The Chainlink

I want to hear from everyone, what do you hate about a bike shop? What do you love? What is missing from shops in Chicago?

We are changing our name and want to improve our store. We are Chicago bikers as well as a community bike shop and really want to figure out how a shop can do it best. We are creating more events as well.

What kind of events do people want to participate in? Information sessions? Mechanic workshops? Rides? Social events? Art shows?

Here is what I love and hate:
I hate when a bike shop staff talks down to me.
I love when I can have a great conversation in a bike shop.
I love when someone will go out of their way to order that extra part and call me when it's in.
I hate when a shop simply wants to sell stuff. They don't care about you, they just care about your money.
I love when the staff in a shop is passionate about bikes instead of the paycheck they're recieving that week.
I love when a shop feels inviting.

Your turn. Share some great or bad experiences and what you love, hate, and want to see.

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I Love LOVE LOVE Martin...Next runners up are Samantha and David since i haven't ridden with them yet. That's what i love about bike shops. Let's be honest unless you know the person selling you stuff they still HAVE to sell you stuff. It's a job.
I think that owning a bike shop offers a unique problem set, huge overhead costs razor thin margins and really a six month window when the majority of the business occurs... I think if you would be able to change that aspect of a bike shop you would have to be a magician of some sort, but most of the complaints about snobbery and the like seem to be inherent to bike culture from pro racing, messaging, freak bikes, classics, and even to the seasons and weather conditions people choose to ride in...
I think that if we as a community can break down our egos and realize that no matter what the differences we have, from casual bikers to the sponsored riders, we are all riding a human powered vehicle that would be a major improvement. But I think it is human nature to find your clic and create barriers and walls to protect yourself and break down others who are different.
IMHO I think that the best way of approaching a bike shop from a new perspective would have to be in the vein of Westown Bikes( I have no affiliation nor have I been), being a not for profit collective that offers a service to people, education, a space to work on bikes, and a place to build community. It doesn't eliminate the need for a bike mechanic or sales shop, but it seems to provide the eden of non snobbery that many look for. in short when you can bring down the prices of biking to give shops more leeway financially I think the paradigm can be changed, but until then the cycle will continue...
Thanks for your input Steve. I should note, we are starting over and re-doing. We have been in business for a year and a half. I don't have the money or the desire to deal in new bikes. Which don't have much margin in them. What we'd like to build is a community. For all cyclists. No Attitude, drama, high pressure sales, latest imports from china, etc.

We want folks to feel free to come in, discuss cycling, talk about issues, surf the chainlink from our wireless connection, have a beer, have an event or discuss having one. We want to see the community increase in size. I believe the more cyclists in the community, the less we have to worry about margins.

Steve 3po said:
I think that owning a bike shop offers a unique problem set, huge overhead costs razor thin margins and really a six month window when the majority of the business occurs... I think if you would be able to change that aspect of a bike shop you would have to be a magician of some sort, but most of the complaints about snobbery and the like seem to be inherent to bike culture from pro racing, messaging, freak bikes, classics, and even to the seasons and weather conditions people choose to ride in...
I think that if we as a community can break down our egos and realize that no matter what the differences we have, from casual bikers to the sponsored riders, we are all riding a human powered vehicle that would be a major improvement. But I think it is human nature to find your clic and create barriers and walls to protect yourself and break down others who are different.
IMHO I think that the best way of approaching a bike shop from a new perspective would have to be in the vein of Westown Bikes( I have no affiliation nor have I been), being a not for profit collective that offers a service to people, education, a space to work on bikes, and a place to build community. It doesn't eliminate the need for a bike mechanic or sales shop, but it seems to provide the eden of non snobbery that many look for. in short when you can bring down the prices of biking to give shops more leeway financially I think the paradigm can be changed, but until then the cycle will continue...
I did not know that, thanks! =)
justJason said:
Uptown is woman-owned and has a lot (relatively-speaking) of female employees. And I never get the holier-than-thou/too cool for school intimidation that's unfortunately too prevalent in many shops.

When I was younger and knew about jack-squat, I couldn't STAND when someone at the bike shop would come at me with that clinical bicycle jargon. I'd just sit there and nod and wish I knew what the hell this person was talking about. And I felt because I didn't "talk the talk", I was getting sold an expensive bill of goods that may or may not be what I REALLY needed. I also had a bike shop talk up a bike to me, eventually selling me a 16" MTB (I'm 6'1"); I suspect it was because it was the only model of that bike they had built up at th shop. That STILL pisses me off to this day.

I'd also love to see FUN rides at shops. Not those supposed "no-drop" rides that are still draped in some sort of competitive dressing. That's bound to be off-putting to so many riders, and it kinda stinks of elitism.

Ammo said:
I love when a shop will tell me the extra things I need to know sans attitude.
I love when they go out of thier way to help.

I hate the attitude "you're a girl and you don't know anything about bikes" that I can come across.
I hate it that when I tell them all of what I need they look at me surprised, "wow, you know what a hex wrench is?"

I would like to see an all woman owned shop. There are a lot of women cyclists and I feel we should have a safe haven for workshops (I already know of the existing women's workshops), place to go for advice without feeling intimidated. Either that, or a place that completely revamps their attitudes and keeps an open mind for newbies without the pretentiousness.
Because you spend money.
Samatha at Cycle Smithy on Halsted, female mechanic and awesome!
Midnight Marauders is a no drop cycling club, social pace, ride is the 3rd saturday of the month meeting at the Hbar on midnight in the back. Look out for a post soon!

Bean said:
I do agree. I personally like a slower paced, casual, sociable ride. We had a ride in October that was just that. Fast enough to not get clogged with people, but slow enough to make it last and be able to have a conversation with the person next to you.

justJason said:
There are rides that are touted as "no-drop" i.e. no one gets lefts behind. But the average pace (at least what I've found) is 18-20 mph, much quicker than the average cyclist rides. If you were to show up to a ride with say, a swank 3 speed, dressed pretty much as you would everyday, and everyone else there is pretty much lycra-clad and armed with the latest carbon fiber technology, I'd wager you'd be kinda intimidated.

Not saying there SHOULDN'T be quick, racy rides (I actually do dig 'em), but I'd totally love to see an alternative.

Bean said:
What do you mean by "no drop," and competitive dressing would be themed rides?
I just got back from Cycle Smithy where Samantha rang me up for a new tire!
Props! Its great to help people! And we rode together when Martin tagged the parked Audi...

Gabe said:
I Love LOVE LOVE Martin...Next runners up are Samantha and David since i haven't ridden with them yet. That's what i love about bike shops. Let's be honest unless you know the person selling you stuff they still HAVE to sell you stuff. It's a job.
He will never live that one up. That was quite the evening.

DavID said:
Props! Its great to help people! And we rode together when Martin tagged the parked Audi...

Gabe said:
I Love LOVE LOVE Martin...Next runners up are Samantha and David since i haven't ridden with them yet. That's what i love about bike shops. Let's be honest unless you know the person selling you stuff they still HAVE to sell you stuff. It's a job.
awesome, she is a cool chick. Helped me out when my chopper went awry.

justJason said:
I just got back from Cycle Smithy where Samantha rang me up for a new tire!
J said:
unless there's a clear ride leader, who identifies the new person -- drops or confusion can occur. I've heard plenty of stories like this about the open xxx ride and even down here on the ucvc rides.

Getting dropped on the no-drop portion of the xXx team ride IS something we are trying to be very vigilant about. We've had a lot of discussion about it in the last year and have put a greater emphasis on members being more aware and more sensitive. AND we stress in the little pre-ride speech that if you're dropping off a little, yell 'GAP!' loudly ASAP.

When I first started, I got dropped on the no-drop portion regularly. Team members would come back and help me. Rather than being mad at the other riders for going so fast, I was furious with myself for being so lame. Heh. Now the pace on the no-drop part is conversational, my HR not even in my endurance zone. And its no less fast than it was, I'm just more fit.

Our ride is FOR competitive riders. There's definitely a social aspect, but it's racers and prospective racers training together and challenging each other. As we are a team dedicated to developing new racers, we have the no-drop portion -- so less fit riders can learn to ride in a group and draft and etc. without getting dropped in the first 30 seconds like on, for example, the Judson ride.

If you're looking for a social ride at a leisurely pace, the xXx team ride isn't what you're looking for. But there are plenty of them out there.
Things I hate;

1)I am sorry for the good mechanics out there but to me majority of the mechanics in the city seems to be incompetent. I remember one mechanic telling me I needed a new chain, and then I told him OK replace the chain and the cassette, because I have always replaced those together in the past. He proceeded to tell me my cassette looked fine and needed no replacement. I even asked "Are you sure?" He says Oh yeah absolutely...3 days later I got on the bike to test it out to see that they have replaced my 10 speed campy chain with a 9 speed shimano chain, and the cassette needed replacing after all because it was skipping like a mofo after they got the right chain on there. I had to wait extra 5 days to have them ship the new parts in...Oh and If I do pay for a tune-up that does really mean that I expect my bike to shift properly...And don't get pissy with me when I bring it back in after circling the block and noticing it double shifts in the rear and does not shift in the front...

2)I hate the "Oh you don't know what you need, this is what you need" attitude...If I came in there for a Continental GP 4000, I really do want Conti GP4000, not something else...

3)I hate the sales people pushing a certain product because they have an a little too much of it in stock...

Things I like;

Really there are a few in there but ultimately I am determined to buy my stuff online from now on unless it is an emergency such as a tire or a tube...I am tired of paying inflated prices for inferior service.

Sorry but this past summer has been a tough one for me with the shops...I have pretty much lost all interest and trust in all but two.

-Ali

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