Wiggle are one of four giants in cycling retail. The cycling and triathlon specialists are an unmissable presence in the landscape of the industry - but they're very much an online entity.
Being online only has always meant that Wiggle have been unable to offer the servicing that you'd get from a local bike shop - something that they tried to remedy with service centers inside Homebase stores. However, these closed after a one year period.
Not to be defeated, last month Wiggle launched their 'Bike Service and Repair' offer. Working with servicing experts 'havebike', they're able to offer round the clock servicing - initially only within the M25. Your bike can be collected from an address of your choice at a time stipulated by you, and then returned in clean and sparkling condition - when and where you like.
The service sounds pretty good. However, we thought we'd give it a thorough test. In fact, we decided to make it as difficult as possible for them.
Team TWC sent Wiggle's 'havebike' service center our Specialized Crux cyclocross bike. It had been banged over rocks and roots, ridden through mud, and then transformed into a winter road bike - to face more abuse over the long, cold, wet months.
At some point during the banging-over-rocks-and-roots treatment, the rear deraillieur hanger had become bent. After further road use, it had snapped, taking with it the rear deraillieur. After a year of use, the brake pads and cables had yet to be replaced.
In other words, we sent them a dirty bike, that needed plenty of work, and added in a broken mech hanger - a part that is notoriously difficult to track down. Mech hangers all look basically the same - but they're not, and sometimes it's a right pain to find the right one. Insert evil laugh.
The Wiggle/havebike experience began with a form, in which we provided information on the make/model of the bike, any problems (broken mech hanger... snigger) and the address and time we wanted the bike collected and dropped off.
We selected Friday April 8 for the pick up, and requested the bike back the following Tuesday. The only work we asked for was a Duluxe service, to get the bike clean and shiny, and a replaced mech and hanger.
The bike was, as promised, collected at the allotted time on Friday afternoon. The driver arrived at our address, gave us a call, and loaded the bike into a van. We waved it goodbye. So far, so good.
The bike was to be returned on Tuesday 12. However, knowing the amount of work likely to be required, and being aware of previous complications involved in ordering in and replacing a rear mech hanger, we were skeptical.
As expected, we received a call on Monday 11 to say that there were some complications. The bike needed a new rear wheel, as the existing one was out of true, plus chain, cassette, cables, brake pads as well as mech and hanger.
- Work Carried Out
- Shimano RX10 Disc Wheel: £159.99
- Fitting of wheel: £15
- 11 speed KMC chain: £36.99
- New tyre: £15
- 105 rear mech: £36.99
- Mech hanger: £19.99
- New cables: £15
- New brake pads x 2: £29.98
- New Shimano rotor: £19.99
- Total: £438.93
It's pretty common to take a bike for a service and be told the chain and cassette need replacing. In fact, we'll admit we've argued with mechanics over this before - more often than not their standards for 'good working order' differ to most people's when it comes to what a winter hack requires. In this case, we wanted the bike restored to 'as new' condition, so we told them to go ahead - but it's worth noting if we'd wanted to keep the costs down we'd have argued for changing the chain only (you can usually get two to each cassette) and truing the wheel ourselves, not replacing it.
The mechanics were also having trouble calling in the mech hanger. Again, really not a surprise. In the end, the suggested return date was Friday 15th. Since we were beavering away at the TWC office in London that day, we requested Monday 18 instead.
Like clockwork, the bike came back that Monday in a 'havebike' van, with a very friendly driver, bearing a form to explain all the work that had been done. Oh, and a bag of Haribo (because it IS Wiggle).
The work was, as we had expected - rather expensive. The total was £438. However, most of this came down to parts. The service - a deep clean - came at a cost of £90.
The bike was beautifully shiny, and of course stunningly efficient, with it's new (rounder) wheel, cables and brake pads. Oh, and replaced mech and hanger.
All in all, we had a pretty good experience. The service took longer than initially requested - but this was far from a surprise based on the work we asked to be carried out.
We could have quibbled some of the parts - such as the new cassette and wheel - and there was no requirement for us to accept the parts. However, this sort of conversation is more difficult to have over the phone - if we were dropping the bike off at workshop, we'd be able to ask the mechanic to show us exactly what had to be done and so on. We might also get some future maintenance advice, and pick up a pair of socks and some gels whilst there - basically you're never going to get the chat and personal experience of a Local Bike Shop here.
However, a service such as this is absolutely bang on perfect for a busy working person, happy to pay what's needed to have their bike returned in brand-spanking-new condition. There would be nothing stopping you having a more in-depth conversation with the mechanics if you wanted to reduce the cost of work by doing some of it yourself, but it does strike us that this service is best suited to those after ultimate convenience, and a speedy turn around - which you absolutely do get.
Interested? Check out the service here.