Broken Bike
August 15, 2007 8:25 AM   Subscribe

What should I do? Recently, I was on a bike tour and had work done on my bike. The guy did not do a good job.

I was on a cross-country bicycle tour and my rear tire was out of true after a few thousand miles. So, I stopped at a bike store and asked the mechanic to true my wheel for me ($36). Done.

The next morning, when I am getting ready to leave, I check over my bike and lo and behold ... the rim of my wheel is cracked where he trued the spokes. Departure delayed, I go back to the shop.

He puts a new wheel on my bike and charges me for it ($56). I'm a little miffed that he's charged me, but figure that it's a small shop he needs the money.

I start popping spokes. Get new spokes put on in another town ($15).

The bike gets mailed across the country and I try to put it back together again. The rear wheel won't go on, no matter what I try. So, I take it to a local bike shop. They can't get it on either. Eventually they figure out that the guy who put the wheel on put a mountain bike wheel on my road bike and bent the frame out to do it. New wheel that fits ($114).

Now, I'm really pissed that the guy who put my wheel on did this and charged me for everything and while I'm happy I could finish my tour, he kind of screwed me over.

Should I contact him and ask for my money back? Or should I just let it go?
posted by backwords to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total)
It certainly sounds like you deserve your money back. First he cracked your wheel without replacing it from his own stock or telling you (dangerous), then he gave you a crappy wheel of the wrong type and bent your frame in the process (also dangerous), charging you at both steps. Each of these seems un-kosher.

What state are you in, and what state is he in? (I'm assuming you're both in the US). That will affect how much legal recourse you have. Once you know that, you'll know how best to approach him. Even if you don't have any legal recourse, it's best to contact him as he might give you a refund anyway to avoid bad publicity.
posted by Drexen at 8:50 AM on August 15, 2007

That all depends on whether that amount of money is significant to you, and whether whatever peace of mind you get from being vindicated for it is worth whatever stress the process will cause you.

If it were me, my thought process would go something like this:

1. This really sucks.

2. Wow, bikes are really expensive, and when they break, even more so.

3. But really, this issue only cost me a couple hundred bucks. I probably factored at least that much in repairs and bike damage into my cross-country ride budget. I probably also assumed wisely that my bike could very probably be totally shot by the time I was done with the ride.

4. Should I remain bitter just for a couple hundred bucks?

5. Nah. I wanted a new bike anyway.
posted by The World Famous at 8:54 AM on August 15, 2007

I can't believe what I'm reading here! Not only did this guy damage your bike to the point that you could have had a serious accident but he charged you for it?!

I would write to him saying how dissatisfied you are and ask him to pay you the replacement value of your bike. If you don't have any luck with this, then contact your equivalent of trading standards and report him.

Just think of the other poor folks that he's gonna rip off...
posted by DZ-015 at 9:25 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think just about anyone who bikes as their main way of getting around would be appalled by this story. This guy basically played willy nilly with your safety/life and the saftey of anyone you might come in contact with to make a buck. Being out the money sucks, but my main priorty would be to report this guy so that he doesn't get someone killed.

Would someone accept this kind of behavior from a car mechanic? No way. Then we shouldn't accept it from a bicycle mechanic either.
posted by hector horace at 9:35 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you have receipts and stuff? Write the guy a really sobering and detailed letter about how upset you are, thereby giving him an opportunity to offer you a refund. Wait a few weeks. If you don't hear from him, then call him and ASK for a refund.

If he is huffy about it, how far you want to go beyond there is up to you, but by then everyone will be so thoroughly unhappy that you should probably just chalk it up to experience and move on, instead of dragging it out.
posted by hermitosis at 9:37 AM on August 15, 2007

contact your equivalent of trading standards and report him.

Trading standards? Hahahaha, this is the United States we are talking about.
posted by grouse at 9:42 AM on August 15, 2007

You should definitely call him and ask for compensation - not only did he crack your rim in the first place and demand monetary compensation for his own mistake, he also messed with your frame without your consent. Did he just monkey with the dropouts or did he bend your stays out?
posted by beefetish at 10:24 AM on August 15, 2007

Hi, thanks for your answers so far.

I do have receipts (I just need to find them).

He bent the stays out to get the wheel to fit in the frame. The frame seems fine (it's steel).

I'm on the east coast (in PA) and he's on the west coast (OR) ... Right now I think that I'm going to go in the letter writing route and see what comes of that. At this point I'm out a couple hundred dollars, getting the money back would be nice, but I'm not willing to take legal action.
posted by backwords at 10:49 AM on August 15, 2007

Just to play devil's advocate... Perhaps the reason the wheel was out of true in the first place was because it was cracked. Enough to affect the true, but hard to detect. If that were the case I wouldn't press the guy too much on that issue, but bend him over a table for messing with your frame to make something fit that normally shouldn't.
posted by Gungho at 11:06 AM on August 15, 2007

Bike touring puts massive stress on your bike, esp the wheels. i second the idea that the rim might have been cracked before he tried to true it, in which case he's not at fault for that part. it's also a convenient excuse if you press him on that part. putting a mountain bike wheel on a road bike is a massive mistake, that frankly, i can't believe you didn't notice right away, as just about everything about them is different. And at only $56, it was obviously a budget wheel that's most likely not gonna be strong enough for serious cross country touring either. it sounds to me like the shop you went to was horrible. but at a point i believe it's the consumers responsibility to recognize that they're about to get shoddy service and avoid it. You made it several thousand miles cross country on a bike that's still basically in ok shape and you lost a couple hundred dollars to some unforseen mechanical mishap? I wouldn't trip too hard about it...
posted by garethspor at 11:29 AM on August 15, 2007

Touring does put a massive amount of stress on the wheels and I definitely have no way of proving that the rim wasn't already cracked before I brought it in. Other than I never saw the cracks (and I was pretty good about checking my bike before I got on it) and that the cracks only occurred around the spokes that he tightened.

Unfortunately / fortunately, this trip taught me a lot about bikes. I wasn't a cyclist before this tour and knew next to nothing about bicycles (other than how to ride them). I've certainly had a crash course.
posted by backwords at 11:52 AM on August 15, 2007

@backwords - That is a hardcore introduction to cycling. I'm glad you dug it. As to a course of action, here's what I'd do:

1. take rig to trusted mechanic or bike dork in town to make sure that your frame is not messed up.
2. Call up the shitty mechanic, give him a piece of your mind, and point out that he should at least comp you for the completely incorrect wheel he sold you. If your frame is jacked up because of him he should throw down for that too. At the very least you should call him on doing a shitty job, because people who do shitty jobs rely on not being called on it. I would be more willing to let it slide if he didn't make such an egregious mess-up

@gareth - Yes, but ignorance doesn't make people who take advantage automatically okay. Guy still needs to be called out.
posted by beefetish at 12:24 PM on August 15, 2007

Put up a website with excruciating detail on the bad work performed, pictures of the wheel, the bike, the frame and the receipts.

Include prominently the shop and proprietor's name and contact info so that it gets indexed by goggle.

Truth is not slander.
posted by de void at 12:35 PM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Direct your ire to the owner of the bike shop, not just the mechanic (assuming they are not one and the same). The owner should be told that his employee is endangering customers and putting the shop in a tenuous legal situation. That should get you more results than bitching at the mechanic. You could also sully the shop's reputation with a posting on Road Bike Review.
posted by pgoes at 1:07 PM on August 15, 2007

Yikes, this is terrible. My stance is closer to beefetish's, but the simple facts remain that a properly trued wheel does not crack around the spoke sockets. I mean, if the sockets cracked where the guy tightened spokes, then presumably any existing cracks would have been noticed by either or both. Bending the frame without telling you to put the wrong wheel on is just beyond the pale, and I'd be looking into small claims court just out of resentment for being treated so badly.
posted by rhizome at 2:34 PM on August 15, 2007

This question is very confusing on many levels..

To begin with, $36 for a truing is very high, but $56 for a wheel is very low. Also, the notion that he put a mountain bike wheel on is very strange. When people talk about mountain vs. road wheels, they normally mean 26" vs. 700c rims. If he put the wrong size rim on your bike, your brakes wouldn't work.. The problem you are talking about, a mismatched between the rear spacing of the frame, and the hub size, is less clear cut. My impression is that modern mountain bikes are almost all 135mm, while modern road bikes can be either 130mm or 135mm. Apparently, stretching a steel 130mm frame to fit a 135mm hub isn't that big a deal, but he certainly should have talked to you about it first.. Or maybe not (from the stretching steel link):
In general, you can safely go up one size in spacing this way, just springing the frame apart. I can't give you an absolute guarantee that this won't cause damage, but the odds are very much in your favor.
I mean, of course he should have asked you, but..
posted by Chuckles at 11:02 PM on August 15, 2007

And I almost forgot.. How is it that you are certain that the cracks only appeared where he adjusted spokes?
posted by Chuckles at 11:03 PM on August 15, 2007

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