Depending on where I happen to find myself, there are certain bike shops I support, who support me and my riding. Yes, there are many other shops that sell great products, are staffed by friendly, knowledgeable people and will surely take care of your bike. The shops listed below, however, are those with whom I have a special relationship. And while I encourage you to support your local shop, where-ever that may be, I also urge you to check these out.
Bloomfield, Prince Edward County, Ontario
The Bloomfield Bicycle Co. has a very special place in my heart. Perhaps it’s because my sister-by-choice, Kt Misener, owns the shop along with her business partner, Rick Willing. Perhaps it’s because my mum lived in The County for nearly 9 years or maybe it’s because Kt and I share an adoptive mom, Liz. Maybe it’s cuz I store a bunch of my sh&t in their barn so I’d better say nice things. Regardless the personal reasons, the BBC really is a bike store like no other. In fact, it’s less of a shop than it is a cyclist’s resource; both for parts and service, support and encouragement.
Kt and Rick are both vastly knowledgeable about bikes and committed to meeting cyclist’s needs. Sure, Rick might rant and rave for or against just about everything in life, but if you have some obscure 1950’s Paraguayan 48hole 3-speed coaster hub that needs rebuilding, Rick can do it and likely has the parts. Don’t go in expecting to purchase the latest little carbon fibre gadget, but if you are on tour or thinking about it, the BBC is the greatest resource you’ll ever come across. Equally, if you want to rent a carbon fibre or titanium super-bike bike for the day, they got you covered.
Open every day from April 1st to October 31st, the BBC offers seven weekly mtb and road rides of differing speeds/intensities, an organized Century each long weekend of the summer and for the past twenty years have hosted the iconic mountain-bike race, Paul’s Dirty Enduro.
The vibe there is laid back [“If you’re in a hurry, you’re in the wrong place”] yet brimming with life. If you offend easily by loud women using words like twat to help you find that perfect saddle, you should probably stay in the city. But when you go there you really will feel like a little kid exploring a bike shop for the very first time. Bring 12yo Scotch for Kt.
I first heard of Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop on Bloor St. way back in the mid-90’s when I was managing a Cyclepath franchise in Ottawa. At the time, Sweet Pete’s was still part of the Cyclepath chain who’s parent company, Anything Cycle, was going belly up. We all heard about this guy named Pete Lilly, rebranding his shop and becoming a leader in the Toronto retail bike scene. Living in Toronto on-and-off since 2001 I’d worked at other shops but never Pete’s, despite there now being three locations. Over time, many dear friends ended up working there, speaking so highly of Pete. When Jill offered me a job two years ago, I jumped at the chance to be a part of the Sweet Pete’s team.
After two seasons working at the 1204 Bloor St. location(west of Dufferin, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier working at any bike shop, ever…and I’ve worked at several excellent shops. Besides being a wonderful human being, Pete has assembled a very solid crew of staff and management whom he happily lets do their jobs. A refreshing change from most shops. All of this is reflected in the positive attitude everyone shares towards their work.
The core of the business are commuter bikes, bikes for the family and the endless–and often times bizarre–needs of a downtown clientele. Yes, we sell high-end road and mountain bikes and have the staff/products to back them up. But mainly, this is a business that keeps the wheels of Toronto turning. The talented mechanics there work on some of the most awful bikes you’ve ever seen. But they do so with pride, knowing that they keeping folks alive, getting to work, school and other family commitments. It’s a passion everyone in the service department shares.
The people I’ve worked with have quickly become dear friends. Pete himself has gone so far beyond what could ever be expected of an employer I really don’t know what to say. If you live in or around Toronto, this is the store that will take care of you, with knowledge, humour and compassion. There is the Sweet Pete’s way of doing things and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. Bring beer for the shop, bring Jameson for Shawn.
Although Gears Canary is a fairly new store in Toronto with which I have very limited personal experience, I want to throw my support behind this shop. The reason? One person, Michael Cranwell, general manager. A wonderful human being, a powerhouse of a cyclist and a passionate advocate for our sport, his ongoing efforts for the needs of cyclists in Toronto, Ontario and Canada are second to none. I have known Michael since 2001 when I was wrenching at Duke’s Cycle and he was a customer. We’ve since become good friends and I respect him immensely.
In a town of just 5,000 people, you might be surprised to know there are three excellent bike shops within two blocks of each other. Each has their own personality and clientele and I support them all. Absolute Bikes, however, stands above the rest…both locally and nationally. If you ride high-end mountain-bikes, appreciate staff who really ride and demand the best from your mechanics, then Absolute is for you.
Everyone at Absolute is so incredibly knowledgeable and so utterly committed to our sport, to our passion. Earl and Tom–plus many others–organize the toughest one-day bike race in North America, the Vapor Trail 125. The shop actively supports the local high-school mountain-bike team and the kids learn-to-mountain-bike program. Absolute also contributes to the hard work of Salida Mountain Trails who build and maintain the amazing local trail network.
I was introduced to the Absolute family by my dear friend, Reilly, who was a mechanic at this iconic Colorado shop. Being a friend to Reilly, I was instantly brought within the fold. Earl would offer me his stand to use after hours, Scot currently stores my Salida townie at his house and I’ve had the great pleasure of showing the owner, Shawn Gillis, my favourite trails in Big Bend. Knobbe, Roland, Nate, Craig, Sydney, Aaron, Keith and James; friends I could call upon at a moment’s notice to go for a ride…or to share a beer next door. Truly, these are my people.
If you’re a bike geek, look up and gaze upon the bike museum that hangs from the rafters. If you need a fit, Shawn and Ryan will help get you more comfortable and faster than ever. If you rock some super obscure part, Scot will repair it with a zeal(and volume) like no other. If you need beta on the hundreds of miles of stunning back-country Rocky Mountains trails, these are your people. Truly, this is THE American mountain-bike shop. Bring beer from Elevation and pastries from Sweeties.
When I first road my touring bike from Spokane, Washington to Terlingua, Texas, I rolled into the Desert Sports parking lot and met those who would soon become my desert family. Being a part of this amazing group of people has brought me so much happiness, adventure and love. And really, isn’t that what makes a shop truly special; the people who own, manage, work and frequent a business.
Desert Sports is more than just some little bike shop in the middle of the desert. It is also a river outfitters, renowned the world over for the quality of their guides and depth of knowledge in everything to do with the Rio Grande and the Big Bend region. But more than that, Desert Sports is a west Texas institution. They’ve been taking people down the river since the late-80’s and have been mountain-biking here since before most of us ever thought of riding a mountain-bike. In fact, Desert Sports was responsible for organizing the fabled Chihuahuan Desert Challenge, one of the original 25 NORBA Classic mtb races with guys like Herbold, Weins, Tinker, Grewal and even Armstrong butting heads under the punishing sun and heat.
If you need Slimed tubes or extra sealant(and you will), trail info, a guide or even a top-notch mechanic, Desert Sports delivers. But more than all that, to me Desert Sports–the spot–is a place I call home. One visit and you’ll know why. Bring Lone Star, lots of Lone Star.