I’ve had used bikes all my life. I did own a nice one, once upon a time – in 2000, I bought a Miele racing bike for $500 used. Unfortunately, it was stolen in 2003 just before I graduated (from behind my back, as I was picking up glass off the bike lane). At that time, I had no cash left in the bank account, so I bought an old racer from a labmate for $100 – and I mean old; it had a serial number stamped with 78xxxxxx on the bottom, and I think that means the frame’s as old as I am.
But now I have a little more cash, and I still bike everywhere. So I thought I’d invest in my first brand new bike. As a utility cycling advocate, I wanted to see if I could buy a bike off-the-shelf with all the practical things you need for commuting: fenders, a rack, a chainguard, a kickstand, and lights. I discovered that you could buy these bikes easily in Europe, but they were hard to find in North America. The Cannondale Street is a bit overpriced at $1100. Local boutique Jorg & Olif sell stylish imported Dutch bikes for $1150, but they’re not quite good enough on the hills for my house (at the top of the city’s ridge), and they’re also pretty pricey for a basic bike. There are a few other nice bikes elsewhere in North America: Kronan sells in Victoria, Breezer is at a Vancouver shop that I didn’t get to visit, Biria doesn’t have a Canadian dealer any more, and Kettler and Skeppshult never sold to Canada. So, I gave up on an off-the-shelf utility bike. It just can’t be done in North America yet. (No one even sells or displays bikes with fenders. Maybe they haven’t noticed that it rains in Vancouver yet.)
My next choice was a regular hybrid bike, with accessories tacked on. I settled on two models: the Specialized Sirrus Sport and the De Vinci Oslo. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the gorgeous De Vinci bike in stock in my size. The De Vinci Amsterdam was even more beautiful, but a bit too flashy for my taste – too likely to get stolen. So, I went with the Specialized bike, and I haven’t regretted it one bit. The regular model had a nicer red colour, but I wanted the higher-quality components of the Sport model. I tricked it out with a full set of accessories, and finished up with a bill for about $900. There are a bunch of photos here.
I bought the bike at Dunbar Cycles in the end. I visited a lot of shops, and I was quite impressed by manager Lea Holz’s friendliness and knowledge regarding commuter bikes. I would also recommend Dizzy Cycles highly, and both Reckless Cycles and the Cyclepath were good. I’ve heard good things about the Bike Doctor but didn’t get out there. The Jorg & Olif boutique was very different but neat – lots of fashion, very few bikes – but they were fun bikes to ride.
I wasn’t very happy with Bicycle Sports Pacific’s service, which tended to be a bit pushy and know-it-all, and disparaging of commuters’ needs. and I hated Cambie Cycles weirdly sexist website enough that I didn’t even go there. Most other local bike stores had too little variety in hybrids, with more of a focus on mountain bikes or road bikes.