Because I’ve only been living in the Bay Area for a few months, I haven’t had much of a chance to experience the bike shops here. Most of the little things that happen, like flat tires and minor adjustments, I handle on my own, or with the help of the trusty boyfriend (who came from the boyfriend store complete with a full bike shop’s worth of tools). But I realize that not all the readers of this blog will have such a handy person in their lives, and sometimes when really big stuff happens to your bike, or you decide you need a new one, well, you just need to go to a shop.

And really, there’s something a little terrifying about dropping your beloved bike off at a random shop with a random mechanic. It’s also terrifying to think that you might be walking into a random shop to buy a new or used bike and unknowingly being taken for a ride (and not in a good way). So, because I think it’s important to find the shop that works for you, I’m going to do a series on them. There are TONS of shops in the East Bay, so it may take a while for me to get through all of them, but I promise, the result will be a thorough cataloguing of the shops around here.

Each post will show up on the main page of the blog, so that if you’re following regularly, you can read them as they come. But after that, they’ll be archived on the shops page, underneath the map of local shops. The map and the archive will constantly be growing, so you’re guaranteed to find the right shop for you eventually.

Of course I’ll give you my totally honest opinion about these shops, but in attempt to give some unbiased review, I’ll also give scores on a scale of 1-10 for each of the following categories:

Friendliness: this is based on the initial greeting. I want to feel welcome in a shop right away, especially if I’m kind of new to the biking scene. If I’m looking to buy a bike, I want to be greeted, and told that if I have any questions I can ask so-and-so, and he’ll be right there to help me out.

Equipment Knowledge: this rating is about knowing your stuff, pure and simple. I want employees of my shop to have test-ridden the bikes they’re selling, to know first hand which lights will give me the best visibility, and which shorts will keep my butt feeling like it’s sitting on a cloud for the longest of rides.

Mechanical Knowledge: a shop mechanic should be able to diagnose and fix most basic problems on the spot. And for more major things, he should be able to give you an idea of your options (do I really need to replace the headset? or can I try putting in new bearings?) and the costs of those options. Beware the mechanic that only wants to sell you new parts as a fix for every problem.

Merchandise Selection: does the shop have a good selection of stuff? Road bikes, mountain bikes, commuters, cyclocross bikes? How about different brands? Men’s and women’s? New and used? How about accessories–lights, fenders, clothing, shoes, socks, gloves, and the like? Tools?

Potential for Satisfaction: I wasn’t sure what to call this category, but it’s basically a measure of how hard the shop works to be sure you’ll be satisfied with what you bought. Does the shop allow you to do a test ride of the bikes? How extensive can that test ride be? And does the shop have a return or exchange policy?

For now, that’s it. If I think of more categories as I go, I’ll add them. But in the meantime, I’ll work with these, and of coruse, a personal review of the place. I promise to be brutally honest.