Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Local Bike Shop, 90 Miles Away

Fully stocked with Boston's own high-end Indy Fabs.

Took yesterday afternoon off for an enjoyable trip to Boston to visit my old local bike shop -- which just happens to be one of the more highly respected shops in the Northeast: Belmont Wheelworks.

Ever since we moved out to Western Massachusetts, I’ve missed this place. They have okay bike shops in the western half of the state, but the ones I've found are small, and there isn’t one that begins to match the selection and salespeople of Wheelworks.

There may be a better shop in Boston (and some say there are) but I used to live a 15-minute ride from Wheelworks, and it was plenty good enough for me. First, selection: Aisle upon aisle of bikes ranging from affordable to nose-bleedingly high-end; enough jerseys to kit out the Tour de France; seven or eight models of short-fingered gloves; tires, tires and more tires... on and on. And on.

Sung to the tune of "Tradition": "Selectioooon.... SELECTION!"

Then there are the people, probably even more important to me. There is an unusually high percentage of good ones there. When I used to go in for something trivial like an eight-dollar pair of mounts for my old frame pump (now defunct), I would be blessed with a 10-minute conversation about the merits of the different systems (and at least four systems to choose from). From someone who knew, because he'd tried all of them. And was friendly. I've never once gotten a whiff that haughty, “I’m an uber-hip bike shop wrench quite obviously wearing a $200, painfully fashionable wool jersey and sporting the latest facial hair trend; get away from me with your tiny questions” attitude. The staff there smile, and start conversations. Staff who are far, far more knowledgeable and experienced riders than me.

That’s a dreamworld LBS. I do miss 'em.

(Full disclosure: I’ve heard some pretty unhappy stories about their service department. The one time I used it, I had no problems or complaints. Also, if you go, choose your salespeople. There are one or two there who really rubbed me the wrong way, and, as a consequence, I ended up not buying my first bike there. That was before I took the time to get to know people I really vibed with, which ended up paying off in spades.)

Next: Exactly what I went there for yesterday. Yes!

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