CHAIN REACTION: Service, please! - BikeBiz

CHAIN REACTION: Service, please!

Mojo’s Tim Williams is no fan of turning customers away, but with peak servicing season round the corner, he fears that once again the bike backlog may get more than a little overwhelming. Here Williams preaches the worth of forward planning...
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Ah, I know the weather is good and the evenings are light, so I’ll get my bike serviced and miss some riding time.”

Each spring, as sure as the Welsh hills are full of lambs, (the more daring of which can be found running the gauntlet against MTBs at most Welsh trail centres), our service workload goes through the roof. You can always predict it by the weather; the first dry and sunny weekend of spring signals service work overload.

As thousands of mountain bikers across the country start taking stock of their tired and worn bikes for the coming season of (occasionally) good weather and light evenings, it seems like, for many, no better time to get them serviced.

For specialist service centres like us, forget the Christmas rush; for us it’s the spring rush. At Mojo we pride ourselves on our fast turnaround of Fox service work, so this is always a challenging period and it seems we’re not alone.

We’ve been running a programme of dealer training, encouraging dealers to carry out basic maintenance procedures in-house to help them get bikes through their workshops more quickly without the delay of removing, boxing up and posting the suspension to us. Okay, it only takes us 48-hours to complete the job, but it’s still a delay. However, come spring it appears that a 48-hour turnaround is a very attractive option when there are so many bikes to be serviced. Our dealers seem to experience the same rush. Some dealers have reported their waiting lists to be up to six weeks long.

LOSING TRADE?
If a shop tells you it’ll be six weeks before you can get your bike serviced, the chances are you’ll go to another shop that will hopefully have a shorter list. We understand that we simply cannot expect people to wait that long as there is little choice in places to get high-end suspension products serviced.

It astonishes me every year when someone pulls up at Mojo with a shock in dire need of a service and asks if he can have it back later that day as he’s booked a riding holiday.

“Now then, sir, did you think of checking your bike over before booking that holiday, the enjoyment of which depends quite heavily on the condition of your bike?”

I suppose it’s just like the person who books a holiday abroad then realises their passport is out of date and then has a mad rush to get to the passport office.

We survive this period each year by making sure we’re staffed to cope with the workload, although striking a balance between autumn/winter and spring/summer staff can be very challenging. As with most specialist services, it does mean that we can’t simply employ summer technicians who are fully trained in suspension servicing, just waiting for our call. We are staffed for peak times so that Fox customers are off their bikes for as little time as possible. Come December, when most retailers are at their busiest, our technicians sit by their benches like expectant puppies waiting for service work to come through the door; such is their desire to get stuck in.

FORWARD PLANNING
Now, if only we could get consumers to think ahead and be less reactive about servicing and maintenance. The general response from customers when asked why they waited until spring for a service is that they thought they’d get winter out of the way and get everything freshened up for summer and the extra riding opportunities light evenings bring. “Okay, but by ignoring servicing all winter you have now worn out an expensive part of your shock, sir.” As the riding conditions worsen the service rate should really increase, rather than having customers wait until the weather improves.

I admit that in the past I’ve done this with drivetrains over the winter, but I’ve not been ignorant to the fact that when the time comes I’ll need new chain rings, chain and cassette. Throw in the deterioration of my gear shifting performance and I’m paying with performance loss, not just cash.

By educating consumers about the need for regular servicing we could spread some of the work out over the rest of the year a little more evenly, helping both specialist service centres and LBS to maintain their level of service and reducing some of the extra issues that busy periods bring. A service in the middle of winter, including suspension, will give consumers better performance and most likely a cheaper service bill in the long run.

Having come through one of the coldest winters on record, with snow affecting most trail centres, you’d think that this would be a perfect opportunity to get your bike serviced, right? When there’s little or no chance (or desire) to ride, why not get your bike serviced now instead of waiting for the good weather and light evenings?

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