I make a little list of the nearby shops at each end of my daily commute. Then I visit them. I actually try to visit 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:
- Adequate range of product in the shop. Stuff that’s relevant to me, but also a reasonable range of other stuff because you never know what you’ll suddenly need It might be a bike carrier from Thule or just some nice clothes from Endura or Look.Shops with few accessories for sale are usually either just starting out, or just about to fold.
- Approachable 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.
- sensible opening hours. Look, I know it sucks having to start work at 7am, but that’s when the customers start riding past the shop.
- does not have a standard service price. A standard service for 20 euros sounds great but if you’re doing any maintenance on your bike at all most of it’s going to be wasted. They will replace your 25% worn brake pads because that’s in the service. They will not tighten the loose spoke because that is not. And the service will probably be done by an unsupervised 15 year old being paid per bicycle serviced. Sure, if every shop in your area offers it the good shop might have to play along. I’d still be skeptical – and ask them why.
- demands a way to contact me if they find something ugly. It should be natural!
- Specific to me is that they have to at least know what a Hope hub is, and a Schmidt hub dyno. I have both, and both can be expensively damaged by monkeys with hammers. But also, selling the high end stuff means they have customers who care about their bikes a lot. Few rich louts buy Endura clothes, they just don’t have the bling factor. Instead, it’s people who really care about their bike. Where I worked for a while it wasn’t the rich customers who bought them, it was the “saved up and got the special treat” ones. The rich dudes were the ones with a Mercx frame who wanted an all period restoration and would go “a Phil bottom bracket? Whatever makes it go”. Or they would go somewhere that had a selection of $10k carbon fibre road bikes in stock. Our customers were more the “I’m going to ride around India for a year, I want…”, and had a detailed list.
Anyway, bike shops with that lot are more likely to be off the main road where rent is cheaper, might not open on Sunday, probably cost a bit more but to me are well worth the effort.