The other day I packed my bike to fly to a race in Johannesburg, arrived the afternoon before the race – a Saturday. After checking into the hotel and unpacking my bike, I realized that my bike’s headset bearing had disintegrated, with balls falling all over the (very plush) hotel room carpet.
Panic – my starting time was somewhere around 06:45 AM, no time to sort anything out. Bike shops all closed. But there was the Cycling Expo, which is the registration event where all local bike shops have stands to sell anything the last minute semi-pro might still need for the race. Equipped with iPhone pictures of the bearing in question (and in pieces) I ran across and showed it to some of the sales people, who all felt really sorry, but couldn’t do much.
Until I met a gentleman at one of the biggest shops, who told me immediately to get the bike there, they would take me to their workshop. Two hours later his mechanic was still calling around trying to locate the bearing which didn’t work out. All this on a Saturday afternoon, during his off time. Eventually they told me that there was nothing they could do to fix the bike, as the bearing is not available anywhere on the day and everythign they had didn’t fit. I was bleak, saw my participation in the race disappear and the wasted money for the flight and the hotel accommodation I should have rather used on a weekend away with my wife.
They must have sensed my disappointment despite the lack of tears – and suggested I take a brand new bike, with better components, off the show floor and ride the race on it. I was speechless – they didn’t accept any payment, and drove me back to the hotel, with my borrowed bike. Wished me good luck, arranged the meeting for the next day after the race (they had to open their shop again, on a Sunday, to take of my pedals and other items) – and still refused to take any money.
The race went well, but at that point I was so impressed with the friendliness of Johannesburg and the no-questions-asked service by this bike shop, that I must have smiled all the way on my race. Thanks again, Joburg!
PS: If you need a really friendly bike shop in Johannesburg, let us know – we might have found one!