On local bike shop day, Shop Assistant Karen documented a day at Lang Toun Cycles. She shares her day in this blog.

Did you know April 30th has been Local Bike Shop Day for the last four years? I did not. 

I started working as a shop assistant in Lang Toun Cycles Shop at the end of February. The shop is on Kirkcaldy High Street opposite the Indoor Market. I’ve learned cycle baskets and panniers full of bike-related information.

On Saturday 30th April, just two of us wo-manned the shop. We had a mum and son hovering outside the shop before 10 am. I would have opened early, but I had to do the vacuuming first! I like my showroom floor free of whatever bits have settled on it!

We took in the son’s bike, which his mum had arranged at the last minute for us to prepare for her son before he went off to school on a minibus the next day. They were to call back at four for it.

Next in, a mum and daughter eager to pick up the younger woman’s shiny silver town bike with a basket attached. They’d paid a small deposit to secure it the afternoon before, and because it had been refurbished over a month ago, our mechanic needed to do a Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI). There’d been no chance to start it any earlier.

The two women went off for a coffee. Blythe – the mechanic – got started on the bike. Somehow, overnight, gremlins had caused the front brake to screech. 

I started on some paperwork, but moments later, a regular customer brought in a wheel that he had tried every which way to squeeze the tyre back inside its rim after he changed the innertube. He decided to bring it to the shop after watching YouTube videos, and not one tip worked! 

A two-minute job, but we had to put the PDI first. So, I asked the lovely gentleman and his son if they would go for a cup of coffee and perhaps a slice of cake. Off they went.

Okay, you know how it goes. Blythe thought the tyre would be a quick job. She got it back inside the rim and pumped it up. It deflated. We put it to one side until the man (and his son) returned to see what he wanted to do.

Moving swiftly back to the silver bike’s PDI. First, the screech on the front wheel didn’t go away with the second set of brakes. The third set of new brakes didn’t work either. At which point mum and daughter returned, all smiles and hoping to take the bike away. To buy Blythe some time, I felt compelled to say that neither she nor I would buy a bike that made such a terrible noise. Would they mind coming back later in the day, please? No problem.

Nor did the screech disappear after adjusting the brake calipers. Meanwhile, another customer had come to pay the remainder of the sale price on her newly refurbished town bike with a comfy saddle. Her partner had brought his old bike in for a service. However, after seeing the attractive prices of the bikes on our shop floor, he decided to donate his bike to the shop. 

His partner asked me if she could leave her bike with us and could I take off the pedal foot straps for her to collect after they’d done a bit of High Street shopping. No problem.

After a milkshake at a local cafe, father and son returned. The elder had a spare innertube in the boot and he asked his son to fetch it. I took the inner tube and advised the dad it could be some time before Blythe could swap them. He asked us to call his home number when ready. No problem.

At least ten customers later, at 1:03 pm, I stuck a Be Back at 1:30 pm notice on the front door and locked it. Blythe turned the lights off, and we breathed a sigh of relief before eating our lunches in the staff room.

After lunch

Shortly after popping the lights back on and unlocking the front door, the woman and her partner came back to collect her bike with the comfy saddle. I went to collect her lovely bike. Had I got the pedal toe caps and straps off? Erm, no. I’d do it later and give her a ring when they were ready. The couple went off with the bike.

About ten minutes later, the couple came back and said they couldn’t fit the bike in the car, could we take off the front wheel. Sure thing. I’d done the back wheel twice before on the same bike. How hard could the front wheel be? With several scraped knuckles, a few drops of sweat, and a third hand from the lady, we released the brake cable from the calipers! Blythe had to come and assist with the removal of the wheel.

Once again, I assured the customer I’d get the toe caps off the donated bike and give her a call. The couple left with the bike.

Two minutes later, Blythe dashed out of the shop. Another minute later, she dashed back in. That’s one less task for Tuesday. She’d got the toe caps off and delighted the customer. Phew.

Another ten or so customers came in to look around and buy accessories. One chap’s tyre had picked up a party pin, so he came in to buy tyre levers, an innertube and recycled his punctured tube with us for £1. He needed to do the job there and then because he had to cycle to meet his mum and he was already running late. He asked if he could do the repair where he stood. Of course, no problem. He turned his bike upside down, and I left him to it in the reception area. When more customers came in, he thoughtfully moved to one-side.

The innertube became a slippery reptile, refusing to go in and stay inside the tyre. Could we help? No problem. Blythe left the silver bike and wo-manhandled the viper back into the tyre and the tyre back into the rim. Phew.

I called the other gentleman to let him know his wheel was ready and caught up on some paperwork. Also, while chatting to potential customers, I mentioned our deposit only, free hire, bike library which currently has a range of e-bikes, e-trikes and and electric family cargo bike. I also mentioned how we’d have a lot more bikes out on show next weekend because we had a new mechanic starting next week.

By 2:30 pm, the silver bike had a whole new front wheel and new longer brake cables so they wouldn’t catch on the basket. Had the screech gone? Yeeesss!

Blythe moved onto the bike, which had to be done by 4 pm. Somebody had fitted the forks back to front. The headset had no grease, so the ball bearings were grinding against each other. The backward forks were dangerous, and the formerly parched but now greased ball bearings would need to be replaced ASAP. Blythe couldn’t do it because the shop didn’t have the right headset in stock.

Mum and daughter came in to pick up the silent silver bike and left delighted.

The gentleman happily paid £10 for twenty minutes labour and a fiver for a new innertube. His original and second innertubes had valve punctures, so Blythe had used one of ours. 

Mum and son came in around 4.30 pm. Blythe had completed the Bronze service, removed both wheels, and wrapped the chain so oil wouldn’t stain the minibus upholstery. An 18-month-old bike that had been in storage for seven months shouldn’t have had these problems. Mum was not happy with the major retailer she’d bought it from. But she was very happy with Lang Toun Cycles Shop for rising to her challenge so well.

At the end of the day, Blythe and I brought in the mixed dry waste container and parked it on the showroom floor. We closed the curtains, locked the fire doors, turned off the lights, and locked the front door at 5pm.

Blythe and I got through Local Bike Shop Day with the understanding and patience of our customers and a big bar of chocolate kindly donated by a lovely lady who picked up her Gold service orange bike earlier.