Silent Sports is not a shop you would ride by on your daily commute. Located just off of Yonge Street in Thornhill, this is a destination store. Doncaster Ave. is loaded with obscure outlet warehouses, and you can easily pass by this place without noticing. Once walking through the front door, though, any cyclist should feel right at home. This is the store that helped prepare me for my ride across Canada, supplying me with every bike and gear-related item I needed.
You may have to step over Gunnar, the owner's son's Newfoundlander, who likes sleeping by the door. Inside, you'll find the walls, ceiling and floor loaded with bikes of all shapes and sizes. The store's latest jersey design is proudly displayed on a mannequin. The vibe is super low-key, non-judgmental, and welcoming to cyclists of all skill levels.
A quarter of the store is dedicated to the other sports they supply: surfing, kiteboarding (a personal favourite of store owner Bruce Johnston), windsurfing, cross country skiing, and stand-up paddleboarding. I've been told there's a friendly competition between the two sides of the store.
If you're looking to get your hands on a custom-painted fixed gear commuter for riding over to Trinity-Bellwoods, this is not the store for you (though they will supply you with a handy leather six-pack or flask carrier). As far as commuter options go, this store offers bikes for people who need gears to climb those northern GTA hills. On the other hand, if you spend your hours on the bike getting muddy on back trails or crushing asphalt on long rides, this store will meet all your requirements.
Their specialty is in mountain bikes and performance hybrids, but the road section is decked out, they have a growing collection of fat bikes, and they even offer some kids' bikes and BMXs. They try to carry a lot of Canadian content, their main bike brands being Rocky, Norco (see: Silent Norco Race Team ), Da Vinci, Giant, Surly, Borealis, Santa Cruz, and a dwindling collection of Ridley (which they will soon stop carrying).
Thanks to the location, this sizeable store can offer a much wider range of components, gear and apparel. They carry Shimano, Look, Speedplay, Topeak, Raceface, Industry 9, Axiom, Cateye, Camelback and Fox, among many others. Their apparel lineup is impressive, featuring Garneau, Sugoi, Pearl Izumi, Gore, and Icebreaker. They also offer mail ordering - just ask one of the employees for their product guide, and you will have access to an enormous binder of bike goodies.
If bike manager Ian isn't behind his desk putting through special orders or handling the shop road team (currently, he's racing in Lake Placid), you'll find him walking customers around the store, assuring that they leave with the product that is right for them. He is one of the most knowledgeable guys you'll ever meet in a bike store, able to speak in-depth about any product he offers.
In the back corner lies the repair shop. Behind glass counters filled with pedals and handlebars, you'll find a host of knowledgeable and friendly guys who have experienced the ups and downs of cycling first-hand. Bring in your downhill and it might be serviced by Mike Hermanovsky , the former No. 1 downhill racer in Ontario. I ask him about the "former" part, and he jokes through bites of his sandwich that he was recently knocked down to second overall.
If you see a tall, heavily-bearded man working on your bike, do not be afraid. This is Kai, the shop manager, who is fearless when it comes to repairs and building custom bikes. He's seen the whole spectrum of repairs come through his shop, telling me horror stories about cracked frames that have been duct-taped together and bikes that have been melted from sweat.
The shop offers full service and repairs to any type of bike you ride. They'll fit any bike they sell for you, no charge, and provide two years of free service.
Who the store caters to: Kids riding their first bike, all the way up to high-performance mountain and downhill bikers.
Bike price range: $419 to over $10000 for custom work (the sweet spot is $800-$3000)
Service capabilities: Full range of service, from a simple tube change to full suspension overhauls
The tune-up: $60 for a standard preseason tune-up
Interesting fact: They used to make their own brand of bikes, Thin Blue Line, welding most of the steel frames in-store. If you're lucky you might find one on eBay - Kai says whenever TBL bikes come into the shop, they are still in tip-top shape.
Photos by Jesse Milns.