We have always had Bicycles since we were both kids and we’ve both had our share of good and bad luck associated with them, from bike crashes, to bikes being stolen but recent events have made us want to share with you what what we have dealt with this year.
We both learnt to ride bikes as kids but for the last 5 years or so we have been on two wheels most of our journeys around London. We have had a number of different bikes, some good some we loved, some bad. We both had full frame folding bikes, not those trendy Brompton’s with the tiny wheels, long seat poles and the need to have your nose surgically altered so that you look down on every other bike rider you pass
(you mean you don’t have to have surgery for that?!)
Bob had her beloved ‘Josey’ Stolen from The Castle Climbing Wall a few years back (and the Wall were of no help! but that’s a story unto itself)
Ash’s first Folding bike practically exploded on him sending springs and gears flying across the road, both were replaced with more standard fixed frame Hybrids and we were content with them until this year, when Ash decided he wanted a new, lighter bike, see the bike he was riding weighed nearly 19kg’s.
Ash: When I used to work at Mile End Wall we had affiliation with some of the Climbing Clubs and other similar organisations, one of which was the London Cycling Club. The LCC in turn were linked to Camden Cycles and the shop gave discounts to the members on bikes, repairs and other stuff. It was one of those ‘Friend of Friend’ kind of deals.
So when I saw an Advert for Camden Cycles earlier this year I recognised the name and thought, that’s a good place to go to get a new bike, rather than going to a chain like Evans, that way I’d get a more hands on, friendly service and help out a small business. So one Wednesday in April Bob & I headed off to Camden to seek out a new ride and Bob needed her tyres replaced as the tread had worn down – the bike was otherwise healthy.
The shop looked just as it had 10 years ago, only it seemed to have moved further down the road, but the array of bikes inside and out looked like a good selection and I explained what I wanted – basically a lightweight, hybrid, Road/Mountain bike. The guy seemed helpful and informative, helping me pick out the right one and understood my reluctance to go for a green bike (I hate green).But a Viking bike, in black and orange was found and at only 9kg it was a bike difference. But it wasn’t the same guy that had always been there, instead the owner was a gruff, abrupt Indian guy. But I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
After some umming and ahrring a part exchange was agreed and a deal struck.
Then the problems started, they would only take cash for the sale, but they would give me a receipt and a warranty, plus a follow up service after a month, so it seemed ok. They convinced us that this was the way all transactions went in this store and being that it seemed to have a lot of customers, what could be wrong?
Bob got her tyres changed at the same time and we headed off happy with the purchases. Halfway home Bob complained that the bike seemed bumpy and jittery, we put it down to new tyres actually gripping and doing their job.
I had my new bike a couple of weeks and wow what a difference that half weight made, it was a pleasure to go out and ride and distances that previously had seemed like a mission were enjoyable, not for years had it been this easy to ride all day and not feel like someone had steamrollered over my legs and lungs after a day on the bike. But there was a squeak, a click, a tapping sound coming from the crankshaft.
So when I returned to Camden for the follow up service I told the guy and he said he would take a look. I left and came back an hour later and took the bike home, it was pouring down with rain that day and I was soaked through within 10 seconds of getting on the bike. But the squeak/clicking came back when I was halfway home and seemed to get worse over the next few days. So I phoned the shop and took it back in, they ‘claimed’ to have replace the bottom bracket on the crank and claimed it was fine, a quick test riding up and down the pavement, seemed like it was cured and I left. The next time out on the bike the noise came back and didn’t stop. Also after weeks of Bob complaining about the wheels and the way the tyres were jamming/stopping randomly we noticed the wheels were ‘wobbling’, a buckle in the front wheel was making riding uncomfortable and annoying. Do be aware that as said above the bike was in perfect health prior to the tyre change – because if it hadn’t been we would have asked about getting that corrected during the tyre change’.
So back to Camden we went again – this is the forth time now and the owner this time seemed adamant that faults were nothing to do with them, he simply pumped up Bob’s tyres then sprayed some WD40 on the bike and tightened the handlebar bracket on the new bike, even though his mechanic wanted to change the handlebar stem, because he thought it might be damaged, but the owner refused.
We tried to complain and Bob did some research on Camden Cycles, so it seems that the Camden Cycles that used to be there (in the old shop just down the road’ closed about 5years ago) The ‘New’ Camden Cycles took over, we suspect the new owner simply bought over the old shop, taking the name and reputation of the previous business and has rode on the name ever since. There also seems to be about 5 different shops using the name is various forms, Camden Bikes, Camden Bicycles, Camden and Kentish Town Bikes, you get the point, none of which are the original and none are associated with the LCC or any bike clubs. In fact the Camden Cycles we had been in had abysmal reviews from the past 3 years – saying they sold dodgy bikes, didn’t repair the bikes, sold stolen bikes etc
So what to do? Well Bob’s bike had stopped changing gear and needed a service (Separate to the wheel issues) at first we had intended to do it when we went to Camden, but given the problems she decided against that. But she had an idea to go to Free Bike Service called Dr. Bikes, that is held around London in different locations and ask them to take a look at the bikes and make an assessment and maybe see what they could do, as there seemed to be a session at the end of July in London’s Finsbury Park.
So on a wet (Well it is London after all) Saturday afternoon we headed to Finsbury Park, we aimed for the main gate thinking the workshop would position themselves somewhere accessible and obvious. You guessed it, we were wrong, the main entrance (by the Tube Station) was void of any activity. So we cycled up the road in the middle of the park looking for a sign, a van, maybe a tent.
We spotted a van and some banners, so headed that way, only to discover it was an Air, Sea, Rescue Service Charity publicity thing! But there were some stalls there too, selling Jerk Chicken, a lady selling some glass vases and a guy selling kids bike, you know those really expensive Trendy things with no peddles, kind of Hobby Horses for toddlers! Apparently this was the Latino Life in the Park festival – because nothing screams latino like pony rides, bouncy castles and jerk chicken (rolls eyes)
But no Dr Bike Workshop. so we went on a search. We cycled around the outside, through the middle, around the running track, down hills, up hills, out one gate and in another, we looped and ringed the park five times to no avail.
Bob phoned Dr. Bike and a grumpy woman answered sounding half asleep at 2pm and stated they were by Oxford Road. So we headed to Oxford Road and found it was where the stalls had been. We asked the guy with the kids Hobby Horses and he pointed at an overweight bloke in a hi-vis yellow vest, holding a spanner. The man looked us up and down and sneered – his only response – then we noticed he wore a T-Shirt with Dr. Bike on it. Apart from one spanner that was it, no bike stands, not even a bike pump to pump up a tyre, not useful. So after 2 hours searching we left, having made no progress.
Bob suggested we head to Stoke Newington and to a Bike shop we had heard good things about, but we feared the prices!
Ten minutes later we entered Two Wheels Good, on Church St and we explained the situation, a number of staff jumped up to help and instantly assessed my bike, scanning it over and pointing out not one fault, but a mass of them, from forks miss aligned, the brakes are loose, the de-railer is loose, the crank is loose and the brake levers aren’t adjusted, all that from a quick look over, I fear what they will find if I hand the bike over for a proper service (but more on that in time)
As for Bob’s tyres, well that was simple, there is a buckle due to the tyres not being put on properly but simply switching the wheels around would help and adjusting the tyres to actually put them on the wheel have almost fixed the issue. The gears was a simple job and pretty cheap too, we were pleasantly surprised.
So as we stand Camden Cycles are not willing to refund the tyres as they state “we have done nothing wrong you must have done it” and “WD40 will fix it” and even when we stated Two wheels good gave us a list of issues they said “Bike shops like that don’t know what they are doing and if there is something wrong with the bike you must have done it”
So all in all take it from us – DO NOT GO TO CAMDEN CYCLES! Or even DR BIKE unless you want to cycle round for hours on the off chance you get a good service – but you will never know until you get there. Instead double check reviews etc and go to a decent shop like Two Wheels Good where the staff will help and fix the issues these other assholes created.