Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Picking a Two-Wheeled Family

No, I'm not replacing the two-LEGGED family that I already have.  They're great, let me do stuff, and put up with the minor annoyances that exude from my person on an almost daily basis.

No, what I'm referring to is how to pick a bike store.  Your bike store.  Its sort of like choosing your local watering hole.  Rather than serving up cold pints and neat shots, the fine folks at a bike store are there to support your riding whimsies and provide you with practical and solid advice.

So why then, after living in the Kitchener area for over a year, am I having a hell of a time finding "my store".  The KW (Kitchener-Waterloo) area has the good fortune to be blessed with four (count 'em) time-tested bike stores: Ziggy's, Braun's, King Street Cycles, and MacPhails.  So again, I ask the question...why can't I find a bike store to call my own?  Am I being too particular?  Too picky?  Too pig-headed?

Let's go back in time for a moment and relive what I believe to be one of the finest bike shops around.  Prior to living in the K-dub, my residence of choice was the Northern Ontario city of Sudbury.  Located four hours north of Toronto, Sudbury offered everything that anyone could possibly wwant in outside activities.  Heck, they even had an Outside Store!  With thousands of square miles of Canadian Shield rockiness, Sudbury had the roughness that any outdoorsman could want.

Let me preface all of this by saying that while I had always enjoyed cycling, there was a long period out of the saddle for me.  In recent years, my interest increased once again to the point where I had to finally replace my 1989 Raleigh Discovery (C'mon, the damn thing was purple!  Very chic and flashy for 1989!).  Shopping for said replacement brought me to three of Sudbury finest purveyors of rubber, grease, and lycra: The Outside Store, Pinnacle Sports, and Adventure Ski & Cycle.  All three carried their own lines of bikes and all possessed a multitude of options for a prodigal cycle bum.

Ultimately, I chose the Kona that you saw in one of my earlier posts.  And I purchased it at The Outside Store.  Why did I purchase at the Outside Store?  Because they listened.  Because they advised.  Because they listened again.  They never judged me.  They never thought that I was a wannabe.  Heck, they even invited me out for a group ride to get me acquainted with the local MB community!  Not to mention, they had a shop that could easily have been supplanted on the main street in Banff and would have felt right at home.  Wood beams, racks of outdoor gear, bikes hanging from the ceiling, and a friendly golden retriever to greet you at the door.  They understood what I was looking for and made the suggestion.  I evaluated.  They listened.  I postulated.  They listened again.  We got each other.

I can't seem to find this here, and I can't quite understand why.  What's even more frustrating is that I live directly across the street from what could be MY store...but I can't seem to get the "warm and fuzzes" out of them.  It feels cold and impersonal.  Now, I understand that when a middle aged guy walks in to a store and tells whoever will listen that he plans to ride the Continental Divide, the urge to roll one's eyes might be too tempting.  What none of these places realize is that over the next two years, I will likely spend a considerable amount of money on equipment, servicing, and if they're nice...some valuable web time trumpeting their service and speciality.  But it seems to me that everyone here has either "heard it before", or is so bent on selling the high margin items they have in their store, that no one seems to listen.  I'm looking for advice.  I'm looking for expertise.  I'm not looking for pacification or patronization.  I know enough about enough and I've done my research. When I want to go into a store to talk about equipment choices and strategies for one of the biggest races on Earth, I expect that at least one of them would like to "come along for the ride".  Seemingly, this adventure I'm going to embark on is falling on some deaf ears at present.

Its a tough place to be.  Thankfully, there are several very good blogs written by those who have ridden the Divide with pages of equipment advice and suggestions, logistics advice, general friendly support us riders looking to follow in their treads.  I suppose I'll have to invoke the spirit of the race and go outside my comfort zone to find the best possible resources for me - local or otherwise.

UPDATE!: I had to travel 2 hours outside of my city (enroute to the family cottage) to find some genuine interest and advice for what I'm hoping to do.  Many thanks to Chris at Black Tooth Grin in Barrie for listening, advising, and listening some more.  A great store, with great products and they love to talk about riding.  I will be back!

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