Thursday, April 15, 2010

DIY and the need for Expertise.

I've been taking Robert apart, and starting to build up his successor. I spent all weekend messing, gave myself an anti-manicure cleaning the chain first with PB-Blaster and then simple green. Anti- in that my hands may never be the same again. So much for the career in hand modeling!

So I've been thinking about DIY. Then I read a post on the excellent blog DFW Point to Point about having service done at a bike shop. Steve- I love the line about how after working on cars, bikes are easy. Being able to do it indoors is key.

On one hand, I'm enough of my father's daughter to never pass up a project that requires the purchase of new tools. And in this world, there's a lot of yahoos that work at bike shops, and I'm pretty sure that if they can figure it out, I can. On the other hand, I'm busy, and sometimes it takes me a while to get projects done, and sometimes it's worth it to pay to get it done faster, especially if it's something that disables the bike while it's in process..

However, even the most yahoo infested bike shop has a grizzled veteran, who can help the yahoo out when there's a funky trick to getting something to work. For the rest of us, there's the fantastic legacy of Sheldon Brown. I can't say how many bike repairs I've blundered through with my laptop open next to me, checking between operations to make sure I've got it right.

But Sheldon is gone now, and he didn't write about EVERYTHING on bikes. Sometimes you get stuck, and it doesn't make sense, and you need someone to help. And sometimes there's a trick, and sometimes you just know by feel after the hundredth time you do it. So sometimes you need to talk to someone with expertise.

Saturday afternoon, after I got the chain case on the new frame and put the left side crank on was one of those times. - The damn thing whacked the chainstay with every revolution. I had spread the frame to accept the 8 speed internal geared hub, but I couldn't believe that the tolerances were that close. So I packed it all into the Scientist's car, and headed to Metonomy Vintage bikes/ Cambridge Used bicycles where they can probably re-assemble a Raleigh BB in 5 minutes blindfolded, they do so many of them.

And Ed and Vin, bless their hearts, despite the fact that they were crazy busy, put it on a stand, looked at it, scratched their heads, looked at it again, and realized, that I'd installed the cups so that the whole spindle was shifted over. AND I had the crank on backwards (it looks symmetric, but it's not quite- you can tell because there's a heron on one side).

At a lot of shops they would have told me to drop it off and they'd look at it on Wednesday. After all, they get paid to do that work, why should they give it away for free. I really appreciate that they were willing to give a few minutes and the advantage of their expertise.  I'm really really lucky to be part of a bike community, where people are willing to share their knowledge, instead of guarding it jealously as the precious commodity that it is.

And you know, customer service generosity pays. I'm not really in the market for one of the reconditioned used bikes that are their stock in trade. But I try to buy parts there when I can (they're one of those places that regularly stocks brake shoes for Minerva). And whenever someone tells me they're looking for a cheap, simple bike, I steer them away from a big box, or even a regular bike store and point them there. My dental hygenist for an example from this week, a grad student in the Scientist's lab a couple of weeks ago, coworkers. And now you, gentle reader. I've received no compensation for this recommendation. Except for the kind sharing of expertise, freely given.


  1. Wisdom lies in finding that perfect, illusive balance between learning and knowing how to do all the tasks, but letting go of some.

    I find I spend more than most people at the LBS just in the little things, not counting the occsional big ticket item.

  2. Right on! Those guys have been so good to me too. They were very generous to my Mother-In-Law when she was here visiting and I try to return the favor.

    I'm glad to hear that you got the problem solved.

    We also do most of our own bike repairs, but there are times when a seasoned pro is the answer - we had to get the BB out of my '77 Dawes and it was not coming out easily. Instead of risking my marriage for this one-time effort I just took the bike in and for $30 (or whatever it was) had the problem solved in less than a day. No swearing, no frustration, just solved. But yes, most of the time hurray for DIY!

  3. I can't do a thing so I go to the bike shop. Luckily they are nice to me and have done lots of random tighten up here, listen to this there for free and so today when I had to buy a new part I didn't feel badly about spending the $. I love my local bike shop.