The idea behind the Bike Gremlin site was first to help myself – keeping all the important data, tables and references in one place. Second logical step was making it available on the Net, so I could use it wherever I go. Finally, the decision to share it with others – making life easier for other enthusiasts, as well as simplifying answers to frequently asked questions about bicycles, bicycle repairs, maintenance and cycling in general.
Who are we, what is our mission?
One of the reasons I started fixing bicycles myself is because I wasn’t always happy with the quality of service at bike shops. It is explained in more detail on the page about the author. When I started fixing other people’s bicycles, I had promised myself that I will always do it properly, or close the shop, nothing in between. No matter what the rush, or what problems occur. I decided to put it all in writing, as an explanation to people so they know what to expect (and what they are paying for), as well as a reminder to myself. Principles on which I work and on which there are no compromises are the following:
1. Every bicycle must be fixed as good as possible
Regardless whether it’s a bike for a competitive racer, or a bike for grocery shopping, “it’s good enough” doesn’t cut it. Each and every one must be done as good as it can be done. For example: poor quality brakes will never brake as good as high quality ones, but they must be set up properly so the brake as good as they possibly can. This goes for all the other work.
The downside of this approach is that I can’t provide service along the lines of “just patch it up a bit to roll”. I either fix it, or don’t. There are shops that provide such services, with good quality compared to the price charged, and I’m happy to recommend them.
2. Every bicycle must pass a test ride before being returned to the customer
There are problems that occur only after a bicycle is put under harder pedaling force, or ridden up hill, or on bumpy roads. That is why, before being returned to the customer, each bicycle needs to be test ridden on a test ground with a climb and a bumpy section. Childrens’ bicycles are mostly exempted from this rule, for obvious reasons.
3. Prices need to be clearly defined
Regardless of possible complications, price of every job is known up front and expressed. For some parts, like hub cones for example, it can not be known whether they will need replacement until they are dissassembled, but in that case, the price if the replacement is needed is given up front.
This enables clients to know up front whether they can afford the service and whether they are OK with the price/costs. The least possible room is left for “we’ll see”, “we’ll negotiate”.
4. “Height” of service prices
I believe that by working for cheap I am practically stealing the time from my family, since if doing a job for half the price, I need to work twice as long to provide. All the prices of jobs are a result of the average time it takes to do them, and my goal hourly income rate. Exception is a complete “Gremlin” bike service, where I earn a lot less per hour, but provide the customers with a completely fixed and well functioning bike I can be proud of.
Having said this, although most prices are higher than the average in my city, I make sure to notify the clients of this fact. With an explanation that, because of the way I work, with great attention to details, it takes me more time for the task and hence the price can not be cheaper. There are lots of bike shops in my city, so anyone can choose where they will take their bicycle.
As a concrete example, I’ve posted a (tutorial) video below. The (tutorial) video shows the procedure for truing a wheel – with lubrication of nipple, spoke and rim interface to avoid any damage, evening spoke tension (and checking with a tension meter) and truing the wheel within tolerances with checking on a truing stand and a dishing gauge. All these steps are necessary in order to make a wheel true so that it stays true and that any spoke breakage possibility is minimized.
The bottom line is: here is how I think it should be done, anyone can do it, but many DON’T WANT to spend that much time, while i WILL DO IT ONLY THAT WAY.
For parts that are critical for safety, like brakes for example, I refuse to install low quality (usually very cheap) components, even if a client insists. I am more than happy to recommend another shop however. Customer should always be free to choose on what and how much money they will spend. Just as I can choose to do only things after which I can sleep well.
5. Lapses and complaints
With my methodology and approach to work, I do my best to keep the number and percentage of mistakes as low as possible. Stil, only those who never work make no mistakes. Every ommission is corrected in the shortest possible time – with priority, without waiting. Eventual damage to parts is compensated to a price of a new part (or a similar quality one, if the original part is no longer available). This is, based on previous experience, a very rare case, far from a rule, but it is impossible for it to never happen.
6. Bicycle buying help/advice
I will gladly give advice and guidance for buying a bicycle (whether new, or 2nd hand), although most of those topics are explained on this website, one just needs to read it. What kind of bicycle best suits one’s needs, which groupset, frame size etc. I can also look over a (2nd hand) bicycle and tell if it’s suitable for the intended use, rider height etc, as well as see what needs to be fixed on that bike and how much the parts and the labour would cost.
Based on this information, and the prices of other (new, or 2nd hand) bicycles, a buyer must decide by and for themselves whether the purchase is a good one, or not. What I will not do is answer the questions like: “is this bike worth that much?”, or “is this a good price?”. It is a matter of principle.
Thank you for your time. The purpose of this text was to avoid any misunderstanding and confusion – so that people can know what to expect.
Follow this link for any questions, help, or consultation.