“You make it look easy,” I hear it all the time in the shop. It’s right up there with “It costs that much to fix that?!” That last remark is usually accompanied by an incredulous look. I for one, am tired of the minimization of the bicycle mechanic.
Yes, I do make it look easy, the same way a mathematician makes solving a complex equation look easy. That ease comes with years of experience. In my case 20 some-odd years of experience. Despite my young looks, I have been doing this a long time. I can do most repairs with my eyes closed (and if you watch me, I sometimes tune a rear derailleur without looking at it, just using my ears). I’ll admit, fixing a bike isn’t hard, when you know how. Why do people forget that? I don’t attempt to fix space rockets, cars, or brain tumors. But put a bicycle in my hands, and with my experience, I will make it work. Experience counts for a lot, and experience is what I have. I’m glad customers think I am some magical human being capable of whispering to bicycles and curing their ails, but in reality, I have just been slinging wrenches for a very long time.
So why question the price? Oh yeah, because it is “just a bicycle.” Look at that last paragraph again and read how many years of experience I have. Read it again. One more time so that it is etched in your brain. Two decades if you’re still unsure. I have fixed more bikes of all types than you can possibly imagine. There is a bike encyclopedia in my head. That is what you are paying for. Granted, you go to some shops and there is a mechanic who has been working on bikes for two months and still has a hard time getting an inner tube out of the cardboard box prison it’s stuck in, but some mechanics have been doing this a long time. You are paying for my expertise, and the fact that the odds are I will get your bike fixed. I don’t get all bikes fixed. There are still some things that defy all bike normalcies, but I do get most of them.
Bicycle mechanics aren’t all college flunkies, or high school kids who like to ride. Some of us take pride in our work. I take so much pride that I try to make sure that my shop operates at a professional level, worthy of the skills that my mechanics and I possess. If you’ve had a bad experience at a bicycle service center, shop around. There is bound to be a shop with a mechanic who has been doing this a long time. Don’t be afraid to ask for that guy/gal. As for the surly mechanics, well, there’s not much I can do about that.