I intended to complete this discussion about bike shops a week ago, but Fútbol interfered. This is the second World Cup to which I have given more than casual attention and it’s returned a favor with numerous outstanding matches and remarkable moments.
Championship athletic competition on a high level is always appealing. I can recall being captivated by Arnie hitching up his trousers as he took on Augusta National when I had no prior interest in golf. I try to not miss at least some part of The Masters. In July, of course, Tour de France will provide an even more compelling distraction so I need to finish the first half of the bike shop discussion now!
In the May edition of “Senior Times” I wrote about becoming a bike rider whether as someone resuming a long-ago activity or as something new for recreational and fitness reasons. I suggested that one of the best ways to acquire a suitable bike for the commencement of a two-wheeled journey is to visit a bike shops and talk to people who can assist in sorting through the wide variety of bikes now available; back in the 50s and 60s the selection was very limited in small-town America.
At my local Publix I was asked by someone who recognized me from the picture included among the Contributors whether there was a preferred bike shop in town, specifically, what was my FNBS (Friendly Neighborhood Bike Shop)? Choosing a shop to take care of your ride is highly subjective and that’s what I related to the man who asked the question.
The only way to find the right shop with the right bike, whether as newbie or redux, is to talk to the people inside their doors. As a prospective bicycle rider you should have answers to some relevant questions before setting out on a bike quest.
1. How well do you ride?
2. What do you want to accomplish?
3. What kind of riding do you think you want to do?
4. What’s your budget?
There’s one other thing you need to ask of yourself: How likely are you to stick with riding a bike if it turns out to be more difficult that you thought? If you have a personal history of plunging into something (buying all the equipment, taking all the classes, finding all the places) only to give it up and be left with regret and chose, pants, brushes and other useless but painful reminders of one more zealous obsession gone bad.
Riding a bike, even casually, requires regular physical effort. If you don’t try to develop fitness and skill the bike will be relegated to the back porch, yard or craigslist.
I wondered how bike shops (other than my FNBS) would deal with a Senior Citizen who wants to begin riding. At each of the first five shops I have visited, Bike Works, Gator Cycle, Schwinn Shop, Swift Cycle and Chain Reaction (There are four yet to be visited) the person or people to whom I spoke wanted to know the same basic information related the questions posed above. At none of the shops will you find someone pushing you toward a bike unsuited to your wants and needs. Instead, they may try to convince you that your wants exceed your needs (and abilities), but their goals were all about getting a good match.
Each shop sells one or more brands of bikes and every brand has a wide range of style options. For many older, wanna-be bike riders an upright, step-through frame bike is often the best first choice. Bikes that might have been called “girls’ bikes” in our long ago past are more properly called “open frame” and are not gender specific. They are wholly suitable for a new, older rider where swinging an aging leg over the back of a bike might exceed current physical ability.
2300 SW 34th Street, Gainesville, FL 32608
Tony of Bike Works responded to an email I sent asking if I had been accurate in my brief assessment of Bike Works. He said that not only have they added some bikes of the sort I had hoped to see, but that Giant had dropped the price of 30 of their most popular models by 20 to 30 percent. Additionally, they have developed several videos relevant to ordinary care and maintenance which could be useful to both new and regular riders. These are available on their website.
3321 SW Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608
1225 W University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601
A moment here about big box bike, those from Wal-Mart, Target, and Kmart; they may not cost much, but they come with none of the assurance you get from a local bike shop if something fails, breaks or needs adjusting. Another moment . . . this time about craigslist; stolen bikes often find their way to craigslist and like big box bikes, repairs may require using a local bike shop. You also have even less recourse regarding failure, breakage and adjustments. Any bike acquired from other than a bike shop should be taken to a shop for a thorough examination. Failing brakes really suck.
607 W University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601
Reaction Bike Shop
1630 W University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32603
I hadn’t bothered to mention that each of the listed bike shops has at least one fulltime mechanic, but after you acquire a bike having a mechanic you trust becomes very important; chains wear out, wheels need to be made true and brakes need to be adjusted. Being able to get your bike serviced timely and competently matters and makes it the “customer service after the sale” that is most important.
You probably cannot find a bad bike shop in G’ville because there’s abundant competition. It’s like this; if you visit a bike shop looking for information and the people with whom you interact don’t make you feel comfortable, go somewhere else. When you see someone with a bike, talk to him or her about bikes and shops. Bike riders tend to be pretty passionate about riding and like to share information. The more people you talk to the more you will know. More people on two-wheels is a good thing.