First, it was my wife Tamar’s Piaggio scooter’s front tire. We’d replaced the rear tire, but even the “new” one was pretty doggone old, so we ordered a pair of tires online. They are not easy to find in the correct sizes for her LT150 “big-wheel” scooter.
I removed the front wheel, not too difficult because Tamar’s scooter has a centerstand, and took the wheel and a new front tire to Stony’s, a famous wheel construction and repair outfit here in Denver.
Stony’s is way overqualified for tire mount-and-balance work, and I’d had several good experiences with them. If there’s a rough wheel bearing, they replace it. If the rim is bent or has hops in it, they tell you and suggest you have them fix it.
I picked up the scooter wheel with the new tire mounted on it and took it home to put back on Tamar’s Piaggio. The procedure went smoothly but I thought it’d be a good idea to ride the scooter a little to see that all was well. All was not well. The scooter didn’t steer at all.
Just a quick tap with a knuckle told me that the tubeless tire wasn’t holding air. I took the wheel back off the scooter and took it back to Stony’s. The tire-mount tech saw that it had a faulty valve and replaced it. I took it home and this time all was well. Bothered me anyway.
What if I hadn’t ridden it? What if Tamar had jumped on it and tried to turn it and crashed?
Then it was time to replace my own ZRX Kawasaki’s front tire. The counter-person at Stony’s had mentioned to me that the rim had a hop or two in it, and I should have it repaired. I called there on a Monday and asked if the wheel repair magician would be working all week.
You bet, the employee said. Should take two or three days to straighten the rim (it’s a cast wheel) and mount the new tire.
I removed the wheel, not nearly as easy as Tamar’s had been. I have a rear “race” stand and a scissors jack that I place under the exhaust system to lift the front. It’s probably plenty stable but it worries me, nonetheless. We have a space in an underground parking garage, and people are walking by all the time.
I took the wheel and a new tire to Stony’s later that Monday. I knew the rim straightening might cost $150 and tire replacement, mount and balance, would be another $25. I told them that the speedometer drive is on the left, so they could mount the tire correctly, and that I’d like 36psi in the tire when I took it home.
Two or three days came and went. No word from Stony’s. The weekend was approaching. I called and was told that the wheel should be done the following Wednesday, 10 days after I took it in. Maybe the wheel magician hadn’t come to work, who knows.
On Monday I heard from Stony’s. The wheel straightening would be $150, as I had expected. And the wheel should be done, as they’d promised, on Wednesday.
Wednesday I went to Stony’s to pick up the wheel. When it was handed to me I could not fail to notice that it still had my old tire on it. In fact, it looked just like it had when I dropped it off.
Where’s my new tire, I asked. The tire tech realized that he’d forgotten to read the work order. He went to find my new tire in the rack, and he went back into the shop to mount the new one on my wheel. Ten minutes later he handed me my wheel with the new tire.
I paid the $175 and took my wheel home and mounted it on my bike. It did not go well.
I had a hard time lining up the axle with the fork bottoms, the bearings in the wheel, the spacer and speedometer drive. I had a hard time positioning the speedometer drive correctly on the axle—it’s fussy and must be rotated gently until it finds its happy place against the wheel and against the positioning stops at the bottom of the fork.
Even knowing that, I positioned it incorrectly, and when I tightened the axle nut, the wheel resisted turning. This is after an hour and a half of struggle in a hot, dark parking garage. I was dripping sweat, my legs were screaming from all the squatting, my arms and hands were bruised…
So I took the wheel off and fiddled with the speedometer drive. I reinstalled the wheel and this time it spun free. I managed to separate the brake pads and get the calipers mounted too.
At this point I had a tiny hunch and pointed a flashlight at the side of the tire. Yes, the tire was mounted wrong way ‘round on the rim. The wheel had to come off again and be taken back to Stony’s. You’ll forgive me for admitting that I was beside myself. Stunned.
I dropped off the wheel and returned a few hours later. The tire was reversed. The tire tech apologized. The counter-person apologized. Now, when you held the wheel with the speedo drive on the left, the tire’s direction-of-rotation arrow pointed in the actual direction of rotation.
I mentioned early on in this piece that Stony’s is famous. They build wheels for the rich and famous, for racing bikes and show-bikes and trikes and drag-bikes and Paris-Dakar bikes. They are 50% of the famous wheel-building outfits in this Great Land.
I got home and reinstalled my wheel. Everything went so easily that I could hardly believe it. And then I looked at the speedo drive and saw that it was incorrectly positioned rotationally on the axle. Oh, damn.
So I took the wheel off again and rotated the speedo drive and managed to get the axle through the fork bottoms, the spacer, the wheel bearings and the speedo drive. I again was able to spread the brake pads to slide the calipers over the discs. I tightened the clamp bolts at the bottoms of the fork legs and reattached the speedo cable to the speedo drive.
I stood back and admired my work, but the euphoria was dulled by the pain in my thighs and calves from squatting to work on my bike and kneeling on the concrete floor to work on my bike.
Two days later, I am again able to rise and fall from my upholstered living room chair without even a minor groan. I may actually have grown too old for this shit, as guys half my age say.
I’m left with one (maybe two) questions. One, how can customer service at such a highly regarded business go so wrong? And two, if you can’t trust Stony’s, who CAN you trust?
This story originally appeared in our July 2018 issue.