New bike shops: evidence of strong growth in cycling?

It's hard to keep track of all the new bike shops over the last year or two. Can the Toronto market sustain them all? Is it a sign of a booming bike market? Last year saw:

  • Sweet Pete's B-side as the original Bloor West shop opened a second in the Annex (517 Bloor West), a more "traditional" North American bike shop.
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op started selling their own bike brand, designed, it seems, mostly for the West Coast market.
  • Bike House, a tiny Latino bike shop that exists on low rent costs at Augusta and Dundas to fill a niche on the lower end.
  • Liberty Street Cyclery, a bike shop accessible for the quickly growing "island" but takes some work to find hidden just south of the Liberty Noodle.
  • the ramshackle but very useful Parts Unknown gets closed by the landlord of the Kensington back alley but George rebounds as the Epicyclic just off Queen and Denison.

And this year:

  • Bikes On Wheels in Kensington Market just opened a new location on Queen St West (779 Queen W), with their same range of city, fixies, road and cargo.
  • Cycle Couture is going Danish chic when it opens on April 1st on College near Ossington (926 College Street), importing the Velorbis, HERSKIND+HERSKIND (clean, simple bikes but no chain guards) with Swobo coming from California so as not to get too Danish.
  • Ride Away Bikes on Dundas west of Bathurst caters to the crowds with more straightforward needs and lesser means. It's good to have a few unpretentious shops in the neighbourhood.

That's quite a few bike stores in a short period. How many can Toronto handle with current cycling levels? As the common wisdom goes, most small businesses fail, but Toronto has had a few strong years of cycling growth. These new bike stores are either a reaction to this strong growth or are in anticipation of more. Most are in it because they love bikes and are hoping that the money will match their passion. Any way it happens, I wish them all the best.

Now that the West End seems to be getting saturated - for the time being, perhaps any new entrepreneurs could focus east of the Don Valley. There still seems to be a bit of a hole in Leslieville where cycling rates are almost as high but has only seen one shop open in the last year: the volunteer-driven BikeSauce on 717 Queen East). I'm sure there's room for more.

Comments

Last year also saw the opening of Cycle Butik in the West end. They have excellent city bikes with makes such as Batavus and Pashley. See:

http://www.cyclebutik.com/

Kevin Love

I bought my bike 40 years ago at Bloor Cycle (near Dufferin). Unfortunately, it went out of business. It was a large wide store and I liked going there for service. I'm sure that the former employees went on to establish their own businesses.

One huge change I've noticed over the last few years is how long you have to wait to get your bike services during the spring and summer. You have to book a service appointment up to 3 weeks in advance at some stores. Hopefully this increase in bike shops will spread the work around.

If a store like Sweet Pete's can open a second location, business has to be good enough, especially since they opened across the street for an established bike store.

Interesting, what makes MEC's bicycles "West Coast" ... Better yet, what on earth is an East Coast bicycle? I mean they all come from the Far East.

Evidence of strong growth will be these shops not closing up, right not a few owners and businesspeople think the market can sustain them... we'll see!

Interesting, what makes MEC's bicycles "West Coast" ... Better yet, what on earth is an East Coast bicycle?

That's easy, I think:

  • A west coast bicycle is laid-back, has nooks for your weed, and likes to stop at Starbucks
  • An east coast bicycle has a chain noise that sounds like "I'se the b'ye that rides the bike", and also has attachments for squid jigging and a light-alloy screech-bottle cage

Ed's response is spot on.

I was thinking how all these West coasters are outdoorsy and athletic when they're not smoking/growing so they go for the more sporty bikes at MEC. MEC has got all these bikes with straight bars or drop bards and aluminum frames.

Toronto's latest bike trend (shared with Chicago, NYC, Montreal, etc) are the Dutch "sit-up and beg" bikes, or custom-build cromoly steel frames, single/fixed gears, leather saddles/seats, hammered fenders, and cruiser/moustache bars. It seems like MEC has missed the boat on that trend, and I'm not entirely certain why. And on second thought, these same things are trending in Austin, Texas and Portland Oregon so the West Coast comment doesn't really make sense.

Perhaps west coast bicycles can be pedaled uphill and into the wind while remaining seated is what you're saying... :)

Mec's flat-bar line seems pretty urban to me and I am probably a so-called easterner so eye'll be hooked if i've ever heard of such a bifurcation.

Most of the new shops you've cataloged seem to be urban bicycle focused, not necessarily "dutch". Which i must admit to being tired of hearing about.

I didn't say they were all "dutch bike" focused. I mentioned that one of the trends are the dutch-style bikes, but also custom-build bikes, steel bikes, porteur-style bikes, upright bikes with various accessories: leather saddles, handlebars, fancy fenders/chainguards, racks, baskets. And so on. People are certainly fetishizing their bikes, but at least these types of bikes tend to be useful for everyday cycling.

No, they aren't all dutch focused and you didn't say so... but what seems to be occurring, in some circles, is the urban bicycle is somehow becoming synonymous with dutch bicycle which doesn't have to be the case. It is unfortunate because a lot of those dutch bicycle can get quite expensive. That was my concern, that there is somehow a movement to delegitimize going on when an individual choses something with pink streamers!

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