Rants… and a few ‘Thank You’s

I’m dumbstruck with the test ride & return policies of the cycle store chains in London.

On one end is Halfords with a clear policy of no test rides and no returns despite selling bikes worth £1000 and more. I wonder what kind of people bought these bikes from then in such large number without testing them.

At the other extreme is the (otherwise much hated by me) Evans Cycles with a policy clearly defined on its website and stores – they take a photo ID and a credit/debit card with a 1p authorisation before letting you take the bike out for a test ride. Also clearly listed on their website is that if I ask for a bike not in the store to be brought in for a test ride, they take a £50 deposit for a maximum of 2 bikes. They accept full value returns within 28 days but with bike in ‘showroom condition’. The only thing that baffles me is that even if I ride the bike just 5 days to figure it doesn’t fit my needs and want to return it, it’ll be already way off the showroom condition. Still, I appreciate the fact that they have all terms clearly displayed both on the website as well as in the store.

Somewhere in between those two, and garnering a lot of nays from me, is Cycle Surgery. Their website mentions that they allow test rides and that they have a 21 day returns policy. However, nowhere does the website mention the terms of the test ride. The CS store nearby that I’ve been visiting to get the new wheel built for my Trek, didn’t ask me for much proof. The first time, when I test rode the Allez and Secteur Elite, I just left my backpack with the DSLR with them. Next time, when I tried the Trek 2.1 and the Secteur Elite again, I didn’t leave anything at all. However, when I called another Cycle Surgery store in the City to book a test ride, I was curtly told that I would have to pay the FULL VALUE of the bike before taking it for test ride and that they’d refund it after doing a basic check on the bike once I’m back. Frankly, I was taken aback – this was equivalent of telling a customer we trust you as much as a hardened criminal and will treat you so! I checked the CS website and didn’t find any terms. So, I wrote to them and they confirmed that it was indeed their policy. What did I do? I called my regular store and asked them to call the bike in store. And two days later I test-rode the same bike without paying a penny or leaving any deposits.

As if Cycle Surgery’s test ride policy is not obscure enough, their returns policy is worse. The 21 day return policy on website is only for sales made through the website. There is NO information about returns of purchases made through their stores. To add to that, the guys at my neighbourhood store assured me that they had a ’28’ day return policy. Suddenly, the Halfords with a no-test-ride and no-returns policy starts to look better than Cycle Surgery. At least one knows what one is buying into! So, if as a last minute decision, I decide to not go in for the Secteur Comp from Cycle Surgery, you know what tilted the scales.

Those were the rants. Hrmphhhh. Now for the thanks :)

I’d like to thank the fellas at my neighbourhood Cycle Surgery for the help with new wheel build as well as the test rides and related advice. I won’t be taking their names here lest they fall foul of the corporate sharks (Lawyers) and whales (HR) in their firms but it shouldn’t diminish my regards. I had decided on the new rims I wanted but was disappointed to know that when built with the new hubs, it would not take the freewheel from my current setup but require a new freehub cassette. I had budgeted for about a £100 for the wheel but with the new hub and cassette, the total was nudging £150. I told them my predicament and within a span of my one test ride, they had found discounts totalling £43 to get the cost of new setup down to £107, close enough to my budget :)

Not just that. Later, when I decided to upgrade the rear tyre as well as another component, they gave me a straight discount on them as well. And I can’t forget to mention their support with the test rides, specially for bringing in two bikes for me from the warehouse/other store without any security deposits or even promises to buy. Finally, the thanks is not just for the actual deeds but for the extremely friendly behaviour from all the store staff, even those not working with me. It was very unlike the experience I’ve had at most other cycle stores around the city where the staff are aloof and snooty considering anyone but the most serious of racers / fixie riders as beneath them. Such good service a store which has no public policy on two most important inputs in bike purchase.

I would also like to thank Laurent at Chamberlaine Cycles. He has been another extremely helpful chap. I met him for a brief while on Tuesday and then gave him a call out of the blue today – he remembered my exact requirements, budget and the bike size. Moreover, he frankly discussed all the models they stocked, helped me test ride two bikes even though one of them was almost £500 above my stated budget and assisted in finding the right geometry on the model I finally selected (Defy 1). What was better was that after I told them that I needed a little more time to decide, he didn’t rush off to attend to other customers at most other shops but stayed around to discuss what other bikes I had in my choice set, even offering to make a few changes to the Defy 1 to upgrade the specs a little while still staying within my budget. And before I parted, like most non-natives, we shared a few notes on riding and weather in our respective home regions – South East France for him and North / West India for me :)

Thanks Laurent, and thank you to the good guys at Cycle Surgery. I don’t know which one of you will I buy the bike from but I shall sure be returning to you both for repeat business in the future.


Rants… and a few ‘Thank You’s

Well begun..

..is half done.

That’s what I was taught growing up. Unfortunately, that didn’t bode well with my plans to write a post-a-day through 2011. Began well but broke down in middle of 2nd month when a string of bad news and unplanned travel hit me. I did try to give it a shot a couple of times after that but never got going.

Nonetheless, I don’t let any setbacks dissuade me (or I won’t be here, or anywhere, today). So, here I go with another plan – 30 days of biking. Yes, the challenge is on and today was the first day.

Today was also the (hopefully!) last day of test riding bikes for purchase. So, between test rides and the rides to/from the two shops, I rode about 15km today. That was the ‘well begun’ part from me. Let’s see how the well done part turns out.

Continue reading “Well begun..”

Well begun..

30 days of biking


I’ve signed up for #30daysofbiking and am eagerly looking forward to it. If you are into cycling, were into cycling at some time in your life or would like to (re)connect with cycling, I suggest you give this a try. There are no constraints on what to ride, how long to ride, how to ride, who to ride with or where to ride. The distance is up to you. Just ensure that you get on that bike at least once every day irrespective if it’s a ride around the compound, to the grocery store or a 600km audax. Really, what are you thinking? Just go to 30daysofbiking.com and sign up. Then ride, and share…

In other news. The bike has been in pretty sad state lately with a lot of muck and the badly bent back wheel. I took care of some of its problems today. Spent over an hour cleaning the bike thoroughly – with a brush & a toothbrush to get the muck and dust off, then with a wet cloth to wipe the stains and finally with WD40 to clean the really nasty stuff including the greasy grime accumulating between the gears and sundry other unreachable places. Of course, I later spent another half an hour thoroughly cleaning my makeshift bike garage (a.k.a. Rags’ kitchen and the only room in our apartment without carpeting). The effort was so draining that I was dripping sweat almost all through in this not-so-warm weather with heating off but I loved the outcome. It is a special feeling to see the bike smiling at you all cleaned up like it was when I first got it home.

Since I’m planning to buy a road bike sooner than later, I’ve decided to put full mud guards on the hybrid so I can use it comfortably in all weather conditions for city commutes. Getting that full mudguard set was the second task of the day. Popped in to the new Halfords outlet that has opened up just around the corner and signed up for their bike care plan. If you have a bike, are not sure you can service everything yourself and have an Halfords nearby, I suggest you too sign up for their bike care plans – costs just £18.99 for an year’s contract which includes free labour on any parts fitting (bought from them or elsewhere) and some free servicing too. Given that the alternatives, Evans Cycles and Cycle Surgery, had both quoted upwards of £20 for fitting these mudguards, the bike care plan has paid for itself already. So tomorrow (or day after, if things get really busy), I should get the clean and shiny bike back with a full set of mudguards.

Yes, that still leaves the issue of bent wheel and I really need to research first which wheel I want to get. Of course, the bike care plan shall help there too since I can now buy my first choice wheel from the place which has it cheapest and then get it built & fitted at the neighbourhood Halfords, FoC. :)

Boarman Road Team BB30 2011 Road Bike
Click image for larger size

Finally, while at the store, I also saw one of the road bikes that is in my ‘short’ list of 10 bikes – Boardman Team BB30 with 105 groupset and a really sweet price point of £999. The bike has got some really good reviews on both road.cc and in the (I think) Cycling Active. On a subjective note, of all the bikes I’ve seen so far, this is the only one whose colour scheme (Gray body with White & Yellow decals) I really liked. Of course the bike, like most road bikes these days, pairs the 105 in rear with a compact chainset while I want a triple if I go with 105. I’m sure though that this can be resolved. The bigger issues lie elsewhere.

First, Boardman sells in the UK exclusively through Halfords and the guys and Halfords told me that they do not allow test rides. This is a big issue. How can I spend a kilo pound sterling on a bike without even test riding it? At the minimum, I need to feel how comfortable I am with the fit and the riding position as well as get an idea of how responsive it is on corners and climbs. Despite falling in love with the bike on first sight (compared with not being attracted to some other bikes on my list despite seeing them many times in stores), I will not purchase it without a test ride. What a pity to rule this bike out :(

And that is not the only issue. The other issue relates to geography. If I buy this bike, I intend to use it for a few years. However, given our situation right now, we aren’t sure how long are we in UK for. A global brand like Trek is unwilling unable to service its warranty in UK on a bike bought in India barely an year ago. Will Boardman, a British brand with a no-test-ride policy, even entertain my warranty servicing requests if I move to another country tomorrow? I’m not so sure.

Thus, despite all that it has going for itself, this bike drops from top 3 to rank bottom in my short list of road bikes. Sad.

Looking forward. Tomorrow, I shall hopefully get my current bike back with the new mudguards on it. Also, time, mood and weather permitting, I shall head to a few other bike shops to feel and (fingers crossed) test ride some of the other models on my short list.

You, in the meanwhile, should sign up for #30daysofbiking, get your bikes cleaned and serviced and get ready to roll.

30 days of biking