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Curbside Cycle

Posted by Derek Flack / Posted on April 5, 2011

Curbside Cycle AnnexCurbside Cycle does indeed have its roots on the curb, when owner Don Watterson first set up shop outside of the Brunswick House over 15 years ago. If this were a commercial, one would expect the narrator to say "a lot's changed since then, but the one thing that's stayed the same is the store's commitment to neighbourhood cyclists." Formulaic and cheesy as that might be, however, it's also true. I've been popping my head into Curbside for years, and it's always been clear what type of cyclist the store serves best: commuters.

201144-curbside-back.jpgAlthough staff member Gillian Goerz tells me that she and her colleagues "try not to limit who we cater to, our most common customer uses his or her bike as a tool rather than a toy." That's a useful distinction when it comes to figuring out where you want to shop for a bike. In my experience, stores that carry lots of what Goerz calls "toys" aren't the best places to go when you're looking for wheels to get you to work or merely for shorter trips within the city.

Curbside BikesLike Sweet Pete's, Curbside does sell higher end bikes, but the majority of sales fall in the $750-$1000 range. The cheapest bike they generally carry comes in at about $350, and they don't offer used. While there is a small section of kids bikes, it wouldn't be fair to say that this is a specialty.

Curbside CycleSo what is? Hybrids, city bikes, travel (folding) bikes, and cargo bikes. As far as brands go, you'll find quite a few European bikes here, including Batavus, Abici, Pashley, Brompton and Babboe. On the more local end, Curbside also carries Devinci road bikes. Perhaps most noteworthy of these products are those from Babboe, who make cargo bikes — an item that you won't find at the majority of bike stores around the city.

Curbside CycleIn keeping with the urban focus, there's a good selection of accessories tailored to the city rider. Some of my favourites in this category are the Basil and Ortlieb messenger bags, Abus locks (which some say are better than Kryptonite), Chrome clothing, and Brooks saddles (of which Curbside has a good selection). If you're always trying to look cool on your bike like me, these niche products will help you with street cred (just as long as they look like they've actually been used).

Curbside CycleHaving said that, "street cred" is one of those things that Curbside's staff say they have little interest in. If there's a goal here, more than one employee tells me, it's to be as unpretentious as possible. A lot of bike stores say this type of thing — i.e. "we're not like those other guys" — but in this case I'd say it's true. Even the mechanic is a pleasure to deal with, and I've had some nasty interactions with mechanics over the years. This is an all-around solid city bike shop that takes good advantage of its Annex location.

THE SKINNY

Who the store caters to: urban riders, commuters, travel and cargo bike buyers

Bike price range: $350-$3500 (sweet spot $750-$1000)

Service capabilities: Full service shop, comfortable with all repair requests regardless of bike

The tune-up: For $60 you get adjustment of the entire bicycle, tightening of ball bearings, wheel straightening (tire left on bike), tire pump-up and full cleaning.

Discussion

23 Comments

Levi / April 5, 2011 at 05:39 pm
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Recently, I purchased a Surly Long Haul Trucker (a model they carry at Curbside) in the states to save some cash. Upon returning to Toronto with my new bike, I discovered that the brand new Brooks Flyer I purchased with the bike was clearly crookedly seated on the rails - a defective seat. After hearing from a workmate that Curbside carried and sold a lot of Brooks seats, I figured I'd go in, show them the seat, and find out whether or not the crooked Flyer was a common problem.

Expecting just a yes or no answer, I walked in and inquired about the seat. The friendly pair at the counter were surprised to see such a defective Brooks product. They both agreed that they'd never seen such a defect on a Brooks Saddle.

Next thing I know, one of them is on the phone with Brooks headquarters in Illinois arranging for a return of the saddle. Within 5 minutes they had set up the whole return and promised to call me when they received a credit. No more than a week later I had a brand new, fully level, Brooks Flyer from their own store stock. All that effort and I didn't even buy the bike OR the seat from them in the first place. In fact, they didn't profit at all from that exchange. But at least they'll benefit from having all my bicycle related business from now on.

I've never had such a positive experience at a bike store in my life. Best staff in the city!

Matt / April 6, 2011 at 10:44 am
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Although Curbside have a full service facility, it's small and they have limited capacity. In the past they've told me they're only able to service bikes that they sold - in order to keep wait times reasonable for their customers. Would be interested to know if that's still the case.
Bizo replying to a comment from Matt / April 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm
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Seconding Matt's question--I used to go to Curbside to get my bike fixed all the time, and they were always a pleasure to deal with. However, they also told me they were no longer working on bikes that weren't purchased at Curbside. Have they started again?

If not, I can do as the guys at Curbside did, and for repairs recommend their former employee, Rob, at Bateman's Bicycle Company (Barton at Bathurst). Good, fast, reasonably-priced service.
Pinko / April 6, 2011 at 12:36 pm
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Unless you bought your bike from them, they are not willing to help you at all.

I went in there with my dad's old bike from like 20 years ago that I've been riding around. It needed a new rear wheel. The first thing I was told, within seconds of walking in there, was that they don't make that wheel anymore and I should just buy a new bike. I told them that no, I won't be buying a new bike, this one has sentimental value and I would prefer to fix it up again rather than buy a fancy new one. Could they find me a new wheel somehow? The response was NO but I could look on ebay, they told me. I asked them if I found a wheel, could I bring it in and have them put it on my bike for me? Again, no. I asked what they suggested I do, and AGAIN they told me to buy a new bike.

Well, I found a wheel after only a few minutes looking online. I had it shipped to my place then I took it to Bikes on Wheels in Kensington. They put it on my bike and gave me a tune up. I was more than happy to pay them for their services. Sorry Curb Side, won't be visiting you again.
Derek Flack / April 6, 2011 at 12:39 pm
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@Matt @Bizzo

The staff I spoke to told me that this used to be the practice (only to fix bikes purchased at the store), but that's no longer the policy. Though I haven't brought a bike in, they assured me that they now welcome all repairs.

Hope that helps.
Don Banham / April 6, 2011 at 02:02 pm
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Well I guess everyone will have a bad hair day once and a while....Does anyone know if they sell a bike with a 5 speed box and prop driven>

DB

Z
Aaron replying to a comment from Matt / April 10, 2011 at 03:20 pm
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This is no longer the case at Curbside. Every bike is welcome!
Mark / April 11, 2011 at 11:58 pm
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I've been in here a few times and I always get the 'hard sell' on some European-style bike I'm not interested in (the whole, 'aren't you stylish?' line). I often joke that this is a bike store that wants you to believe there's no grease on a bike and it'll never need repairs. It's like the multi-story, glass BMW showrooms but for bikes. It's great if that's what you're looking for. It's Toronto's HQ for cyclechic...
For those looking for repairs, I suggest Sweet Pete's across the street - they're super friendly, won't judge you cos your bikes old and are new so 'hungry' for business right now.
Jamlludin / April 28, 2011 at 01:13 am
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hi dear
i am talking to u from Afghanastan Kandahar we want to your
on thing taht is 26,24,28 inch bicycle if u how so pleas contact me to my E_mail
thanks
omer / May 9, 2011 at 01:07 pm
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as some said, i also heard good things about Curbside. i am just wondering if you guys also selling used bikes, my budget is around 600 for 2 bikes, one for me and one for my wife. we will be riding in parks/outdoor.

http://www.sholod.com/en/6250511397636246691
calvintoronto / July 19, 2011 at 05:04 pm
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Ever meet the owner Don Watterson? Not pleasant. I brought in my bike once (of a half dozen times I had frequented the place, including buying two bikes there), and he was occupied with new stock at the back of the store. Staff had told me to bring my bike to the back for repairs; and he, in no uncertain terms, tells me to get it out of there. I thought, Screw you buddy. He's a surly character; and it's not the only time I've seen his attitude in action. Amazing that he gets staff as nice as they are.

But none of this ameliorates the fact that Curbside (and Bikes on Wheels) is pretentious and grossly overpriced; the competition across the street is no better.

If you are looking for guys who do decent work with honest prices, go to the places on Harboard west of Bathurst. In fact, go anyplace other than this list that blogto recommends.
George replying to a comment from Mark / July 29, 2011 at 12:46 am
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Prices are very reasonable for the quality of work. The head mechanic Eli is a gem and takes good care to make sure you're aware of anything the bike needs. Only friendly people since i've been going there. Maybe some of you should pop in once and a while and stop making quick judgments about the place.
calvin replying to a comment from George / August 2, 2011 at 02:03 pm
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If you've been reading the comments posted on this blog, including comments on the other stores (and including mine, here), you'll see that people aren't making quick judgements (especially in my case, where I've been to Curbside over a half dozen times). They are making fair comments in having to have dealt with surly staff, poor service, and overpriced stock.

The staff at Curbside is generally great; it's the prices and the owner who are a bit much.
Lesley / January 21, 2012 at 07:10 pm
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I bought my Devinci Oslo there in the spring and I had great service, both from the guy who helped me pick out the bike and the woman who rang up the purchase. Got a free bottle holder and bell when I inquired about it, they were very nice about it and got it all set up for me, including cutting down the seat post that was originally too long to be adjusted down to what I needed. They told me I also get a complimentary tune up within 1 year of buying the bike.

The next time I went, a few months later was to help my cousin and his wife each find a bike. We bought a Devinci Wellington for his wife as well as a Bobike seat for their son but my cousin preferred a Kona and ran across the street to buy it street at Sweet Pete's. When I inquired about a free bell and bottle holder for the Devinci, the lady at the cash (different from who I had) said no though. The Wellington is much cheaper than the Oslo, but they also bought the Bobike, locks and skewers and I figured it still isn't much skin of their nose, so I was disappointed.

But I was pleased that when my cousin brought his Kona from Sweet Pete's over, they installed the Bobike on immediately.

So, overall good experiences but I think how good depends on who you get and what kind of day they've had.
wm / July 19, 2012 at 11:31 pm
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I bought me Surly Troll at Curbside because I thought Eric was a nice person and mostly because Gillian had earned my business otherwise I have no need whatsoever, to go to this store.

Eric was instrumental in making sure that I had a Surly Troll as promised as there were some delays in the process. I appreciate his efforts enormously. Eric went out of his way and went the extra mile for me.
It really gets sour and disgusting after this though.

A week after I had my Surly Troll I brought it in to have Tuggnuts installed on the back wheel. The installation was not successful. I rode a long way home with the disc brake rubbing so much that the ride was slow and cumbersome and nowhere near the free flowing ride that I experienced before the Tuggnut unsuccessful installation by the Curbside mechanic.

There was no need for this to take place at all.
You cannot send a bike out of the store unless the installation was done proper.
No one checked to see that it was done proper.

I emailed Eric.

He stated that I should bring the bike in and that they would do the repairs.

Curbside refused to do the repairs when I got there.

They threw my bike out on the sidewalk.
The seat was raised real high for some reason and the back wheel skewer was loose.
If I did not check I would have been seriously injured.

I lowered the seat turned the bike up side down, took off the Curbside skewer and put the original skewer on and road home.

I was also told not to come back to the store ever again.

All I wanted now was this;
The chain tensioned
The Gears adjusted and
The disc breaks adjusted all of this due to the unsuccessful Tuggnut installation attempt by the Curbside mechanic.

All I got back was the most ignorant spin and spew of meaningless rhetoric from such mindless narrow minded self righteous legends in their own minds people, like you would not believe.

Once again the only reason I bought my Surly Troll from Curbside was because Gillian earned my business otherwise, I have no use for this store or their products other than Surly products.

The bottom line is this;
Curbside made an error in installing my the Tuggnuts on the back wheel, such irresponsible error that should never have happened in the first place.

Out of respect for the Surly Bike Company and the bike business itself as a whole Curbside should never have proceeded in this manner.

I want the adjustments made as above, quickly, otherwise, I have no choice but to take court action, file a human rights complaint and contact as many people that can be of help in this regard.

Curbside made the error.
Curbside must fix it.

... after and if this is done, and as before, I have no reasons to go to this store for anything now previously or in the future.
This store has never had anything that I want or that is suitable. ,

No matter what Curbside says, they made the error and they must fix it.

if this is put on your blog, I will expect all kinds spin and spew and meaningless rhetoric however, it all boils down to this; you made the error, you must fix it.

wm






wm / July 29, 2012 at 11:25 pm
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Nothing has been done to date as per my previous comment.
... why am I not surprised.

If anyone reads this blog besides Curbside employees may I suggest based on my experience that you avoid Curbside at all cost.
If you must buy your bike from their, then, pick it up and have it assembled elsewhere.

Curbside is not interested in after sales follow up.

Don't dare question anything they have to say otherwise they will take your bike, put it on the sidewalk and tell you to never come back to the store. How childish. Such stupidity.

Since Curbside feels that they should protect their staff at all cost even if the error is a staff error obviously and just throw the customer and his bike to the 'curb' then, they should make great business from their employees only and don't need any customers.

Stay away from bad vibes Curbside bike shop.
Avoid the smoke and mirrors spin and meaningless rhetoric.
Avoid the immature paranoid pre emptive Hubris that spews from this shop.
Don't put up with their garbage.
Just leave.





Spoke replying to a comment from wm / December 21, 2012 at 08:49 pm
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Hey wm, if you are as annoying and boring in person as you are on this blog, I would've tossed you to the 'curbside' along with your bike.

What you fail to understand is that YOU are in fact the tuggnut!
Logan / April 17, 2013 at 08:45 am
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I had some helpful service that last few times I went in - bought a seat and pannier. I had some work done to my gf's derailleur and they gave me some helpful tips. Very pleased, thank you!
mostly positive / April 20, 2013 at 04:21 pm
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Bought a Gary Fisher Mako there a good 6-7 years back, often used them to do the repairs/upgrades on it (roughly 2x per year). Usually the tune-ups and repairs went off without a hitch, occasionally I had to return to tweak, and a few times I wondered about whether I'd been slightly over-charged.

But in splitting my repairs with Urbane Cyclist over the past three years, I'd have to say I had more issues with work quality at (and way more often wondered if I'd been ripped off) at UC.

All-in-all, I'd recommend this shop and the staff and the service. Just make sure you test out your bike after you leave following a repair to ensure everything works as it should, I found they are good about following-up errors.
Rostech / June 9, 2013 at 02:29 pm
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A couple of years ago my bike seat started becoming progressively looser and was soon unrideable. I was walking along Bloor St and popped in to ask if I could borrow a wrench. I was met with something like "What do you think this is, a charity?" I haven't set foot in the place since.
Bart B. Van Bockstaele / August 26, 2013 at 02:59 pm
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In the spring of 2012, I was in the market for a new bike. A real bike, not one of those dinky toys you end up riding admiring the cigarette butts on the road rather than looking at traffic. I ended up with a Gazelle Orange Excellent Innergy, a fantastic bike. I have well over 4,000 km on the counter now, and I still love it as much as the first day. The people at Curbside Cycle are nothing short of courteous, friendly, dedicated and patient. In short, a fantastic bike store that sold me a wonderful bike.
Ian Flett / May 20, 2014 at 01:59 pm
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I've always enjoyed excellent care and attention at Curbside Cycle. I've bought two bicycles from them and always received excellent service. I have recommended friends to the shop who report the same thing after buying their bikes from Curbside. I still don't hesitate in recommending this shop.
Yohann P. / May 27, 2014 at 09:21 am
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I bought an used Pashley and on my way home I stop by curbside to adjust the saddle height as I didn't have a wrench with me.

15min before closing, they look at the the seat post, told me that the nuts was jammed and need to be replaced. I left the bike overnight, and the next day, brand new bolt, helped me setting it up to my height, all for free.

Really nice and competent people. You just have to be patient as they don't have a huge mechanic shop.

But now, I only go there.

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