Roberta has just returned from her annual visit to Roberts Cycles for a service and general tune up. I sometimes think I should do more of this myself but there's no denying that, although I might achieve a reasonable competence, I am never going to reach the level of expertise displayed by the guys at Roberts. This year I knew that I needed a new headset and there is no way I'm going to tackle that one myself! We always take the train to East Croydon, drop off my bike (its only 5 minutes by bike from the station to Roberts Cycles) and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the sights of London. An evening at the theatre follows, then more sightseeing/shopping before picking my bike up late Saturday afternoon and catching the train home.
Gloucester Road doesn't look like the home of the Rolls Royce of bicycles. Its an uninspiring mixture of terraced houses and light industrial units and you can't see the shop until you are right outside it. Roberts is not a general cycle shop, they don't sell spares and the showroom is usually unattended while the work goes on upstairs and out the back. Ringing the bell gains admittance to a small room full of beautiful bikes. I could happily sit in there for hours just admiring them!
I'd booked my bike in on the phone a month or so ago and I was amazed that Brian, the mechanic, remembered my bike perfectly from the last time I brought it in. I knew I needed new bearings in my headset but unfortunately the manufacturer had stopped making replacement bearings and so I needed a complete new headset. I'd done my homework and decided to blow lots of money on a Chris King. They come with a 10 year guarantee and as the saying goes 'nothing says bling like Chris King!' I'd almost bought one on the internet but realising that bike shops need the profit that they can make on components I asked Brian to order one for me. It was then that I realised that Brian knows my bike better than I do! He pointed out that my headset has 2 spacers. I hadn't realised this, I thought they were integral to it. Chris King headsets, he told me, won't take spacers. If I had bought this myself, or worse still tried to fit it myself, I would have got into a terrible mess and wasted a great deal of money. We settled instead for a Stronglight one at a fraction of the price. Last year Brian overhauled my ergo levers. I had thought of trying this myself until I looked at the exploded diagram of all the tiny parts! He found a tiny washer that had cracked. Even if I had noticed this I would have had no idea where to get a replacement. A new lever would have been very expensive.
So Roberta was left with all the other shiny Roberts bikes and I went off to enjoy the fleshpots of London. A phone call on Saturday asked if I could leave it as late as possible before collecting her as they had been extremely busy and would be still working long after they officially closed at 4.00 pm. When I returned Chas Roberts was busy taking an order for a tandem. The husband was obviously dead keen but the wife seemed rather less so. He was clearly tempted by the £350 Phil Wood hub but his wife made it clear that she was quite happy with the £125 version that Chas had said would be fine for their purposes!
Please excuse the composition of this photograph. It was taken in a confined space (thats my excuse!), just ignore the half of Dennis' head in the corner! It shows Roberta's new bar tape rather well though!
So, a new headset, all cabling (inner and outer) replaced, new bar tape and new bearings in my jockey wheels. Everything checked, adjusted and given a clean bill of health. Roberta now purrs along. Gear changes are silky smooth. I hadn't felt that they were particularly rough but they certainly feel much better now. I enjoy doing some of my own maintenance but I also enjoy leaving some things to the experts!