It should go without saying that a person claiming to be a professional bicycle mechanic should posses the necessary technical skills, experience and tools to do the job. However, what elevates truly outstanding bicycle repair shops above ones that simply get the job done, are a few qualities that have as much to do with technical know-how, as with a sense of maturity, integrity and a culture of professionalism.
Mechanics at the Best Bicycle Repair Shops Adhere to the Following Principles:
- Treat you like a person.
We believe that before making specific recommendations about the bike, the technician should learn a little more about you, and your relationship to the bike. They should try to establish what your plans are for using the bike, what your relationship to it has been so far (you ride it daily and it’s comfortable, you haven’t ridden it since high school, etc.) and whether you have a particular attachment to it (it belonged to a deceased relative, you did your first century on it, etc.). Since many people don’t have any idea about bike service pricing, the technician should also try to establish a correct ballpark price expectation, for example: “Our complete tune-up runs about $170, and a typical bike needs $70-100 in parts. Shall we proceed?”
- Treat your bike with respect.
The service technician should give your bike all due respect, from putting it in a stand, using objective and courteous language when describing its condition, to refraining from letting personal views affect what repairs and services he or she recommends. It is simply not the technician’s job —on first encounter with a bike— to suggest that this bike “deserves” a high-level repair, but that one is “too cheap” or “too weird” to merit attention.
- Have a process in place.
Once you agree to go ahead with the estimate, the mechanic should take your bike through an established process to assess its condition. This should include a point-by-point technical inspection of all systems, but also involve an ongoing dialog with you about how you plan to use the bike, and any modifications you want to make in terms of comfort, performance or utility.
- Offer the most complete solution.
As a result of the above, the technician should present you with a complete proposal to both restore the bike to optimal mechanical condition, and produce the outcome you requested. At this stage, price should not be the deciding factor, except to the extent that recommended replacement parts are consistent with the existing components on the bike and the desired results.
- Speak in plain language.
The mechanic should neither talk down to you nor talk over your head using industry jargon. He or she should also no assume that you are a novice based on your gender, appearance, or any other irrelevant factors.
It is not difficult to establish each customer’s familiarity with technical terms, and use the bicycle itself along with clear, descriptive language, to communicate the need for and benefits of the services that are being recommended.
- Are upfront about pricing.
The mechanic should offer you a written estimate showing both the itemized and total dollar amount of the labor and all parts and accessories needed. All labor and merchandise items should have pre-determined prices, and you should never feel that quotes are being made up on the spot, or that the mechanic is trying to budget for you based on their own perceived criteria.
He or she should advise you if the cost of the repair starts to exceed the value of the bike, or if the condition of the bike is such that no repair is likely to produce a satisfying result.
The mechanic should leave the decision about the price to you, and work with you on adding to the repair or scaling back, once you’ve examined their best recommendation, and wish to make changes.
- Own the results.
The mechanic working on your bike should really and truly want the results of the work performed on your bike to delight you. The repair shop should offer a clearly articulated and ironclad guarantee on all work performed for a reasonable period of time (the time may vary based on the type of service performed), and should genuinely welcome the opportunity to correct any problems should they arise.
While skill and technical expertise should be a given in professional bicycle repair shops, you are always more likely to get excellent results with a shop whose staff desire to deliver service that goes beyond technical know-how, and are invested in cultivating customer relationships.