North Park Cycles

Cycling Buddies

Gary and To Tread Lightly both give commuter cycling the thumbs up!

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon you think the hottest place to be in the city would be on the bar patio after faking sick, to go home early and ‘recuperate’. Well if you thought this, you would be mistaken, as it seems many employees who play hokey opt to visit their local bicycle shop instead of the bar.  In many cities these days the bicycle shop is becoming both a cultural hub and a meeting place.

Whether your there to: talk shop with the mechanics, scope out some sweet deals on a new hybrid bicycle or even to just check-in to get the update on the next community bicycle ride, it seems that the modern day bicycle shop is anything but just a store. On Tuesday June 15th I had the opportunity to drop by North Park Cycles, in Victoria British Columbia. Speaking with Gary of North Park Cycles I was able to learn more about bicycles so you’ll know what to look for when you make your next purchase.

Gary is a real stand-up guy as well as a career bicycle mechanic.  He has been working on bicycles longer than I’ve been peddling them around. He was gracious enough to show me around the store and answer a few questions- even after I was mistaken as a reporter for the local daily newspaper, to which I replied that I was just a ‘blogger’.

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TTL [To Tread Lightly]: When a new cyclist comes into your shop what should they be looking for in a bicycle?

Gary of North Park Cycles: Well, it depends upon whether they will be using it on a casual basis for short distance commuting or if they want something for fair-weather long distance commuter riding.

If you are a short distance bicycle rider [anything under 5kms daily] you should be looking to spend around $500. This amount of money will ensure that you’ve purchased a sturdy well built bicycle without shelling out unnecessarily for the additional bells and whistles of fenders and disc breaks. These components, which are very desirable for any bicycle are more well suited for those long distance bicycle riders  [anything over 5kms daily]. For these riders they should look to spend in the neighbourhood of $800 for a reliable bicycle with disc breaks and fenders that will withstand rigorous usage. Plus the benefit with disc breaks is that they increase stopping time especially in wet weather. Rocky Mountain Bicycles produce a great product line that will serve or meet this purpose within the $800 price range.

Get Rocky with some of these bicycles from Rocky Mountain Cycles

TTL: Upright or drop handle bars?

Gary of North Park Cycles: Drop bars for sure. They are nicer and offer more versatility in terms of possible hand positions that you can have while sitting on top of the bicycle saddle. Plus nowadays, drop handlebars can be positioned more upright and therefore more ergonomically, so that your not hunched over your bicycle all of the time. But it is a personal choice, I myself have one bicycle with drop handle bars, my other five bicycles all have flat handle bars.

TTL: What is the correct way to measure or size a bicycle frame to your size and build. Also, how should the seat post be adjusted to fit correctly?

Gary of North Park Cycles: There really isn’t any universal rules, but generally you should have between 1 to 2 inches of clearance when you are standing over the bicycle. This is the gap that should exist between the inseam of your pants and the top tube of the bicycle. There are very sophisticated machines that some bicycles shops have now to ensure that the bicycle you buy is matched to your size and body type. Also, generally speaking you should be able to extend your legs properly with a slight bend in your knees when you are sitting on top of the bicycle saddle. But this isn’t set in stone, the individual is usually the best judge of what fits and what doesn’t fit- intuitively.

TTL: How can a beginner commuter cyclist tell the difference between a well designed and constructed bicycle and a cheap one?

Gary of North Park Cycles: Don’t go to Canadian Tire or any of those other big boxes retailers to begin with, this being said it is always wise to get advice from professionals. So always buy a new bicycle from a bicycle shop; the worst thing you can do is to purchase a bicycle from a big box retailer and then build it yourself at home. Bicycle shops have a range of tools that the average individual doesn’t own. Therefore bicycle shops are more able to gaurantee their labour and to ensure that the bicycles they construct and sell from their suppliers are well calibrated so as not to break down easily.

TTL: How frequently should bicycle owners replace their tires?

Gary of North Park Cycles: Ride by your local bicycle shop and they’ll be happy to give you an opinion on the shape of your bicycle tires- most shops will give you good advice and not high pressure sales pitches. In general it is also wise to get your bicycle serviced every six to eight months.

In closing Gary was able to show me some sturdy helmets, the rule of thumb is that if you drop your helmet you should replace, don’t risk keeping an defective helmet around as all helmets are designed to withstand only one serious impact. Most helmets nowadays are not extremely heavy and are very breathable and flexible- you can size them to fit to the contours of your head with the built-in adjustable head strap.

Helmet with built-in adjustable head strap.

Also if your the type of person that likes to take your  home-office with you, then a briefcase or a simple backpack won’t cut it. You’ll have to protect both your sensitive documents and laptop by investing in both a bicycle rack [that mounts off of the back of your bicycle’s seat post] and a pair of bicycle bags known in the industry as panniers. According to Gary, a company called Ortlieb makes the Cadillac of all panniers because they are almost completely waterproof. But as a word to the wise,  no matter how luxurious your panniers are advertised as being, do not over pack them. Most bicycle racks are only designed to take a fixed amount of weight. If you put too much weight in your panniers you’ll exceed this weight restriction with potentially unfavourable consequences.

But that is all just one person’s opinion on bicycles and bicycle gear. So instead of listening to just myself, go hear it for yourself. Gary and his colleagues at North Park Cycles would love to hear from you and are probably one of the most, if not most service friendly shops in all of the city of Victoria. Drop them a line at 250-386-2453 or by e-mail at: info@northparkcycles.com where Christine would be happy to answer your questions.

There website, for further information on store hours and services available can be found at: http://www.northparkbikeshop.com/

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