During my first year of college I worked in a hip little bike shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which unfortunately resulted in a self-conscious fear of bike people. I knew nothing about bicycles or all of the components and accessories that make them roll and tick, but I managed to get a job selling all of these things, anyway. The rest of the crew…kind of hated me.
My constant need to ask what they considered incredibly basic questions drove the rest of the staff (especially the mechanics) absolutely crazy, and I was repeatedly met with a “oh god what now Janik?” every time I dared peek over the swinging doors that led into the repair shop. Luckily there was a Wendy’s across the street, and so what I lacked in bike knowledge I tried to make up for with enthusiastic fast-food runs for chicken sandwiches and chili. I’m pretty sure this is the only reason any of them tolerated me. That, and the fact that my friendly and casual-yet-clueless demeanor sold more bikes than one would imagine.
To this day, I’m not an avid or even frequent cyclist – I recently sold one of my two bikes on Craigslist because it had been sitting untouched in my storage closet for years. I decided I’d rather have the money and extra space for my other junk than a bike I ‘might’ ride again some day. So, it isn’t for the vast bicycle selection or the other fun doo-dads that The Bike Peddler has to offer that keeps me coming back to them – I still have little to no knowledge about any of the above.
I take all of my (minimal) bike needs to The Bike Peddler because the people who work there ROCK! When I say my bike needs are minimal, I mean it. Usually all I need is a shot or two of air in my son’s tires before we ride around town. Once they even loosened the wheels of his skateboard for him. From time to time I’ll roll up and look at streamer-festooned handlebar grips for my daughter or kickier helmets than the ones we already have (and bought from them, of course), but honestly I almost never buy anything.
Despite this, they fill up our tires and answer our questions about sparkly baskets and dinging bells versus goofy horns with full attention and sincerity. They tighten loose bolts and loosen tight pedals, and I never feel as though we’re putting them out. Most importantly, if they’re annoyed by us, I can’t tell – and needless to say I have a high sensitivity to being an annoyance to bike people.
Recently I decided to get the tires and seat replaced on my one remaining bike. I have a 1970’s Free Spirit that had the original tires and a rock-hard seat, both of which were preventing me from riding too long or far. I took it down to The Bike Peddler, where I explained to John that I was looking for “a seat that doesn’t kill my ass for days.” He showed me my options and I was pleased when he didn’t try to upsell me – I have a general sympathy for salespeople and a hard time saying no (read: I’m kind of a sucker), so I really dislike the upsell – he just found exactly what I was looking for and I was ever-so thankful. John gave me a two-day window for completion, but before the day was out I had my bike back – sparkly new tires, cushy new seat – and I was cruising around Santa Rosa feeling just as happy as could be.
The next morning, my front tire was flat. I put some air in it, rode around some more, but the same thing happened the next day and so I called the shop because I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that no, I can’t fix a flat. I talked to a guy named Steve who was sympathetic to my situation and, having explained that I couldn’t make it in during business hours because of my work schedule, offered to take a look at my tire before the shop opened the next morning.
Bright and early, I rolled my little red bike in, tracked down Steve, and within a few minutes he’d fixed my tire and I was on my way, all before they’d even opened, and with time for me to get to work. To me, that level of service goes above and beyond my basic expectations – especially when overall I’m a very ‘small fry’ customer, having not spent more than $200 there in the two-plus years I’ve lived nearby.
That and the fact that any time I step foot inside their doors at least two (but often more) people will ask me if I’ve been helped, if I have any questions, or just how I’m doing. The guys in the shop will come out and answer questions my son has about wheel friction. Everyone will stop to pet a dog or humor a child with a story about a loose tooth.
In short, The Bike Peddler isn’t just a bike shop, it’s a community asset. And hey, they don’t roll their eyes and say “what now?” when I walk through the door, so that’s good enough for me.