On my way into work on Monday my maintenance free commuter failed me for the first time.
The bike had developed a strange tendency to drop the chain over the last week. With horizontal dropouts and burly 1/8″ drivetrain, this is something that just shouldn’t happen – I had to put it down to a loose back wheel, despite tightening it carefully on three occasions.
Then, while heading downhill (of all things) onto Picardy Place roundabout, disaster struck! The chain came off, but wait… it was dragging on the ground… it was broken in half…
Packing away the world’s tiniest violin, the real point of this story is not this sad mechanical failure but the oddness that follows.
I’m fortunate to work not too far away from one of Edinburgh’s bike shops (I won’t name it). I’ve dropped in on my way home from work on numerous occasions, not including the time I coerced a colleague to buy a new saddle and tyres for his very reasonable 26 mile round-trip commute (he subsequently resigned – no, really).
When all’s said and done, I buy a fair amount of stuff from the big online stores, like Chain Reaction or Wiggle (regular readers probably notice that I often provide links to them from reviews). I’m not totally insensitive to the plight of the small business and the value of the local bike shop, however, and do like to patronise them when I can.
So, you may imagine my surprise when I was told that, although yes they did have a suitable SRAM chain to get me back on the road – they wouldn’t let me use their shop chain tool to fit it. Que?
Perhaps they were angling for me to pay some expensive labour charge to do a job that I can manage in two minutes flat with my eyes closed, but I didn’t hang about to find out.
I ordered a pair of chains from Chain Reaction Cycles instead (in fact, I bought them for a scandalous discount – over 50% at the time of writing). I did it while pushing the bike, so I saved a wad of cash while at least minimising the opportunity cost of the whole sorry saga.
Is it any wonder that the small local bike shop is suffering if they won’t even trade in the one area that they really shouldn’t need to worry about mail order competition?
Some shops charge what seems like a punitive rate for bit jobs like puncture fixes, and I can understand that if you want to reduce the amount of time your staff spend working on that type of repair and not, say, a full annual service for a heck of a lot more money.
But refusing to let people use a simple and cheap shop tool for a couple of minutes and losing a sale on something with at least a 100% markup? That, I do not understand.
What do you think? Am I being a bit harsh here, or is there an obvious answer that I’m just not seeing? Drop a comment with your thoughts…