BEST and WORST bike shops edition
Alright Yinzerz lets talk the best and worst shops in the area. Not this ain’t no city paper survey or none of that fancy print stuff, I just want to toss out there and hear the best shops and the worst for things like service, stock, community help (like group rides, showing up at events, donations), and dem skillz from the mechanics. Large or small, they all make us feel welcomed or feel like we are being watched and analyzed.
Ill feed in later but anyone want to start us off?
Sure, I’ll start. It’s pointless. Why do we need a one-dimensional means of rating a shop? I have my preferences, based on geographic proximity to where I am at the moment I need a part, tool, or service. I’ve developed a preference for two shops, but that doesn’t preclude my going to one of the others.
My needs vary. If I need a fit, I’ll go to shop A. If I need major service, I’ll go to shop B. If I get a bent rim or something in a different part of town, I’ll leave the bike at shop C and catch a bus home.
Some shops cater to one slice of the market, some others to other slices. There is no need to please everyone. Nor is there a need to talk crap about one shop because you or someone there was in a bad mood that day. Next customer or next day would be altogether different.
Well said @stuinmccandless.
I do most of my bicycle work at home or Kraynick’s, unless I am under some kind of time crunch. At that point , it gets down to the conveniences of who is open, and who is closest. I have done business with 90% of the shops in the city, as well as outliers in Wexford, Ambridge, and Confluence. I have had good experiences at all of them, and bad experiences at some.
It’s hard to rate any shop unless you visit the same one ten times over an extended period and interact with different employees on different days of the week and different times of day. Even the best shop has it’s bad moments and vice versa.
I’ve had bad experiences at a couple of Pgh shops, but they were isolated and I’m not going to bad mouth any of the shops over an isolated event.
I’ve never been to Kraynick’s but the reputation is sterling among knowledgeable folks that I have great respect for.
I live in the Great Northwest. My “home” LBS is Ambridge Bike Shop for 20 years now. High quality shop, excellent service, very competitive pricing, great advice and guidance.
My “city” bike shop is Thick Bikes. I am continually so impressed at their people, the initiative, the customer focus, the extremely high quality, the tremendous depth and resourcefulness in the shop; wow just wow. They’re avid supporters of numerous bike community activities, do the right thing and more re stolen bikes. They have women staff both in sales and in the shop – which is so needed – and you don’t see a lot of that in the Burgh.
I’ve had several positive interactions with Confluence Cyclery. I’m very impressed with Kindred Cycles based on being in there twice for business.
I’ve had and seen negative experiences elsewhere, but I’m not here to be dogging anybody in forums.
Kraynicks is one I like ,I have been buying older vintage stuff from Jerry for over 20 years and still have many of the items in my collection at the Museum ,Jerry is just a great guy and does anyone remember his Dad ? when he had the shop .The Ambridge bike shop on the other end of Pittsburgh is just great with great service ,Larry the owner is more than fair and knows bicycles in and out.
I usually go downstairs to my garage for service. There’s usually cold beer available. Hours are variable and highly unpredictable, as is the temperament of the service person (see “beer”, above).
Also, what Stu said.
I also agree with Stu’s comments. The region’s bike shops are kind of like the region’s restaurants – some cater to some slices of the market; others, for whatever reason, cater to another slice. One’s expectations should be guided accordingly. I have my preferences based on long-running friendships with certain owners and employees, but have been treated well at every shop I’ve visited (which is nearly all of them).
I try to patronize as many different ones as practical, on the theory that the more viable shops there are the better off we are.
I’ve had bad service, but I find that if I go back and explain the problem reasonably it always gets attended to. I agree that different shops are better at different things; you just need to sort that out over time.
And as general advice in dealing with any kind of shop: be nice and civil; people will meet you at least half-way.
Pro Bikes (Forbes between Shady & Murray) messed up my derailleur once (slow work, expensive, didn’t function properly) so I resolved to never use their service department again. My current favorite for service is Biketek on Forbes, a few doors down.
One more thing: Always note if the workers seem happy. If they’re not, it’s probably because they have an a*hole boss. And why would you want to patronize such an establishment? Better they close and the bike savvy people move on (or maybe hit the downhill circuit).
Re the previous comment: Both SqHill establishments are generally good. I live in the neighborhood and I try to use both. I’ve have maintenance work at both: No major unresolvable issues.
Re wrenches: a number of them seem to migrate around. I’m not too sure how that works, but eventually you just get to know them as individuals and what they’re good at (or not).
Interesting- I live very near Forbes and Murray, and have the opposite in experiences- after spending time and money in both, I prefer pro bikes and try to avoid Biketek. But most of my work on my bikes happens in my basement.
Pro bikes is the most controversial shop, for sure. Some folks really like them; others find them arrogant and too eager to recommend replacing instead of repairing equipment.
I aint gonna put no shops down, just talk about some of my dealings with them. If I felt a shop was incompetent or overly expensive I would shop elsewhere. Once I traded in a Trek 800 for a store credit at Thick Bikes and bought a Fuji. Only got $60 store credit for a bike in good, nearly rustfree rideable condition. The guy was trying to convince me my bike needed work and his mommy said I need a shave. Had Scholls bike shop have issues with some repairs but they would get it fixed eventually. Scholls in West View gave me a unbeatable price on the last bike I bought there, it is a long story but I know they took a loss. And Dicks sports makes you sign a contract releasing them from liability if the cheap bike they sell injures or kills you. They been sued in the past for selling bikes that have ballistic front shocks that break and cause accidents.
One more shop to talk about, Golden Triangle Bikes. The employee was very helpfull holding my bike when I was removing the pedals. Once me and my dog walked downtown to buy a part of GTB and they was closed, because it was raining.
I live very close to Iron City Bikes and they have always done right by me.
I tend to frequent a select few places, but that’s mostly based on proximity and convenience.
That said, I’ve probably visited a dozen or more stores over the past year. (That includes Banker Supply, FWIW.)
I’ve bought stuff at some, browsed at others.
If I ask reasonably intelligent questions, I get treated pretty well.
I have had bad experiences, most notably in the areas of bike fit, which I blame on poorly trained staff at a store that I usually have good experience with; and speed of repairs taking longer than I would like at a couple of places. I do have one store that I recommend people stay away from, based on having witnessed a bad experience. They tried to sell my friend, who was mostly interested in road bike, but wanted a little “flash” a $6000 (If I recall correctly) carbon fiber bike. Insane. They were seriously thinking they could pull off the sale.
The only shop that I would actually advise against, at this point, is in Cumberland, MD. I haven’t had any notably bad experiences in Pgh itself. I did have a minor bad experience with Iron City, but as I’ve already said, I’m not going to hold one very minor thing against them as I was in a pinch and they bailed me out. It takes consistent issues before I write a shop off as being “bad.”
If I’m in the city, I tend to go to Thick or Dirty Harry’s. That’s just preference. If I’m much further east, Freeze Thaw in State College is a personal favorite. Most shops were average when I’ve helped friends bike-shop but those three stick out to me as going above and beyond.
Kraynick’s is a totally different animal than any of the other shops here (or… do other cities even have this??). If you’re of a utilitarian mindset in terms of components, you can spare the time now as easily than fitting in a bike drop-off pickup elsewhere, don’t have much of a budget, or really if you just have the inclination to wrench things yourself, it’s the way to go.
Otherwise? Different places have different feel, different focus consumers.
But knowing those differences, I think when you go to the shop makes a bigger difference than where in terms of the level of direct attention you’ll get.
When possible I try and bring a bike in at slightly weird (non-lunch) hours on days I don’t have meetings. Works well.
We have a lot of good shops in Pittsburgh. I really can’t complain about any of them, but I don’t care for Big Bang much. I have an old Campy shifter that they said they could fix and they didn’t fix it at all. Cost me $50 for NOTHING, so I will post about that. I ended up getting my shifter fixed out in Boulder, CO. They had no problem fixing it and knew what they were doing. I figure that shifter will be good for another 15 years! Shame I have to go to Boulder for the real deal. Big Bang doesn’t know Campy that well.
Jerry’s place is in a different league, but I run Campy on most bikes, so I can’t shop there much. He is a super guy. I think one of a kind. I really like most of the shops around. Thick is pretty impressive if you are into Surly. I also like Performance. Good value and nice sales. We are lucky in our area, but if you are a Campy guy, you need to go out of state.
“Pro bikes is the most controversial shop, for sure. Some folks really like them; others find them arrogant and too eager to recommend replacing instead of repairing equipment.”
I am not going to bash bike shops. I know Pro Bikes is a big supporter of Bike Pittsburgh. However, I will say that replacing parts and buying clothing I will spend an additional 20% more at Pro Bikes than smaller individual shops.
A shop that really knows Campy is a rare beast… I can count on one hand shops that I would send shifters to: Vecchio’s (Boulder), Branford (Seattle), Velotech (UK). The only reason I’d feel comfortable doing a Campy rebuild myself is because of the information that has come out of those three shops.
Peter, the former owner of Vecchio’s is very active on the Paceline forum and is a wealth of knowledge on Campagnolo.
Vecchio’s is where I was and they fixed it perfectly. I will never use anyone else.
I usually go downstairs to my garage for service.
You cannot be 100% sure even in this kind of service because of:
There’s usually cold beer available.
Notice “usually” — not 100%. :)
the only real problem with my home shop is there aren’t always, for example, brake pad set screws in a jar somewhere. you just never know when you’re going to try to replace your brake pads and suddenly strip that allen head. not that i have any recent familiarity with that sort of thing.
Thought I’d chime in on an older thread. For major tune-ups I don’t feel like doing at home, and when I’m in the market for new parts: Thick Bikes. For chatting and help with repairs I attempted and failed at (ball bearings and grease everywhere, please help) Kindred Cycles.
For getting talked down to and humiliated for being a woman: Iron City.
That’s unfortunate. One of the mechanics at Thick (a woman) is also a council member at FreeRide and they have a women/queer umbrella night, FWIW.
@hiddenvariable I hate small Allen heads. I’ve gotten into the habit of lubricating pretty much every thread on my bike after spending countless hours screwing around (pun intended?) with stripped hardware.
Also on allen heads: good quality allen wrenches will be less likely to strip the bolts. (harder sharper corners less likely to round and/or cam out.)
When I asked the Assistant Manager – Sales at Pro Bikes in Squirrel Hill “I could use one of those 700C studded tires on a 29 inch mountain bike, right?”, he told me “I wouldn’t do it. 29er and 700 are two different standards. You’d be taking your chances.”
But when I consult Sheldon Brown at http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tire-sizing.html , he says that 29 inch “is a marketing term for wide 622 mm (700c) tires.”
I’m inclined to believe Sheldon Brown. It’s disconcerting that someone at a “Pro” bike shop would get this wrong – this is pretty basic stuff!
29’ers and 700C’s might be the same diameter (622mm) but the the former are typically wider. I doubt it’s a “standard” per se but I can see it would be useful in marketing, to indicate a width range.
The right response would have been to talk about the width and to maybe point out that a large mismatch could be an issue. On the other hand most of the studded tires I’ve looked at (though never bought) seemed wide enough.
[ok, so NOW I check Sheldon… there is a good discussion of width and why it’s not a great idea to mismatch (in section “B.S.D”)]
Common mistake Paul, it’s from the latin phrase pro et contra, not an abbreviation of professional.
Reviving an old thread. I was biking in the Strip yesterday and my rear hub was making horrible noises. I stopped in at Kindred Cycles (Penn Ave near 25th St) and they diagnosed and fixed the problem (temporarily) and got me on my way. I was very impressed by Katharine’s verbal & written communication of what she was doing. Have you ever received a receipt with such thorough comments? I wish my doctor communicated this well.
Yahoo Finance article on bike shops’ efforts to adapt to a post-internet landscape.
TLDR: survivors focus on community-building.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Click here to login.