As a regular cyclist, one of the most useful things you can have at your disposal is a friendly, knowledgeable local bike shop. A good store goes way beyond the practicalities of having a mechanic on hand to deal with the snapped cables and worn-out brake pads that you’re not sure how to replace. They’ll teach you how to fix a flat so you don’t have to keep bringing the bike back to them for something that can easily be done at home. They’ll top up your tires with air when you stop by for supplies. They’ll spot worn-out components and give you a heads up on when you should come in for your next service or when your chain has stretched beyond the point of salvation.
You know you’ve found a good bike shop when you’re comfortable asking the awkward questions about just why your seat makes your butt so sore, or how to measure your pubic bone height for the right frame fit. (You know you’ve found a great bike shop when you’re happy to let them actually take the measurement for you.) The best bike shops don’t care about selling you the most expensive product on the rack. They care more about helping you make changes to your old, battered commuter bike so that your wrists don’t ache on longer rides than they do about upgrading you to a new, ergonomically correct urban hybrid. They know exactly what you use your bike for, why you love it, and how you can make it better.
My local bike shop is West Point Cycles on 10th Avenue, and they exemplify everything that’s good about a local business that takes the time to get to know its customers as individual riders. They know me so well at this point that when I borrowed my former road bike back from the friend I sold it to over a year ago, they recognized it in an instant and wondered why it had suddenly reappeared. When I had knee surgery a couple of years back, they performed adjustment after adjustment to the fit of my bike to keep me comfortable as my leg gradually regained the ability to bend and turn the pedals. They’ve given me lessons in various aspects of basic bike maintenance, rescued parts that were mangled by other bike stores during emergency out-of-town repairs, and fitted me in at the last minute for unexpected breakdown fixes so I didn’t have to miss a single summer commute.
They proved their worth again recently, when a friend of mine was panicking because her bike had gone missing in transit between San Francisco and Vancouver the day before the Prospera GranFondo. Having borrowed a bike that was roughly her size, we were still short a set of pedals that would work with her cycle shoes. We headed for West Point and explained the situation, and instead of selling her a set of pedals she didn’t actually need they loaned her a shop set and said that I could drop them back at my convenience. Now that’s a bike shop you can count on.
Kay Cahill is a cyclist, librarian and outdoor enthusiast who believes that bikes are for life, not just for commuting. Read more at sidecut.ca, or contact Kay at email@example.com.