As I rapidly approach that magic mid-40’s mark, I think more and more about two things: when is my mid-life crisis going to end, and what am I going to do to keep in shape? I figure that I can’t do much about the mid-life crisis except to let it run its course, but I can do something about getting and staying fit. There’s a gym in my condo building but I just can’t bring myself to toil over a hot treadmill, and since I work most days at home, I don’t even have the 30-minute daily walk to and from the financial district to work any more.
Toronto is a pretty good city for cycling, although the drivers are a bit aggressive (I know, I’m one of them), so with a ton of bicycle commuters and couriers in the downtown core, I decided to get a bike. Many excuses and more than a year later, I finally bought one this week, and in doing so, found a great cycling shop: The Urbane Cyclist. (I’m not sure if someone didn’t know how to spell “urban” or if they really are trying to appeal to a more refined clientele, but I’m sold on them.) I started off with a five-star recommendation in NOW magazine, where Urbane Cyclist came out on top when the writer visited a number of shops looking for a city bike. When I walked in the shop on Saturday it was near-empty, but it quickly filled up with people looking for bikes and accessories, some of them obviously long-time customers who knew the staff by name. I told them my price range and what I was looking for (something to go riding in the city, no off-road, no racing), and a few minutes later I was riding around the local park to try out a particular model. Back to the shop, a few adjustments to the seat and handlebars, and out for another ride. Back to the shop, switch to a larger frame, out for another ride. Back to the shop, try out the original one again, which turned out to be the one that fit the best — I should have trusted their judgement in the first place! Three different salespeople looked after me, but they all seemed to know what was going on with the bike that I was trying out, so it was a pretty seamless customer experience, although a bit long because of all the other people in the store. I waited while they attached a kickstand and lock bracket, and traded out the quick-release seat and tire clips for Allen key bolts (to reduce the probability of someone stealing the parts), and rode home on my new bike.
I hadn’t checked their website before, but I looked them up when I got home. Why were the people so knowledgeable and helpful? Because they’re a workers co-op, and everyone’s a part owner. Why did they have just what I was looking for? Because their core clientele is bicycle commuters and couriers, who spend all their time riding in the city, just like me. And why were they able to do the necessary modifications while I waited, and throw in two free bike tune-ups to boot? Because they started as a bike repair shop for daily bike commuters, and still do a huge amount of repair work.
With a little bit of motivation, I’ll be joining the hordes of other bikers on Toronto’s streets and bike paths on a daily basis. In fact, I’m even selling my car.