Thursday, April 23, 2009

London Ontario's Best Bike Shops for the Annoying Customer

Since I have gotten into building up my own bikes over the past couple of years, I have become a rather annoying bike shop customer. I show little to no interest in complete bicycles. I often ask for parts that nobody would normally have on hand, but am reluctant to order them. Since I get bits and pieces from all over the place including eBay and Internet stores, I seldom represent much profit to any one retailer, yet take a lot of the staff's time asking all kinds of obscure questions. I read tons of stuff online and take strange biases and beliefs about what I need into the store with me that I'm sure seem stupid much of the time. Normal people develop a relationship with one or two stores and do almost all their business with them. I show no particular loyalty to any one store, but shop my annoying self around.

Don't get me wrong; I do buy / order stuff at some local bike shops (LBSs). I also represent the more rare customer who is interested in and buys bike stuff year-round. Overall, though, if I was running a bike shop, I might hide in the back if I saw myself coming in yet again.

Most people have experienced specialty stores that make you feel stupid and annoying and nowhere near well-heeled enough to warrant serious attention. I have certainly felt this in some bike shops. Shopping for guitars or other musical instruments has left the same sort of bad taste in my mouth.

I just don't get it... why do some retail staff need to rub your nose in how much you don't know or can't afford? This post was supposed to be about just giving some praise to the London bike shops I like best, but when I look at my list, I see a pattern: the shops that have treated me best are small enough that the victim of my aforementioned faults is more often than not the owner, or a singularly passionate employee.

The theory I'm currently hatching is that the people working in some of the larger stores have insecurity complexes about working in retail at all, and these complexes manifest themselves in stand-offish, dismissive behaviour. It's a kind of "I may work in a retail store, but man are you stupid" defence mechanism. Please note: I worked in retail as a sales person for many years, longer than friends and family thought I should, after graduating from University. I get how crummy customers can be, but I hope I didn't act like that. I don't think I did, but self-perception is a tricky thing; who knows?

Anyway, this post is about giving some praise to the shops who put up with me best, and they are as follows, in no particular order. Please note that the businesses I mention here don't have any foreknowledge that I'm singing their praises, and therefore certainly haven't paid me anything:

First Cycleworks - 525 First Street - hands-on, really experienced bike people. Better than most for BMX and MTB, as far as I can tell. More Details.

Village Cycle - 344 Ridout St S. - zero attitude, much help and info, and a real love of all cycling. Sept 2017 - sadly another goos shop gone. There are some new ones though. Gonna do a new post.

South London Cycle - 479 MacGregor Ave - repair central, also good for finding Park and other tools. More Details.

All Seasons Sport & Cycle - 790 Dundas East - Note: October 2009 - sadly, this bike shop has gone under.

There are many other bike shops in London. I have been to most, if not all, of them. You may love them, and that's cool, but for me they have not been as good as the picks listed above.
Go buy like a whole complete bicycle or get a full tune-up from one of these places. I'm trying to keep my annoying self away during their Spring rush.


PS - I have not frequented the store enough to put it on my "Best Bike Shops" list, but Outspokin Cycles is at 994 Huron Street near Briarhill and I have heard good things.


cafiend said...

I have said for years that I would rather sell tools and parts than spend my life fixing minor stuff customers could have done for themselves quickly and cheaply, if they only dared to try.

From a shop owner's standpoint, time is money. So some of the dismissiveness may stem from a shop policy to discourage unprofitable loitering. That opens the shop to charges that it isn't a friendly place, so it may ultimately be worse for profits, as people shop there only for bargains.

Some seekers of deeper cycling knowledge are more annoying than others. As in any teaching situation, if the student seems to be getting it, the teacher feels rewarded. If the student is just an unfillable black hole of the same ignorant notions over and over, one wants to club him with a large wrench.

Every specialty shop I've worked in has employed bright people with twisted senses of humor. In that vein we would sometimes indulge in comically inappropriate behavior toward customers, including a put-on condescension that we might not realize until too late had been taken seriously. We're trapped in the box all day, improvising scenes in our theater of the absurd.

On the other hand, some people are just assholes. This is true on either side of the counter.

One thing for YOU to remember: building bikes is habit forming. You might think you can quit any time you want, but soon you will look at every discarded frame and part as something you might use. You might even end up working in a shop!!!

RANTWICK said...

Hey, thanks for visiting my blog! I enjoy Citizen Rider quite alot.

I am already aware of the dangerously strong pull of bike building... my bins are already filling up with stuff I just might need for the next...

Anyway, at least with each build I become less of a black hole!

Dodfart said...

Quick question for all you cycling psycho-paths.

Is it okay to use old engine oil from the lawn mower for you bike chains?

I am not a fantaic cycilist but I am in th midst of TRYING to teach my six year old duaghter how to ride a bike with training wheels. Wow I thought rocket science was hard to understand, this is crazy!

So if anybody could give me the dirty on this oil slicking question, that would be great. Keep in mind I have a CCM bike that does not fully function on all gears.

Tahnks in advance

RANTWICK said...

You are not functioning on all gears if you want to use dirty oil on your bike. That is just my opinion, however.

RANTWICK said...

I don't know if cafiend will be back or care to answer, but I'll bet he would have an opinion. he sounds like he klnows what he's doing.

Dogfart said...

I only have a few gears left on my bike to begin with, so I think I might take my old clunkers to one of these fine establishments you have listed on your blog.

Do you have any magic pills for kids to learn how to ride a bike instantly?

It was fun the first few days, but it's getting frustrating now.


cafiend said...

Dogfart! My boss, who has raised two young 'uns, recommends teaching them at an early age to ride without training wheels by lowering the seat, removing the pedals and letting them learn, on a safe surface like a lawn, how to scooter along with their feet pushing off the ground. In the process they learn to coast and lean. Pedaling apparently comes easily once they master the coasting and leaning part. It worked for his two. And he got it from Bicycling Magazine or some such authority.

As for the waste oil on the chain, it's a heavy lube that will attract further nasty abrasives to your drive train. Lighter lubes work better except in sustained very wet conditions.

cafiend said...

I'll have to set up a sidebar link to this blog at my earliest opportunity. Bit of a logjam at the moment.

Rebecca said...

This encourages me to buy a bike, but not with that price tag.

RANTWICK said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

Do you mean the higher prices in bike stores compared to department stores?

Most bike people will tell you you're better off with "proper" bike from a bike shop, and I agree. You do pay a little more, but it will last longer and likely run much better, which will encourage you to ride rather than bog you down.

Anonymous said...

To wheels beats all

RANTWICK said...

Anon - Nothing against them, I've picked up a couple of things there, but they haven't "beaten all" in my experience.

RANTWICK said...

Adding a comment that came in on a different page:

Nick said...
I have dealt with Wayne @ South London Cycle since 1986. He does not have the most extensive supply of parts, but he'll order what ever you need if it's not in stock. He does great work and is as honest as the day is long. Super guy to deal with.

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