May 6th, 2012

The Bike Shop, the Birthday and the Averted Disaster

I’m a country boy by heart — I grew up in a hamlet in Derbyshire with only 13 houses in it, then moved Down South to Hertfordshire and after a couple of moves, ended up in a small village in Bedfordshire that was surrounded by fields and trees.

Moving this close to a city — not to mention one in a foreign country — has taken some getting used to. Thankfully Stockholm is very small as cities go, and it’s a beautiful city at that. I’ve grown to love it here, and am finally starting to figure out that although Stockholm is small, it is the capital city of Sweden, so it’s very likely that if I want something I can find it nearby. However, most of the stores I’ve found are big-city style fancy shops — everything is expansive and the staff don’t know squat.

Finally I found a place that’s different, and just in time!

The Bike Shop

It’s a rainy March afternoon and I’m scuttling through Södermalm (a district of Stockholm), cursing myself for not bringing a coat to work. I’d just received some new parts for my bike from a big box retailer and realised that I needed a specific tool fit them. I found a close-ish bike shop that looked halfway decent, and headed out in hope they’d even heard of a HollowTech II BB Tool, let alone have it in stock.

I opened the door to the small looking-shop and stood there in shock. And wet. But mostly in shock — this place was nirvana. To the right, the walls were jam-packed full of bike parts and accessories literally up to the ceiling. To the left are hundreds of bikes of all kinds — from the road bikes that most bike shops I’ve tried specialise in to the mountain bikes I love and crave parts and expertise in.

Do you have a HollowTech II BB tool in stock?” I ask, with not much hope.

Well, be don’t have the Park one in, but we do have this other one that’s just as good,” the guy behind the counter says while rummaging through shelves before producing the tool I need.

Well, this is unexpected. In a distant, grey corner of Södermalm I’ve stumbled on what appears to be the perfect bike shop — packed to bursting with parts and tools for my bike, not those damn hipster things, at a reasonable price and, most importantly, with staff who seem to be knowledgable at the task at hand. I’m in love!

The Birthday

Is there anything else I can help you with?

I pause for a moment to think. I had considered ordering this from a big retailer in the UK, but for stuff this big I really prefer getting it from a local place, but had come up fruitless so far.

How much would a Specialized Myka FSR Comp in ‘Small’ be? I’m buying one for my fiancé for her 25th birthday.

We don’t have it in stock here, but we could have one in a week or so,” he said, before telling me the price. It’s a buttload of money, but actually worked out cheaper than any UK prices I’d found so far.

Great!” I say. “I’ll have one of those, too.

He looked slightly surprised at selling a bike so easily, and started taking my details.

~ One week later ~

After getting lost twice and likely scaring my friend Rick half to death — I’m so worried Alana will see through my weak excuse for going into Stockholm without her, my driving is less than ideal — we arrive back at Södermalm to pick up the bike.

To my surprise, the same guy is there again.

I didn’t know how heavy your fiancé is, so I set up the suspension for the average sort of weight of someone that high. Once she gets the bike, you can come back and we’ll set it up properly for her, if you like.” At this point I’m gazing over the wall of parts again, fairly sure I’ll never need any other bike shop ever again, but assure him I already have the tools to set the suspension up myself and thank him for putting the bike together so quickly (it’d only arrived the day before, but he was sympathetic to my cause) and was on my way.

Hey look, a bike! And Rick’s arm.

~ Two weeks later ~


The Averted Disaster

My fiancé loves her bike. It’s been living in my friend’s apartment since I picked it up, and as I look it over properly for the first time, my heart begins to sink. The rebound on the rear shock absorber is so slow it’s like it has no pressure in it — when you push the bike down onto its suspension, it takes a good thirty seconds to come up again. I check the pressure — it’s fine. However, the rebound adjuster seems to be stuck and I don’t know enough about how shock absorbers to fix it.

Me and my fiancé are driving back to Södermalm to be at the shop for opening time. We walk in to find the same guy yet again.

Hi, I picked this bike up a couple of weeks ago,” I say, “and I think there’s something wrong with it — look.” I push the suspension down and show him the problem.

Oh, that’s not right!” he says. “Unfortunately if the shock is broken there’s nothing I can do until Monday — the supplier is closed at weekends.

My heart sinks. I’d spent so much time organising not just getting the bike in secret, but organising a bunch of her friends to contribute towards it and to take photos saying ‘Happy Birthday!’ for a photo book to accompany it. I go pretty much silent, as is often the case when I get upset. All this effort for a broken gift!

Oh, it’s your birthday, right?” he says, turning to my fiancé. “I’m so sorry I ruined the surprise!

Cheered up slightly by the fact that he remembered my plan, I ask “Is there any chance you could take it apart today to see if it’s just stuck or something?” It’s a long shot, but I really want my fiancé to have a working bike on her birthday.

Of course!” he says.

The drive back home is silent. I’m back to being grumpy about the whole thing, and my fiancé’s attempts at cheering me up aren’t really doing much. After a horrible fifteen minutes, we’re 200 metres from home and her phone rings. They’d fixed it! We turned around and drove back to the shop.

~Fifteen minutes later~

Back at the shop, it’s packed. There’s a queue out the door to be served by one of the two people working there, and when it’s our turn, the same guy I’d worked with this whole time (I really should learn his name!) explained that the rear shock had simply got stuck in the lowest position and when he’d taken it out of the bike’s frame and re-pressurised it, it’d popped right back into position and was working fine.

I turn slightly red, realising that that might’ve been my fault — I’d sat on the bike after picking it up, which was the equivalent of trying to support a tank with car suspension. Genuinely happy again, I thanked him for fixing the bike so quickly — especially when it was this busy — and started to leave.

Okay, let’s get this bike properly set up for you,” he says to my fiancé and motions us to follow him as he carries the bike down a tiny staircase to the basement, which turns out to be a workshop at least as large as the shop upstairs! In the next twenty minutes he proceeds to set up the bike exactly for my fiancé, from the pressures in the suspension to the rebound rate and even cutting the seat post down a bit (she’s slightly… vertically challenged). We end up leaving the shop with a perfectly tuned bike and a free water bottle for our trouble.

This bike shop is the kind of local business I will gladly pay the slight price increase over big-box online retailers to. To recap:

  • I dealt with the same person every time, who was technically knowledgable and remembered me and my plan over the month it all took place in.

  • When something went wrong, not only did he bend over backwards to help us out in what I imagine is the busiest time of the week for the store, he took the time to make sure the bike was perfectly set up in every way once the problem was fixed.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve experienced customer service this good — they managed to turn having my fiancé’s gift broken on her birthday into two incredibly happy people. That place has me as a customer for life! Everyone should go to Cykelspecialisten on Långholmsgatan, Södermalm RIGHT NOW and buy LOTS OF BIKES.

I’ll have a Specialized StumpJumper FSR Comp EVO, please!