Friday, April 9, 2010

Deez Locknutz- A Rant

Tomorrow, April 10 is the Blessing of the Bikes in New York. It also happens to be the first anniversary of my father passing away. The overhaul of his old Trek had fallen by the wayside in the face of more prosaic things like house repairs, etc. and still sat scattered about the apartment as of yesterday. The coincidence of the two aforementioned events seemed too significant to pass up. I began a sudden fit of bike fixing with the goal having the Trek ready to ride by Saturday morning. I had accumulated most of the parts I needed to fix it up, but still needed a couple of thing to get the job done, the most important one being a new headset, as the original one was thoroughly done.

I called some area bike shops yesterday afternoon to see who had a new 1" threaded headset in stock. The first shop reacted as if I had called up looking for French-threaded tandem cranks. Threaded headsets are NOT THAT RARE, people! Sheesh! Strike two was more sympathetic, immediately offering to order me one. Finally, a shop said they had one, so I headed for their suburban location. The shop was busy. This is a good thing in the sense that many people are excited about riding bikes, but a bad thing in that customers were getting a bit backed up. None of the parts I came for were in the retail area, so I had to wait. Aaaaand wait. The owner apologized. Then I waited some more.

I did finally get the headset, a BMX-style Odyssey Dynatron. I liked that it had upgraded bearings and a nice rubber seal to protect the vulnerable bottom bearing race. I also liked that it sounded like an option on a 1950's Buick. While there, I got some brake cable housing and a couple of other parts that I needed asap. By the time I got out of there, I was in a rush, running late for my weekly farmers' market gig back in Hartford.

I made two annoying discoveries last night when I finally went to work on the bike. First, my cable housings were not in the bag from the store; second, the headset was missing a locknut, rendering it useless. Grrrr.

I returned to the bike shop this morning. The person who had sold me the parts yesterday recognized me immediately. "You forgot your cable housing!" he announced across the room. While I happen to think that it was not so much that I forgot it as much as he had failed to put it in the bag with the rest of my purchase, I nodded and thanked him for the housing. I then showed him the headset I had purchased yesterday sans locknut. He seemed puzzled at first, but then asked a mechanic to find one. The mechanic returned with a gouged used locknut that looked like it had been attacked by a wilding gang of angry Vise-Grips. I indicated that I wasn't happy with this and he went on another search, eventually returning with a shiny new one. At this point, I was again late and running out of patience, so I thanked him and left. I later looked closely at the new nut and saw that it was really cheaply made, had a built-in fake "spacer" and lacked the nice rubber seal that the Odyssey headset components featured. Unwilling to make another trip, I dug through my stash of derelict bikes and found a Trek 730 with a Tange headset that yielded a higher quality locknut. It's a little beat-up, but it will do the job.

This was a minor annoyance, but still kind of a stupid, unnecessary ordeal. While it's true that threaded headsets are not as common these days, there are still brand-new bikes ranging from big-box store crap to $2,000.00+ Rivendells that come equipped with them. Many of the bikes I see in daily use around Hartford are 10-30 years old and are likely to need replacement parts from time to time. Indeed, they are MORE likely to need such parts than a late-model bike with a modern threadless fork, yet everyone in the area has the threadless parts in stock. Finally, offering a customer mangled or substandard replacements for parts missing from a brand new item he has already purchased is really lousy customer service.


Anonymous said...

I see that you exercised ultimate restraint by not naming the less-than-helpful bicycle parts emporium.

And the partsmongers look at me funny when I seek items such as crank cotters, and bearing/cage assembles for Ashtabula-type cranksets. A better and cheaper source for the bearings and for your headset can be found on the curb on trash day. Grab the not-so-old Huffy or Roadmaster having a bent wheel and not one scratch on the paint and start dismantling. You would get free, fresh, unworn, low quality parts this way. Methinks this might be an improvement over the worn, gouged, questionable quality, expensive, so-called "new" parts you recently obtained.


Billy Hoyle said...

Why don't you call 'em out 'Statement?

Interstatement said...

I've had decent customer service as an occasional visitor to this particular shop for over a decade. I haven't had a chance to return the headset for a refund, as it's a low priority. I'll reserve my judgement until I see how they handle that.