Mystery Shopper hits Central Manchester - BikeBiz

Mystery Shopper hits Central Manchester

With experience of MTB, and a budget of £1K to £1.5K for a suitable bike, what can the various shops offer to aid conversion to the ‘dark side’?
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Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative, Rusholme

EBC has two stores in Manchester, this one with reasonable parking with free spaces next to the shop, but you are fighting all the other shops on the High Street. Bike parking and Bus routes are excellent. EBC is bright, clean and welcoming, with a big play on the Tour de France Grand Depart, less than 50 miles away to the East. Bikes are double stacked in a widely spaced showroom though confusingly there is no signposting as to the bike types, and a lack of staff to help initially. An otherwise busy member of staff shouted over that she’d find someone to help, and within two minutes I’m in conversation with an assistant. She’s knowledgeable, enthusiastic and engaging, quickly steering me towards some decent looking sportive bikes, hidden amongst the racers, with long steerer tubes and more head up positioning. We eventually settle with this year’s Giant Defy Composite 2. She fits the bike to me to ensure the reach and saddle is adequate, excellent service and she’s not happy until the fit is spot on. Her product knowledge is great, especially around the different groupsets and frame materials on offer. She suggested a ride to be sure, offering a six week first service for cable stretch. Bike, Service, Knowledge all top notch, just a slightly confusing showroom to contend with. Good to note that this store has a great open plan workshop.

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Bike Doctor, Rusholme

Sat just off the Curry Mile at the end further out of Manchester, sits a long established bike shop, and another Co-Op, Bike Doctor. The shop has convenient parking right outside, as well as bike parking and good public transport. This busy, independent store serves the local community and offers good workshop facilities. On entry, I was warmly greeted and quizzed as to what I was looking for, by a pleasant and inquisitive member of staff. The shop is small but well set out, with many brands and cycle types in logical groupings, nice to see Surly and Bianchi brands. We round on a group of Sportive bikes with a Trek Domaine 2.3 leaping out. Pumping up the tyres whilst extolling the virtues, he suggests a quick ride, which I take him up on. Ride done, we talk servicing (there are 3 free ones) and if this is the right size for my needs. He suggests a bike fit on a turbo, with my shoes and pedals, all part of the service. No pressure to sell, just good and honest advice – I’d have no hesitation in buying from here, this is the best bike shop experience in a good while.

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The Bike Rooms, Deansgate

Is there anywhere else to go to if you want Pinarello? Probably not, as the Bike Rooms is a ‘boutique’ single brand ‘concept’ store on Deansgate in central Manchester. With a glass fronted end of row store, it certainly looks enticing. The question is, can I get a Pinarello in my price range? The short answer is no. The shop has a simple ‘concept’. Showcase the likes of Assos and Pinarello mainly, but including Rudy Project, Corima wheels and Giordana apparel, in a high gloss, opulent showroom. This shop really is a future concept, with a ‘less is more’ approach upstairs. Downstairs, the bikes are far more crammed in, and again the choice is bewildering. Are there many people in Manchester willing to part with £8K to £10K road bikes? The complicated answer to the ‘do you have a sportive bike below £1.5K’ is still no, but the sales assistant got close, with some significant compromises. The Sportive framed ROKH in 2012 guise may ‘technically’ be three years old, but there is still some stock, and it comes with a three year warranty (from day of purchase) and free servicing – for ‘as long as you own the bike’. A ‘New’ ROKH (105 model) is £800 more than the £,1799 this older model is offered for. New is rather naked and understated carbon, whilst the older model on the shop floor is a painted looker, with the odd flash of exposed carbon. So, the budget is badly blown, but I got a sense that it would be worth the outlay, even though the additional cost (other 105 equipped sportives were below £1,200!) just appears to be frame material and decal name. Service and advice was impeccable and as a store its not aloof or untouchable, it’s a very friendly atmosphere, though more Poggepohl than Push Bike.

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Evans Cycles, Deansgate

Another Evans, another long wait to get service. In this case there just weren’t enough staff, though the girl that eventually served me was at least busy, and did apologise. Maybe she had read a previous BikeBiz Mystery Shopper? This Deansgate store is within eyesight of the BikeRooms and has similar parking difficulties. Manchester is making parking increasingly difficult, and expensive, driving potential customers to the ‘free’ parking at the nearby Trafford Centre – and the (Trafford) Evans close by. Evans offers more brands than its Concept neighbour, including a lovely Fuji Sportif well within the price bracket, and the choice of Mystery Shopper, a Cannondale Synapse Disc 105, this years model even. Its not carbon, and the mechanical disc brakes will need some TLC to keep them going, but its right on the money for the purpose, the advice was great and the knowledgeable assistant made this an easy sell. Disc equipped sportive bikes will become a big thing, long before the UCI ratifies the use for within the Peloton, and it makes sense. It just needs some of the technology to catch up with the aspirations. The shop was clean and well laid out (which it often isn’t), The only negative point is the inordinate wait to be served, at least the assistant recognised that.

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Withington Cycles - Withington

Close to Rusholme and the vast student population of Manchester, Withington Cycles offers itself as a local / community store, with discounts to students. Well situated on a prominent crossroads, the store has good commuter links via bike, and ample on street (free) parking. The shop is externally small, though extends back a long way. Bikes are stacked above each other, and as a result are not very accessible. But there’s little you can do in the confines. As well as bikes, the shop offers a plethora of parts and accessories and a generous service area right at the back. I’m quickly greeted and enquire about a Sportive Bike. The assistant is unsure of the term Sportive, and instead refers to ‘Audax’. Splitting hairs maybe, ‘Audax’ and ‘Sportive’ are different disciplines, if not marginally different bikes. Not having any Sportive (or Audax) bikes available, I’m directed towards a ‘Kenisis (Sic) 4 Seasons’, and informed that the distributors are unlikely to have stock, as it is the ‘wrong time of the year’, and the product sells very well. I’m asked to look online and get back to them. No mention of price against my budget. The Kinesis Racelight 4S is indeed a great bike, an all rounder but not niche enough to be a Sportive bike, and the spec errs on the side of all weather, not Summer Sportive, the Tiagra gruppo is also a notch down from the competition. As a Cube dealer, perhaps the Agree GTC could have been offered, though this Carbon framed bike is also predominantly Tiagra, not the 105 offered elsewhere. Partly I’m let down by the lack of knowledge or options on offer, they could have tried harder. A nice, homely shop, let down on product offerings. 

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SUMMARY

Sportive bikes come in all shapes and sizes, some within the budget come with full Carbon chassis, and others, Aluminium with carbon forks. Not every bike offered was in budget, but the Shimano 105 groupset proved to be very popular. Sportive bikes need to be comfortable and reliable, and the general service offered by the shops appears to fit the bill, some offering more than others. With a Pinarello it is ‘lifetime’ – with appropriate kudos to the marque. On the subject of Pinarello (The Bike Rooms), whilst the shop could not meet the brief, full marks for trying, and full marks for the excellent ‘concept’, unique in central Manchester, and not snooty in any way. Someone has to ‘win’, and this honour goes to Bike Doctor in Rusholme, excellent friendly service, good range of products and honest advice, it’s a close call though.

As a side note, MS had to steer clear from several stores, they may have recognised our spy. Sorry, especially to Manchester Legend, Harry Hall, and the relative newcomer Keep Pedalling, you’d have both been up there with the best.

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