A Decade of Knowing My Bicycle Mechanic

Bike mechanics, like many essential workers, have long been unsung, but make no mistake, they are heroes. That’s a strong word, but to those of us too lazy to learn to fix our own bikes, or who don’t have the tools, we rely on them to keep us rolling. Tonight I was at a shop, participating in the usual back and forth. First, there is the friendly but slightly tired question, “What’s going on?” A description of the issue from me. That is followed by a brief technical educational seminar complete with repeating main points, checking for understanding, and a hand drawing. Then, investigation of the bike and either repair, ordering parts, or other appropriate result is. Some low-grade insults from both sides are scattered in, said with a laugh to soften the blow. And we realized we’d known each other 10 years. “And you still can’t get rid of me!” I lampooned myself. Of course he sees many other people, so it’s a lopsided arrangement. But for a decade this guy has been in my life and that’s a lot more than I can say for most “friends.” Excuse me while I get a little verklempt here.

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A Mellow Evening at Austin’s Cool Community Yellow Bike Project

A friend who did me a big solid (aka favor) the other day has had a bike in a shed collecting cobwebs for a while. He’s been wanting to fix it up but was a little intimidated by going to the community shop, Austin’s own Yellow Bike Project. So I figured I’d help him out by assessing the situation and then get him going on repairs while I paid some attention to the neglected brakes of Sophie, my Fairdale. He’s shy and didn’t want his photograph or name mentioned, but I can still talk about the evening.

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Do You Know Sun & Ski Sports Has a Great Bike Shop Inside?

Full service repair shop with well-trained techs.

Sun & Ski Sports has been one of A Dude Abikes’s go-to shops since he participated in the Mamma Jamma Ride to Beat Breast Cancer in 2015. A representative of the store was at a training ride and offered a really generous discount on repairs and parts for participants. I took him up on that and found that my old mechanic from a local shop was now was there.

So it felt like kismet, and they always treat me right, so I keep going back. In this post I’ll have some photos of the shop and let you know a few things about it. By the way, if this sounds like a commercial, it is not a sponsored post — I actually do shop here and believe in the store and everything I’ve written below. But hey, Sun & Ski, if you love this, let A Dude know!

Origins, Selection and Locations

Sun & Ski started in 1980 as Tennis & Ski as mostly a snow sports shop. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, and now with 30 stores from Colorado to Massachusetts, they have a wide selection. From bikes and accessories (sunbelt) and patio furniture (northeast), outdoor clothing, camping gear, swimwear, running apparel, Garmin, Go Pro and other technology, sunglasses, and lots more, you’ll find it. For the full selection, see www.SundandSki.com and here’s a full list of brands.

One of the benefits to shopping at Sun & Ski is that because of their size, they can get good pricing from suppliers. But unlike big box stores, they don’t carry every single sporting item under the sun. This combination of a good selection and good pricing makes them a better option for many items. I got a great pair of Vasquez hiking boots for my big trip up north in 2016. (See my blog post Mountain Time: Biking and Hiking the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming.)

Good Customer Service Really Is Important

Trent packing his pricing pistol… and his perpertually pleasant smile.

On top of selection and price is customer service. I’ve never had a bad experience at this store, at least not one I can remember. A few times when it was really busy, I’ve waited longer than I wanted, but that’s life. All the workers there are friendly and knowledgable. Nobody’s perfect, but they do their best to do a good job and often go above and beyond.

Mike the bike shop manager takes time to explain any issues. He’ll make suggestions on what my options are for either parts, repairs or accessories knowing that I’m on a low budget. If he thinks I can save money by buying the part and fixing something myself, he’ll tell me. And sometimes I do go to Austin Yellow Bike Project. But usually I’d rather have a pro do it. This is not always the case at some other bike shops, I’ve noticed. I’ve given shout outs to other great local shops before, though.

Another perk is is the return policy. They will work with you to come up with a good solution if you buy something that doesn’t work. Of course, save that receipt and don’t wait too long!

Repair is Top Notch

Services list gives several options for tune-ups.

The shop has a variety of service levels for different needs. They won’t overcharge you for a full tune-up if you just need a new tire. I’ve had wheels rebuilt, drive train overhauled, wheels trued, brake and shifter cables replaced, and plenty of other work done to the old Fuji Silhouette. I ended up putting alot more miles on it than anyone expected, but they were still happy to work on the bike.

So they are definitely NOT “bike snobs” who will only talk to you if you have a really expensive bike. Because of their good work, buying a new bike has not been needed. Of course I want a way fancier bike than my budget allows. They do have a layaway and credit programs if that interests you.

In Summation (Or Sunnation, if You Prefer)

Matias works on a Fuji mountain bike.

There’s alot more to say about the store, like the other departments, directions, hours, and so on. Alot of that you can find on their website. But I mostly just know about the bike shop, so I’ve limited my comments to that. Overall, it’s a great place that I enjoy visiting when I’m cycling by on my way to Shoal Creek as I was tonight or to other parts west, even when I don’t need to buy something.

If you’re near a Sun & Ski and haven’t checked one out before, you might want to go on by. If not, you can look at their website and see if they have anything you want. Tell ’em A Dude sent ya! Of course if it’s not in Austin they’re going to say who?

Handy list of everything you might need to get or fix.

A large selection of all kinds of bikes.

Kids bikes are available too.

The back of my Pro shirt logo; I love the slogan.

You can sign up for the Pro program too!

032318 Sun and Ski Sports ride
Today’s ride was longer than anticipated, not too fast, but the weather was pleasant and I found some legs so stretched it out a bit after a few days of not feeling great. More soon!


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The outside sign in the sun.

An Aborted Ride in the Rain Due to a Flat Tire, but Buck’s Bikes Came to the Rescue!

Finally I made it out to ride my bike, but then it rained and I got a flat.  I had a jacket and was warm enough, and could have replaced the flat myself, but I had a bike date, if you can believe that, so I couldn’t be late.  Also, since I had just replaced the tube recently, I knew something was going on that required more expertise.  Luckily I was literally stopped right outside a bike shop when I noticed the flat. Before I go any further, please click on this link to see a cool short map video of my ride: Continue reading