Tales from Rental Hell- hey y’all, it’s hot out here.

We’ve come into the tourist season (you can’t shoot them, why call it a season?) and a heat wave all at one time. Daily highs above 100°F (40°C) with smoke from wildfires south of us have been making for rough days. Rentals have been down a bit from last year, and management is grumpy about that. Like many companies, they are trying to do the most with the least, and that is putting excessive demands on my job.

The work just does not stop. There is always a chain to replace, a chain to tension, pedals to swap out, tubes to replace, and handlebars to adjust. I’ve given up on using those three pointed allen wrenches and now depend on a 3/8ths drive ratchet and allen head sockets. My hands don’t hurt as much anymore.

Repairs on personal bikes is up, despite the efforts of another shops attack radio ads. Yes, I have become the target of aggressive, slanderous ads from a full service shop just up the street from me on the main road. Their line is, “That mechanic at the rental shop is not trained by (large bike company) to fix (brand name) bicycles.” Yeah, well, my labor revenue is up, and way up, and so are positive comments to management about my work are up too. If I need to refer a repair to a better equipped shop, I send them to a shop a little further down the road.

As for that second shop I mentioned, my company is his biggest customer. A few years ago the owner contacted a factory rep to build beach bikes to his specifications, and then started selling those bikes to other rental operators on the island. Our company not only has purchased 2300 bikes over the last year from him, we’ve ordered custom paint and decal, giving us our own shop brand of bicycle! Now this shop is offering dealer pricing on parts bought in bulk much cheaper then the three big bike suppliers.

While I say my workload is huge, there has been improvement from the rest of the staff in their mechanic help. Certain jobs are now mandated to be done ASAP and not sent to my shop: tube replacement, grips and padding, and pedal replacement. Now there are exceptions, as all comfort bikes work must be done by me, and all wheel truing and frame alignment assessments.

My own riding has suffered. If I do ride, it is a short ride around the neighborhood with the kids. Every once in a while the road bike comes out and I hammer out 20 miles or so, but nothing like I used to. Still, I get that joy out of riding that can’t be explained and only understood by cyclist.