Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bike Money: Unexpected Maintenance Fees

I feel like I have been bleeding money this month. This is not a surprise, since it is summer and I have recently escaped from my studying spot ("the nook"). This weekend my supposedly low-maintenance fixed-gear bicycle ended up costing me $47.50 in repairs. What?! This should not upset me, as I'm more than willing to spend money on my bicycle for upgrades (handlebars, seat, stem, etc.) but $47.50 is a lot, especially when you're waiting for your parents to cash the money-that-you-owe-them check and you're not sure when that's going to happen, but it may leave you with a considerably small amount of money in the bank.

On Saturday morning I woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep. I debated staying in Brooklyn and having a relaxing day but I decided to hoof it to Manhattan to see if I could find some cheap and cute earrings (I'm so femme). And by earrings I mean I went to this wholesale piercing/tattoo place on Canal Street called UNIMAX where you can get wholesale plugs for less money. This would have worked out well, but my ears aren't really stretched and most of the earrings they had there were for BIG stretchers like my friend Asher (see Asher and Morgan here at

As I rode over the Brooklyn Bridge, they were repainting it with a wide, thick white line to separate the tourists from the cyclists. I find this comical, and while helpful, it probably won't keep the wondering tourists from coming into "our lane." It was funny to see them rolling the paint over though - creating a veritable highway on the famous Brooklyn structure. As I was riding over the bridge I heard a lot of clinking, but I chalked it up to the planks below me, or I thought maybe I had lost some change out of my pocket. When I reached the other side of the bridge and nearly collided with a cyclist headed straight towards me (YO! YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!) I stopped and examined my ride. I thought the chain was too loose, but it turns out all but one of the bolts that was holding on my chainring had fallen off! That explained the clinking noises. I sighed and started my early-morning walk through Chinatown.

I went to NYC Velo because the guys are nice in there and I thought they might not even charge me. How much could it cost for 5 new screws + refitting the chainring + refitting the chain? I happily washed my greasy hands in their little bathroom and headed towards to the register, expecting at most, $15 charge. It was $29. Twenty-nine dollars?! In retrospect, this charge isn't that insane, but at the time I was somewhat certain that they had seen me, greasy-handed and sweating profusely with the explanation "Um..the bolts fell out" and thought - OK charge this girl whatever we want. This, of course, is not true. I asked another bike shop today and they said they would have charged $25, so NYC Velo is still on my list of stupid-girl-friendly shops. I was still annoyed so I ate a chicken kabob sandwich and rode back to Brooklyn.

THEN when I was visiting my old neighborhood (I have serious nostalgia for South Slope), I heard my tire roll over something and go PSSSSSssssssssstttttttttt. I freaked out and dismounted my bike in the middle of the street but I couldn't hear or see what was happening. I was able to ride home but this morning my tire was flat. UGH.

K. and I checked out Ride Brooklyn because they have been really nice to Dykes on Bike-Cycles and we thought they might not charge us as much to fix a flat. After all was said and done, they charged $18.50. $18.50?! I assume that is $7.00 for the tube and $10 maintenance fee plus tax. They may even charge a flat rate $10 maintenance fee on small jobs there because he said the cost to put in a new cog would be $10.

The lesson learned: either fix your tire yourself ($7-$8.00) or go to Brooklyn Bike & Board because they only charge $13 (probably $8.00 for tube and $5 maintenance).


  1. I hate to suggest spending more money after an expensive day of bad bike-luck, but you might consider picking up some plastic tire levers (Pedro's are good), a spare tube, a mini-pump, and for fixies, a 15mm box/socket wrench. I don't ride without them, but then again I ride way out in the middle of nowhere/dairy country. Bonus points if you carry a tube patch kit as well. Good luck!

  2. Thought I'd like to share a way to save on the cost of bicycling (the irony!). With Commuter Nation you can save up to $20/month in vouchers for bicycling expenses such as equipment purchases, repairs, storages and bicycling parking at lots/racks. Also, right now you can enter the Free Ride Sweepstakes to win up to a year of free commuting, which would be useful for whenever you (or your bike) needs a rest. Check out!

  3. Doug - you are completely right. This could probably be easily solved with a patch kit and some patience. I have trouble fixing the flat on my back tire because I find it hard to tighten the chain on a fixed gear. Multiple bike shops have shown me how to do it but I still can't seem to get it! I think the box socket wrench would definitely help and I will be buying tubes soon. thanks for the input.

    Rymdy - I will check out, thanks!

  4. NY's best-kept bike secret is Enoch's on 10th Avenue and 37th in Manhattan. For a little job like that he probably would have charged you what you were thinking in the first place. He'll do work that Toga would charge $75 for and say "Umm, is $15 ok?" I'm not kidding. I wrote him up in Yelp. There's no one like him anywhere.