How to know when it’s time to switch bike shop


Have you ever walked out of a bike shop feeling highly irritated with how you’ve been treated? Maybe the staff were patronising, didn’t listen to your needs or pushed too hard to get you to order a service you didn’t need. It’s an unfortunate story that many cyclists, especially those new to the game, will repeat. However, salvation can be found simply by switching bike shop. There are plenty out there that are offering an excellent service and are genuinely interested in their customer’s cycling experience.

Here are four tell tale signs that it’s time to switch bike shop.

Beginner questions are greeted with a rolling of the eyes and a lack of explanation

At some point all of us had no idea what a derailleur is or what type of bike we need. It’s not helpful when the bike shop assistant gives vague answers, looks down on you and makes a suggestion without explanation. If you are not getting the answers you need to feel comfortable with your purchase then it’s time to take your business elsewhere.

The staff are simply not listening to you

I was recently speaking to the founders of Foffa Bikes. They started the company after a frustrating experience in London’s bike shops. The owner simply wanted to buy a single speed bike for getting around London. The assistants said that it’s more of a fashion accessory and recommended something with gears. Whilst a bike shop is there to offer advice, in this situation they were ignoring the customers needs. Which was for something low maintenance needed around central London. Nicole has repeated to me similar horror stories of being recommended pink bikes just because she’s a woman.

You are getting the hard sell

You go into a bike shop with a skipping chain and you end up being told your brakes need servicing and you need a new set of wheels. It’s good that you are being recommended potential upgrades but there shouldn’t be a hard sell. If you just want the most pressing problem fixed then that is your decision.

A typical story you’ll hear is that you went in for a £50-£80 bike service and the components replaced add up to more than £100 extra. Again, it’s good the bike shop is identifying things that need to be replaced but you should be consulted before they do so.

My favourite kind of bike shop will tell me when I can get more mileage out of something before it needs replacing.

You are waiting too long for a bike service

When something goes wrong on your bike you need it fixed as soon as possible. If a bike shop is telling you it will be a week or so before they can take a look at it then it’s clear they have a lot on their plate and you should find somewhere that’s able to accommodate you. 

Finding a good new bike shop

When searching for a bike shop you can use something like the London Bike Shop app or a website such as The Cycling Experts Cycle Shop finder.

You can also checkout some of my favourite London bike shops where there are also some excellent suggestions from London cyclist readers.

See also:

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27 Responses to How to know when it’s time to switch bike shop

  1. John 18/05/2011 at 10:55 am #

    The ones that don’t have the part that you want but can get it by Thursday for you no problem, but don’t tell you which Thursday!
    Then they complain about internet shopping…….

  2. Adam Edwards 18/05/2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Or where when you make a complaint about a racist member of staff they never even reply to the email, sadly.
    Or when they’ve had the bike in for repair don’t tell you it’s done
    Or when you order a part they never get back to you to tell you its in and you can get the job done.

    I read a lot about supporting your local bike store, but one thing chains like Evans do get right is the training of staff in treating customers as humans not ignorant idiots and using the phone to keep in touch. That’s what makes me go back to them.


    • Just.Sooz 20/05/2011 at 3:37 pm #

      I swore off of Evans because of just that – poor communication, unwanted replacements and the problem I took my bike in for in the first place never got seen to. They told me to get a new bike instead of repairing the minor fault on my old one!

      I now swear by The London Bicycle Workshop
      and Cycledelik

      • Woody 30/06/2011 at 11:31 am #

        I have to say, my experience with Evans varies wildly.
        Wandsworth – really very good. I’ve bought two bikes from them in the past 10 years. Only slight downer is they go hard sell on BMC bikes, as the sole UK distributor.
        Great Portland Street – quite good.
        Blackfriars and Holborn – not bad
        Waterloo Cut and London Bridge – not good at all.

        I miss On Yer Bike in London Bridge.

  3. Adam 18/05/2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Re point 2.

    I wouldn’t call telling someone that they have components in a dangerous condition to ride such as brakes not working a “hard sell” I work two bike shops and both will totally assess the safety of a bike no matter what it’s in for just to let the customer know if a bike is dangerous to ride. They don’t have to get any extra problems found fixed but they do get noted down as advisories at the end of the sheet detailing any work done. On a few occasions I have written disclaimer notes too about bikes that are so unroadworthy they are lethal to ride, yet the customer doesn’t want all the repairs done. Eg brakes not working at all but the customer still intends to use it on the road.

    Also sometimes having to wait a while to get your bike booked in can be a sign that a shop and their mechanics are good! A bit like busy restaurants being a safer bet for good food than an empty one!

    I’ve had some terrible service in quite a few bike shops before I started working as a mechanic myself, including having boxes stacked up between me and the lights I was looking at by two employees that were too busy discussing the football to notice or even help me. The same shop sold me a bike that was way too big, only for me to realise that a couple of years later when I started to learn about bikes. They also were very rude and very reticent to even look at my bike and quote me a price for fixing and servicing that same bike when it needed it, almost as if they didn’t want the work or couldn’t be bothered with me. Quite why I went back to that bike shop three times even though the service was dire I’m not sure. I’ve had similar at other shops too, but there are lots of shops around to choose from so you don’t have to put up with appalling service.

    I like to think that all the bad service I’ve had in the past benefits the better way I treat the customers that come to our shops, having experienced what it’s like to be on the receiving end too.

    • Filippo Negroni 18/05/2011 at 3:14 pm #

      Like 🙂

    • Andreas 19/05/2011 at 9:26 am #

      Adam, you would definitely hope a customer would have enough logic to not ride around with brakes that are about to fail! I was referring more to components that still have some mileage in them that a customer may prefer to see out. I think obviously someone with a lot of bike knowledge sees something that looks worn out and is more inclined to replace it early. A customer may view things a little different. But we are 100% agreed that people shouldn’t be riding around on dangerous bikes!

      It’s good to read that you’ve learnt from bad customer experiences in the past and now use that in the bike shops you work. In my own personal experience I think I’ve only been disappointed with the experience in two bike shops I’ve visited in London. I’d like to think shops are cleaning up their acts and there’s less snobery around bicycles than there perhaps has been in the past.

  4. matthew 18/05/2011 at 5:44 pm #

    It wasn’t so much the snooty service that annoyed me at a *certain* ec2 independent bike shop.

    it was more the fact that the peddle they fitted was back to front and fell off half the way down oxford street.

    Never went back.

  5. TIW 18/05/2011 at 9:57 pm #

    How about a staff member at a large shop not a million miles from London Bridge Station insisting that a bike I tried – and was clearly too small for me – was “definitely the right size”?. Clown. Won’t be back there again.

    Best bike shop in London is Biketrax in Wanstead. Brilliant service.

    • Tim 20/05/2011 at 10:54 am #

      Talking of Biketrax in Wanstead I went there for a spare part. They didn’t have a new one but went under the counter to produce a box a second hand parts they had taken off other bikes, which were still in good working order. When I asked how much I was told I could have it for free. This sort of goodwill makes you go back. The opposite of course is where you are overcharged for parts that aren’t suitable or you don’t really need.

  6. Karl 19/05/2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I visited a local bike store all ready to buy and waited for 15 minutes for the sales person to get off the phone so that i could buy, I got fed up and walked out, he knew that i was there, but seemingly ignored me! So rude, wont be going back there again!

  7. Alistair 19/05/2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I’ve just come back from The London Bike Workshop in clerkenwell which i first heard about on this site… great service, nice shop, they know what they are talking about and dont’ treat you like an idiot.

    I highly recommend

    • Notsoblue 20/05/2011 at 10:14 am #

      +1 to LBW. Great shop!

      • Andreas 20/05/2011 at 11:38 am #

        Pleased you heard about it through London Cyclist!

  8. carolyn 20/05/2011 at 11:07 am #

    Can we name shops? If not warning!!! Roman Road has the grumpiest bike shop, well known to my fellow workers, so try to avoid it, best bike shop so far is in Clapham High Road and it begins with A… 🙂

    • RSK 20/05/2011 at 6:03 pm #

      If you’re going to name names, then make sure you name fully – there’s about three or four Roman Roads in London – I’d hate for the wrogn shop to get bad publicity…

  9. Liz 20/05/2011 at 11:30 am #

    I swapped shops due to grumpy staff and poor advice from shop in Chatham Kent. I learnt very quickly but not before it had affected my purse! Now use a large chain as service is good and friendly staff.

  10. Paul 20/05/2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I had my rear Deore swapped for an Altira during a “diamond service” and on riding away at the first ascent I changed down and the deraileur literally fell apart, apparently due to a bolt falling out which I guess must have been loose. I should have had good explanation for change and it should never have failed.

    Not naming names exactly, but there is another shop I keep going back to, always friendly knowledgeable and never had problems that weren’t fixed – initials are BC and they’re in SW9.

  11. Just.Sooz 20/05/2011 at 3:48 pm #

    The best thing about Evans is clearly their PR team. Last year I booked my bike in to get the cables replaced. I got it back with the same cables but new (unreliable) break pads. I had no luck in store or with customer services and eventually gave up on the whole thing and blogged about my despair at being told my bike was too old and I should buy a new one (from their lovely range, no doubt).
    Thanks to whoever is responsible for scouring the internet, I managed to get somewhere, even if not to where I wanted to be, and discovered the worth of simply speaking out.

    • RSK 20/05/2011 at 6:07 pm #

      I’ve had problems with EC too – one time they told me my brakes were faulty and I’d need to take the bike in to replace them (also known as changing the brake blocks – not something I need to be charged labour costs to do).
      The last time I went in was to get a gear cable replaced – of course, they couldn’t just replace one, they had to do both. While it was in they wanted to do further work which ended up actually snapping the front forks. The amount they wanted to charge me for that debacle (along with what I’d already paid for the cable work) would have ended up more than the bike cost in the first place!
      A complete fiasco, and I’ll never be going back there again.

      • Phil Russell 21/05/2011 at 9:30 pm #

        Hello RSK….There are several branches of the “EC” shop you mention—a real horror story!—I’m hoping it’s not the one which is, shall we say, ADJACENT to Wandsworth? Do tell…..

  12. Russell 23/05/2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Well *if* we’re naming names… Actually, I’ve only got good things to say about the two local bike shops I use.

    Cycle Surgery on Great Portland Street is my haven when I’m at work for all my minor bike needs. So far they’ve replaced the screw holding the suspension on my brompton together, refitted various bits and bobs which have fallen off on the journey in – all for no free, and with some witty banter thrown in for good measure. To assuage my guilt I try and buy as much as possible from them to offset their good deeds.

    Also, Putney Cycles are never short of amazing. In fact they seem to treat my bike like an old friend, and are happier seeing it than me. Not sure if that’s a recommendation, but they are good.

  13. Fireworkboy 25/05/2011 at 7:58 am #

    We shouldn’t mock. It’s a widely recognised medical condition: Bike Shop Bloke Syndrome.

    • Andreas 26/05/2011 at 8:11 am #

      Hahaha I’ve found similar lists on the internet – thanks for linking to this one – very amusing

  14. robbie craig 31/05/2011 at 10:32 pm #

    I was once told by someone in Evans that my bike needed a part that they did not have – probably on a container from china – no idea when it would come in. A great story and one he used on the two occasions I visited after I had left my bike with them to get the problem fixed. On my last occasion in an Evans, he was immediately contradicted by a colleague who said that the mechanic said that a small tweak would fix the problem.

  15. Mark 22/01/2012 at 4:26 pm #

    fitzrovia bycles is great.
    owned by the mechanics that actually do the work they always do the job i ask them to on the same day i take it in.
    i dont know of their prices are good or bad, but the work always seems ok.
    wonder if anyone else has used them and can let me know if they are reasonably priced as i dont have anywhere else to compare with….

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