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Cycle Couture

Posted by Derek Flack / Posted on June 15, 2011

Cycle Couture Bike Shop TorontoCycle Couture is the type of bike shop that could only open in a city that's at least somewhat cycling friendly. Even if our bike lane infrastructure isn't where it could or should be, one finds more and more riders on Toronto streets than ever before. Part of the reason for this gradual increase is that more and more people have taken up what might be called utility cycling. This type of riding isn't so much about cultivating a hobby as it is about utilizing an efficient, cheap, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation to get from point A to B.

Cycle CoutureWith the increase in these types of riders, bike stores around Toronto have started to carry a greater number of European and European-inspired bikes that are designed for comfort and stylishness. Places like Urbane Cyclist and Curbside Cycle have been in this game for years, but College and Dovercourt's Cycle Couture takes the trend to the next level by restricting its focus solely to these types of bikes. In other words, you're not going to find performance bikes here, but the minimalist showroom is dotted with some of the prettiest and most functional utility bikes out there.

Cycle CoutureIn keeping with the boutique concept hinted at in the shop's name, the brand selection is deliberately limited. Owner Jeff Scullion and manager Adam Freeman have put significant thought into what they carry, and don't want to dilute the store with anything other than what they think are the best bikes for their purpose. On offer at Cycle Couture are a selection of Velobris, Public, Herskind + Herskind and Swobo bikes. Most of these qualify as Euro-type cruisers that are easy on the back and on one's clothes, but the Swobo's are a bit speedier as far as urban bikes go.

Cycle CouturePrices range from $800-$2000+, depending on which brand and model you're looking at, but all of the bikes I saw had solid chromoly frames and impressive components. Even the Public bikes, which occupy the bottom of the price range, will take some serious commuter abuse. $800+ may seem like a lot to pay for utility bike, but the idea with these is that they'll stand up to Toronto's weather and the test of time.

Cycle CoutureAlong with the narrow brand focus, Scullion hopes that top-notch service will set Cycle Couture apart from the increasingly dense Toronto bike market. If my visit is any indication, they're off to a good start. Not only are the tune-ups reasonably priced at $35, but Freeman is a former mountain bike racer and bike expert, who's friendly demeanor and laid back attitude make him super easy to talk to about the store's products but also cycling culture in general. There's no pressure sales action going on here, just informed and enthusiastic cycling talk.

Cycle CoutureThe accessories section is currently pretty small, but as with the bikes, it's composed of stylish items/brands that are new or hard to find in Toronto. I particularly liked the Toronto-made YNOT bags and the super fashionable helmet selection. Clothing options are sparse right now, but from what Freeman tells me, the plan is to build this up later this season and through the winter. To some extent that seems like a natural step, given how difficult it is to find non-goofy looking cycling wear in Toronto. I might not need any more bikes (I own three), but I'll still be paying regular visits to Cycle Couture to scope out accessories and chat it up with the guys.

Cycle CoutureTHE SKINNY

Who the store caters to: urban riders, commuters, anyone who doesn't want to look like a dork while riding a bike

Bike price range: $800-$2000+ (sweet spot $1200)

Service capabilities: Full service shop, but geared to commuter bikes rather than performance machines

The tune-up: For $35 you get adjustment of the gears and brakes, tightening of key areas, and a safety check

Discussion

11 Comments

lowrez / June 15, 2011 at 01:25 pm
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The guys at the store are friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic. It's great that practical city bikes are gaining popularity.
GL / June 16, 2011 at 02:18 am
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Yawn! Why would I want to pony up 1,200 bucks for something I can only ride for 7 months out fo the year, and only a limited number of roads?

That's, 7 months, assuming that it doesnot get stolen before then
Mr.S. / June 16, 2011 at 02:25 am
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Have to take a look. One caveat. Though all of my own bikes are in the price range you quote, I cannot use them for 'utility cycling' in Toronto: I don't want them stolen. I am able to use them to commute, because I am able to lock them inside where I work (and look them inside at home). No other option is acceptable in Toronto, even if Kenk may no longer be in business. Until the police care, a utility bike in Toronto costs less than a 'C-note'.

I shop close to home on foot, or further away by Autoshare. My shoes are unlikely to be stolen, and the Autoshare car is not my problem. Bixi would serve this well, if it was in more locations.
Quinn DuPont replying to a comment from GL / June 16, 2011 at 06:48 pm
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Why would these utility bikes only be useful for 7 months of the year? And what kinds of roads can't they go on? I ride my dutch (Jorg and Olif) bike all year round, through rain, snow, and sleet. In fact, because of all the fenders and coat guards I stay dryer than I would otherwise. It gets tricky in 2' of snow, but if you stick to the main roads these are plowed pretty much right away, so it's fine.
Quinn DuPont replying to a comment from Mr.S. / June 16, 2011 at 06:50 pm
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My recommendation is to purchase a lock that costs 10% of the price of your bicycle. So, if it's a $1200 bicycle you should be purchasing a $120 worth of locks ($100 for u lock, $20 for cables for the wheels and seat). Bicycle theft is terrible in Toronto, but if you don't do anything stupid and have a good lock or two, you'll be fine. It's not really that scary out there.
Mr. S. replying to a comment from Quinn DuPont / June 17, 2011 at 08:38 am
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I know that much! If I have to carry around all that extra iron, pay for it, plan my trip around where to lock my bike and carry the locks... Eff that, I'm walking.
GL replying to a comment from Quinn DuPont / June 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm
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I work in quite a formal environment and winter (or rain) biking carries the risk of me showing up soaking wet for a meeting with a client.

Also, if one these things costs $1,200, plus all the other stuff 9helmet, light, lock), and bikes having the distinct disadvantage of getting stolen, It is not worth it. I learned this hard way (brand new bike was stolen 3 weeks after purchase, locks cut through)
bikebike / June 25, 2011 at 11:35 pm
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a good bicycle is an investment . if you get the right locks and dont lock your bike overnight or in a really sketchy hood , it will most likely not get stolen . the money that a bike saves you on other types of transportation costs (ttc , gas , insurance , etc) is paid back fairly quickly if you get a lot of use out of it . plus it keeps you active and healthy as well as having a near zero carbon footprint (aside from whatever pollution is created in producing it i guess) .

in the end it is the smart choice for most people in an urban environment who care about their health and the health of the planet . not wanting to invest in a helmet , lock , and light is kind of a lame excuse for not benefitting from a healthier lifestyle that involves cycling . you will pay the cost of those things within several car rides/cab rides/ttc rides fairly quickly .
Josh replying to a comment from GL / June 5, 2012 at 12:03 am
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@GL I know your post is nearly a year old but anyways with the addition of fenders and chain guards on a commuter bike you can arrive as dry as if you walked to your location. And also having to buy accessories is not an excuse to not buy a bike. Accessories like lights and a helmet cost about as much as an average oil change for a car. The only thing that may set you back is a good lock. No matter what lock you buy people can still steal your bike a lock is only a deterant or time buyer. What I suggest if you're really paranoid about getting your bike stolen. Lock your seat up with a cable or chain lock, lock your frame and front wheel to the bike rack with a U-lock, and lock your rear wheel to your frame with a U-lock. Also if you want to go the extra mile you can get anti-theft nuts and bolts for your handle bars, brakes, wheels, crank, etc. With these measures a thief is more likely to move onto the next bike rather than try to steal yours.

P.S. A car is just as easily stolen by a professional thief and parted out like a bike.
tm / September 23, 2012 at 11:25 am
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I went in looking for a helmet. I was not greeted by the seated staff person poking away at his computer. After I asked about helmets he casually pointed to the part of the store where they were. Clearly I was on my own to look at the selection, despite there being no one else in the store. I wasted 15 minutes learning for myself that they had nothing in my size.
Then I went to Dukes. A friendly staff person asked how he could help and kindly walked me through selection, fitting, and purchase.
Dukes has always been a cool place to buy a bike, but unlike cycle couture, that doesn't give them the idea that they're somehow above helping their customers, however small the purchase.
Karen Light / November 9, 2013 at 02:30 pm
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I simply have to put my comments here cause I've never before had such a frustrating and confusing experience as I had in this store! I was drawn to a marvellously beautiful bike in their window so I went in. I chatted with Jeff about my riding experiences and how I had written in Toronto for 45 years and recently had an electric bike etc. I'm in my 60s now and have joint and neck problems so I need a bike that will be easy on my body. He seemed very friendly and professional. Later that spring, I went in to try that wonderful bike that I saw. It was a German bicycle with balloon tires, a beautiful big leather seat, highish handlebars, lovely creamy colour etc. I went for a ride. I have never ridden a more comfortable bike. I loved it! It glided so smoothly, and was totally easy on every part of my body. I went back and discussed with the man who was in that day (not Jeff) and I asked about the possibility of making it an electric bike as I was a bit concerned about not having the option of the battery assist. He said he would investigate it. I left. A couple weeks later, not having heard from anyone, I went back, explained the story (a different person again) and was told that "he had found some information from Germany and he would get the salesman that I was talking to, to call me". Again, I waited for a response. Nothing. I went back a few weeks later. I explained again. I told him that I was very interested in that bicycle and just wanted to know whether, if I did buy it, I could at some later date perhaps, make it electric. The man told me that he would have so-and-so get back to me "on Monday". It was Saturday. No call on Monday. Or Tuesday. I waited a week. Maybe two. I went back. "I don't know whether you guys are stupid or just bad businessmen, but I am very close to purchasing a $1700 bike from you and you don't seem at all interested." In retrospect, I should have just bought the damn bike cause I loved it so much but by now I was concerned about their reputation, salesmanship, etc. He assured me that someone would call me. Do you know that they didn't?!! They didn't call me. By this time, the summer was almost over and I had had no bike. I was so pissed. I finally went back in to just write down the name of the German bike so I could try and get it somewhere else. I said to the same man, "I don't know what I did wrong, but I'm giving up on you guys." He looked at me blankly. Honestly, he didn't understand what the problem was and I just didn't have the will to pursue it further. I still dream of the bike but haven't seen it in any other stores and I don't even know if this store still has it. I'm afraid to go in!

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