Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Favourite Bike Shop In London

My girlfriend has just bought a bike which has meant quite a few weekends over the last few months have been spent trawling round the bike shops of London, trying bikes out and watching customer service in action.

Our requirements were a bike mostly for fun rides at weekends, rather than commuting, suitable the odd footpath/canal towpath/forest track, but nothing remotely gnarly and off-road. Price range: £300-400.

Evans, Spitalfields - this initially scores highly by being big and therefore browser friendly and unintimidating for someone who doesn't want to be pounced on by a sales assistant the second they enter. However after this point, we found the service rather lacking. They didn't have any bikes in her size in stock, only suggested two different models and rather pushily got us to reserve one for a test-ride next week (the more expensive of the two, natch, £50 deposit required). My objection to this is that someone who's new to cycling may not know what they want, far better to get them trying stuff out (even if it's a similar, more expensive model), just so that you can be sure of their requirements. The person at Evans seemed far keener on getting us dealt with as quick as possible (they were pretty busy that day) 5/10

Cycle Surgery, Spitalfields - also crowded and again, didn't have the right frames in stock. This time however, they were keen to get Jen on similar bikes to establish stuff such as whether she would prefer a ladies frame or not. Also, sent us round the corner to their other store, to ensure she could try some other bikes they didn't have in stock. If you want to go to one of the chains, this would be our recommendation. 8/10

Brixton Cycles, Brixton - Initial impressions are quite intimidating as this store is small and all the assistants look like grungy cycle couriers. It was also extremely busy as it was the first hot Saturday of the year. However once we managed to flag down an assistant the experience was great. The staff's enthusiasm for cycling was manifest (they seemed pleased that you wanted to ride a bike!) and they took as long as was necessary with you, even though the queue in the store was getting longer. Somehow, the guy serving us juggled several other people all test-riding bikes and asking Jen useful questions to aid in the decision making process.

The only drawbacks were the busy-ness and the slight chaos in the store (when we went to pick up Jen's bike the following week, they said it was ready when they still needed to fix a few things on it). We'd definitely recommend it for buying a new bike, just don't go when you're in a hurry. 9/10

(Thanks to CTC Maps for the photo

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