Chicago Bike Shop Mini-Tour

Yesterday I set out to visit various bike shops. I visited four total, just the tip of the iceberg in these parts. Two were a pleasure, two were highly annoying, and none led to a bike discovery. On the positive side, I enjoyed spending a few hours cycling around the city. This pic was taken in my “backyard.” Yes, I do live that close to the el tracks, but the noise is not an issue. I prefer to be close to public transit, although I rarely take it nowadays.

My Backyard

My Backyard

Good thing I spent all day riding around, because the physical activity balanced out my brunch: fried chicken and waffles!!

Fried Chicken and Waffles

Fried Chicken and Waffles

Maybe it’s the residual Southern in me, hard to shake off after 25 years in North Carolina and Tennessee, even with Yankee parents, but I LOVE fried chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, etc. So, yeah, good to get some physical activity every day – without ever having to step into a creepy gym :)

The first shop I visited was A Nearly New Shop, overflowing with vintage frames. Lots of Schwinn cruisers. The owner plucked a couple of steel mixtes out of the piles, but one was too small and the other already sold. He said to call on Monday and in the meantime he would go through the bikes in storage to see if he could find a bigger one.

A Nearly New Shop (not my original photo)

A Nearly New Shop (not my original photo)

The second and third shops I will not name to protect the guilty. They both sold new bikes, not that far from Nearly New. The first had a lifeless corporate feel and not one person offered assistance, including the sales guy chatting on his cell phone in front of us. The second oozed poorly disguised snobbishness. They had a 3-speed of a particular bike and I asked if they also had the 8-speed. The guy’s response was, “No, but they ride the same, except the 8-speed has a few more gears.” No, really?? Wow, I’m so lucky you were here to tell me that. Never could have figured that one out.

The final shop is a gem, Rapid Transit (they of the Chicago Bike Blog). 2-15-rapid-transit2 The shop had a welcoming vibe and comfortable seating area in front. Though it was by far the busiest, I got great service from a helpful woman and my husband struck up a geeky conversation with one of the guys. I decided to test ride the Jamis Commuter, the same that was stolen from me except one step up, with internal gears. It was light and fast enough, but the ride on the aluminum was so bumpy! I could feel every little pebble. I’d forgotten how bad Chicago roads could feel after months of riding my Oma.

They had beautiful steel bikes (in the picture above, you can sort of see the bikes in the window), their new RT (Rapid Transit) bikes, I was told, made by a company in Minnesota. Unfortunately, for now they come only in single speed and diamond frame. But they reminded me of the type of bike I really want. They also had a totally kick-ass black German (I think) bike similar to my Oma with a huge black milk crate on the front rack. Hot! Somebody needs to go buy that bike.

After such a trying expedition, I definitely deserved some beer and chips! I must say, I got a few smiles from strangers with this set-up.

The Beermobile

The Beermobile

Today I am going to TATI Cycles. I have a very good feeling about this trip. Hope so, since it’s a 30 mile round trip.

The search continues…

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16 thoughts on “Chicago Bike Shop Mini-Tour

  1. It’s kind of you to “protect the guilty” but maybe it’s time to start including their names as part of reviews like this one. My small town, Arcata, is very bike-friendly, but apparently you wouldn’t know it if you happen to be a female bike shopper. Women I know have ended up buying bikes from out of town dealers, just because it’s so unpleasant for them to endure the condescension and needless snobbery they seem to encounter around here. For example, one shop actually suggested that a racing frame was “too much bike” for her–so she bought one from an out of town dealer the next day. So much for that $2,000 sale!

  2. Nico says:

    I think you forgot the beer tag for this post. :)

  3. Trisha says:

    Yes, Dot, you may not forget the beer tag!! ;-)

  4. 2whls3spds says:

    Looks like a “normal” run to me!


  5. There’s a part of me that agrees with Gordon Inkeles and then there’s a part of me that would hate to have a LBS lose business through bad PR on what could be a fluke day. Judgment call, I guess, but if bad service keeps happening–they deserve what they get and hopefully get what they deserve.
    I love the beer-bike pic! Just the way that bag of chips is lovingly belted onto the rack like a little tot!

  6. msdottie says:

    Beer tag added! Sorry for the slip up; it won’t happen again.

    I don’t want to be negative on others in the cycling community by name. I will, however, post license plate numbers and/or pictures of cars that do jerky things, circumstances permitting ;)

  7. Erich Z says:

    I’ve got to defend the guy who told you the 3-speed was just like the 8-speed. He was probably trying to say “We don’t display it, but we can get it. What you see here is what you would get, plus 5 speeds.” He just wasn’t very eloquent about it. I’m trying to think the best of the guy here – my guess is he was trying to be helpful.

    Funny, when I go into local shops in my vintage steel bike I don’t get any help at all. Wish my shops sold neat bags and racks, but they just stare at me blankly when I ask.

  8. msdottie says:

    Erich, possible, except after I said, “yeah, thank you,” and walked away I heard him say to a co-worker, “Some people just can’t be helped.” Don’t know for sure if he was talking about me, but I was the only customer in there. Overall not a great attitude.

  9. jhaygood says:

    I have a bike store right by my house, about 3 blocks away. But they are consistently dismissive and attempting to prove they know bikes like no one knows bikes. And it’s just a little shop that I’m sure needs the biz. But I ride right past and go to a couple others that just love bikes, and share that with customers. They make it fun.

  10. Erich says:

    Or, maybe he’s just a dick.

  11. tsalyards says:

    You know what they say, if you want something done give the job to a busy man. It’s not a surprise that the best service was in the busiest store.

    Is that the Brown or Red line that runs through your back yard? My families place in Wrigleyville has the EL running across the back yard as well. I love it. It certainly lets you know you’re in Chicago and after a while you don’t even hear the trains.

  12. E A says:

    We did chat on our commute on Wells and Lincoln! I recognize the pic of you and that bike. I think I commented how much I like your bike. In fact, I’d love one, but parking it would be an issue — indoors would not be an option given its size and heft, but outdoors? I simply wouldn’t want to do that. ;-)

    Good luck on the “journey”. (have you visited Roscoe Village Bike Shop yet?)

  13. msdottie says:

    E, that’s very cool! Small world. Where’s your end point? Mine is Roscoe Village, so I’ve definitely been to RV Bikes. My favorite bike shop, actually – they’re wonderful. I bought my now-stolen Jamis Commuter from them and then kept returning over and over again to add stuff: basket, rack, lights, bell, computer, reflective tape, pedals. Great people there. Unfortunately, they don’t have what I need now. I was considering the Civia, but I don’t want to pay that much and want steel.

    Tad, brown line. I like the el, too – it has character.

  14. E A says:

    I also really want to know which two shops you visited (no doubt in Lakeview) that didn’t serve you right. That’s a shame.

    My commute takes me near the Lincoln/Belmont intersection. See ya on the road. Beware the Lincoln/Wells wind tunnel. :-)

  15. meligrosa says:

    rocking that outfit, gorgeous bike (and rider), gloves, bike shops, beer.
    oh awesometastic!

  16. […] bikes the I could not afford, such as ANTs and MAPs. I encountered annoying bike shop guys. I toured Chicago’s bike shops. At one point I thought I had something on the horizon, but that did not […]

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