A Semi Fictional Day

While this account is somewhat fictional, a mechanic will experience each of these things every day. From time to time, a day will include all of these situations. This story was submitted from another angry bike mechanic… somewhere far, far away.

Here we go, One Hell of a Day

Telephone rings…. “Hello. What time is packet pickup??”

Answer: “Between 4 and 6.”

“Okay. Thanks.” Click.

Customer walks through the door, has a tricycle from the 1960’s in her hand. I look at and am thinking deep down, “You’re not going to ask it.” I was proved wrong. “Do you still fix these? Can you get parts?”

Successfully ruining her day, “Nope. Sorry. All that stuff is so old you might find a collective of people hanging onto what you need on the internet.” We can’t fix everything.

Telephone rings…. “Hello. What time is packet pickup??”

Answer: “Between 4 and 6.”

“Okay. Where do we get the race t-shirt?”

“Packet pickup.”

“What kind of a race is this? Is it mountain or road?”

Everyone knows that there wasn’t even a dirt road on this course route, a route that wasn’t a race either. It was a century. Which means that you attract a bunch of recreational cyclists. Which means that you get a lot of seemingly stupid questions. “I’m sorry, what?”

“What kind of bike do I need?” As if to say, I am awesome, I have a mountain bike and a road bike, but I don’t know what either one is for…

“So it’s a road bike century. Bring your road bike.”

“Can I have someone bring my mountain bike for the road construction part, so I can switch??”

While the answer should have been “Certainly not” it was going to be hilarious for someone: “Yes, that’s fine but you’ll need to arrange it yourself. You still have to keep the course rules.”

Placated, “Thanks!!”

Customer pulls into the parking lot, and I swear this happens once a week, in a truck with a payload of junk bikes. Comes in the door, kind of distressed, “Hey man, you gotta help me out.” Not wanting to deal with it but reluctantly ask the question that feels like volunteering to test a shark bite suit, “What’s the matter?”

“I’ve got a couple of bikes with flat tires. They need fixin.”

“Bring em in..” exasperated.

“Can ya help me bring them in?”

“How many are there?”


“Well, shit man. You can’t just bring in 6 bikes at a time in the back of your truck!” is what every mechanic wants to say. But the problem is shop or no shop, tires need to be fixed and money needs to be made.

“So how much am I looking at here… fix all them flats?”

“On average, each bike will be 23 dollars in parts and labor..”

“Can’t ya just see which one’s need to be replaced??” Phone rings..

“Hang on, sir..”

Looking flustered he watches me answer the phone.. “Hello, You’re awesome local bike shop. What can I do for you?”

“What time is packet pickup?”

“Did you find it on the website?”

“Yes, but I wanted to make sure it hadn’t changed.”

“Nope, that’d be really weird if it had. Anything else?”

“What kind of nutrition will be on the event?” A seriously tough question that I, the awesome local bike shop mechanic, had no answer for because I was not part of the event, or the organization of the event.

“It’s going to the best food you’ve ever had on course.”



“What exactly?”

I had no idea how to handle these questions, looked back and hollered for Carol, the event coordinator. Told her I had a question on the line about the food for the century. She looked back, shrugged, “I don’t know.” I say, “Take the call.”

Carol: “Yes. Yes. Coke.”

The gentleman with the truck was patiently waiting.. “Sorry man, that’s something you should have done. We only charge minimum labor to replace tubes. We can’t go through and check 6 bikes to see if they’ll hold air. Either we replace all the tubes and you pick up the bikes tomorrow or we sell you some tubes and you do the job yourself… It’ll be 130 dollars.”

“What?!” shreiking a little.

“Six bikes sir.”

“Can ya give me a break?”

“If I give you a $45 break will that work?”

“Yeah man!”

Intolerant of swindlers: “Ok, then I can fix 4 of your 6 bikes.”

Telephone rings…. “Hello. What time is packet pickup??”

Answer: “Between 4 and 6.”

“Okay. Thanks. What should I wear?”


I glance at the guy with 12 flat tires.

“What?? I guess I’ll fix ’em.”

“12 tubes. Seventy-two dollars please.”

Headset Assembly (part 2)

A while back, and by that I mean back 5 years, I had the unfortunate task of working on a bike that couldn’t be built. This guy rolled in with a Time frame and wanted a build. After ordering some parts for the initial assembly, fork to frame (headset), we found a problem.

Calling Time we found that the frame had been a warranty concern and was supposed to have been field destroyed. The defect had something to do with the fork and frame interface. The weird proprietary headset interface had lost its tolerances and therefore couldn’t be preloaded to safety specifications.

I had the conversation with the idiot who brought me this frame. He stated that his “friend who owned a shop” gave him the frame saying there was nothing wrong… Not all shops have equal prowess in working on bikes. Just like not all mechanics are created equal.. The bike couldn’t be built. The “owner” of this auto-destructed frame wouldn’t understand it. He got a wrench to the face.

If you own a shop and want to give your dumb friends broken shit, at least tell them so they don’t look so ignorant when they show up at a real shop to get service.

As for Time, Here’s the proverbial wrench to the face. For you and your $5000 frame that only suckers buy, the CAD sketch Time emailed me (No, I am not making this up):

I draw shit every day. Mine looks like a 4th grader did it. Because I didn’t get past the 4th grade. CAD images look like (which is what I expected):

If you spend $5000 on a frame feel free to contact me before doing so. If you are going to spend that much money at least get a frame that any low-level mechanic can service. Oh, and get a frame that’s supported by at least some level of non-joker.

As a manner of a note: I’m calling out the industry here. If you ended up with one of these you just did it wrong. Benignly. You may have even been tricked.

To the Industry, stop making weird shit. Headsets need to simple.

Department Store Bikes (part 2)

Ok.. In this post I want to discuss how a bike is built properly. I’m going to keep it as simple as I can so it can be a short post, hoping to not further bore you with my ranting.

derailleur bolt barely threaded into derailleur hanger

Here’s a classic move, components installed half-ass and adjusted to work in a half-ass position. In this picture you see that the derailleur bolt is only a couple threads installed into the derailleur hanger, or where it mounts to the frame of the bicycle. I wish I had pictures now to show what the results of this kind of installation looked like. Anyhow, poor shifting is the least of your concerns. Once the derailleur becomes detached it can dangle from the chain and end up in the spokes of your spinning wheel, bringing the wheel to an immediate stop.

If you’re not ready for the rear wheel to abruptly stop spinning then you’ll have to compensate for the bikes abrupt deceleration by flying over the bars in one of many different crash scenarios.

Check all your bolts. All the time.

In this next example, we have a new bike from Walmart discount stores. On top of it being new it is a full suspension bike. This typically means that the rear assembly of the frame is bolted together housed in bearings and shims. If even one of these bolts isn’t properly fastened and seated to torque the bike could spontaneously self-destruct:

Proper assembly of bikes is critical to your safety. Don’t underestimate the value of a well built bike and a well assembled bike. If you’re going to get a department store bike then at least pay a local bike shop to snoop through it and make it safer to ride. Note: “safer” not “safe”.

Department Store Bikes (part 1)

Let’s take a look at a few things: Without insurance it will cost you roughly $16,000 (possibly more) to surgically repair a broken wrist. A broken wrist which could result from riding a bike that wasn’t assembled correctly. This is a mechanical failure that can lead to a crash.

Now, you want to start mountain biking, just for example. You see that Fatbikes are taking hold and you think it would be fun to have one. You go to a bike shop and find that an entry level Fatboy from Specialized is $1400. Whoa! That’s a ton of money.

Specialized Fatboy

Then you visit Walmart and find that they have a Mongoose fatbike called the Dolomite. It’s on sale online for $207.53.

Mongoose Dolomite

Thinking about this, “oh, it’s just a bike” runs through your mind and you fail to see the implications of “just a bike.” You buy their bike. On your first test-ride around the neighborhood you realize it doesn’t shift through its meagre 7 gears like you think it ought to. With a thump you hit a curb and the handlebars spin to a 90 degree angle from the forward direction they should face. As you tumble slowly over the bars into the grass next to the curb the handlebar pokes your abdomen causing a painful charlie-horse. You sprain your wrist breaking the fall.

But you’re fine. It’s at this point that you realize this bike wasn’t assembled correctly. In the bike shop we see these bikes all the time. While they fit a budget quite nicely they come with absolutely no guarantee of quality or proper assembly. In fact, we see them improperly assembled all the time. Forks on backwards, bolts left loose, bottom brackets loose, and pedals mounted half-heartedly.

Aside from this, we see the cheapest use of materials possible. The fork dropouts (basically responsible for holding your front wheel in the frame) aren’t substantial enough to take the mildest abuse from trail riding.

Bikes like the Fatboy are 1. assembled correctly at your local bike shop and 2. are built with quality parts and materials. I don’t care if you’re a Specialized brand hater, that’s beside the point. The fact is, if you injure yourself on a bike that comes from a shop, it’s usually a result of the way you’re riding. It’s typical for a beginner to crash in mild situations. It happens to experienced riders all the time. But you’re not crashing as a result of improper bicycle assembly or use of poor materials.

Would it have been worth paying $1400 to have a bike that shifts correctly, was safe to ride, and has the guarantee of a local shop? You can judge for yourself. $16,000 for a broke wrist? You could buy 14 really great and well built bikes for that price.