Bike service: should you take your cycle to an independent or chain shop?

Taking your bike for a service is something that many of us put off for a whole raft of reasons.

You might not know where to take it, particularly if you’re newer to cycling.

In this instance, the first question to ask yourself is what you prioritise: price, convenience, relationship with the shop, or something completely different?

Rather than waffle on about what each type of shop offers, we thought it best that they tell you themselves.

Standing up for independent shops is Andy Marangos, director of Finsbury Cycles, and for chains we’ve got Richard Webb, a sales assistant at Cycle Surgery.

Price

Cost is often the decider when it comes to bike services, but who will charge you more?

Andy: “When you’re spending in a chain you’re going to get charged more than an independent. All the managing directors are doing is thinking about their next Porsche.”

Richard: “We can do a price match on services with any online shop. Independents can’t do a price match – people just come to the shop.”

If we’re going off the price of a full service, we can see that the independent wins out over the chain.

Price for a full service at Finsbury Cycles: £55 + parts

Price for a full service at Cycle Surgery: £90 + parts

Convenience

Convenience is possibly the biggest advantage chains have over independents, but there seems to be some heated competition over who can get a service done fastest.

Andy: “I try to match chain stores on convenience. We open 8:30am-6:30pm and on Sundays.

“With multiples, a service can take over three weeks – some don’t have mechanics on-site. It can mean commuters spend money and time on public transport when they don’t have to.

“I’ve got so many parts for same day repairs!”

Richard: “At a chain shop you can find a part easier than an independent as multiples have contact between each other. You can get parts delivered between stores.

“Services are done on the same day most of the time. Independents would have to order from a supplier so it would take longer.

“Customers have support no matter where they live. With an independent you have to stay with the shop.”

Finsbury Cycles opening hours: 8:30am-6:30pm Monday-Friday, 9:30am-5:30pm Saturday, 11am-3pm Sunday

Cycle Surgery opening hours (times will vary depending on the branch): 8am-7pm Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm Saturday, 11am-5pm Sunday

Relationship

Independents take the crown back on relationship building, as Richard admits that jumping between branch to branch and person to person can make it difficult to form a connection with customers.

Andy:  “People know my name. I know exactly what to do and I know the bike. It’s a much more personal service.

“I’ve seen the children grow. I’ve sold children bikes and gone on to sell them adult bikes.

“I really care about the bike – I treat it like it’s my own. The chain store would never remember that bike.

“Supporting your local bike shop is supporting your local community. We’re giving wages to people in the area, who are giving it back to the area.”

Richard: “We do create relationships with customers but it’s more difficult for a chain to keep customers. They might see one person one day and another person the next.”

Reputation

Part of the relationship with a bike shop is the trust you have in them, which can be bolstered by their reputation.

Andy: “The amount of times people have taken their bike into a multiple and told it was beyond repair. They’re upselling – they’re under a lot of pressure to sell.

“And there are so many times people have come in from other bike shops because the service has not been up to scratch.

“We had one guy who lives in the city and took his bike to a multiple as his front wheel was quite wobbly. They fixed it for £250, saying that they had changed the axle. A couple of days later the wheel came loose and we checked it – there was no new axle and bearings.

“Lives are at risk here – I don’t know how they can get away with it.”

Richard: “It’s easier being a well-known brand as people trust us to provide a good service.”

Just bear in mind that the experiences you have in-store may vary quite a bit, even between different branches of the same shop. Take a look at reviews before you visit.

What to look for in your next service

Whether you opt for an independent or a chain, it’s wise to take these other factors into account too.

Think about the location of the shop you want to take your bike to. Is it in a convenient enough location to pick it up as well as take it in? Check how long the service is expected to take and if you’ll get it back in time for the Monday morning commute.

Compare what’s in the services themselves. Shops will generally have three levels of service – a tune-up, general and full service.

Some places will do a free on-the-spot health checks to pinpoint any minor niggles while some may offer advanced servicing which includes everything in the full package, plus a couple of extras.

For a better idea of what you’ll get, read What goes in to a bike service.

If your bike is new, you should be able to take it to the shop you bought it from for a tune-up 2-3 months after you’ve bought it, free of charge.

In any case, be ready to answer a few questions from the mechanic, such as when you last got your bike serviced, how many miles a week you ride and any unusual creaks or squeaks you might have heard.

It really helps them to give you the best service that they can.

Do you prefer to take your bike to an independent or a chain store –  or whichever’s best at the time – for your bike servicing? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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3 Responses to Bike service: should you take your cycle to an independent or chain shop?

  1. Michael Jardine 13/10/2017 at 11:22 am #

    Great article. I use an independent who visits in a van. Great service and relationship meaning I am a loyal customer.

  2. Iain Mango 13/10/2017 at 5:07 pm #

    I also use an independent who visits in a van to work. Well, I will from now on. I rang one of the large chains asking for a quote for a certain part to be sourced and fitted. It was going to be near £100 for that work.

    I then rang the independent, who will not only source the part, but come to the building to fit it as part of their regular visit schedule. It will be around £35.

  3. Kyle Christie 13/10/2017 at 5:20 pm #

    I always tend to go for independents as trying to get a quick fix at a chain store is impossible. You’ll be waiting a week just to book it in, especially in central London if you had an issue once you’d got to work. Whereas nearly ever independent store I’ve taken a repair to have been able to do it on the day or the next.

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