So back in January I posted about my bike buying experience, going into great detail all the steps I went through to get fitted for a bike. What I didn’t spend a lot of time on was talking about the store I bought the bike from, Alter Ego Sports.
When we first started exploring the idea of triathlons, we researched local bike shops, dropped in to several, and finally settled on Alter Ego Sports. There are several bike shops in Winnipeg. Aside from Alter Ego, there is Bikes & Beyond ( a nice shop, but on the opposite end of the city from where we live, so inconvenient for us), Woodcock Cycle Works (closer to us, but we just never got there), Olympia Cycle & Ski, and Gord’s Ski & Bike. There are a few others as well, but those are the biggest ones.
Let me start with, both Bruce & I are online people. Bruce develops websites for a living (but does nothing with WordPress, so anything wrong here is all me!), and I used to run an online store, so when we are looking for something, the first place we go is online. If you don’t have a really strong online presence and your competition does, well… we’ll probably go there. Both Bikes & Beyond and Alter Ego had good websites – inventory listed, prices provided, etc. Some of the other websites were not as user friendly.
We dropped in to four different bike shops – Gord’s, Olympia, Alter Ego, and a small store on Pembina Highway whose name I don’t remember. I won’t get into the negative issues in the stores we didn’t choose, but we went with Alter Ego for a reason. Lots of them, actually.
The first time we went in to talk bikes, the staff was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. When we told them we were looking for bikes, and what for, they asked how much we wanted to spend, just so they wouldn’t show us bikes way out of our price range. James, the manager, told us he recommended a full fitting to make sure we got the right bikes. He told us how much the fitting would be, but then told us a portion of the fitting price would act as a credit towards the bike purchase. Since Bruce worked with a couple of cyclists who had recommended a professional fitting (and told us approximately how much it would cost), this was not an issue for us, and the credit was a nice bonus! As well, the fact he was recommending a proper fitting gave him extra points in our eyes – one shop eyeballed me, pulled a bike off the rack and told me it should fit. It was a 54″ frame – I wound up needing a 48″! Proper fitting is key to a comfortable ride.
The whole fitting and purchase process at Alter Ego just reinforced our decision – James and the team there were excellent from start to finish. We have been back in several times since that bike purchase in January – after all, new accessories are always nice! It is a busy bike shop with lots of selection, and often the staff are tied up with other customers – which is fine; after all, I want them giving me their full attention when I’m being served too!
Since buying my bike at Alter Ego, I’ve managed to get to Bikes & Beyond a couple of times (they were the only store in town that carried a Pearl Izumi jersey I wanted), and while I like their selection, I just don’t find their staff as friendly. The fact is – I’m a bike novice, and making me feel comfortable with all the gear and gadgets will go a long way to getting me to spend money in your shop!
Buying a good bike can be an expensive proposition – James at Alter Ego helped me feel confident that I was getting a good entry level bike and all the gear I needed. As it is, while I’d love to upgrade from my road bike to a tri bike, spending an additional $3000+ on another bike just isn’t in the budget – and fortunately doesn’t need to be, because James set me up with a bike that will meet my needs for at least another season or two! For all the good service we received, Alter Ego has earned my loyalty as a customer.
There are some great online shops out there, and I have used a couple to purchase bulk quantities of gels, and get good pricing on fuel belts, etc. Items that don’t need to have a personal touch! But for a bike, I’m so glad I shopped local. Next week, I’ll feature the local swim shop I bought my wetsuit from!