|Bike Parts Breakdown: common issues and fixes
Frame/ Fork/ Stem/ Bar/ Seatpost
Preparing for a ride
When taking in a bike for repair it is important to consider the bike’s intended use and the customer’s overall expectations. The following is a general reference guide which should help aid in achieving quality and consistency when writing up repair tickets.
Many times there are immanent problems which can be anticipated and fixed while the bike is in for repair. If for example a customer was in to replace a worn tire but was not informed about a worn rim sidewall the customer could soon be back perhaps annoyed that they weren’t given the heads up about this before they put down the cash for something perhaps less important for the bike’s overall utility.
Honesty is the best policy. Take in repairs as if you were the one paying for the services. Not only will you be making a difference in the world (making your life more meaningful, yeah!), but customers will be better served and less likely to comeback royally pissed off- sometimes justifiably so. Giving a customer the heads-up about pending doom-and-gloom will give them the ability to best utilize their resources and keep them on the road.
If there are repair complications which far overshadow those originally written up for repair (i.e. which keep the bike from being used as it or the customer intended or if added would overshoot the original estimate) we always like to give the customer the option to fix those problems first. A bike’s real priorities are sometimes more important than what the customer “wants”. Often a few moments of explanation can help clarify that a new derailleur will not fix the real problem of say, the worn drive train scenario discussed earlier. In rare cases customers may need to be informed of a bike’s inevitable funeral or if the repair would greatly exceed the bike’s value. It is important to try and minimize these common and much anticipated problems by giving the customer all the information about their bikes condition from the get go. Let’s go through a few recommended steps for taking in a repair. The important thing is to be consistent so you don’t miss something (like a broken chain- ouch!)
The following is from the perspective of making a bike work and is a general guide. Your write-up routine may differ slightly but a bike’s parts priority list should not vary to drastically. (Although coolness/ flashiness may be important to the costumer our first concern for a bike which is to be ridden will be reliability and safety. Additionally, a department store quality bike will likely never be in the Tour and subsequently can only have expectations worthy of its potential/ intended use). Getting a routine down to efficiently go through the bike and prioritize problems will minimize headaches all around.
1. Start by getting as much information as possible from the customer about the bike.(i.e. What’s wrong? Have you noticed any other problems? Any skipping? When and in what gear? Brakes Shifting ok? Grinding, Creaking, noises etc? For what and how often do you use the bike and what do you expect from it after the repair is completed?)
2. Give the bike a quick look over before putting it in the stand. Check: tires, brake pads, cables/ housing, rim trueness, bearing looseness/ tightness (bb, hubs, headset), obvious drive train wear(i. .e sharp chain ring teeth), loose/ broken shifters,” ” f and r der, pedals, reflectors (if applicant). Basically anything that screams “I’m broken”. Inform the customer of the additional problems if any and start to prioritize them.
3. Put the bike in the stand. Unless you can “guarantee” from the initiall inspection that the bike is in good shape other than a few obvious problems (a newer bike generally) it will need to be examined in the stand (excluding three wheelers, specialty bikes etc.).or test ridden if needed. Once in the stand, further examine the bike. I like to prioritize bearings: #1) BB and R hub #2) F hub #3) Pedals #4 Headset. Brakes which do not work are more important than gears which are gummed up. In short, be sure to prioritize things in a logical order while also considering the riders wishes. Emphasize safety and reliability concerns over esthetic ones.
Spin the crank and wheels while shifting through all the gears. Be sure to activate brakes, shifters and all moving parts. Check for bad bearings, bent rims/ chain rings and tire wear- including flats, bulges or obvious cuts . A flat which was caused by a blown sidewall, hole or foreign object should be addressed during the write-up (ask the customer if they may have removed any glass, nail etc. from the tire and note this for the mechanic so that he/she does not look endlessly) Check the rim for dings and flat spots as well as rim sidewall wear( belling-out of the rim sidewall caused by rim-sidewall erosion). Check for broken or bad spokes/ spoke-protector. Check pads. The front hub and headset are less important for the bike’s continued use than the rear hub and bb. If the rear hub is loose and is a freewheel type hub (longer axle locknut to cone length under freewheel), check to make sure it does not have a broken or bent axle. Nine times out of ten bikes which come in with a loose traditional bb (cup/spindle) will ultimately need it replaced. This is because they are generally ridden loose for a considerable period of time, are prone to water and dirt infiltration and have a large amount of force directed through them etc. Also check the fixed cup side. Rear hubs may have similar issues but can often be adjusted and or overhauled reliably. “” for front hubs. Many less expensive wheels with hubs in bad shape will require the wheel to be replaced (races bad, free hub, cones proprietary and not available). Headsets only function as a means to steer the front wheel and if wanted, their replacement can often be put off until absolutely necessary (they are also replaced as an entire unit although sometimes a belled-out head tube or bad fork steering tube seat may be the true problem). Pedals which are dangerously loose will need to be replaced.
Further check the brakes for any obvious failings. Check brake cable/ housing for fraying, rust and cracks as well as smoothness and ability to be activated. A frayed cable which is caught early can be a lifesaver. Check the der cables and housing also for the above. (replacing cracked index der housing is generally more important for a bikes functionality than cracked brake housing because of the precision required for index shifting). Der housing with non-index ferrules (quality reinforced type) may have housing strands pulling through. Check the derraileurs for pulley/ bushing/ plate wear as well as alignment- including the alignment of the frame’s der hanger. While going through all the gears to check for shifting issues check for limit issues or other obvious component issues. The age and condition of the drive train should also be noted. Check the chain stretch with an appropriate ruler if necessary and look for stiff broken links. A stretched chain ridden on a good chain ring can further the need for chain ring/ pulley replacement by being forced into too narrow of a trough. Inform the customer of the pending situation. Check the rear cassette (esp smaller cogs- as they wear faster) as well as chain ring teeth for obvious wear. If the customer has experienced skipping ask if it is only in certain gears/ rings/ weather (cold) or continuous (a bad freewheeling mechanism, cold weather, bent tooth or a twisted/ cracked chain can all cause poor shifting). Derailleur housing/ cables are often required to fix shifting issues on index derrailleurs. Include these items in your estimate.
Check over the rest of the bike for obvious issues such as bent/ twisted fork, possible frozen seat post (if frozen, customer will not be able to readjust for a new saddle, different rider etc.) Less expensive suspension forks are generally not able to be fixed (as parts are not available and overhaul vs. new fork make the cost of o.h. prohibitive). They often can continue to be ridden however, if not dangerous. Newer, higher performance forks may be able to be fixed if parts can be ordered. Higher performance and specialty bikes will need to be assessed according to the expectation and needs of the rider. Someone doing a long tour should be informed of potential problems so as not to become stranded etc. Racers should be informed about reglueing sew ups etc. A ripped saddle or torn bar tape might be more important for a racer than commuter. Be sure to diagnose problems based on customers expectations. If replacing a part be sure to give the customer the full range of options.
If a customer has had numerous broken spokes inform them that they will likely continue to break spokes and should consider replacing the wheel (or rebuild if warranted). If a broken/ bent axle is the issue, suggest upgrading to a quality cassette-style wheel/ hub. There are innumerable examples here so in short, simply try to flush out how best to get the bike working reliably and up to expectations. The worst thing you can do is not inform the customer about the true nature of the problem at hand. If for example, a bike comes in with a flat- caused by a hole in the tires sidewall- caused by a rim with a flat spot hitting a brake pad- don’t simply replace the tube and send them on their way. Worse, don’t send them out with a new tire without showing them the need to replace their rim or at the very least true and or adjust their pads to avoid hitting the tire. If replacing a tube be sure to ask the customer if they removed the cause and if not, be sure to find it yourself.
Remember that their almost always is a discernable cause for a bike’s ailment; so be sure to find it to the best of your ability given time constraints. Don’t B. S. the customer. If you cannot discern the cause of a problem, ask another employee who might know. When a cause can absolutely not be found or if you can not guarantee that the fix will be reliable in the long term (perhaps simply because the customer does not wish to shell out the bucks)- inform him/ her that that’s the best that can be promised. If a customer insists on ignoring a pending issue relay this to the mechanic to avoid the mechanic having to make an unnecessary phone call (i.e. customer knows tires/ pads are worn but has own/ will replace when absolutely necessary). Sometimes you will need to be adamant about a vital component if it is a safety concern. If a frame is cracked the whole repair will be for naught. Inform the customer of the priority level and again note this on the tag for the mechanic if not an overriding issue.
Write up the repair tag as clearly and concisely as possible including contact information for the customer. Inform them that they may need to be called if their are complications and that this may delay the repair’s completion.
Paid or N/C (no charge) Tune-ups/ Filling Out Tags/ Special Ordering:
After writing up your repair with all relevant info for the bike (description, name, phone numbers, thorough explanations of problem etc.), determine what the due date will be (ask mechanic or someone who knows) and hang it in the appropriate row downstairs. Left rows are for N/C tune-ups, Right for paid repairs. If a customer has been called about a complication it will still be in the “to do” room unless otherwise indicated. This may delay its completion (sometimes a customer may not hae received the call because only a home phone number was provided so be sure to explain the situation). Completed repairs are located in the “done room” towards the back of the shop. Check the completed repairs tag box to make sure it was completed and perhaps save yourself a trip.