oh so many choices

Under the things I love – I would be remiss to not say that I love my local bike shop.

Now in the bay area and especially Marin County, it is not easy to decide which of the bike shops to make YOUR local shop. Within a 10 mile radius of my house I can think of at least 23 bike shops and that is without counting those in San Francisco (which technically is also within that radius but since I would have to cross a bridge I won’t count those) or places like REI that also sell bikes. In fairness, I haven’t been into everyone of the 23 but I have walked in the door of the vast majority.

Lots of options – we are fortunate in the Bay Area. We are not stuck with buying from the only gig in town or buying from the only dealer that carries the bike we want. We can shop around.

However, all the options can also be daunting.

Who has the best gear, bikes, clothing but isn’t all attitude, or too cool to talk to you?

Who is knowledgeable about their bikes and has good mechanics?

Which shop will stand behind the build of their bikes after they have your credit card number and you have rolled your bike out the door?

And being a female rider – I want to know which shops actually hire women cyclists – a simple detail most of the shops I visit have overlooked (much like many of the cycling companies have also overlooked but that is a different conversation. And progress is being made).

Who is big enough to have a full selection so they sell you the right equipment for you and not the bikes they need to move off the floor. (Sure, umm, that large frame fits you perfectly…) without it seeming like you are yet another anonymous shopper at a bicycle warehouse?

Who contributes to the local bike community?

So who get’s my money… Mikes Bikes of Sausalito.

Yes – I can hear you already – Mike’s Bikes is big, they have shops all over the bay area. And yes, I agree they are big and they do have multiple shops BUT that has the distinct advantage of access to inventory.

Why don’t I think of Mike’s Bikes as a big and corporate – well, because when I walk into my local shop, it isn’t big. I don’t feel like I am going into a walmart of bicycles. The shop people say hello, they know my face, and their dogs say hello too.

Here is why:

1. The shop manager is a woman – yes, that’s right – a bike shop that is managed by a woman! (in my book this might have been reason enough.)

2. Of all the Marin bicycling event that I have participated in, I believe that Mike’s Bikes has been a sponsor of every one – whether they are passing out free tubes, snacks or providing on course mechanics – they are always there. They support the cycling community.

3. They carry a wide selection of bikes from entry-level to pro-level. Although, they could easily pressure sell you into a bike beyond your ability or price range, I have always found that they help find the right bike that fits your needs. In doing so, they are incredibly patient. I believe I actually test rode my road bike a minimum of 5 times (and all the other bikes that were potentials). When I finally bought it, I walked in the store and said I was there to pick up my bike. It was still adjusted to me. No moans and groans ever from the shop peeps.

4. I have never felt talked down to or experienced attitude from one of their employees.

5. They get busy, really busy, but they still check in with you. If they are too overwhelmed (like during sale times) rather than ignoring you, they will see if you can come back when they can spend more focused time. A bike purchase is a big purchase – you want to make the right one.

6. They give a discount to Marin County Bike Coalition members.

7. You often see their team out training together. Their team is considerate of the other riders on the road and on the mountain. Given the multi-use nature of Marin bike paths and the over-crowded roadways I would consider the Mike’s Bikes riders good bike citizens.

8. The Mike’s Bikes Foundation has a program that is near and dear to my heart – Bikes for Africa. http://www.mikesbikesafrica.com/
They collect bike donations, repair them, pack them in containers and deliver them to developing regions in Africa. Thus far they have shipped over 10,000 bicycles. If you are clearing out your garage rather than craigslisting those old bicycles please consider donating them.

9. They offer free classes so that you can learn how to take care of your own bike. Don’t know how to change a tire or fix a chain but you don’t want to admit it to your buddy – sign up for a class. Class size is limited to 6 so you actually get hands on practice and guidance.

10. And the little things – I recently had a pretty good crash that crushed my helmet. I went into the store to buy the exact same helmet. I was ready to pay full pop for another when the shop person told me about the Specialized Helmet replacement program. They gave me 20% off the helmet. I didn’t know about the program. I didn’t ask for a discount but it was offered up. (and on a side note – I bought the first helmet based upon the recommendation of one of their employees who said it was the helmet he wore because it was the helmet that saved him from a concussion – I have no doubt that it definitely saved me from a concussion.)

Mike’s Bikes – you are my shop.

and one additional one – they have an outdoor vending machine for when the shop is closed – bonus for when you get that second flat and don’t have a second spare tube.