Wednesday 22 January 2014

How utility cyclists can choose a suitable local bike shop

Summary: Many local bike shops in car-centric cities are not very suitable for urban cyclists who ride for transport. The staff they employ are often sports cycling enthusiasts who advise you to get a fast, light, expensive bike and unnecessary gear that isn't useful or practical for utility cycling. This post explains how to choose a bike shop that suits utility cycling needs.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Andy Piper

Related Posts:
What type of bike should I buy?
Essential gear for cycling and what type to get

- Note that if you know what you need, buying parts and accessories online is cheapest and often easiest. Links to online sites used to buy my equipment can be found here: > Actual cycling expenditures prove how cheap cycling can be

1. Avoid shops that focus primarily on fast, light, racing or sports bikes
- These bike shop staff are focused on speed and performance as to them cycling is primarily a sport and recreation. Read this satirical post about the typical experience of a utility cyclist in such shops which beautifully explains the absurdity of such bikes for urban cyclists > So I went automobile shopping

- You cannot persuade such sales people that your needs are different; you simply need to find a bike shop where at least some of the staff already understand that.

2. Avoid shops that emphasise specialist clothing/gear, upgrades and brands
- If the focus is on specialist gear (especially clothing but also pedals and other riding accessories) then the shop isn't catering to a person who just wants to dress normally, use a bike for transport, park it and then carry on with their plans.

- Brands, status and arbitrary "quality" claims also should not be a focus. Anything other than most simply meeting your practical needs within your budget is undesirable.

3. Avoid shops that are expensive, ignore your budget or focus on continual or unnecessary sales
- Utility cycling doesn't need to be expensive and you shouldn't need to continually be replacing, upgrading or servicing your bike and equipment. The fewer things you need and the less purchases required the better.

- Some urban/utility-focused bike shops sell quite expensive bikes and are generally pricey. While it's worth paying for required, genuine quality, decent utility bikes and essential equipment shouldn't be expensive in well-run shops that have sufficient turnover.

- Good bike shop owners and staff understand that affordability is a key consideration for urban cyclists and don't have trouble advising them on sticking within their budget and avoiding unnecessary costs.

4. Avoid shops where the staff ignore your needs and look out for the ones that ask, listen and meet your needs
- This is the most important criteria as many bike shop staff simply ignore your needs rather than service them. These staff (typically young males who are into sports cycling) rarely ask the right questions, often don't listen and are too caught up in pushing the bikes/equipment they prefer or have a self-interest in selling (expensive, stock they need to clear). Few bike shops select or train staff who consistently are able to identify and meet their customer's needs, which is why you should use this criteria to choose your bike shop carefully.

5. Ask to deal with the shop's utility/urban cycling specialist
- Of course, the best answer is that they all are but if they don't have any or there is any doubt that there really is one, then you really need to find a different shop. There are exceptions, but most bike shop staff who aren't utility cyclist specialists simply don't know what they don't know and offer bad advice.

6. Target shops that fix utility bikes often, run maintenance courses and are staffed by urban cyclists
- For more details on the reasons why see: > What makes a good bike shop

7. Recommended Melbourne bike shops for utility cyclists
- As I now ride a single speed and perform all regular maintenance myself, I rarely use bike shops myself. And I buy almost all equipment online as noted here: > Actual cycling expenditures prove how cheap cycling can be

- However, a few Melbourne bike shops have been recommended by urban cyclists or friends for listening to your needs and providing good advice for utility cyclists. I'll update this list if existing or new shops need to be added and with any relevant personal experience notes.

(a) Velo Cycles (Carlton North) - Female friend's experience was very positive.
(b) Human Powered Cycles (Thornbury)
(c) Commuter Cycles (Brunswick)
(d) Abbotsford Cycles (Abbotsford)
(e) BikeLife (Hawthorn)

Others of interest I'd like to find out more about:
(f) Urban Bikes (North Melbourne)

- A comprehensive bike shop directory can be found here: > Bicycle Victoria - Find a bike shop

8. Bike shops with a decent range of utility cycling equipment at value-for-money prices
- Many of recommended urban/utility bike shops have slightly higher prices than some of the others which tend to sell more volume of stock. I think utility cyclists should buy their bikes and seek advice from bike shops that do meet their needs even if that means paying slightly more. The long-term relationship is worth it.

- However, if there is a significant difference in prices then if you don't even need to visit a store, just buy it online. If you do need to visit a store - for example, to see if the part fits your bike - then you may not be able to afford to buy from the preferred utility bike shops. As I find them, I'll add other bike shops with a decent range of utility cycling equipment at value-for-money prices below:

Cell Bikes (Fitzroy North)  - As the Sydney Cell Bikes online store has some of the best prices in Australia, their physical stores tend to be only slightly higher and will often price match the online store.

Further Info:
Bike Exchange: Australian bike shop directory

Bicycles Network Australia: Australian bicycle shops

Bicycle Network: Find a local bike shop

Concrete Playground
> The best bike shops in Melbourne