how to go road bike shopping and judge a bike shop?
back in the summer, i got a $200.00 bike from target. scoff at the source and the price as you may, i really like the bike and its gotten me to bike commuting 60 miles or so per week plus going on joy rides. Now I want to upgrade to a road bike, maybe in the touring style or maybe not - for less than $1,000.00. I'm getting serious about the situation, and here's what I'm going to do:
Take the day off and ride my bike around Philadelphia, hitting as many bike shops as possible. I'm open minded: steel, aluminum, name brand, budget brand, new, and used will all be considered. I'm going to take notes on what's being offered - and also what I think of the shops themselves. Then I'll post my findings. So, here's my questions:
1) any tips on how to get the most of this endeavor?
2) any idea on how to fairly assess a bike shop experience? can you think of any sales or service type of question that ought to be answered such that a fudging or "you've got to bring it in" (for the service aspect) is an indication they're treating me as a mark and not a potential valued customer?
No scoffing here. If you can, go on an off day when you can get full attention. I am not sure what type of riding you will ultimately enjoy but test ride a hybrid, mountain and road bike - Disregard pricing now. You want to get a feel for what TYPE of bike best suits you.
First have the bike guy/gal "rough fiit" the bike for you. (adjust saddle height, etc). Don't just ride around the lot, ride around the block or through the neighborhood if you can. climb hills, ride downhill. corner, brake hard, test the steering.
Here is where you may notice differences between the "big box bikes" and the various bikes you try. (You may well discover no difference at all).
Understand that different manufactures have different spec and a different feel, even among the same sized frames, so go to different shops with different manufactures and determine what you really like by experience.
If you want a touring-style bike, go to Trophy Bikes on N. 2nd. They usually have some LHTs and Cross Checks in stock, although you won't get one of those new for $1,000.
I also recommend Ed and Dan at Wissahickon in Chestnut Hill. They are very experienced, knowledgeable and won't try to sell you something you don't want. Plus you can gawk at any Engin frames that might have hanging in the shop. They are made on site by the shop's owner and they are amazing. Got a tour of the shop this summer. I think my next bike is going to be an Engin.
Another recommendation of Philadelphia BikeSmith, a relatively new shop on 19th St. just south of Fairmount. Richie, one fo the owners, is a great mechanic. He used to work at Bicycle Therapy and Breakaway.
Fairmount Bikes on Fairmount Ave. between 20th & Corinthian has used bike as does Via Bicyle on 9th just south of South St. They cater more to the hipster/casual rider crowd.
In terms of service, a good mechanic will want you to bring in the bike to adequately assess any potential problems. If you went to a car mechanic and told him you hear a knocking you would be told the same thing.
Commuter & cyclotourist
Beyond the excellent advice already given, I think a good way to assess a shop is to go in, wait to see if someone offers to help you, and when they do (or when you get someone's attention), say you're interested in a new bike. If they look at you and immediately steer you toward a particular kind of bike (especially a hybrid or a cruiser), beg off. If they ask what kind of riding you do, what your goals are, what kind of bike you currently own and whether you want a different kind--questions aimed at getting to know what would be best for you, not for them--then it's a promising sign.