LBS bike service options - Is it worth it?

by vanmildert   August 31, 2014  

I've done 2500 miles (Feb- date) on a well maintained Spesh Tarmac- servicing options look pricey but I feel I should probably be getting some kind of LBS service. Is this worth it or a rip off? Basically it's cheaper to get my car serviced! Why is that!?

If there are things that definately need servicing what are these? If I don't have the tools shouldn't I just get those done by LBS in isolation rather than paying for the full service to do the things I can manage on my own anyway? Maybe they don't offer that but cables all seem fine and I can do the brake pads myself etc.....

26 user comments

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If you are confident doing easy stuff yourself then I wouldn't bother getting the bike serviced. You need to check your chain though. I have a chain checker tool, which is very conservative, so I ended up changing chains regularly. The plus side is that my cassettes go on a long time.

If your chain needs changing then you may find it skips on your cassette, in which case you will need a new cassette too. Changing early means that cassettes will last several chains (so I ignore the advice often given about changing chains and cassettes at the same time).

If you choose to run the drive chain into the ground you will end up having to replace your chain rings too - ££.

If I were you would buy a chain checker, chain breaking tool, cassette lock ring tool, and a chain whip (if you don't already have them all). This is the basis for a starter home tool kit.

In the future you could add a bottom bracket tool, cable cutters (get good ones) etc.

posted by Chris James [186 posts]
1st September 2014 - 10:28

1 Like

Depends on what your LBS is charging and also what need to be done to the bike. No point paying a lump sum for things that don't need tweeking.

I don't use my local LBS (i like my bike) I take it in to Evans Cycles and get them to check it over, comes back looking cleaner and feeling smother.

The price is good (IMO) and no paint is chipped, never had any reason to complain.

posted by Binky [106 posts]
1st September 2014 - 10:53

1 Like

Might I suggest doing it yourself?
A bike is simple technology. Few specialist tools are needed and those a fairly cheap. Certainly you could buy the lot and all the parts you need for way less than a shop service. ( I am of course excluding things like BB facing tools as these are one off jobs that don't usually need doing)
I view shop maintenance as the same as getting your living room painted. Absolutely no need, it's easy. One or two things get easier with practice but care and patience produces a first rate job by even an amateur.
To call shops a rip off is not right. You know what it costs, and you are paying for a service. If you don't like the rice they are asking don't ask them to do it.

posted by mattsccm [254 posts]
1st September 2014 - 11:42

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Whether or not the LBS is good value or not, It's still a good idea to do your own maintenance. And it's a lot easier these days what with "How to" You tube vidoes.

Bikes aren't that complicated really. Invest in some bike specific tools as and when you need them and you'll have the tools forever. Learning how the bike works by servicing it, allows you also to do a better job of cleaning and inspecting it. Of course bike shops want it to be like servicing your car at regular intervals. But once you get a certain level of experience it's not like that. It's a bit more of an ongoing task. You are more like an onboard computer that the more expensive cars have to do condition based monitoring. Whereas they have sensors you have your eyes and ears and your sense that something may not be quite right.

Doing your own servicing helps with that.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [607 posts]
1st September 2014 - 11:48

2 Likes

If you were they type of child that takes things apart to see how they worked, It's well worth getting the tools. Bikes are less complicated than other mechanical things. And with the internet/support websites/youtube its easier than it has ever been (even dealing with bottom bracket and disc brakes). However my problem is I buy tools when I need to replace parts. but I don't have a proper service schedule (apart from checking tyres frequently). I think a cable change is long over due!

posted by ydrol [6 posts]
1st September 2014 - 14:01

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A cassette removal tool is about a tenner and you can make a monster chain whip at home with a length of flat strap cold rolled steel, same for the BB removal tool. Spoke keys are cheap as well. The biggest single expense is a decent cable cutter while anything else is off the shelf in Wilkinsons. Most people own allen keys these days already, a small screw driver for mech adjustment and the cycling world is your lobster. The main thing is practice, it's all there on line via Sheldon and Park Tools. Pedal spanners are not such a biggy as most half way decent clip-less pedals have a hex drive these days. A crown race seating tool can be improvised from a knackered stem but that's not such a biggy unless you want to swap forks.

What you may find yourself spending silly money on is "bespoke" lubes and grease but I find Wilkinsons WD40/GT85 clone to be fine for cleaning and the basic chain oil fine in nearly all weather conditions plus it's cheap. Half way decent brown grease is cheap by the tub or for small bolts you can simply use Vaseline.

posted by MKultra [224 posts]
1st September 2014 - 16:12

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Thanks for the useful responses - will embark on self-maintenance and purchase some tools!

posted by vanmildert [46 posts]
1st September 2014 - 16:27

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I do almost all my own maintenance. However, before going to the Alps last year, I did get my bike serviced by the LBS - mainly so someone else would look over it, check for cracks in the frame etc. Just gave me a bit more confidence on the descents knowing that two pairs of eyes had been over everything.

posted by SteppenHerring [196 posts]
1st September 2014 - 16:32

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All good advice about home maintenance - once you're proficient, you *will* do a better job than the bike shop for the simple reason that you'll work on it until the job is done to *your* satisfaction, whereas a bike-shop mechanic is working at speed to get everything through the workshop as fast as possible.

You don't need a chain checker if you have an accurate ruler marked with inches - a new chain is half-inch-pitch. If 12 link pairs (inner and outer plate) measure 12" & 1/16 (well, up to 12" & 3/32), your chain needs replacing - if they measure 12" & 1/8 you'll probably need to replace cassette too (that is very slightly over a 1% increase in length).

The only other thing I'd suggest early on is a good folding stand - makes it much easier to work on the bike if it is at your level, rather than crouching down. I use a Revolution one, bought years ago and still going strong, plus it folds up to go in the car if we're going away.

adamthekiwi's picture

posted by adamthekiwi [47 posts]
1st September 2014 - 16:53

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I own a store and have always thought that folk need to know how to do the basics themselves. I drop everything and show people how to do things almost whenever they ask. I give all bike purchasers free tuneups for life.

Riders who do their own are 90% likely to do it all right, but sometimes we see that over lubing chains, letting brake pads get shiny or filled with metal chips, rim brake surfaces that are etched or covered with dirt and rubber, or forgetting to lube the spoke nipples can be a problem. Weekend fair weather mileage masters are more likely to be OK, but we have to look out for commuters who are plagued by drivetrain wear and seized nipples in the bad weather.

I agree that it is easy but we have some tricks that not everyone knows. We put corn starch baby powder inside the tires for one example. Tire talc (corn starch baby powder is now used) is an old standby but some stores do not tell you about it. I never see tires that are powdered when I change a flat. Also anti-seize on all threaded parts. Never have seen that used on bikes from other stores. Cleaning chains and measuring for wear is a great policy. Saves big.

posted by rogerlevy [2 posts]
1st September 2014 - 22:28

2 Likes

Find a better mechanic who is not forced to skip steps and who does it better than an inexperienced "pro" or DIY biker. We are out there. (34 years as a bike whisperer) freewheelersbikes.com Do not assume that all professionals in all crafts are out to get you. Don't cut your own hair, or stitch your own wounds. But by all means try to do most easy bike maintenance yourself. LBS guy should be happy to critique your work (gently).

posted by rogerlevy [2 posts]
1st September 2014 - 22:32

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Buy *good* Allen/hex keys. Rounding off bolts is a nightmare. Bahco or Wera makes very good ones, and especially the former are a bargain on Amazon. The cheapie jobs are made of cheese (possibly hardened mascarpone).

Park Tools or Pedros for cable cutters and chain tools. Expensive, but would last a lifetime in a shop. More importantly, work extremely well every time.

I also find that good needlenose pliers and a decent small flashlight get used much more often than I expected.

Oh, and coppaslip for every bolt except those you want threadlock for.

posted by jacknorell [378 posts]
1st September 2014 - 22:38

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For me this depends on how much you trust your own mechanics and indeed the mechanics of the people that will potentially be doing the work for you.

The you have to compare that with how much you enjoy doing the mechanics, against the time it takes you away from your family/riding or whatever else.

Someone explained it to me like this... all being equal, they are not paying someone to maintain their bike, they are paying someone to provide them with extra time for the family riding etc.

It's how much you value your own time rather than how much you value the mechanics time that is important.

Personally speaking, I don't get past the trust argument... I don't trust many mechanics to do a better job than I can... therefore, I do my own mechanics. If something was to go wrong, I want to be able to blame someone for it... best if that person was me.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [278 posts]
2nd September 2014 - 15:05

2 Likes

I actually enjoy being left alone to fix my bike/computer/whatever else - I find it therapeutic. It helps that I'm firmly of the opinion that most things are pretty easy to fix, the only thing I won't mess with around the house is gas. Everything else is fair game Smile

(of course there's always a huge argument with the missus when she wants to pay someone to do it "properly")

Bikes are pretty simple things really, the only thing you may lack is the correct tools for the job. If you are reasonably mechanically minded, careful and test your work (i.e. don't go bombing down a large hill 30 seconds after stripping and refitting your brakes), I'd say it's pretty hard to do anything too dangerous.

One tip from personal experience, get a good clean space on work on where you won't loose any bits. I managed to loose a tiny o-ring washer from the hydraulic brakes on my MTB without noticing when servicing them. Queue dot-4 fluid leaking out of the housing every time I pressed the brake lever. I now do my maintenance on a plastic sheet (still in the garden as I've no garage and the bikes aren't allowed in the house) so I don't get oil everywhere and don't loose anything.

posted by sergius [63 posts]
2nd September 2014 - 15:24

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'Don't cut your own hair, or stitch your own wounds. But by all means try to do most easy bike maintenance yourself. '

I do all three of these. All have been fine to date Wink Few of the scars are a bit messy, but everything holds together ok.

posted by andyp [887 posts]
2nd September 2014 - 15:27

2 Likes

I'm a big fan of doing most stuff myself, and you don't need a massive investment in tools to be able to do most of it (with the exception of things like headset presses).

That said, as someone said above whether it's 'worth it' depends on your view of your time and money. Some people like tinkering on their bikes, other people have better things to do with their time. Personally I find one big advantage of doing my own work is that I know what's been done and the standard it was done to.

I don't think it's necessarily fair to call bike shop service charges a rip off though. If you do it yourself your time is being valued at nothing whereas the LBS mechanic's isn't, and likewise they obviously won't be hunting down cheap bits from CRC or wherever like you can- it'll all be RRP. That doesn't make them a rip off. On the other hand they might well, for example, be a bit quicker to decide bits need replacing than you would be yourself, and stuff like that can lead to disgruntled customers.

Lastly there's the quality of work. Personally I've been disappointed a few too many times so will always do it myself where I can. Maybe you have a good mechanic though.

posted by Chuck [381 posts]
2nd September 2014 - 16:18

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I would love to spend some time tinkering with my commuting bikes but I have found it more efficient to ask my LBS to deal with repairs and servicing. I save about £2000 a year commuting by bike so the £116 or so I have spent this year keeping my bikes on the road has been pretty good value - That included a new bottom bracket, a wheel bearing repair, a hydraulic disc brake bleed (The LBS do this a lot better than me! - I've tried) and two services.

The bikes come back really nicely set up and I've never found myself stuck at the side of the road as they spot components on the way out before I do, this part is really important as I have two children to pick up from child care at the end of the day and I need to be on time.

I clean the bikes, lubricate, fix punctures change tyres and keep the rim brakes set up properly but thats about it.

posted by gmac101 [26 posts]
2nd September 2014 - 22:00

1 Like

I think no one here can really answer this question for you. It largely depends how much you value the work of your LBS, as well as how valuable your own time is to you.

For me, I find a balance between some tasks myself and some in the LBS works best. For example, press fit bottom bracket replacements, like BB30, I prefer to have done at the shop as to be done well really need a bearing press, an expensive tool that I will rarely need. If it's just brake adjustments or gear indexing I would do it myself etc. If I'm busy at work sometimes Its easier just to drop it at the shop. Just do what ever is easiest or makes the most sense for your own circumstances.

posted by giobox [284 posts]
3rd September 2014 - 4:32

1 Like

andyp wrote:
'Don't cut your own hair, or stitch your own wounds. But by all means try to do most easy bike maintenance yourself. '

I do all three of these. All have been fine to date Wink Few of the scars are a bit messy, but everything holds together ok.


Andyp - if you find yourself stitching your own wounds immediately after cutting your own hair then it may be best to get someone else to do it Smile

posted by Tintow [6 posts]
3rd September 2014 - 7:25

3 Likes

rogerlevy wrote:
I own a store and have always thought that folk need to know how to do the basics themselves. I drop everything and show people how to do things almost whenever they ask. I give all bike purchasers free tuneups for life.

Riders who do their own are 90% likely to do it all right, but sometimes we see that over lubing chains, letting brake pads get shiny or filled with metal chips, rim brake surfaces that are etched or covered with dirt and rubber, or forgetting to lube the spoke nipples can be a problem. Weekend fair weather mileage masters are more likely to be OK, but we have to look out for commuters who are plagued by drivetrain wear and seized nipples in the bad weather.

I agree that it is easy but we have some tricks that not everyone knows. We put corn starch baby powder inside the tires for one example. Tire talc (corn starch baby powder is now used) is an old standby but some stores do not tell you about it. I never see tires that are powdered when I change a flat. Also anti-seize on all threaded parts. Never have seen that used on bikes from other stores. Cleaning chains and measuring for wear is a great policy. Saves big.

Nobody talcs a tire as there isn't any need as the Sheldon Brown article shows.
http://sheldonbrown.com/brandt/talcum.html

posted by BigAl68 [41 posts]
3rd September 2014 - 7:44

0 Likes

Nobody talcs a tire...posted by BigAl68

I always do, I've had tubes stick to tyres in the past and been hard to get out and fix, one very rainy, windy, horrible winter p*ncture-fest sticks in my memory, so I've talc'd ever since. Not saying it's right or everyone should do it, but I prefer to, and it makes your wheels smell nice!

posted by elevensees [4 posts]
3rd September 2014 - 11:05

3 Likes

I think all of the above are correct in some way or another, purely your choice I think, I prefer doing all servicing myself as its not rocket science and for me, therapeutic. Best thing in my mind is when you make your own tools, even a headset press is easy to do using threaded bar and lots of correct size washers and a bit of imagination, good luck

posted by Cheekyjohn [24 posts]
7th September 2014 - 12:37

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elevensees wrote:
it makes your wheels smell nice!

Big Grin Superb.

posted by Ratfink [29 posts]
7th September 2014 - 14:17

0 Likes

tricky question to answer as the bike industry has made few concessions to retain quality bicycle mechanics as a long term career choice - for most, its simply not worth the poor conditions and low pay as a long term career choice.

a true, professional bike mechanic can fix your bike in a third of the time it will take you, and the bike will be truly fixed. they will also offer solutions and save you money with timely input; its not rocket science, but time served leading to real world experience, they will face problems you may never see.

faced with that quandary, whether your Lbs employs time served professional bike mechanics is a matter of luck, one you may discover through word of mouth recommendations or after putting a bike in for a service

the chain stores have few, if any, or these mechanics left in their employment.

It also depends how much your time is worth (try calculating your hourly rate), the cost of tooling up your home workshop, and how much time you are prepared to spend maintaining your bikes.

I'd strongly recommend all riders understand basic maintenance like punctures, cleaning, lubing, brake and gear adjustment.

to clarify my position in this discussion I've managed workshops for Lbs including Freeborn and Sigma Sport, flagship stores for the big 2 chains, and 3 different workshops in flagship 'brand stores' and have seen too many good mechanics come into the industry, and then go....

posted by hampstead_bandit [135 posts]
7th September 2014 - 20:40

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As an independant mechanic myself I encourage anyone who can to look after their own bike as much as possible. But for £35 including (Fibrax SS) cables I will fully service your bike and probably have it better than new and back to you on the same day. For a small extra fee I will come and do it at your house or workplace. For most people it's not a question of whether or not they can do it themselves, but whether they can be arsed for what they would save.

Now this is the same sort of service that you would get in a good LBS, maybe slightly more thorough as I treat every bike as if it's my own, it's just cheaper because I'm not paying for a shop and my only real overhead is my insurance. However when I first started in the bike game a service involved stripping down the bike completely, replacing every cable, brake pad and bearing, thoroughly cleaning and regreasing every part and generally making it so I won't see you again for 10,000 miles. I will still do this for £50 but you don't find it many places.

Do it yourself if you can, but if you're unsure how seek advice from an expert and bear in mind that my workload brakes down something like this.

10% of jobs due to crashing or physical damage.
20% of jobs due to neglect.
30% of jobs due to bad home (and occasionally shop) mechanics.
40% of jobs down to genuine wear and tear.

So don't be a bad home mechanic and try to fit a headset with a hammer, use your local mechanic for jobs which need specialist tools and leave the rest of the bad mechanic shit for people that buy bikes in boxes for £100.

posted by drfabulous0 [336 posts]
7th September 2014 - 21:37

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hampstead_bandit wrote:
tricky question to answer as the bike industry has made few concessions to retain quality bicycle mechanics as a long term career choice - for most, its simply not worth the poor conditions and low pay as a long term career choice.

That's changing, a lot of bike shops are subcontracting top self employed mechanics now on a 50% of labour charge basis.

posted by drfabulous0 [336 posts]
7th September 2014 - 21:40

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