$220 for a service, or put that towards a new bicycle?
May 16, 2014 3:56 PM   Subscribe

I have an 18 month old Trek 7.1FX hybrid bike ($450 new) that I use to commute 5 days, 120km per week. Should I spend half the cost of a new bike on a service, or put that towards a new bike?

It’s been a little while since it’s had a service so I took it in yesterday and was given the following quote (Australian dollars):

Service - $70
Freewheel - $40
Chain - $30
Brake pads x2 - $30
Pedals - $30
Extra drive train labor - $20
Total $220

I know my plastic pedals are indeed shot and the chain is well past its lifetime, and the chain rings are pretty worn, so I’m sure I’m not being offered services I don’t need. Unfortunately I live in a small apartment without a garden or communal space, and I’m not particularly mechanically inclined so I’m not too confident about repairs beyond changing a tube or tightening the brakes.

It’s a cheap bike, and I bought it really just to dip my toe in and see if cycling was for me, and it turns out it is, and I love the bike and I want to keep cycling. I’m considering a cyclocross as my next bike, probably within the next year or so.

So my question is – what would you do if you were in my situation? Spend half the cost of a brand new bike on servicing an entry level hybrid (that I love)? Replace just the chain and put up with occasional slipping gears and drive it into the ground, and put the $200 into a new cyclocross?

Also, is it considered bad form to buy the new components from Wiggle and then ask the LBS to install them? That seems really rude to me but maybe that’s common?
posted by UltraFleece to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
Best answer: If you love the bike, pay for the servicing. If it seems like a lot, do the math to amortize the cost and feel much, much better about it. Don't bring your own parts.
posted by quince at 4:13 PM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To answer the second question first, yes, it is rude to order components online and then ask your shop to install them. Would you buy ingredients for dinner, then go into a restaurant and ask the chef to cook them for you?

If you have an acquaintance or friend who is a bicycle mechanic, there's no problem asking him or her to do the installation on the side.

To answer the first question: if you like the bike, spend money on the service. You are still saving yourself $230, which you could put into a fund for buying a new bike, or for more regular service. Besides, if you're like most people who get bit by the cycling bug, your second bike won't replace your first bike; it will complement it.

Doing basic maintenance can greatly extend the length of components. If you are replacing your cassette (I presume that's what is meant by "freewheel") and chain, it's due to wear. You also mention chainrings in the paragraph after the itemized quote, but chainrings aren't in the itemized list - did the mechanic say that they would need to be replaced soon?

In any case, drivetrain wear can be greatly reduced by regularly cleaning and oiling the chain and by cleaning the chainrings, cassettes, and derailleur pulleys. REI has a good online tutorial on basic bicycle maintenance; Park Tool's site is good on repairs.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:17 PM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bike companies build or have a frame built for them, and then buy a component set for the bike. There are three aspects to the frame: geometry, weight, and stiffness. For commuting on an upright hybrid, you don't care about stiffness much. Geometry hopefully started some place close to comfortable for you and was adjusted a bit. And weight? You're already commuting on it, and most of us can lose weight from around our middle before we lose it off the bike.

So I think the question here is: Would you dramatically change the frame if you were to buy a new bike? If not, and you want to feel like you're getting a better bike then consider going up a level in the components you replace. I mean, there's not a lot of room in the components you need to replace (shifters and derailleurs can make a huge difference, spending a few extra bucks on a chain or chainring isn't quite as noticeable), but the bike serves you, you're probably not going to change frame geometry, so why spend the extra money?

And I'd buy the components and the labor from the same shop. Yeah, it might cost you a few extra dollars, but if you don't do your own wrenching, having a strong working relationship with a bike shop can mean the difference between "we can put your bike in the queue have it for you next Thursday" and "yeah, I can pop that up on the stand (ahead of everyone else) and get you on the road in five minutes" (As has happened to me).

Context: I'm a bike commuter on a cheap upright mountain bike, and on the occasional weekend put a thousand or two miles a year on a < 17 lb carbon fiber aluminum Dura-Aced out road bike.
posted by straw at 4:19 PM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your other option is to keep buying $400+ dollar bikes every 18 months, so it should seem like a steal to do the service. I have an 80 dollar hybrid that I've probably put 500 dollars into over the last 6 years, but it's essentially rebuilt and will last me another year and a half.

Basic bike maintenance skills will help you stretch both your time between services and the amount you have to pay!
posted by thewumpusisdead at 4:46 PM on May 16, 2014

You might be able to whittle the bill down a little bit by having them do the drivetrain stuff train for you but doing the brake pads and pedals (which are generally simpler tasks) yourself.
posted by contraption at 4:52 PM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Whereabouts do you live? There are places that will help you do your own service in Inner Sydney, and I'm fairly sure you could find some in other cities.

But if you like the geometry, fix the bike. It's worth it. You must have been riding a lot to wear out the drive wheel in 18 months - I'm sure you've saved $220 in petrol or bus fares.
posted by kjs4 at 5:02 PM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am a bike mechanic. This service does not sound out of line at all, and the prices are close to what my shop would charge.

The nice cyclocross bike you want to buy will eventually need this same level of service, so keep that in mind. Basically everything mentioned in your list is consumable.

If you really want a new bike I say sell this one simewhere and put those funds toward a new bike. I would put $0 toward this bike.

If you're on the fence about pulling the trigger on a new bike now, then spend the $200 to keep your bike nice and rideable in the meantime. It'll be with a little more if you do decide to sell it, and if you decide to keep it it'll be in nicer shape. I would not do just the freewheel or just the chain or whatever. I would do all or nothing.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:58 PM on May 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, is it considered bad form to buy the new components from Wiggle and then ask the LBS to install them?

Yeah. I mean, I'll put on the parts you buy somewhere else, sure, you're still paying me for labor, but yeah.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:00 PM on May 16, 2014

It's a great bike. Spend the $$.

If you have the space, you will want to keep this bike when you get the cyclocross bike so you can ride it around places where you don't want to take the "nice" bike.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:35 PM on May 16, 2014

hooray for getting addicted to cycling :) seconding don't bring your own parts in to a LBS (unless that shop doesn't carry what you specifically need) and don't replace only some of connected parts - the chain and the chain rings should wear together. if you bring in one new element when the others are worn down, it will cause uneven wear on both the new and old parts. if anything, learn how to replace one thing to start - the brake pads. easy as pie! there are different types of brake pad setups, lots of tutorials on youtube, and it looks like on your current bike all you would need is an allen wrench.

i personally get really attached to my bikes so i find it hard to give them up and go new... but shop around a little - who knows at the next shop you could meet the next love of your live! happy riding!
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:37 PM on May 16, 2014

How much of this is essential repairs that you can't use the bike without, and how much of this is "nice to have" stuff? Could you space out the repairs over a little time?

It seems like a waste to scrap an almost brand new bike because it needs some maintenance.
posted by Sara C. at 7:38 PM on May 16, 2014

Best answer: Definitely do the brake pads yourself. I struggle changing a bike tire, and I can still replace brake pads no problems. My bike shop (in Australia) charges $30 to replace brake pads on one wheel, or they sell the brake pads for $6 a pair. So with 5-10 minutes of your own time, you can save some money at the equivalent of more than a $100 an hour rate!
posted by lollusc at 8:25 PM on May 16, 2014

Right now, tons of cross racers are selling their bikes with cantilever brakes to upgrade to disc. I'd skip the maintenance and keep an eye out for a used cross bike.
posted by advicepig at 8:19 AM on May 17, 2014

Best answer: You might want to search youtube for tutorial videos about changing the chain, cleaning the chain, replacing the cassette and replacing the brake pads. Maybe after seeing the videos you will want to try doing the repairs yourself. Buying the components online can save money. And look into local cooperative community repair shops that facilitate DIY.
posted by conrad53 at 12:03 PM on May 17, 2014

Sorry, coming to the party late: These are not unreasonable repairs for a bike that has been ridden 75 miles a week for 18 months. Also, 18 months is not a practically new bike. Hybrids are not built to last; they have lower level component groups (Acera, Tourney and Altius, listed on the link you provide, are entry and mid level groups for MTBs/Hybrids) that don't stand up to heavy duty, longterm use. Buy a used bike with higher-level components, such as XT or SLX. I always recommend learning as much as you can to maintain a bike, but some maintenance is better left to an experienced mechanic.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:29 PM on May 18, 2014

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