It Shouldn’t Be This Hard

As promised, I went over to the Performance store Saturday to see what could be done about my backordered wheel. I had already decided to cancel the order and substitute a different one. But when I told a sales person what I had in mind, he was doubtful.

“It was a ‘red phone’ order,” he said. “But you paid for it in the store. Usually, you don’t pay until the order ships.”

I patiently repeated to him what I wanted to do. He decided to get on the red phone himself and work it out. And he did. In minutes, I had a canceled order, a new wheel (Mavic Open Sport — I’ll write about it sometime in the future), and some money back on the gift card that I had used to purchase the wheel in the first place.

“Thanks,” I told him. “This worked out better than I expected.”

He asked me if the service people could pull the cassette off the old wheel and put it on the new one. I got the bike out of the car, and wheeled it back to the service department.

The mechanic was a cheerful, talkative fellow. I expected a lot of work backed up on a Saturday, but he took care of me immediately. He got the bike on a stand, took off the wheel, and took the cassette off in a jiffy.

“Oh, oh,” he said.

There went a perfectly good morning.

A slender pin that holds the cogs of the cassette together had worn through its hole, right at the edge of the cassette. It wouldn’t hold the cogs together anymore, and the cog it went through was ruined, anyway.

“This cassette is ruined,” he said.

“Well, okay, I’ll buy a replacement,” I said. “Nine speed, 11-28.”

He nodded, and went into the back room. I knew they wouldn’t have one in stock. If they did, that would be too simple. Some minutes later, he came out, walked past me, and went to the display case for bike components.

“I already checked,” I said. “The closest thing is a 10-speed.”

He called the other Performance store in town. Nada.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I can order one for you.”

“You know, I’d rather try my luck at other shops,” I said. “Thanks anyway.”

I put the bike back in the car and headed for Bicycle Sport Shop. In my experience, they carry a pretty extensive inventory, and I figured they would be my best bet. But the girl at the service desk came back empty-handed.

“I’ve got an 11-25,” she said.

“I need the 28, or I can’t get up hills,” I replied.

Jack and Adams’ is right across the street. A mechanic there thought they did have what I needed. But he was wrong.

Down the street a couple of blocks is Austin Tri-Cyclist. Looking at the high-end time trial bikes there, and all the highly sculpted physical specimens that made up their clientele, I knew this would be hopeless.

“A 28?” asked the clerk.

“That’s not the kind of thing you guys would carry, is it?” I asked.

“Uh, not hardly,” he said.

Okay, oh-for-four. I headed back to my neighborhood, to ATX Bikes. To their credit, they came closer than the other shops to having what I needed, with a much larger selection of cassettes. But still not the one I needed.

“We’ll order it for you,” said a mechanic. “You’ll have it Tuesday.”

“You’re on,” I said.

It appears the 9-speed cassette is headed the way of the dinosaur. I was surprised by the number of 11-speed cassettes all the shops had. Really, do that many bikers ride 11s now? When they came out, I thought they were gimmicky. Still do. But then again, I will never own a high-end bike that needs an 11-speed cassette, so what do I know?

I do know that a lot of folks run the kind of components I do. Nothing fancy, but they get the job done for us. However, it seems that when we need to get our humble gear serviced or replaced, we take a back seat to the current bling items.

In the future, I’ll try to anticipate my needs in time to get a local shop to order the necessary parts. But in the event of a catastrophic failure like the one I had Saturday, I know I’ll be cooling my heels for awhile.

In the meantime, I broke out the mountain bike for the first time in a year or so, and spent a shorter-than-usual Sunday morning ride bashing it around the neighborhood streets.

Backorder Blues

Back around Father’s Day, my wife asked me what I wanted. I didn’t have to stop and think.

“I need a new rear wheel,” I declared.

My bike mechanic had been after me to get a replacement rear wheel for awhile. Lately, his warnings have become more urgent.

“This wheel is shot,” he said.

He suggested I pop for a wheelset that was not all that pricey, but was a lot more than I wanted to spend. We kicked around some ideas for a wheel that would be more in line with my needs and my budget. When I mentioned the Mavic Aksium, he agreed it would be a good choice, and would still be an upgrade over the wheel it would replace.

It just so happened that Performance had Aksiums at a good price. My wonderful wife gave me a Performance gift card for Father’s Day loaded with enough money to cover the cost of the wheel. I headed down to our local Performance store that weekend.

Darn! They’d just sold their last one. The sales guy pointed me to their “red” phone, where I could phone in an order and bypass the oversized shipping charges. In addition, I had been emailed a coupon for 20 percent off. So I would be getting a new wheel for $151.

Except for one thing. It was backordered.

“When will it be in?” I asked the salesman on the phone.

“Don’t know yet,” he said. “We’ll email you when we get it.”

A couple of weeks later, I called again. The local Performance guys told me I’d get more up-to-date information on the order if I called their 800 number. They were right. That is, it didn’t take as long for the guy on the phone to tell me it would be in around mid-July.

In the meantime, my bike rides have been punctuated by a clicking sound from the rear hub. The wheel seems to be holding its trueness, but when I had the bike in to my mechanic on another matter, he  warned that the wheel was in dire need of replacement.

On the 17th of July, I called the 800 number again.

“Well, that’s supposed to be here in mid-July,” the lady said.

“And here we are,” I replied.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” she answered.

I’ve continued to ride on the clickety wheel. My recent rides have been shorter — nothing over 25 miles — but I’m getting antsy.

I called the 800 number again Thursday.

“Yeah, that won’t be in now until mid-August,” the guy said.

I could understand if it was a rare wheel in low demand. But an Aksium strikes me as something pretty common.

I think Performance gets another in-person visit from me this weekend. And if I can’t resolve the situation to my satisfaction, other bike shops will see me in their places, too.

Sign of a Caring Bike Shop

What makes a good bike shop? In the past, we’ve noted some qualities, such as taking the time to learn your needs, treating you like a regular person rather than someone to sell something to, and knowledgeable mechanics.

A member of my bike club had one of the good experiences the other day, and let the rest of the club know about it. This particular bike shop is one of our club’s sponsors. We wear their logo on our jersey sleeves, and enjoy discounts at the shop. But it’s easy to take them for granted. My friend Buddy wrote that after about 12 to 14 miles on the bike, his foot went numb. Buddy picks up the story here:

“[It] has now progressed to foot pain anterior/superior to my arch. It was getting to the point where pain was not subsiding by the next day.

I finally decided I needed new cycling shoes. I took my current pair in to Bicycle Sports Shop this past Saturday expecting them to sell me a new pair, but I experienced quite the opposite. The sales assistant inspected my shoes and he quickly observed my insole was not optimal but there was still plenty of wear remaining on them.

He went into a full length discussion about the importance of proper fitting of shoes. He measured where my my instep was in relation to my shoe fit and marked it, he measured the type of arch I have using a thermal sensor, he measured how my feet pronated/supinated and whether their natural position was vargus or valgus.

Then he reset/repositioned my cleats, fitted and installed a proper Specialized arch insole according to my measurements, and inserted the proper wedge shim based on how my feet align under my knees. All this and the store was really busy. He could have easily just sold me a new pair of shoes and I never once mentioned that I was a member of [the club].

I figured it would take at least two or three cycling evolutions to see if I gained any benefit, but I tested them out today first time doing about 25 mi and OMG!  Just experienced slight numbness in the foot, no pain, and the apposing chronic slight knee pain and nagging lower back pain that I thought were just age related did not even occur!  I will definitely continue my patronage there for any future cycling needs.  And I will not mention any other competitors by name,  but the previous establishment I went to  basically just told me to ‘Match my shoe size and leave a little extra room in case your feet swell.’  Glad I shopped around.”

When your bike shop goes the extra mile for you, don’t take them for granted. Take your return business to them.

 

Large Scale Shops, Small Scale Shops

Guest poster Don Blount wonders which one you prefer?

On a recent Sunday I took my bike to a local store of Performance Bike, the national bicycle company, for a derailleur adjustment.

It is one of two bike shops in my area that I use.

The other, the Bicycle Café, is a small mom and pop shop in nearby Lodi, Calif. I actually prefer this shop, although I use Performance nearly as much.

It’s the difference between a large scale national brand and a small scale local retailer.

It is fair to say Performance serves a general market. The staff there is friendly and helpful. The bike mechanics regularly share knowledge and since my bike is a Performance-brand Scattante CFR Comp I get priority when I come in. (Free adjustments for life!)

The products I purchase are warrantied so that if I do not like them or they do not perform as advertised, they are returnable – no questions asked.

But the staff turns over quickly and sometimes I have to hunt to find a familiar face.

The three-year-old Bicycle Café serves a more specialized market. When I first walked in, the bikes there had names that were totally foreign to me like Campagnolo, Orbea, Time and Guru. That is not too surprising because I was still relatively new to biking.

But this is a place where they make you feel at home. I know the owners, met their kids and see them at a variety of cycling-related functions.

The staff, which has also had some turnover, is helpful and friendly and has never let me know how little I know about biking and how much they do. They too aid me in my search for products and knowledge. Service is impeccable including pickup and drop off of my bike for service. They set up group rides and are actively involved in the cycling community. And the owner is knowledgeable, an encyclopedia of biking information and skills – he builds frames among other things. And I trust him without question when it comes to handling my bike. And I can go there and hang out to talk biking just for the sake of talking about biking.

One of the few things that can be offsetting here is price. Some of their prices are out of my price range. But there aren’t many places I can go where they would allow me to hold a $7,000 bike frame. And it is located a bit out of my usual circle of travel, so it has to be a destination trip.

But I enjoy going to the Bicycle Café when I can, what I thought was a chichi place is quite warm and comfortable. Performance can’t be the same thing — too big, too much volume. But I am still tied to both places by service and bikes. And I will continue to use both as it works for me.

Bike shop advice

Just coming off a depressing weekend, bike-wise. I’ve had a nagging virus of some kind for several days, which has left me very congested. So, to give my meds a chance to work, I decided to take the weekend off from riding.

However, that meant I could give the bike some attention. I did some adjustments to the brakes and the new wheel, but I’ll have to run it into the bike shop for some repairs that I’m not confident to do myself. Which gives rise to a question at the back of my mind — one that is shared by at least one other reader of this blog:

How much can we lean on our shop for good advice?

It seems that in the shop where I bought my bike they are often quick to want to sell me something instead of helping me work through the problem. I’m just not sure if what they’re telling me is a necessity, or if it’s a way for them to pad their sales receipts.

I like the shop. It’s large, well-stocked, and the service done on my bike is generally done well. But they’d rather have me bring the bike to them so they can work on it — and sell me some parts — rather than discuss possible solutions that I might be able to handle on my own. I understand their motivation for this, but they could enhance their customer loyalty — mine — if they’d answer some questions first.

How’s your relationship with your bike shop? Have you ever been oversold, or can you depend on their advice?