This is the story of how I found my favorite Toronto bike shop. And why you should have a great relationship with a local bike shop too.
Why do you need to have a good relationship with a local bike shop?!
It is a reasonable question to ask, isn’t it?
I mean, in a world of easy on-line shopping, where you can find any product at a big discount, why would you ever bother wasting time, money and effort on building such a relationship?
Well, let me share how I found Racer Sportif – my favorite Toronto bike shop, and list a few reasons why such a relationship is a fantastic long-term investment that will pay off great dividends, if you are a serious cyclist.
I Am a Picky Niki
Let’s start by making one thing clear – by nature I am a very picky [many would say perfectionist] type of a guy. Whether it is coffee – where I buy only AAA fair-trade, organic, green beans that I home-roast to perfection and french-press myself, or whether it is cycling – where I take time to scrutinize in detail every single bike component or piece of clothing I use, I am not easy to get satisfied. I have high requirements, I expect good, fast service or quality products, and I like to get value for my money. I rarely buy things on a whim and I always do my homework in terms of researching alternatives, pros and cons, user reviews and so on. Finally, I don’t like to beat around the bush and am known for saying it as I see it, without a filter or useless preambles. In short, to put it mildly, I am not an easy customer to have.
The upside is that I am loyal. And, once you win my respect and trust, I am very likely to stay with your bike shop, company, product or service for years to come. For example, I spent around 10 years being a loyal customer to my first Toronto bike shop. In that period I spent many thousands of dollars there and referred a dozen other cyclists, many of whom also became loyal customers. Unfortunately, as it happens sometimes in life, as the bike shop grew bigger and more successful, the quality of their services and/or attitude started to deteriorate. Until one day it just didn’t pass the bar anymore. And so it was time for me to move on.
My Story of Finding Racer Sportif
About 4 years ago I popped my lower back after a particularly intense time-trial effort. It took me almost 3 years of Yoga, core exercises and several bike-fitting sessions to get back to 80% of my previous cycling shape. But I was never able to get rid of my low-back strain that, during intense or long rides, would turn into serious pain. And this is where Racer Sportif came to be of great help for the very first time.
You see, I have already had a couple of professional bike fits – one was even from a certified Serotta fitter. But they only managed to give me minor alleviation of my low-back problems. And I was in pain almost every time I got out for a ride. And so, instead of looking forward to, I started dreading my time on the bike. I lost the ability to have fun and rarely felt like riding anymore. I was getting fat and desperate to try anything that may bring back my love for the bike.
I researched the alternative professional bike fitting systems and decided to try the Retul Bike Fit at a local Toronto bike shop. At nearly 300$, this was going to be by far the most expensive fit I have ever had. And it would be an understatement to say I had doubts as to whether it was worth the high price tag. But desperate times call for desperate measures. As it turned out, Racer Sportif was one of the few places that was offering that service in the greater Toronto area and I decided to give it a try.
Getting a Retul Bike Fit
I got very impressed from the very beginning – and I am not an easy person to impress, when Frank Mizerski told me that he would work on perfecting my position until I am completely pain-free while biking. This sounded like someone who knew what they were talking about, was confident in what they can do and cared so much that he didn’t shy away from standing behind his service and tweaking things until I was happy. Wow! Why didn’t my previous bike shop have this kind of attitude?! During the fitting session Frank took a couple of hours in going thoroughly through details big and small and ended up making some radical changes to my previous position. After a two-week adaptation period, during which I felt like I was getting on my bike for the very first time and was getting long-dormant core and butt-muscles activated, I was finally pain-free and totally in love with my bike again. So was that worth 300$?! Hell yeah! My health is worth a lot more, including my long-term gratitude and customer loyalty.
Now, let’s say you are one of those lucky cyclists who just don’t know the meaning of back or knee pain. [For now.] You probably are still wondering why you should consider getting a Retul Bike Fit in particular, or a good relationship with a local bike shop in general. Well, on the former I would say that a proper bike fit is the easiest [and cheapest] way to get more power, speed, comfort and longevity on your bike. On the latter, I have prepared a short list with the reasons I love having a good relationship with my Toronto Bike shop. And chances are many of them will apply for you too:
10 Reasons You Should Build a Relationship with a Local Bike Shop Too
1. Knowledge and experience: People in the bike shop business get to have a hands-on experience with everything you can imagine – bikes, clothes, shoes, nutrition, supplements, aftermarket components, lubes, books, training programs, competitions, brands, doctors, chiropractors etc. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience to run a successful shop and we should all give credit to those who have been successful at it for a long time. Thus, going to your local bike shop and talking to one of their senior mechanics, sales people or shop owner can save you a lot of time, money or effort. In cases such as mine, going to a Toronto bike shop made the difference between heath or pain, hating the bike or having fun, biking or not biking any more.
2. You can try before you buy: Going to a bike shop will give you a unique opportunity to see, touch and even try a variety of bikes, components or other gear. Let’s say, for example, that you want to buy a new saddle but you are not sure which model will best fit your unique geography down under. You can go on-line and take a big chance of being stuck with a saddle that does not work for you, despite what the reviews say. Or, you can go to your local bike shop and test a few different models until you find the right one for you. So, keep in mind that not all products work for on-line sale and no picture or review can replace the actual experience of you touching and trying the product for yourself.
3. In shop warranty: It almost never happens, but if the guys in my favorite Toronto Bike shop happen to make a mistake I don’t feel shy to go back and ask them to fix it. Furthermore, in case of a defective product you can always go back and they will most likely either replace it on the spot or contact the manufacturer and assist in solving the problem. If you have purchased the item on-line you will have to spend time, money and effort to ship it back and hope that people you don’t know will do the right thing. I believe that my local Toronto bike shop has stronger incentives to keep me as a happy customer than someone who will likely never meet me in-person and for whom I am just an on-line order number that has gone wrong.
4. Bike maintenance and services: It is hard to ship your bike to some website for a quick tune up or regular service and maintenance. Yes, you can take a chance and buy products on-line but bike services are a different animal altogether. Regular and proper maintenance is at least as important [probably more so] as the kind of bike you buy. And it can be the difference not only for your uninterrupted fun on the bike but also for your safety on the road. Plus, when you buy a bike in your local shop they will give you an initial fitting service as well as free bike maintenance for a period of time. And those are both a valuable investment for any cyclist.
5. Time and Convenience: Shopping on-line is pretty easy nowadays and, if you are lucky to be in one of those major cities where it is offered, Amazon’s same day delivery is pretty amazing. But, when you are not sure what color, size or model will be best for you, going to your local bike shop can still be the fastest and most convenient way to see, touch, try and experiences all kinds of bike gear.
6. Group rides, local clubs and upcoming events: Good bike shops are popular hot spots within the cycling community. They can recommend the best group rides, local clubs and cool upcoming events. They can also advise which ones will be appropriate for your personal biking experience and fitness level. So, if you want to get in touch with your local cycling community, and be introduced to other bike enthusiasts of both sexes, your local bike shop is always a good place to start. Furthermore, most local bike shops organize group rides that can sometimes become a fast-track not only to finding new riding buddies but also to great deals and shop discounts.
7. Cycling education and off-season training: Your local bike shop can be an invaluable educational source for riders like yourself in providing hands-on and learn-by-doing workshops, maintenance courses and seminars on bike technique, training, nutrition, bike fit and so on. It is often the case where such courses are offered off-season alongside winter training such as Yoga, core-training or in-door spinning classes.
8. It’s not about bike, it’s about the customer experience: Bicycling is not about products. The products are simply a means to an end but the end is the experience. This is where good local bike shops will always have the edge over on-line shopping. [Unless they are simply not willing to put in the effort.] If you are a serious cyclist, walking into a cycling shop is like going to heaven and you feel like a 5-year-old-kid in a candy store. Good bike shops are aware of that feeling and know how to enhance the experience so that it is a win-win scenario for both the customer and the shop.
9. The Human Touch: If you are like me, once you find a local shop that fits your needs and you like and trust the people working there, then you will likely end up becoming friends with the guys and start hanging out with them in your free time. The human touch and the need to find a peer group where you can mingle and socialize can never be a by-product of your on-line shopping experience. But it happens more often than not in my favorite Toronto bike shop.
10. Potential Sponsorship: If you are a budding young racer your local bike shop may know the right people to hook you up with a sponsor. So that is usually a great place to start advertising yourself and spread the word that you are looking for sponsorship. [For example, Racer Sportif – my favorite Toronto bike shop, is a proud sponsor of the Cycling Canada under 23 program.]
Like any relationship, the one between you and your local bike shop goes both ways. And, if it is to last, you cannot expect that you will always win the negotiation, get the best possible bargain and get more than what you put in it. Sometimes, you will have to compromise. Sometimes you will have to pay a little more. Sometimes you will just have to be a nice guy and put their interest ahead of yours. But, provided you have found the right fit for your needs and you do do your part, I promise you will not regret it.
I know I did. And I am very happy I found Racer Sportif – my favorite Toronto bike shop!
I hope that now you understand better why you should look for and start a good, long-term relationship with a local bike shop near you. So, if you still haven’t done so, go check out a few local shops until you find the one that best fits your needs and where you like and trust the people you deal with.
Have a good ride!
About the Author:
Nikola Danaylov is a public speaker, philosopher, infopreneur, blogger and podcaster. He has spoken at public events on topics ranging from technology, transhumanism and the technological singularity to new media, blogging and podcasting. Nikola’s Singularity 1 on 1 interviews have had over 3 million views and have been featured on international TV networks as well as some of the biggest blogs in the world. His two favorite hobbies are road biking and photography.