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Bicycle Service Levels
Bicycles come in all shapes and sizes, designed with all sorts of uses in mind. They all have one thing in common, however, and that is lots of parts that need to be properly adjusted and periodically serviced if long life is expected of them.
Probably 90% of the worlds's bicycles are assembled carelessly and incompletely, according to the standards here at Perpetual Motion Bicycles, Inc. In the US 85% of bikes sold are sold at bigbox mass market outlets. These outlets do not have the time or resources to do the job right and at the same time keep their prices low. Compound this with innacurate assembly at the factory (overtight bearings) and you have products that are destined to fail even faster than they are designed to fail. (note 'designed to fail' as compared to 'designed to last', as are bike shop quality bikes).
Despite their best efforts, large bike shops in metropolitan areas dont have the ability to effectively monitor all assemblies just because of volume. We know from having them that inexperienced mechanics make a lot of mistakes and are inclined to skip steps they dont deem important, in the spirit of saving time (aka getting in a hurry).
The care and attention that a bicycle gets during its initial assembly and first tune-up do more to enhance the rideability and durability of the bike than anything else in the life of the bike. From properly tensioned spokes to correctly adjusted and lubricated bearings, the correct measures taken in the beginning not only influence the mechanics of the bike but its very character.
At Perpetual Motion Bicycles, Inc. every bike we touch leaves with an improved character. Even a single adjustment properly done can put a smile on a rider's face - the bike's character shines through when we do our job right. A complete professional tuneup, a complete overhaul, or obviously a restoration can completely change a bike's character. The importance of the experience of a good bicycle mechanic cannot be overstated.
We recognize four primary levels of service in bicycle care, beyond the ala carte adjustments that can be made. These levels are tuneup, assembly, overhaul, and restoration. A restoration is really an overhaul plus a paint job which extends the service time and increases the cost significantly.
At Perpetual Motion Bicycles, Inc. we perform a lot of tuneups and overhauls on bikes we sold and on bikes we didn't sell. It is much easier to do a tune up on a bike we sold than one we didnt sell because we made adjustments during assembly on the bike we sold that do not have to be repeated. The bike we didnt sell, however, usually needs many more adjustments. This comparison can be verified on a daily basis in just casual observations while we work.
Proper assembly is value built in. If things last longer or work better or feel better because someone took a moment to make a little change they knew would make a difference, the bike is better for it. Bike set up is a learned skill, too. Experienced cyclists will only take their bikes to the mechanic they trust, and they will confirm that not all bike mechanics are created equal.
BEWARE the company that sells you the 'preassembled' bike that pops out of the box and jumps together after you wave the 2 included tools over it. It aint gonna happen! We use as many as 20 different tools, some of them specialty tools, on every assembly, even the ones that say right on the box we can do it with a screwdriver and an adjustable wrench.
Know too that cheap bikes with cheap parts are harder to adjust to perform as expected and dont stay adjusted as long as better bikes; so the tune up we do on a $79 bigbox bike is more difficult for us, and more time consuming than a tune up on a $3000 racing machine. We charge the same for both and treat each with the same level of care and respect.
So lets work our way up the scale, from tuneup to restoration, and see what tasks are added along the way.
A TUNEUP ($85) includes
An ASSEMBLY ($100) includes everything in a tune up PLUS
An OVERHAUL ($185) includes everything in a tune up PLUS
A RESTORATION (quoted on individual basis) includes eveything in a tuneup and an overhaul PLUS