How much did you say you paid?

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I’ve just told my flatmate how much my bike service cost me this week. She is incredulous.

“£300? That’s insane! You do realise you could have bought a new bike for less than that. In fact, why didn’t you?”

Why didn’t I, indeed?

I probably do around 5,000 miles on my bike every year, which puts a lot of strain on it. I confess that I don’t give it the attention it really needs. The upshot of this is that when I finally admit it really, really needs to be fixed – about once a year – it usually entails having almost every movable part of it replaced.

Even the mechanic suggested I might want to think about getting a new bike. For a mere £400 – not that much more than the service would cost – I could have a brand new, shiny, nothing-wrong-with-it-whatsoever bike.

It was seriously tempting.

But I couldn’t do it. Although the lack of care I show it might suggest otherwise, I love my bike. We go back years. It’s carried me faithfully round the streets of London and beyond since early 2007. I couldn’t just abandon my trusty steed just because it was getting a little expensive to maintain.

I could, of course, do the work myself. Without having to pay for labour, and with the benefit of shopping around on the internet to get the best price, I could save a fortune.

I did seriously consider it. I even went as far as reading up about how to replace the parts that I knew definitely needed to be replaced. I learned that the thing the chain goes round at the front is actually called a chain ring. I even found out what size I needed (4 bolt – 104mm – 32T – 9 speed, apparently). I discovered that Hackney Bike Workshop run free sessions on bike maintenance – they’d provide the tools and the instruction, as long as I provided the parts.

I was going to do it. I really was.

And then I thought, who am I kidding? After ten years of cycling, I’ve only just mastered fixing a puncture and replacing my brake pads. It’s a massive jump from basic maintenance to the bike equivalent of open-heart surgery. It’s not something I’m going to accomplish overnight – and probably not before my bike falls apart completely, either.

And so I paid someone else a rather extortionate sum of money to do it for me.

But, as I explained to my flatmate, it was still cheaper than buying a new bike. In fact, given the amount of stuff that’s been replaced on it, it pretty much is a new bike.

She didn’t look convinced. And as I said this, I vowed that this time I really will look after it. I will learn how to fix things. Because I really don’t want – a year from now – to be having this conversation all over again.

(As it turned out, I would never have managed to do the work myself. When I picked the bike up, the mechanic told me it took three of them to get the pedals off. They were gunged up with dried up gunk – the result of years of neglect…)

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7 thoughts on “How much did you say you paid?

  1. Be brave and have a go at replacing something next time around. YouTube videos are fab, and it really isn’t as hard as it looks. I replaced the chain on my old bike and was thoroughly satisfied with myself for managing without help. When my new bike needed a new chain I was feeling lazy so took it to a bike shop – only to be fleeced by them insisting that the cassette on the rear wheel must be replaced at the same time. I was sure they were wrong, but they weren’t accepting it and I forked out 😦 I’ll be doing as much of my own work as possible from now on!

    • I think I will give it a go. I’d like to. I can do fairly simple things, like fix a puncture and replace brake pads but anything more complicated kind of scares me. One of the reasons why I don’t have a go at fixing more things is that I don’t have the right tools. A friend’s new flatmate is into bikes, and has all the tools, so I’ve persuaded him he really wants to help me out the next time something needs fixing on my bike.

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