Bike Shop Etiquette

The first rule is, never go behind the service counter without an invitation.

The second rule is, never go behind the service counter without an invitation.

A 6-pack of half-decent beer on a slow afternoon goes a long way towards making connections at the shop, and in the community generally.  These people know the other bike people in this area, and they'll make introductions under the right circumstances.

Winter is the best time to get bike work done at a shop.  In February, yours might be the only bike all afternoon.  Come March, your bike is one of hundreds.

What else?

3 comments:

brian jenks said...

Ethan,
This is of course so true, but I'm curious about what story prompted you to make this particular point today.
I often wonder how offenders would feel if I were to enter their offices, walk behind their desks, sit in their chairs, ruffle through their drawers, play with their pens or computer...
The 6-pack of beer is a common suggestion, and certainly a good one one, but I usually prefer loyalty. It's not even about how much money is spent. Stop in to say hi once in a while. Let me know how the last job I did turned out. Beer is great, but helping me to pay my mortgage and keep the gas on in the winter is even better.
With regard to months: currently in February I'm booked solid for over 3 weeks into the future. Back in all of October and November I had maybe 4 jobs total. I love being this busy, but spreading it out a little would be helpful, for everyone.

That all said... just ASKING to enter the workshop (instead of barging in) usually goes a long way toward a welcome. When the torch is lit, or a machine is running, don't bother asking. If I'm wearing eye protection, just stay away until I'm finished.
Oh... and watch the surface plate: no sweaty hands and no coffee cups (water bottles, etc.)!

Ethan Labowitz said...

Thanks for your comment
Cool blog, enginerdy, in a good way

I needed a small thing done, a freewheel and cog removed from a wheelset to get it ready to mail to a buyer.
I figured I could either pay the shop regular-like, or buy beer with the same money. Bringing beer made the interaction more friendly, more community-like.
A moment came while the wrench and I were chatting. It seemed appropriate that I move behind the service counter to see what he was talking about, but I paused and waited for the invitation, which came quickly. Cool.

The chatting, being friendly, sharing contacts and gossip and info, that's all pretty normal cultural stuff.
But the bike shop has its own set of norms that I'm still learning. It's its own sub-culture...
The rituals of wrenching, the sanctity of the workshop space. Offices have sub-culture too; I just like the bike shop kind better generally.

I've switched towns a few times in the past few years, so this is the third time recently I've done the bring-a-6-pack ritual...
Six cylindrical sacrifices, brought to sustain the priests.

It's snowed here every couple days for 2 weeks straight...
only the True Believers are patronizing bike shops these days:)

And it's weather like this that leaves a guy with more than enough time to sit and blog.

Erick said...

For the rite of passage to the workshop, I was once informally asked a password:
"Does the name Albert Eisentraut mean anything to you?" The mechanic asked when I stopped in to by a few small pieces to finish a bike build. "Yeah, sure. He is a legendary framebuilder from California," I answered. His face lit up and he very excitedly ushered me to the back of the shop where he was assembling one for a guy that had it refurbished, then he proceeded to show me lots of other cool, rare bikes they had. I bought a few extra things just because I thought it was so cool of him to do that.