Sunday, August 12, 2012


I know why I do this, but I don't know that you do.  Every once in a while, it's valuable to take a few big steps back and reevaluate your purpose in doing what you do.

I started this because I was a frustrated bike wrench fed up with an sometimes-inept boss, a failing bike shop, and unappreciative customers.  Thankfully, that gig came to an end and better things came along.  I'm still Angry Bike Wrench, but I'm not angry for the same reasons.  So yes, this is cathartic.

My greater purpose though is twofold.  One, this is to be a forum for those fascinated by the mechanics of the bike and the bike industry.  The kinds of people who regularly check the Problem Solvers blog for new releases and occasionally, just for funsies, flip through their greasy, dogeared copy of Barnett's before falling asleep. 

Two, this is an attempt to give perspective that bridges the communication gap that often exists between the wrench and the customer.  It is this gap that still continually frustrates me, and it would be cathartic to provide a few examples.  Yes, nearly anybody can learn to fix a bike, but no, it is not easy.  It takes years of experience to learn to do it properly.  Please don't cite your expertise with cars, airplanes, washing machines, or woodworking tools as evidence that you can easily fix your own bike.  Also, I don't care if you're an engineer of any discipline.  Normally, this just means you're an extraordinary pain in the ass.

When I tell you you need a new chain and cassette, I am not ripping you off, at least not any more than the auto tech who tells you to change your oil.  Despite your inability to grasp the value in maintaining a bike, I have your best interests in mind.

Most bike shops function on the principle of first-come, first-served.  Even if it was within my ability to complete a tuneup on your bike in the next 15 minutes so you can race tomorrow, I will not do it.  Other people, people with more skill in planning and time management than you, brought their bikes to me before you.  I'm fixing theirs first.

If the other shop offered to fix your bike for less than I'm charging you for parts alone, you are more than welcome to take them up on their offer.  They will not be in business much longer.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but smiles and hellos motivate me to bend over backward to make your cycling experience as positive as possible.  Demands and accusations make me want to teach you a lesson.

Most importantly, bike wrenches LOVE fixing bikes.  We are not getting rich.  We are learning few transferable skills.  We are working shitty, long hours during the time of year when everybody else goes to the beach and rides their bikes.  We do it because we love it.  We love diagnosing clicks and creaks.  We love taking a frame and a box of parts and creating from it your dream bike.  We love the revelation that comes when we raise your saddle a half inch and you realize what comfort and power feel like.  We love it.  Please remember that when you're staring down your nose at our greasy nails, tattoos, scabs, and scars.