Stone Cold Truth at the Bike Shop

vintage bike shopBy Barry Gantenbein

Standing in line to have my bike repaired at a bike shop, the person in front of me told the mechanic that he was having problems staying in gear when he shifted from a larger gear to a smaller one. The mechanic responded, “Learn to ride in bigger gears.”

The customer stammered, “I’m working on that …” Then trailed off, and looked at the floor. The mechanic quickly spoke up, “I’ll make an adjustment that should help, but I’m not kidding about riding in bigger gears. It’ll make you a better rider.”

A couple of minutes later, the adjustment was complete. The customer slinked out of the shop, obviously stung by the conversation. He had come to the shop to have his bike repaired, not have riding criticized. When it was my turn to speak with the mechanic, I chose my words carefully. My bike was in pieces after a botched repair in my garage, so I had little to say if confronted by the mechanic. Mercifully, he offered no riding or maintenance tips.

Bike mechanics repair damages, but also work to prevent breakdowns. And sometimes riders’ bad habits make themselves known through mechanical problems with their bicycles. Mechanics often feel obligated to remedy the situation by providing a riding or maintenance tip to the bike owner. This isn’t always done nicely. In my experience, mechanics can be brutally honest.

When one of my bikes needed a new crank last year, I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to do a better job of cleaning my bike. My negligence was directly responsible for the breakdown of my bike. Grit, which I should have cleaned from the chain, derailleurs and flywheel, caused the damage. It was painful to hear, but I knew that the mechanic was right. Just as I’m sure that the guy who was told that he needed to ride in larger gears knew that the mechanic spoke the truth.

It’s not always easy to hear the truth, especially when we are told that our actions are the source of our problems, but it can help us make great strides toward improving ourselves.

So, listen to your bike mechanic. He’s not trying to embarrass you, though he may do exactly that. He’s trying to keep your bike in good running condition. And he’s being painfully honest about what’s causing the problem.

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