DIY bicycle maintenance: time is money

shimano-deore-thumb-shifter

Shimano Deore thumb shifter (jammed)

How much of my time is worth spending fixing a broken thumb shifter? A week? That's how long it took Geoff Kuenning just to put his back together again. So let's see... £25 per hour x 7.5 hours x 5 days = £937.50. A new one is about £25 (my LBS offered to split a pair).

My thumb shifter jammed on a ride earlier this week. The one that shifts the rear mech, and my chain was stuck on the smallest sprocket. You're not scuppered of course. You can jury rig your rear mech to fix its position on the middle sprocket (notice the use of nautical expressions – it was raining hard at the time). I did not abandon ship but pressed on with the three gears available – the three chainrings – and got most of the way home.

Soon have this fixed, I thought. The thumb lever wasn't even trying to pull cable. It was locked solid. Anyway having removed the top, searched, read Geoff's page and then phoned my LBS ("yeah... it's a box of springs") I bought a new one and fitted it in less than five minutes. Just over £2 worth of my time. A bargain.

The £25. This is my current rate for doing something that is of no benefit to me. So, for example, if someone asked me to fix punctures (or mow their lawn) I will charge £25/hr. A few years ago it was less and in a few years it will doubtless be more. Time spent fixing is time not spent doing something I would choose to do: riding my bike, or even fixing my bike – and this is where it becomes complicated because some bike maintenance is fun and worth doing for its own sake. I'm quite happy to sit in the sunshine on a pleasant afternoon and polish my bike without thinking how much it 'cost'. Cleaning a bicycle chain, however, is only worth doing when it can be done quickly and with the minimum raw materials, otherwise it is more cost effective to buy new chains. Building bicycle wheels on the other hand is tremendous fun even if you save nothing. And so it goes on.

To return to the broken thumb shifter... I might strip it down in front of the TV one winter's night. Even if I can't put it back together I might learn something and I won't waste any valuable time. I had also thought of taking the opportunity to upgrade the drive train: better Deore XT thumb shifters, convert to 10 speed as Shimano is now 10-speed, new cassette, etc etc. It all made perfect sense but I resisted all that when I remembered how a few years ago a dripping tap led to a complete new kitchen right down to replacing the plaster.

9 comments on “DIY bicycle maintenance: time is money”

  1. Kern wrote:

    Bertrand uses Campi in part because Shimano can't be fixed on the road (at least that's what they told us).

    a dripping tap led to a complete new kitchen

    At least you didn't end up on the roof :)

  2. Keith Edwards wrote:

    I have had people ask me to repair their vehicles saying that they trust me more than the garage I used to work for.
    My reply when asked about cost was to tell them to phone the garage and get a price for labour. When I got the price I would add £5 per hour to the price and promptly book the vehicle in at the main dealer I worked for.
    Some could not even take that hint.
    Earlier this year I wanted a roof to work under to fix the bikes. This turned into a groundwork and new conservatory plus new kitchen. The downstairs toilet has not even been started on.
    The conservatory was referred to as "Your bike workshop" until it was built. Then I was told I did too good a job and is now referred to by somebody as "My conservatory". I still have to work on the bikes outside.

  3. Hilary wrote:

    If you're female no one ever asks you to fix anything!

  4. Doug wrote:

    Why not sell it on ebay? Be clear to state it's jammed. Someone might fancy the spares or the challenge.

    I have lost track of things that I have thrown away only to discover my wife has retrieved it from the wheelie bin, posted it on ebay and got a buyer. Her record has been an old Sony radio which sold for £10.

  5. Patrick wrote:

    Kern wrote: At least you didn't end up on the roof

    Actually Kern, I am on the roof. The chimney is leaking. I can see this becoming a major loft conversion.

    Keith Edwards wrote: When I got the price I would add £5 per hour to the price and promptly book the vehicle in at the main dealer I worked for.

    LOL – that is neat Keith. I hope you gain some benefit from "her conservatory."

    Hilary wrote: If you're female no one ever asks you to fix anything!

    LOL (again)... that may be true but did you know that Clyde Barrow mistook Bonnie Parker for a lady mechanic?

    Doug wrote: Why not sell it on ebay?

    Fair point Doug. However, if I cost out my time it probably isn't worth it for £10.

  6. Garry wrote:

    I build wheels when necessary and do sometimes clean chains, and can do most things to a bike but a shifter. Naw. Life is too short! I agree with you.

  7. Mary wrote:

    Im with HIlary on this. I had a puncture the other day and no less than 3 chappies stopped and asked if I needed help, or wanted a lift.

    :)

    Very handy when its raining!

  8. Chris wrote:

    I think if you concern yourself purely with opportunity cost you wouldn't go cycling at all. Then you would be much the poorer for that.

    Aside from how long it took the guy to repair his thumb shifter, how long must it have taken to document it all? Crikey!

  9. Keith Edwards wrote:

    Patrick wrote: LOL – that is neat Keith. I hope you gain some benefit from "her conservatory."

    When my bike was in there I was asked "Why is there a bike in my conservatory"
    When her bike was in there it was "Our conservatory".

    Her car failed the MOT for lots of welding. So the cars were swapped? Now "my" car has a broken gearbox.
    Both will eventually get repaired as the labour is free but I am not in a rush as she has to use one of "her bikes" to go to work.
    I must get them done before the weather turns really cold, otherwise I will end up purchasing another car for me but never get to drive it.
    The good lady wife has a saying "I married a mechanic so you fix it". This includes putting air in bike tyres.
    The system saves us a lot of money in all sorts of repair bills.

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