Since i’m moving a lot, and i mean A LOT i often need to look for reliable bicycle shop in new neighboorhood. First i make a little list of the nearby shops.. Then visit them. I actually try to visit few of them – sometimes 4 or 5 regardless of how much I like the first one, just to have an idea of what they’re like in case I need one.
What I look for:
- Decent range of product in the shop. Stuff that’s relevant to me, but also a reasonable range of other stuff, like bicycle carriers or cycling clothes. Shops with few accessories for sale are usually either just starting out, or just about to fold.
- more than one mechanic. Sorry, but a one man shop is going to suffer from not having anyone to bounce ideas off and having to close when the one mechanic is out learning new stuff (or more often, not out learning at all).
- approachable and knowledgable staff. Do I feel comfortable dealing with the staff? Do they know about bikes or just about sales targets? Are they surly, minimum-wage grunts or are they happy working there? I don’t want my bike serviced by someone who’s doing the minimum possible to avoid getting fired.
- decent workshop. A corner of the back office with a portable stand is not a workshop. I have a better workshop than that at home (I realise not everyone does). Working in poor conditions very often means doing a poor job.
- decent range of tools. They should have the expensive bottom bracket taps and so on hanging on the wall next to the usual allen key sets and so on. Those tools are too fragile to drop in a tool drawer, and if the bike shop doesn’t know that (or worse, doesn’t have the tools at all), I don’t want them working on my bike. If they don’t have the tools to do the job properly I don’t want to risk them trying to bodge it.
- reasonable opening hours. Look, I know it sucks having to start work at 7am, but that’s when the customers start riding past the shop. And closing up at 7pm makes for a very long day, another reason to avoid single-staff-member shops. But if I can’t drop my bike off in the morning, grab a loaner bike and pick it up that night, I’m not very happy.
- demands a way to contact me if they find something ugly. A shop that can’t ring me to say ‘Cthulu lives in your seatpost’ hasn’t got enough experience to be allowed to pump up tyres.
- Selling the high end stuff . This basically means they have customers who care about their bikes a lot. Few rich louts buy Mavic wheels or expensive Look or Assos clothes. they just don’t have the bling factor, and – in most cases – they just don’t know anything about those brands. Instead, it’s people who really care about their bike and how do they feel riding them.