Another Glimmer of Hope for a Decent LBS Disappears...

Oct 15, 2010
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#1
Yet another miserable LBS experience today. As a reference, I am in Futako Shinchi and after bad experiences at Y's Road and Giant in Futako Tamagawa and Starf*ckers near the where the 246 hits the river on the Kawasaki side, I went to Bike Room Sin on my way home in the afternoon. I asked for a quote on installing an integrated headset and a Campagnolo BB which I had, into a new frame. They could not give me a quote then, and requested that I wheel all the stuff down there first. I can understand wanting to know all the details before giving a quote, but I hate that feeling of being put over a barrel - once a bike or car mechanic have their hands on my stuff, it is so much easier for them to pretty much charge whatever they want.

They quoted me the following:

Headset installation - 2,500. I didn't have a head set press and figured I needed one, and this was my main reason for asking for paid assistance.
Fork Cut - 1,800. I figured if they had a guide or something, this would be money well spent since I would be free-handing with a hacksaw.
BB and crankset installation - 3,500. I didn't have the Campag tool for the BB cups nor the torque wrench for the cranks, so said go for it.

I hate being ripped off, and the total was 7,800, which I was not happy about, but figured, if they could sort it out for that, it would be okay - not really any other options in walking distance from my place. They said they could do it in 30 minutes, while I waited, so I was kind of excited about it at that point.

Once they got my bike behind the counter there was a lot of air being sucked through teeth etc. The Campag Record headset was not fitting into the bike. The guy (owner of the shop I take it) got the calipers out and was humming and hawing.... I asked what the issue was and he said that the hole for the integrated headset was showing 41.1mm, and the headset measured 41.8mm. I had never tried installing a headset before, but on my previous bike I knew it was really stuck in there, and saw on YouTube that special tools were used for installing and removing them, due to the tight fit. I just assumed he would use a head set press to squeeze it in there. I do know though that 0.2mm is a huge difference from ordering a seat tube for a different bike, and 0.7?, well, if I had known that was the difference, would have said forget about it right then and there. The thing is, I didn't really understand there was such a discrepancy. I asked him to ''challenge'' to get it in there. He said he wanted to try and asked that I sign some form saying if the headset got crushed or the headtube burst, he would not be at fault. I signed. He did not try too hard, and must have finally realized that it was not going to work and decided to stop the insanity.

He could install the BB and crank, but even that it was not easy for him.

He suggested that I check Richey's or some other maker's website to check the specs on their headset measurements to find one that would fit. He originally wanted me to order one though him, but was doubtful that he would be able to get the size I needed, and I would need to wait about 5 days once ordered, and I would need to pay suggested retail price... just sounds stupid, right?

When I left, I was feeling sorry for taking so much of his time, and upset about choosing what I was lead to believe was a bad frame. Then I got on-line and within a minute of looking at headsets, learned that although they are all 1 & 1/8'', the diameter of the integrated headset is usually 41.0mm, but Campag has a different standard, opting for 42.0mm. WTF? Seriously? Like is it that hard to just come up with some kind of universal standard? So, now I have a Record headset that I have no use for, and need to order a Crane Creek 40 Series or something of the like, to be able to get my bike together. Even more mysterious than Campag not following the norm, is that the owner of the high end road / mountain bike repair shop had no idea that 41.1mm was about right, and the Campag part was causing the trouble. So frustrating!
 

GSAstuto

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#2
You sure this is an integrated headset? Or non-integrated, meaning it uses press-in cups that hold the bearings? Campy integrated headsets use a slightly different dimension x angle than 'Ahead' standard - and thus a different crown race or crown bearing shoulder. ALL headtubes are - or should be pre-reamed or machined for whichever you have. Though many times, frames using press-in style, will benefit from the mechanic using a headtube reamer to finish cut the surface.

As for the BB - nothing special here. The only concern is to make sure you have the right BB cups to suit the threading (either ENG or ITA).

So - how anyone could charge you basically $25 to drop in 2 bearings to already machined surface and then another $40 to screw in a couple of cups and follow it with $20 to hack off a bit of carbon is beyond me. This kinda reminds me of 'the serivce' you'd get in some back country gas station in Louisiana.

There is nothing wrong with Campy, btw - in fact MOST new bikes use the Campy 'standard' for integrated headsets. As for pressing in a new headset - if it's been pre-machined, a length of threaded rod, few washers and a couple of nuts will do the trick. Yes it will be tight, it SUPPOSED TO BE.

Unfortunately bike shops in Japan leave alot to be desired when it comes to basic mechanic schools. Most of said 'mechanics' have never attended mfg training nor can they manage to do even the most basic of mechanic oriented tasks. Even those that claim to be great mechanics are generally crap and couldn't tap, cut or die their way out of a piece of cheese.
 
Oct 15, 2010
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#3
Based on this: CC 41 designates this setup as a Cane Creek compatible headset. It will not work with the 42mm Campagnolo standard. Check your current headset or frame for compatibility. from here: http://www.artscyclery.com/descpage-CC40CC18HS.html I think ordering one will do the trick. Another thing that I am pissed off about is when the guy installed the BB bearing cups, instead of leaving the tool on and twisting around and around in one go, he kept putting the tool on and taking it off in quarter turns and scratched the hell out of them. At my wits end.
 

Gunjira

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Oct 2, 2009
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#5
The reality of these boutique shops is, that they usually haven't been in business long and fail to attract and keep mechanical talent. Many times, it feels like the owner loves bikes, makes money of selling assembled bikes and doesn't know or care to do mechanical tasks.

From the shops you mentioned, above bike store (starf*ckers) is definitely ok, it's just that they don't specialize on road bikes at all. Y's, while good in some shops, is crap in f'tamagawa, sin I don't know.

A somewhat close recommendation is http://www.positivo.jp/shopinfo/index.htm Positivo. They know their stuff. (but might not be cheaper)
Personally, I dig Sekiya, which is a bit out of the way, but has an experienced old hand wrench, who does just that. (and their prices are very competitive)
 
Sep 2, 2009
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#6
Out of Tokyo, but Omiya SEO have never ever let me down; Mavic trained, Shimano trained, very knowledgable and friendly staff, locals are nice and invite you out on rides, etc.

For the tasks that you wanted doing, everything but the cutting of the steerer (and even that), you should be able to do yourself.
 

FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#7
You have to remember also that Japan is a service orientated country DIY is not standard here and thus the pricing in shops reflects this.

As others have said that many of these bikes shops are owned by people that love bikes and have little or no experience in the mechanical side of things - most f them learn on the job as they grew up in this serivce industry so are used to having someone else do it for you.

One other guy I would suggest is Hiroshi atr C-Speed, infact he could rebore your steerer tube to take the campy headset if you wanted to keep it or I can highly recommend Sagami Cycles who do all the stuff I won't - basically my wheels but they are all qualified mechanics and have gone to either Italy or France to get certified. He also speaks bloody good english.

Oh and one other thing - this type of shop is not limited to Japan - I've come across plenty others like this in Europe and the US.
 

GSAstuto

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#8
Just download a Sutherland's e-book and do it yourself. You'll save all the pain and agony of having to deal with the 'deer in the headlights' or silly charges. The only 'special tools' required are ones you should have anyway. The special cutters and reamers are generally never required. And if they are - you'd ask the frameset provider to prep the frame for you. As for headsets and BB, I have a better selection than ALL the LBS' in Tokyo combined. Last I checked I have over 25 Campy type and 20 IS type just sitting here. Don't believe me? Call up Nalsima, Pro-Tek, Y'S or anywhere and ask them if they have brg set for a standard IS 1 or 2 ? and a 1 1/2" reduced set? I think it's appalling if you can't go into ANY LBS and ask for an IS brg set. Absolutely f*ng retarded. As well as brgs for hubs , spokes or anything consumable like that. It's a friggin bike for chrissakes, not a handbag.

The main reason I got back into the bike biz here is because there is such an amazing lack of knowledgeable and competent cycling shops. And the mechanics all basically suck. I can think of only 2 or 3 that I would even consider granting the title as mechanic, and they are also framebuilders. The wheels I've seen coming from most of the major shops sucks, spokes all helter skelter in tension and length, the frames look like they've been prepped by baboons on acid, on and on.

I even referred one of my best friends to another shop to get a BB30 replaced. What I saw upon swapping out the chainset was shocking beyond words. The dolts (one of the first ever official Cannondale Shops in Japan) had used VICE GRIPS on the crank shaft! Supposedly one of the best mechs in Japan. DOH!
 

dgl2

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Nov 3, 2007
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Tokyo - Minato-ku
#9
Agree with Gunjira -- if you are looking near Futako and want someone who really is a master with a bike, try Nagai-san at Positivo (on the South side of Meguro Dori just inside Kampachi). He trained as a mechanic for Fassa Bartolo -- yes, the team that had Petacchi, Cancellara and many others. It is a joy to watch him work.

His #2, Nakayama-san, is not quite at the same level, but has gotten a lot better over 5+ years he has worked there, and still knows when to defer to the Sensei.

Also Hiroshi at C-Speed is great and very accommodating, as well as less expensive for something that only takes a little time.
 

GSAstuto

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#11
But I totally sympathise with those who are not mechanically inclined. You should be able to get good service by skilled personnel without a hassle. It's great to get a list of shops that do, indeed, have skilled mechs and good supply of parts.

Here's a great interview with Koki Nagai. He's probably one of the few I'd trust any of bikes to.

http://pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=619


Mechanic training in Italy is very different than most places. You are basically an indentured servant. Even less pay than Y's (sorry Eric). For at least a year you get to do nothing except wash bikes, kits, tape bars and 'mule' parts from the various factories. If you're lucky, you can help lace up wheels and glue tires. Endlessly. You are up way before anyone and asleep way later. If ANYTHING breaks it's your fault whether you touched it or not. You practice wheel changes, feeding, massaging, everything to support a team rider. Then you can learn to build a bike. And I mean build a bike. Which means starting from raw tubing and all the machining, brazing, etc. There is little distinction in mechanics coming from Italian shop of 'frame builder' etc. ALL mechanics can build frames - why wouldn't they? The external jobbers are just there to facilitate the process. The MECHANIC designs, specs, final setting, machining and supporting. End-to-end. Most shops are intergenerational. The one I worked in was already 3 generations of cycling (more than 75yrs). There is alot of experience on-hand.

But it's not just 'street cred'. Most mechanics graduated from a Technical or Engineering School and the mfg hold many seminars and training on a constant basis. This is a professional guild.

That's why you could walk in to basically ANY shop and get great service. Here, it is a dice roll.
 

StuInTokyo

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Dec 3, 2010
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#12
But I totally sympathise with those who are not mechanically inclined. You should be able to get good service by skilled personnel without a hassle. It's great to get a list of shops that do, indeed, have skilled mechs and good supply of parts.

Here's a great interview with Koki Nagai. He's probably one of the few I'd trust any of bikes to.

http://pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=619


Mechanic training in Italy is very different than most places. You are basically an indentured servant. Even less pay than Y's (sorry Eric). For at least a year you get to do nothing except wash bikes, kits, tape bars and 'mule' parts from the various factories. If you're lucky, you can help lace up wheels and glue tires. Endlessly. You are up way before anyone and asleep way later. If ANYTHING breaks it's your fault whether you touched it or not. You practice wheel changes, feeding, massaging, everything to support a team rider. Then you can learn to build a bike. And I mean build a bike. Which means starting from raw tubing and all the machining, brazing, etc. There is little distinction in mechanics coming from Italian shop of 'frame builder' etc. ALL mechanics can build frames - why wouldn't they? The external jobbers are just there to facilitate the process. The MECHANIC designs, specs, final setting, machining and supporting. End-to-end. Most shops are intergenerational. The one I worked in was already 3 generations of cycling (more than 75yrs). There is alot of experience on-hand.

But it's not just 'street cred'. Most mechanics graduated from a Technical or Engineering School and the mfg hold many seminars and training on a constant basis. This is a professional guild.

That's why you could walk in to basically ANY shop and get great service. Here, it is a dice roll.
Funny and maybe a bit sad at what has been lost, but the apprenticeship you just described is what way typical here in Japan for most any trade, even 30 years ago.
 

snoogly

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Oct 14, 2007
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#13
I started a similar thread recently, lamenting the fact that my LBS go-to-guy had vanished, and I was in desperate need of an alternative trustworthy LBS and mechanic. The tips I received about specific shops/ mechanics were very useful, as were those in this thread ~ but I was delighted to discover on Sunday that in fact my guy had been away doing volunteer work in Tohoku + now usually works in a different branch of the shop + my email was suddenly being sent to the shop's spam folder.

This string of events led to my convinced he had gone, and I was so happy to find him in the shop I immediately rushed out to buy him a 'thanks for still being here' bottle of wine! I guess he thinks I am a bit crazy now, as my delight in seeing him came as a bit of a surprise! But my bike is now safely in his hands, for its annual health-check. :angel:
 

AlanW

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Jan 30, 2007
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#14
Unfortunately we are in the midst of an explosion of so-called "standards" for headset and BB which had settled down over the last few years. I grind my teeth a little every time a manufacturer introduces a new, incompatible, proprietary size/system and hails it as a "new standard". Yes, Cervelo (BB "Right") & Giant (Overdrive), I am grinding my teeth at you!

It's a minefield of stuff that probably won't fit, and it's sad that shop mechanics are not sufficiently knowledgable to sort it out. I have taken to emailing the frame manufacturer to confirm the exact type/dimensions of anything attached to the frame.

BBs
Threaded: English / Italian threading
Press Fit: BB30, BB86, BB90, BBRight, BB386, PF30

Headsets
Traditional: 1"; 1 1/8"; rare 1 1/4", weird Specialized 1 1/8" with 0.1 mm larger cup diameter; 1.5"; threaded / threadless
Integrated: "IS" type or "Campagnolo" type.
Tapered: Could be just about any damn thing.
 

GSAstuto

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Oct 11, 2009
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#15
Unfortunately it's been this way since day one of bicycle mfgs. Only with some involvement by the SAE and ISO did we ever see a smidgen of uniformity. Remember, many mfg's considered their 'uniqueness' somehow a technical advantage. And thanks to silly patent wars , we, the consumer, are stuck with a myriad of mechanical gobbletygook that is all, at the end of the day, pretty much the same performance. And the shop is stuck many times trying to solve the Templar's Riddle when it comes to sourc(ering) new parts.

But for most new frames (road especially) things are pretty predictable and standard. The BB wars are definitely annoying , though.
 

FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#16
But I totally sympathise with those who are not mechanically inclined. You should be able to get good service by skilled personnel without a hassle. It's great to get a list of shops that do, indeed, have skilled mechs and good supply of parts.

Here's a great interview with Koki Nagai. He's probably one of the few I'd trust any of bikes to.

http://pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=619


Mechanic training in Italy is very different than most places. You are basically an indentured servant. Even less pay than Y's (sorry Eric). For at least a year you get to do nothing except wash bikes, kits, tape bars and 'mule' parts from the various factories. If you're lucky, you can help lace up wheels and glue tires. Endlessly. You are up way before anyone and asleep way later. If ANYTHING breaks it's your fault whether you touched it or not. You practice wheel changes, feeding, massaging, everything to support a team rider. Then you can learn to build a bike. And I mean build a bike. Which means starting from raw tubing and all the machining, brazing, etc. There is little distinction in mechanics coming from Italian shop of 'frame builder' etc. ALL mechanics can build frames - why wouldn't they? The external jobbers are just there to facilitate the process. The MECHANIC designs, specs, final setting, machining and supporting. End-to-end. Most shops are intergenerational. The one I worked in was already 3 generations of cycling (more than 75yrs). There is alot of experience on-hand.

But it's not just 'street cred'. Most mechanics graduated from a Technical or Engineering School and the mfg hold many seminars and training on a constant basis. This is a professional guild.

That's why you could walk in to basically ANY shop and get great service. Here, it is a dice roll.
This might have been the case back in the day, the UK was also a great home of hand built cycles, however I think if you were to revisit you would still come across shops that don't have a clue. Granted mainland Europe is a little special when it comes to "la Bici" but the i think that you and I grew up in the Golden era of bike stores.

I still love visiting my families store where they still make a handful of steel frames per year, but saddle like that on the continent this is a dying art.
 
Sep 2, 2009
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#17
Bikes are relatively simple, and while there are good an bad bike shops out there, I think the ultimate way to maintain your machine(s) is a combination of;

-Good bike shop
-Internet for info
-Years of trial and error and personal practice / fiddling
-Mates who really know what they are talking about
-Associating with people in the industry who actually make stuff

If you can get all that on the go, you will be fine. Relying on one place is always going to cause you hassles.
 

GSAstuto

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#18
Actually, Owen, you've hit on maybe the biggest thing which is the 'Internet'. Back in the day if you wanted written knowledge it meant tracking down publications and many of them were quite expensive.Or bending the ear of your local LBS mechanic. Now, anyone can easily access information and even see video instructions of many of the procedures.

@FE - yes , we were lucky in that sense. But mainly because bikes had not yet evolved to the point of pure nameless construction. I mean, back in the day, even the Schwinn sons rode a bike! I go to factories now where NOT A SINGLE WORKER has EVER RIDDEN the bike they are building! And I see this same mentality at many bike stores here - like the staff are just merchandizers , not at all interested in the machine for what it really does and means to someone. That's the main gap.
 
Sep 2, 2009
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#19
That is it, isn't it. Everything you could ever need to know is only a few clicks away, in graphic detail.
 

jdd

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Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
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Kanazawa
#20
My first real bike was a 10-speed..., back when the number of gears you had was the overall total rather than just talking about your cassette.

And it was all French (peugeot), tho not too bad for the years that I used it, since that was one of the competing standards then. (And tied spokes on large flange hubs, when was that kind of thing last seen?) I bought the bike in Paris in '76, and after riding for a few weeks there, bought it back to central Illinois.

I think it was one of the first bikes in the midwest with clinchers.

No internet then (tho there were maybe some ideas of it where I was--Urbana/Champaign is where the fictional HAL and I think netscape and more recently wolfram alpha were born).

So I dug everything out of mail-order catalogs, the slo-mo snail-net of the day. And eventually, some shops got clinchers in stock.

***

I'm now blessed with a couple good bike shops. Both have good mechanics (one at one, and two at the other), and tho the 'master' at the latter is always trying to force his idea/image of how a bike should be, his younger pair of mechs listen closely and cheerfully, and it's easy to get what you want, instead of what the 'master' thinks you need.

***

If you're ever in the area, one is Balba (the kanazawa shop, and the mech there, 'Baba-san', also races) which is a newer extension of some other Balba shops along the coast, and Kaga, which is only here in town. Both have connected clubs/jerseys/etc. I haunt both, and so for any listed prices there is sometimes a courtesy discount. Ishino is also great, run by a father and his two look-alike sons. I haven't bought much at Ishino, and they're not local riders/racers, but hey, a family team could likely have something over a shop that's hiring wrenchers as needed.

Fortunately, (unforturnately?!?! :rolleyes:), the Kanazawa Balba shop is on my commute to work (either bike or car).

As Anthony Hopkins said in The Silence of the Lambs, "We begin by coveting what we see every day."