Riders Cycle and Board
Riders Cycle and Board is your quintessential neighbourhood bike shop, right down to the full service coffee bar that entices locals to linger and talk shop with owners Jeff Ubalde and Valentine Tomlinson. Both enjoy extensive experience in Toronto's bike industry, so when they teamed up to open their own shop, they wanted to keep it as community-oriented as possible.
This is their second spring at Dovercourt and Geary, and outward appearances indicate the neighbourhood has embraced the laid back atmosphere at the store. Bustling with activity after regular work hours through the week and throughout the day on weekends, along with the Nova Era bakery to the west, it's one of the most popular spots on the street.
Commuters make up the majority of the clientele, but those looking for custom builds also frequent the store. In fact one of Riders' specialties is working one-on-one with customers to build vintage bikes to unique specs. As such, it's tough to pin down exactly what the average bike prices are at the store — to a great extent, it depends on the level of customization. If you're just looking for regularly spec'd vintage offerings, prices start as low as $200 and go up to $400+.
And when I say vintage, I don't mean reproductions. These are older bikes that have been refurbished to serve as stylish and basic commuting options. When asked how they negotiate the complications of stolen bikes floating around the used market, the owners explain that all of Riders stock is sourced from collectors and private dealers with solid reputations. They don't buy bikes off the street à la Igor Kenk, which is where it gets tricky. In other words, you don't have to worry about buying a stolen bike here.
While the bike selection at Riders might be a bit on the niche side, the opposite is true of service options at the store. In addition to offering a full range of repairs (on every type of bike), Riders will do basic maintenance like replacing inner tubes and brake/derailleur adjustments while you wait. I suspect there are a few exceptions to this when the store is absolutely jammed, but the idea is that customers can enjoy a coffee or a tea from the espresso bar before getting back out on the road. I've always thought that all bike shops should do something this, but it's actually quite rare, so kudos to the guys on this one.
Riders also stocks a small assortment of accessories and casual/commuter clothing. While the selection looks a bit sparse right now, they have everything the average commuter could need, including tires, locks, fenders, and basic tools (and expect more to come in the weeks ahead). And if they don't have something, they'll order it on the customer's behalf.
For all this talk of "cycle," I'd be remiss not to cover the "board" quickly. Although the shop services them throughout the year (mostly for vacationing customers), the store's specialty switches over to snowboards in the winter, at which time jackets and other winter soft goods fill the front of house. The longboard skating community is also served throughout the year with a selection of accessories (trucks, bearings, wheels, etc.) and other components required for custom builds.
I'm starting to feel a bit like a broken record with regard to the vibe at the bike stores I've visited, but once again my experience at Riders (and I've visited more than once) reveals a shop with an attitude free atmosphere. Who knows? Maybe the stereotype of the surly bike store employee needs to be retired — at a minimum, it has no commerce at Riders.
Who the store caters to: Commuters, vintage enthusiasts, those looking for custom bike and wheel-builds
Bike price range: $200-$600 (higher for complete custom jobs)
Service capabilities: Everything except painting and welding (minor stuff often done on the spot)
The tune-up: For $45 you get complete external adjustment of the bike, bearing adjustment, truing of wheels, all parts lubed.