Cycle Shop Or Art Gallery.

31/10/2012   |   Posted by jeremy


I’m afraid that today I’m going to have a bit of a rant about something that has been bothering me for a while but I just didn’t realise it. How some cycle shops make me feel very uncomfortable.

I was always led to believe that the bicycle was invention for the common man, to get the masses moving, something that anyone could purchase cheaply, use and fix themselves if it went wrong. Maybe I’m in the wrong here but I also have always believed that the local cycle shop was a friendly, helpful place to go and browse round, get advice and maybe get your bike fixed.

I consider myself to have a pretty good working knowledge of bikes and all things bike, however when I step foot into some modern bike shops, I’m made to feel like a bit of an idiot. I have to say first that this is not pointed at all bike shops because I know there are an awful lot of brilliant ones out there who will bend over backwards to help you out if needed and have what I call a good old fashioned approach to shop keeping, so to those guys I take my hat off to you.

There are some that I have come across though in more recent years that seem to me to be a little different from the others. As soon as I walk in the door I feel like I’m an intrusion into their perfect world.

 When I was a kid bike shops were a fun place to go, you could talk to people, pull things out and look at them properly and generally have a nice time in there. These days with the slick corporate feel, you may as well be in an art gallery with all the glass and chrome cases full of components that you can look at but can’t touch.

The atmosphere is sterile, more like a surgery than somewhere I can feel relaxed. True enough after a while a young man will come over as I’m skirting round the edge of the store and ask “are you all right there or do you need help?” like I’m some sort of outpatient.  But there is something in the way they ask it that makes me feel like I have irritated them.

When I go into a bike shop I want to feel relaxed, take my time to explore the shop and look at things that I find interesting. I love that feeling of being like a kid in a toy shop looking at all the latest stuff for sale, even if I can’t afford it, it’s great to wander round and dream that one day I could buy whatever I wanted. Most of the time though, I find myself on edge as I look at the goods on offer because I can feel the assistant’s  suspicious eyes on me as I walk round.

Maybe I just look a bit shifty, but that’s because in some of these shops I am, they make me feel nervous when I’m in there.

The real problems really start when I actually want to buy something.

Now and then I go in to buy some chain oil. I pick the one I want and go to the counter. The assistant will then ask me what I want it for, why? Surely it should be obvious to him that I want to oil something with it, after all it is oil. Apparently I have the wrong sort though and “nobody these days is using that type”. He will then ask me what type of bike I’m riding and ask whether it’s being used in the wet or dry. Before I’ve had a chance to even answer I’m pushed towards a rack full of tubes that he assures me are perfect for what I need and the best part (for him) is they are at least double the price.

Honestly I feel like I’m in an exam, who would have thought that buying some chain oil could be so confusing. I have to admit that I don’t like being told what to do, so when I say to the increasingly aggressive assistant that I’m perfectly happy with my choice, he then pretty much tells me what a mug I am and that my chain will practically disintegrate as soon as I touch it with “that stuff”.

I stick to my guns and make my purchase, but as one last passing shot he will say “ Is that all you want ? “ which makes me feel like I’ve wasted his time by serving me.

I still go into bike shops but I will try to avoid the ones where I am set upon by the Spanish Inquisition. These days I buy a lot of my bike parts over the internet which I find a lot less stressful.

I did wonder if it was just me that felt this way about some of the new ultra-modern cycle stores but apparently when I started asking about I found quite a lot of people felt the same way. This made me feel a little better about writing this piece. If you have had similar experiences it would be great to hear about them. Why not tell everyone about it in our cycle forum.