Retail Therapy for Cycle Shops
There’s a wide spectrum of styles within cycling retailers. From the legendary old school shop that we’ve known since childhood, where they put the coffee on and we simply chat, to the ultra modern and unfortunately sometimes pretentious retailer, where they keep their main showroom locked and only open it for invited customers – no, believe me, these people exist. There’s even a cycle shop where you walk in, and the response is akin to ‘why the flying fück are you disturbing me!’ Not pleasant at all, and they seemingly only survive because they stock a wide range of spares for just about all bikes, and have an extensive online catalogue – where you don’t get sworn at!
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
As you’d imagine, I visit shops frequently; I visit them to write about them, to write about their brands, and to visit friends. Yes, I have many friends who work in cycle shops – most of my true friends do, or have done so at one time in their lives. In recent weeks though, I’ve witnessed first hand, the very best of cycle retailers and the very worst. I’ve been so shocked that I’ve been drawn as far afield as France to qualify my utter disgust at the opinion of one particular north of England based retailer, concerning their view of the average cyclist; using the most expensive cycle shop I know of in Nice on the Côte d’Azur as a better example of customer service. Keep up with me and please keep reading… all will eventually become apparent – I promise.
Use It or Lose It
I owe you an explanation I guess. And you’ll get one, trust me. But first, I want to explain to you, the importance and the value of the High Street cycle shop to all of us. It’s where we rush in panic to fix our bike in times of emergency. They’re the people who give us the very best of advice, and tell us how to fix small things ourselves at little or no cost. And, here in North Yorkshire, they’re usually friends within a small community and part of the fabric of the town. And, if you as a cyclist and consumer don’t value them and use them properly, they’ll nearly all have to close and you’ll be left with the utter shit that is the national internet retailer, who frankly doesn’t give a flying fück if you need help tuning the gears, save for selling you unnecessary new parts. Nope, I’m sorry to have to tell you, that they won’t tune you gears, change that inner tube or share a brew with you any time soon. All they want is your credit card details, and don’t expect a card at Christmas.
So yes, the High Street cycle shop is vital to everyone. Especially those who buy a Canyon bike direct and haven’t got a clue how to set the darn thing up!
Plain Old Ignorance
However, as I said, in recent weeks I’ve met both the best and the worst – so let’s get the worst out of the way soon. I won’t mention them directly, but yes… there will be clues and you deserve that. You deserve to know the utter contempt that they seem to have for you, the average cyclist.
I’d read locally that a certain retailer had opened a new showroom. Not great news I know, but I thought that I’d take a look. I went along, found the window to the new showroom, in a building separated from the main (very small) shop and couldn’t work out how to get in and to look lovingly at the expensive bikes. Being an investigative kind of guy, I went to the old showroom and asked ‘I’d heard that you have a new showroom, but I’m not sure if I can find it, or how to get in?’ Thankfully, the assistant didn’t see me as a threat and offered to take me, walking outside and along the street and unlocking said new showroom, filled with Pinerello, Colnago and Bianchi. I admired the stylish room, the superb bikes and then questioned the door being locked. After all, we cyclists live to dream – even when we can’t afford the bike.
The reply will live with me forever….
‘Well, we aim for those people who will spend at least £12k on a bike and we don’t want those people who will only spent £4K of £5k on a bike. We don’t want our time wasted by people like that, when we can sell bikes at £15k a time to others.’
In shock, I responded that those people are the mass market and the bread and butter of cycling shops. Why would anyone in their right mind want to lock them out of a showroom. His response was even worse and far more ignorant than I thought possible…
‘Well, you wouldn’t just walk into a Porsche dealership, would you!’ He said it with such arrogance. I’m a pacifist, and cannot recall ever wanting to really be rude to directly to anyone… but at that very moment in time, I thought of him as nothing more than a piece of crap that deserved nothing from anyone. I know, I’m sorry God – I sinned. His contempt for the average cyclist held no bounds. I tried in vain to bring out the best in him – I’m nothing if not a trier – but he even insulted Bianchi… yes, I know. I dare not tell my numerous Italian friends of the status he gave this iconic brand. Save to say that he clearly doesn’t know much about cycle racing globally or the culture of cycling.
A Point Well Proved
After giving a very calm and considered, but definitely cutting response myself, I vowed to prove him wrong… And only a week,or so later, accompanied by an Italian cycling friend, we walked straight into one of the most expensive sports car dealerships in Europe, situated in Rutland. We chatted amiably with the staff, who were delightful, and even looked admiringly at my 9 year old Audi A4 Avant parked on their forecourt, before they sat us in a £500k Porsche and took a photograph. He who laughs last and all that! If a point is worth proving, then by God, reaaaaally prove it. You can indeed walk into a Porsche dealership and be treated exceedingly well.
The Very Best of Cycle Shops
Now that we’ve got the worst out of the way, let’s discuss the best; and I’ll actually name 3 amazing Yorkshire based retailers – Mark and Paceline at Cross Hills, Sam and Theo at Bikemonger, and Sanjai at Chevin Cycles. All of these guys are truly among the nicest people that you will ever meet, and they’re always busy, working out what they can develop next to add value to their service. Sanjai and Mark have the most expensive of custom builds available, alongside the smallest of bikes for the youngest of riders. Anyone can walk in, with any budget, look at any bike, touch any bike and dream as big as their imagination allows. Whilst Sam and Theo are probably the leading Bikepacking shop in the whole of the U.K., if not the EU – oops, it slipped out. Well, geographically we are still in Europe… trust me, look at a map 😉 .
They also even fix a puncture, synchronise your gears, change your chain and put the kettle on – so as I said earlier, use them or lose them.
Being Nice is Free
Being nice is free. It doesn’t cost us anything. It makes us feel warm inside and we smile more, which releases good chemicals into our body. On the other hand, being treated with disdain and contempt isn’t nice. And so, if your local bike shop treats you well, helps you to put together that Canyon, and fixes things instead of replacing parts to keep your costs low, give them a hug and support them.
The online retailers will continue to drive the market I’m afraid. And yes, at some point we will all use them for something. But if the really awesome and thoroughly nice local bike shops struggle to stay open, you may only be left with the ignoramus that holds you in contempt and locks you out in favour of larger wallets and false smiles. You have been warned – now, go enjoy some retail therapy and support a good cause – the local bike shop.
All images are of the superb new showroom at Paceline Cycles, Cross Hills, North Yorkshire