When last did you have your bike serviced? Last month or last year? Either way, you probably left it too late. Bike maintenance is more of a requirement than a choice; a regular maintenance schedule makes your parts last longer and your bike safer to ride. We aren't suggesting a weak safety message here, but a snapped chain can result in serious injuries when you hit the deck at 30-40km/h.
When you pop into your local bike shop, any servicing enquiry will usually be met with "bring it in, and we can have a look at it". This isn't a dodgy upselling attempt, but more an open answer to a vague question. Knowing what you need maintained will make your questions more direct and the answers more helpful. Whether you phone your local store, or visit them in person, you're better off having a few solid questions to ask regardless of your knowledge of bike maintenance. Hopefully these few ideas can help you out and make your next bike service a pleasure.
1. WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO DROP MY BIKE OFF?
Bike workshops are always busy, with quick services or ongoing mechanical problems. There's always a bike in the workstand and a mechanic on the tools. Knowing when to drop your bike off is the best way to ensure a quick turnaround. You might think it's faster to drop your bike off when you book it in, but the truth is, your bike might sit there for 3-5 days before it's even touched or looked at! That's 3-5 days you could still be riding. The best way to book a bike in is to call the store and find the next available booking. Book the bike in and outline the problems you're experiencing (more on that later). Drop the bike off the day before in case the mechanic is ahead of schedule.
2. OUTLINE YOUR PROBLEMS CLEARLY
Clearly outline your service problems to the mechanic
When you talk to your mechanic at the bike shop do your best to keep your descriptions simple. Regardless of your excessive details, the mechanic will be doing a full examination of the AREA you described, not the particular problem you mentioned.
As an example, you might say "My 4th gear at the back. Well, sometimes it jumps if I'm like... pedaling hard, but only sometimes and usually on an uphill. It did it this morning, but I don't know if I changed gears properly. It didn't used to do it".
All the mechanic needs to hear is "I'm having gear issues on the rear gears; they jump when I go uphill or pedal hard". Simple!
3. OUTLINE FINANCIAL LIMITATIONS
Ask the service charges and set a limit as necessary
When you drop a bike off for a service the main focus is the final outcome. If your bike isn't working and you want it to work then certain things may need to be done to achieve this. This may include several replacement parts as well as the associated labour costs. Be sure to make your budget clear to the mechanic and request that they call you when your servicing charge reaches a certain level. Some services come with set prices, such as a general service - $99.00 for example. This is just the labour charge, and does not include parts.
What you might say is "I'll book my bike in for a general service, but please do not exceed $150.00 without calling me first". This way, you won't be caught out with a nasty surprise.
4. ASK FOR REPLACED PARTS TO BE KEPT
Try learning at a bicycle maintenance workshop!
To further your education and understanding, as well as to ensure parts aren't replaced without reason, you can ask for replaced parts to be kept for you. When you collect your bike the mechanic will go over the service with you. They can also show you why the parts were replaced - seeing what a worn chain looks like will broaden your knowledge and also make the mechanic feel like you appreciate their work.
Your mechanic will definitely also give you free maintenance tips for the future, such as how to lube your chain, or make your tires last longer. Next time you'll know even more about your bike! "My gears are jumping, but I just had the chain replaced so it's not worn. Could it be the adjustment?" See, it's easier to learn than you think!
5. ASK WHAT SHOULD BE SERVICED NEXT,
AFTER YOUR SERVICE IS COMPLETED
Once your bike has been serviced, it will work for a set period of time before different parts begin to wear out. For example; you might have a general service completed on your bike, only to have your tires and front chainrings wear out soon after. They couldn't have been replaced with the general service because they were still functioning. What you can do is ask the mechanic what they think is due for replacing or repair next! That way, you can anticipate the problems and financial costs ahead of time.
The mechanic has combed over your bike for 1-2 hours, so they've seen everything! Asking them "After this service, how long til the next... and what do you think will need to be done?"
Servicing isn't as expensive as you might think, so pick up the phone and make an enquiry. You might be lucky to spend very little, but if you've left it too long expect things to need replacing. It's better and cheaper to service regularly than once off and far too late.
TIP: If you're buying a new bike, enquire about a free servicing plan. Most bike shops offer them, to ensure your bike works perfectly for the first 6 months or 1 year etc.