Tuesday, August 4, 2015Mostly Cloudy 26°C

Urbane Cyclist

Posted by Derek Flack / Posted on April 6, 2011

Urbane Cyclist TorontoUrbane Cyclist is the reigning champion in our best bike stores post, and for good reason. Over the 14 years the store has been open, it has attracted a loyal customer base of urban riders who rely on the store for their cycling needs on a year-round basis. In fact, though the store started out with a pretty small space, it has slowly expanded by taking over additional parts of the building it occupies at 180 John Street such that the showroom and service areas are surprisingly expansive for a bike store located so close to the increasingly expensive Queen West strip.

Urbane CyclistHere you'll find one of the city's highest concentrations of utility cyclists, a term staffer Kathleen Banville uses to highlight the particular needs of Urbane's most common customer. "These are cyclists who generally use bikes as their primary mode of transportation, who may not own a car, and who ride all through the year." As such, one isn't going to find a selection of road and mountain bikes on the sales floor. Instead, there's a range of fixed-gear, single-speed and touring and travel bikes on offer. The store also does cargo conversion kits, trailers and kids bikes.

Urbane CyclistFrom a brands standpoint, Urbane carries a full line from the Canadian company Opus, and selections from KHS, Dahon, Globe, and Bike Friday (mainly custom travel bikes). But perhaps most importantly, they also offer an in-house line of bikes called Urbanites. These come in a variety of styles including single-speed, commuter and touring models. From a price range standpoint, Urbane's bikes start at $400, with higher end touring bikes running up to $2000 depending on the level of customization one's after. In general, Kathleen and her staff recommend that cyclists spend at least $600 to ensure that one gets a ride that won't require significant parts upgrades after a season (take their word on this — it's true).

Urbane CyclistAnother way to avoid replacing parts is to go single speed or fixie. Sure, there are still a few parts on these bikes that require maintenance, but their simplified drivetrains are durable and light, a combination that makes sense for urban riders. And besides, as I've said before, it's not like Toronto's actually that hilly. Single speeds should be comfortable at least 80 per cent of the time, and when the going gets a bit tough, just think of the workout you're getting.

Urbane CyclistGiven the focus on utility cyclists, Urbane also carries an array of accessories and clothing to help city riders deal with the elements and to avoid having their gear stolen. All the major players are accounted for, including Kryptonite and Abus locks, a bevy of fenders and racks, lights and Ortlieb courier bags. Same goes for service. Although the shop doesn't claim to be specialists with hydraulic brakes (found most commonly on mountain bikes), they can handle just about anything else within reason.

Urbane CyclistOne final note. As a worker's co-op, I've noticed that the staff are generally very knowledgeable at Urbane, and the service tends to be above par, especially if you have a lot of questions.


Who the store caters to: utility cyclists, couriers

Bike price range: $400-$2000 (sweet spot $600-$750)

Service capabilities: Full service, but not the place to bring your BMC Team Machine

The tune-up: For $50 you get adjustment of gears and brakes, adjustment/tightening of headset and bottom bracket if possible, minor truing of wheels, cleaning of braking surfaces, all bolts tightened to spec, lube applied to chain, cables, derailleur and brake pivots, tires filled with air, plus 50% off additional repairs required.



j / April 6, 2011 at 07:55 pm
to "your" or to "you're", that is the question
Phil / April 6, 2011 at 08:11 pm
On the one hand, I like their bikes and I don't question their expertise. On the other hand, I bought a bike there and took advantage of my two included tuneups and had a few minor issues during the warranty. I really didn't like their attitude - they charged me extra for cleaning the bike and insisted on blaming me for all the problems I had with my brand new bike.

They gave me a lot of unnecessary hassle for some fairly straightforward requests. I now go to Bikes on Wheels for service and they are always polite and professional.
Andrew / April 6, 2011 at 09:13 pm
I have been coming back to UC for 8 years now and have always found them helpful and knowledgeable.
FB / April 6, 2011 at 09:24 pm
I used to like Urbane. I tried ordering a simple part from them online a while back. Nobody ever responded after emailing a few times and waiting 2 weeks. Curbside was very happy to help me out, and did so right away.
Tony / April 7, 2011 at 02:12 am
Last year, I told them about a grinding noise coming from my headset when I brought a new bike for first tune up. I kind of knew I overtightened it, and I did tell them what I did, but they replaced the headset for free along with the tune up anyway. I deal with a few their mechanics over the year and they were all very enthusiastic(even more than I do) about bikes.

Urbane also carries a lot of accessories and parts, but they are quite pricey which had I end up doing shopping at MEC or eBay, instead.

Anyway, I will definitely consider their Urbanite Touring bike when I am fit enough to ride long distance.
master po / April 7, 2011 at 10:43 am
Last year I purchase a bike here and rode it home, during the ride I could feel the front tire rubbing the fender, a very simple adjustment of the fender corrected the problem. I was very surprised that such a simple and obvious problem was not discovered by the person who assembled and prepared the bike.
Mark / April 7, 2011 at 05:33 pm
Urbane is pretty inconsistent. I've had some really helpful service, and I've been treated horribly. I think it depends on which employee you end up talking with.
John / May 12, 2011 at 09:37 pm
Easily the most knowledgeable service department in the city for commuting and utility cycling.
jimmehh / May 21, 2011 at 10:38 am
I purchased a bike at urbane last summer, the warranty tune up went well. I ran into problems with their staff when I needed to get the front forks replaced and the front tire, they low balled the estimate when I told them I was interested in doing my own labour, they went ahead and repaired the bike, for $100 more I could have purchased the same bike brand new. I had to pay them to get my bike back, I complained to the manager and it went on def ears, she defended the staff and I left extremely unhappy. I would never go back there again, and I recommend you take your business elsewhere to avoid a bad experience.
Slim / May 22, 2011 at 09:21 am
Hate to rain on your parade, but I bought one of their custom assembled hybrid bikes. I talked to several dealers and bought from them because they were able to offer the upgrades I wanted to the crankset and derailleurs whereas the others only wanted to sell me preassembled bikes off the floor.

Bike was ready on time. I Went to pick it up and took it for a little spin. Came back and decided to have a carrier rack installed. Also asked for some minor adjustments - seat height and handlebar. Came back half hour later. Rack was installed but the seat was still too high and the bars were still the same. I do my own work so just took it home and did the adjustments myself. On the way home found that the gears were not working right - front derailleur had not been set up properly. Adjusted that myself too.

A year went by. I like the bike but there were a few problems. The front forks are not cambered forward enough so if I turn sharply, my foot strikes the front tire. Also I found the paint flaking off of the steel frame in spots. Not good.

I ride through the winter. First spring, I put the bike up on my bike stand and disassembled it so I could give it a complete cleaning. Took the front crank apart and removed the gears. Found that one of the gear lugs had been cross threaded! This is on a $130 crank! Went down to Urbane and raised the issue with their staff. They tried to make out like it was my fault because I do my own work. One I convinced them that I knew what I was doing, they told me I'd have to leave the crank for the Shimano rep to look at. The rep only comes in once every two weeks! Fortunately it was the small gear, which I never use so decided just to live with it and only have 3 of the four lugs bolted in. Not happy.

My impression of these guys is that they are coasting on their laurels. I like the co-op idea but it doesn't seem to be producing superior service as far as I can tell.
anoke / June 29, 2011 at 11:24 pm
Do you sell any regular bicycles for $120?
Jim Conchie / April 24, 2012 at 07:19 am
When we came back to Toronto last fall, I started the project of completely rebuilding my 26 year old Raleigh bike....doing most of the work myself, but turning to various bike shops when I needed help. I soon came to believe that Urbane's service shop was the only one in town I could trust.

Six week's ago, that trust took a bit of a beating...I couldn't get the gear's adjusted properly, and had a couple of other issues that I couldn't address my self. I took it in to Urbane, explained the problems, including a slight wobble in the crank, and asked to be called if they encountered any other issues. After leaving the bike till the end of the day, I came back to find the tech gone, and the gearing still not adjusted properly...with a note from the tech saying the front derailleur cage was twisted and needed to be replaced....but NO CALL from him during the day.

I didn't have time to address this again till last week, when I went in to talk about this with the service folks. _No beating around the bush, no excuses_ They accepted responsibility immediately, told me there would be no labor costs, asked me to pay for only parts...and scheduled the repair, at my convenience, for yesterday.
Yesterday, they did the front derailleur....AND discovered that the crank wobble hadn't been properly addressed by the original tech....who, by the way, is now no longer a member of the co-op (Urban is a worker-owned shop)....he had just tightened the lower cartridge plates, instead of taking it apart and inspecting the cartridge....in any case they replaced the cartridge and checked the trueness of the crank and sprockets...and showed me the wear int the old original cartridge......and I paid nothing more than the cost of the parts that I would have paid for originally...they ate several hours of labor.
These are people who care about the quality of the work that comes out of their shop...and when it is not up to standard, they address it, without BS, and at their cost. I'm sticking with them.
Jane Evans / June 7, 2012 at 09:15 pm
I have had a mixed experience in this store. Positive: I got an awesome bike that works well and the employees are informative. Negative: their customer service sucks. I purchased my bike in full last year, but when I went to pick it up a week later they had apparently "forgot" to charge me for my pedals. I was stunned when they asked me to pay up, when it was their error. A year later, I had come in to get my "free" full-tune up. Well, apparently if you're 3 weeks late from your original purchase date, this deal expires! Lastly, the prices are much too high! Overall, great products but the customer service just ruined my experience.
Lisa / June 12, 2012 at 08:26 pm
Went in today to check out the selection and get some info. Found the staff friendly and helpful; a better experience than other bike stores I've checked out.
James / September 5, 2012 at 08:42 am
The staff is friendly and helpful unless you are human male. I must have had nearly a dozen people avoid me at my last visit(sure I'm counting a few people twice.) The mechanics, I must applaud went to great effort to not acknowledge me. I was passed by at the service desk and when asked a question was pointed to another staff member who just walked into the back office. Conclusion? I went into the back counter and helped myself to 2 meters of cable wire, tied it up, secured it with tape and walked by cash attendant as I held it up and said thanks.
Ian D replying to a comment from Phil / September 8, 2012 at 05:17 pm
Yep - i'm afraid i've got to agree that the Customer Service here is somewhere between rude and patronising; bought a tyre in the store (which was pretty expensive $70), and second time out the tyre popped off the rim. Definitely something wrong with the tyre wall or the bead. I took it back to the store and they told me i had damaged it during installation. Truth is it's impossible to be sure; could have been a manufacturing defect, but no way of being sure. i However, the staff back at the store were adamant that all fault and blame was on the customer and never questioned whether there could have been an issue with the product. Truth is you can buy the same tyre half price on line, but you go to the store because you hope for something more in terms of customer service.... WRONG!
Joseph L / August 1, 2013 at 01:34 am
TERRIBLE. I agree with everyone else here. They have absolute terrible service. I purchased two bikes from them. I even had other bikes serviced. They have rude staff. One staff even gestured to fight me when I was standing waiting for service while the other employee yelled to her. I thought she was joking around or something, but she was seriously being aggressive for no reason. She is the Spanish woman with dark hair always in a pony tail. It was a dreadful experience. I took it up with Nancy, who didn't really seem to care.
Jaime H / August 4, 2013 at 11:24 pm
I cannot believe that Urbane is ranked third on the list.
Let me tell you guys that Urbane has become one of the worst bike shop in GTA. I've been going to Urbane ever since they were the Bike Ranch on Adelaide.
Over the years, I've been told I had to replace a bracket that I had just replaced the previous year.
I had a broken spoke replaced that cost me $25 and to boot $2 for the spoke.
The final straw was when I came into the shop to replace a broken axis. They told me it'll cost $80. What? Told me that it was better to replace the whole back wheel. Then they started suggesting other things like replacing the gears and then brakes. Came out to be a total of $150 dollars.
Let me tell you, Urbane has become a rip off store.
Robb / August 23, 2013 at 04:48 pm
I went today looking for a helmet. I got greeted as soon as I walked in. I received some honest, helpful and non-intrusive assistance while I was browsing and the cashier was friendly and funny. She was cute too.

My Urbane experience shat all over the 20 minutes I spent in MEC beforehand where I was completely ignored the entire time I was in that store.
Zi / April 24, 2014 at 06:40 pm
I bought my bike here about 8 years ago and have brought my bike in every couple of years for an overhaul. I also buy various accessories or parts or bring in my bike for some emergency repair. The sales staff can be condescending but I usually ignore them. The repair staff are quite good. After my bike's most recent overhaul, there was a problem with the adjustment on the rear derailleur. When I brought the bike back for this and also getting them to install a new accessory I bought, the repair receipt mentioned that the adjustment shouldn't have been required if the original tech had done the obvious thing and tested all of the gears. I like that. I didn't demand blood, just an adjustment but the repair desk staffer felt I shouldn't have had to make a trip to get it sorted out.

Maybe it costs a bit more to buy tires here than at mec but I really can't stand mec and that useless membership I had to buy to purchase bike shorts. Never going there again.
moles / July 23, 2014 at 06:03 pm
I've been a loyal customer of Urbane for 15+ years, but lately they seem to be a victim of their own success. I was surprised when they turned me away last week when I needed a repair of a broken spoke. They referred me to MEC's bike shop.

I shouldn't say they completely turned me away; they said I could leave the bike with them and they would get to it in a week or so. I didn't want to be bikeless for a whole week or more. I asked why I couldn't make a service appointment, and keep my bike until they were ready to repair it. They said the repair was too small (that is, not enough $) to give me an appointment.

I find that attitude disappointing, given that I have spent many dollars there over the years. It seems to me if they want my business for the big repairs and purchases, they should be willing to provide the small repairs too.

By the way, MEC was meh. They fixed the spoke and balanced the wheel for $15 overnight, which is pretty quick and cheap, but they cross-threaded and jammed the brake adjustment knob-thingy on the brake lever in the process. The guy ahead of me in the bike pick up service line pointed out to them that they were trying to return his bike to him with one wheel completely flat. When he pointed it out, they were first "huh, what, us, no way?" about it. He had to be firm that he didn't bring the bike in with a flat or he would have asked them to repair it.

Could have been just two unusual events, not typical of their service, but it didn't inspire confidence.
Garry Taylor / September 2, 2014 at 12:35 pm
I was coming down to buy a bike , but after reading these comments well maybe i will just invest in a metro pass instead. Sorry.
Bernard / May 6, 2015 at 07:17 am
I have been a customer for over 3 years. I always liked the repair staff. They're efficient and knowledgeable. I even bring them a bottle of wine once to show my appreciation.

However my last customer experience was very disappointing. I bought a bike and accessories including a new helmet in March. The bike needed to be serviced because an inappropriate lubrication they used made it hazardous to ride. They fixed it but they were not very helpful (in fact not at all) to adjust the helmet to my liking. When I went back a month later to see what they could do because I felt it was not the right size for me, the woman at the cash told me that they only come in a one size fits all and if it doesn't fit, then I should buy a new one. What an attitude she had.

I asked for the manager's email address and lodged a complaint. I told him I had to go to another bike shop (Duke's) to fix my helmet problem (free of charge). So far I have not received a reply and I don't expect one either.

Lately, this new bike was stolen. Guess what: I will replace it but I will not buy it there.

Add a Comment


Find a Service

Or use the options below to assist you in locating a Service in Toronto.

Search Results

Please select criteria from the dropdown menus above to start your search.


Recent Reviews

Refine the list using the categories below:

Other Cities: Montreal