There are many different types of bike shop.
There are chain stores with economies of scale offering identikit equipment at competitive prices. There are on-line retailers with a big digital presence, of whom no-one can confirm either way whether they have an actual, physical shop. There are scruffy and ramshackle veterans of the industry who inhabit paint flaked premises on the edge of town centres, and stock a small selection of old steel framed bikes, cheap and cheerful hybrid commuters and – strangely – prams.
And then there are the quality independents, as I like to call them.
Entering one of these shops is like worshipping at an altar of common sense and straight talking. If you wander in off the street asking daft questions and making yourself out to be a ‘serious’ cyclist then you can expect some gentle (or not so gentle) teasing.
These shops are usually named after the owner, for the simple reason that there’s every chance the owner has a name worth hanging over the door of a bike shop.
When you meet the man he will never offer this information, but there is enough in his manner to tell you that he is a solid former pro, or was perhaps a talented amateur and local hotshot, or at the very least he made his name fixing the bikes of people who can ride quickly.
The chances are he will have the wiry physique of a man for whom clocking up mileage in the saddle is a lifestyle rather than a hobby; unless he’s gone the other way, and decided to make up for long years in denial of earthly pleasures by letting himself go in glorious style.
Either way, he will have enough anecdotes of big days on the bike to compete with all but the most abundant cycling raconteur.
Because of his status in the local cycling community he will make little concession to the business of customer service; he knows you’ll bring your bike to him when it needs mending, and browse his shop full of bikes made by Pinarello and Colnago when you’re in the market for a new one, and so feels no pressure to tout for business.
That’s not to say he’s unfriendly – far from it – just that he doesn’t apply any corporate gloss to what he does.
For example, having left my winter bike with him last week for some tricky maintenance I rang to see where things were up to:
“Which one is it?” he asked, “the Pinarello Angliru?”
“That’s the one”.
“I think we fixed it…now, where is it?”
(cue muffled shouts to the mechanics in the background)
“Hmmm, I hope we haven’t sold it by accident.”
“Oh, here we go, all done…that’s lucky. Now, did it have wheels on when you left it, or have I lost them somewhere?”
You get the picture.
Of course the job was done on time, at a reasonable price, to a perfectly high standard, but this man doesn’t attempt to give the impression he knows what he’s doing; he’s safe in the knowledge that his name over the door does that job just fine.