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June 27, 2005

No more Bike Shop Reviews

Recently I wrote about my experience at One-on-one Bike Studio and before that, Freewheel Bikes, and before that Erik's and since then Behind Bars. Several people spoke up in defense of Freewheel and One-On-One bike shops. Some were critical of me and my attributes as an objective first-time visitor to the shop. I really donít have anything against the people at Freewheel or one-on-one and they and their loyal fans are right about one thing: One visit is not enough to really know the people involved. I can tell you about my experience and the condition of the shop and the service I received, but that really is not the whole picture. I really do try to get to know the real person behind the public face, except this time. I didnít give it enough time.
Stacey wrote a really good response in this blog:
http://aflowercallednowhere.blogspot.com/2005/06/in-defense-of-one-on-one-bike-studio.html

Also, One-on-Oneís very own blog linked to this. One June 23 they posted a copy of my blog entry: http://www.oneononebike.com/117.php

You guys at One-on-one are interesting and good people and really I apologize for not approaching my blog entry from a more humanistic approach. I shouldnít have even called it a Ďreviewí because it wasnít an accurate picture of the people involved. I know and understand that everyone is just trying to live life the best they know how. Looking at my own blog entry, I realize that I was accurate in relating my own experience at this bike shop, but if it was me, I would not have liked a review like this. I would also get a little defensive.

Really, on this subject, why am I even writing bike-shop reviews when I really intend on writing about my experience? I do think all of us should treat others like equal human beings and not marginalize each other. If I were a journalist, which Iím not, I would have really talked to the people there and got to know them so I could produce an accurate picture, which I did not do. All I did was produce a snapshot of one experience from the point of view of an outsider. Itís not my place or desire to tell anyone what they should or should not be doing and that was never my intent. Itís also not my intent to convince anyone against patronizing a particular bike shop.
So I will stop doing Ďreviewsí and frame everything differently. From a more human viewpoint. A fellow-human viewpoint.

So, I noticed I have been critical of some of the customer service at the Sibley Bike Depot in St. Paul too, where I have been putting in a lot of volunteer hours fixing bikes and doing other things, like making scrap runs and cleaning out the woods of old discarded bike parts, helping teach kids how to fix their bikes, hauling the trailer to different places to pick up bike donations and so on.
I have been critical of the way the old-time, insider volunteers are critical of the newbies and members who come in to fix their own bikes. Iíve been critical of the parts vultures hanging out looking for the best things to come in so they can snatch them up for their own needs. These are usually the people most critical of other volunteers. Iíve found that people in any organization can create their own little terfdoms and once theyíre established they donít want it to change.
I have also been critical of the mess at Sibley bike depot, but itís a recycling center and used bike shop. There will be broken bikes and parts all over until they are fixed and parts organized. I find it very difficult to find the tools and parts I need, even though we have tons of parts and 4 workbenches full of tools. (Try to find the Cotter Press for cottered-cranks sometime!) I remember when I went into One-on-one bike shop. In the back of the basement, I saw a layer of bike parts on the floor and even tools buried under the layers. I remember thinking, ďAt least Sibley bike depot is not that messy.Ē But it has been at times since then.
I like the model of the Sibley Bike Depot though as a recycling center, community bike shop, self-service center, education center and bicycle advocacy center. It doesnít always live up to those ideals though. As I have been volunteering I have been observing itís impact on the community it is part of. So last week I made the decision to join the board of directors of the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance, which uses the bike shop for itís overall mission of bicycle advocacy. This should also mean a support of the bicycling community throughout the Twin-Cities and greater Minnesota.
All I have proven is that I really donít know the bicycling community out there. Iíve learned to be a good bike mechanic myself, Iíve helped others learn how to fix their bikes, Iíve fixed a lot of bikes for people who couldnít afford a bike in the first place, like the guy from the Dorothy Day Center who pulled his bike from a dumpster. On our group ride his back wheel was rubbing on the frame! He rode that way without complaining all the way to Minnehaha Falls from downtown St. Paul! I took the time to true up his wheel the best I could and adjust his derailers. At the same time I was explaining to him how I was doing it. He was ecstatic about it and enjoyed the ride back much more. But I am far from an expert on the bike business, and have a lot to learn. Itís a start. My new mission at the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance is to bring back a focus on community building through the vehicle of bicycles.

I think bicycles as a way of transportation make a lot of sense in many ways. Itís good for the environment, good for our bodies and good for the soul. It is liberation from the expenses, lies and bondage of the Automobile culture.
I still plan on visiting all of the bike shops I can and finding ways to strengthen their communities not weaken them.

This blog entry is an apology to Freewheel bike people and One-On-One bike people, owners, workers and devoted customers (Yah, and even Erik's customers and employees also) I may not shop there for my own reasons, but I've since met some people who are getting a lot out of the group rides they do that are sponsored by them.

Posted by carl1236 at June 27, 2005 12:21 PM | Attitude

Comments

Stacey was the name of the blogger (A flower called nowhere) who wrote a defense of 1/1. Not Michael.

This city has lots of bike shops (fortunately) and some are better than others (in my opinion). Also, some are better for certain types of customers. I can't stand Erik's for many reasons. But a friend of mine, who is no stranger to riding a bike, shops almost exclusively at Erik's (I suspect he's never tried some of the other fine shops). Speaking as a bike shop employee at a mid-sized shop, I can see how someone might get one experience with a certain sales staff member, and a completely different experience with others. I have one coworker who encourages customers toward the high-end road bikes, even when such a bike is very clearly a poor choice for that customer. I make an attempt to listen to the customer's ideas, add my own input, and get them to try a variety of different bikes that fill the need in the desired price range. A customer who works with me will have a very different experience than if he works with my coworker.

Posted by: Jim at June 27, 2005 7:29 PM

Thanks for the correction Jim.
My apologies Stacey.

Posted by: John at June 28, 2005 8:39 AM