace. Seven speed transmissions are now obsolete on all the most basic of new bikes, with the latest top end machines sporting a whopping eleven sprockets on the rear cassette. Infinitely adjustable suspension units for mountain bikes, disc brakes that can be adjusted for lever reach, pad contact and modulation, and a plethora of varying headset and bottom bracket sizes and types.
The problem is that most of this technology is developed with competitive cycling in mind. In the world of competitive cycling, every hundredth of a second counts, and therefore component manufacturers spend millions developing marginally stiffer, lighter and better performing components.
A key example of this would be the varying different types of press-fit bottom bracket; It all seems good on paper, they are slightly stiffer offering more efficient power transfer, but what you gain in performance, you will more than lose in terms of durability. We see many of this type of bottom bracket come through the workshop, and almost all will have developed some play, a creak, or some other issue within a few months of use. This would be less of an issue if the parts were readily available and reasonably priced, but as many of them are specific to manufacturer, they can only be acquired from dealers of that manufacturer which can take weeks. Also, as the manufacturers know that they alone can supply these replacement parts, they will often charge stratospheric prices and get away with it. Want new headset bearings for your 2013 Trek Madone? That will be £100 please, for what should be a set of simple cartridge bearings.
The same applies to transmission components. It is easy to be attracted to the "more gears are better" way of thinking, and if your last name is Wiggins then more sprockets enables you to finely tune your cadence for more efficient pedalling over great distances. This is fine is you have a race mechanic waiting to completely overhaul your bike after every ride, and you get a plentiful supply of shiny new top-of-the-line components for free. For the mere mortals among us though, these transmissions require regular maintenance as their multitudes of sprockets require thinner spacing and a thinner chain to make it all fit on the rear wheel. This means that the tolerances involved are tiny, therefore if you have a slightly sticky gear cable or slightly misshapen derailleur or hanger, your gears will not index correctly and shifts will be frustratingly imprecise. On top of this, the thinner chain will wear much faster than the wider eight speed chain, so the significantly pricier transmission will need replacing more regularly.
Unfortunately, as older technology is phased out we are left with increasingly fewer options to keep it simple and just enjoy riding without thinking about whether or not our stiffer bottom bracket system is shaving a few tenths off our Strava segment times. It is difficult not to be swayed by these clever and expensive marketing campaigns, and also not to be slightly envious of the rider who boasts of their new carbotech-XTR-aerospace-whatsit. But before you succumb to the advertising or one-upsmanship, consider this: Is the extra expense and constant maintenance worth it? Do you really need to shave off those tenths of a second, or should we all just get out and enjoy riding?
NO!That other answerer is just tinellg you what you want to hear.No matter how well you might be able to mask everything off you won't be able to prepare the frame properly, and no matter how careful you are you will get paint and stuff all over the bike.YES. It will mess up the gears and make the bike not function properly. The solvents in the paint dissolve the oils and lubes as well as build up in pivots and springs which will stop it from working correctly.DO NOT paint a bicycle without it being completely disassembled.