Avoid "Pedal Bikes" in Bristol!

As a commuting cyclist, I rack up quite a few city miles on two wheels each year, and I make sure I get my bike serviced at least once a year. For years I’ve used Pembury Cycles on Gloucester Road (even though it is nowhere near my current home or workplace, I used to live nearby some time ago). Sadly, the Gloucester Road branch of Pembury closed (although the Bishopworth one remains open), so since then I’ve been looking for a new bike mechanic either near my office in Clifton, or near my home in St George / Hanham. There’s a relatively new startup in St George called Pedal. It’s on my route into work so I decided to give it a go.

On Saturday, I went into the shop to book a service for the following Monday, and they said bookings were not necessary, just turn up and they can do the service same-day. The chap in the shop was surly and unhelpful but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and booked the bike in anyway.

On Monday, I returned with the bike. He said they were too busy and wouldn’t even be able to look at it until Tuesday. I grumbled and said they must have it done by 5pm on Tuesday so I could collect it after work. He promised to ring me during the day on Tuesday to let me know what work needed doing and to confirm it would be available.

On Tuesday, he failed to call me so from 3pm onwards I tried to ring to find out what was going on. The number on their Facebook page always rang out and went to voicemail. Their website had a different number, which repeatedly offered the busy tone. After about a dozen tries, and getting on for 4pm, I got through to the bloke who said they hadn’t even started the service yet. I asked that they begin immediately so I could pick it up by 6pm. He said he’d get onto the mechanic, who would ring me back to confirm. Half an hour passed, and no word from the mechanic so I rang the shop again. He said he would get the mechanic to stay late and have it ready for me although it would probably be Wednesday morning. I said that wasn’t good enough and it had to be Tuesday night. He agreed, and I said I would return to the shop in St George after work. At about 6pm, I arrived at the shop. The guy seemed surprised to see me and admitted that they still hadn’t started work on my bike. I said to forget the work, I just wanted my bike back in whatever state. He said it was no longer in the shop, but had been taken to premises in Stokes Croft so I couldn’t have it back. I demanded it back and said I’d drive there myself to get it, and I didn’t care if the work had been done or not. I arranged to go and fetch the bike at 8pm.

8pm, Stokes Croft. They appeared to have serviced the bike, and done a rush job between 6 and 8pm (predictably). However, they’d cleaned it (which is more than I expected) and seemed to have done an OK job in general. I was dealt with by the mechanic, although the shop guy from St George was there too, standing in the background and ignoring me. I asked for a discount for the inconvenience and the mechanic agreed, and gave some money off the servicing and free brake pads. I took the bike home but didn’t get a chance to ride it for a couple of days.

Two days later, when I first rode the bike, I was infuriated at the bad job they’d done. I had to stop three times on the way to work, and on the first stop I returned home to pick up some tools to see me through the rest of my journey. Here’s a catalogue of mechanical problems introduced by the shop:

  • One brake was adjusted; nice and tight with the quick bite, while the other had received no attention and was still loose. It was difficult to brake evenly and safely with two radically differently-configured brakes.
  • Gears no longer changed down properly (they used to before the service) and instead they rattle for a few seconds before changing. I can’t even change down into the hill-climbing gear any more.
  • Gears are slower to change up, too. The chain slackens for a second while changing, which it never used to do.
  • The bottom bracket was disassembled for cleaning and lubrication, as I would expect. However, now there’s something wrong with the bearings and they clunk as I pedal.
  • Both tyres were soft when the bike was returned to me, and needed quite a lot of pumping.
  • The front tyre has received an impact from a sharp object (possibly while being transported to Stokes Croft) which has torn some of the tread off the canvas and made a bulge in the sidewall.
  • The saddle was put back at the wrong height. Not a showstopper, but basic courtesy and something I’d expect a competent bike mechanic to do.

In summary, I am never going back there again, and I recommend you avoid them too (unless you want them to charge you for breaking your bike and to be rude about it). They’re a newish startup so you expect one or two teething problems as they find a workflow, and I was prepared to be tolerant. But they’ve done a really terrible job on the mechanics side and an even worse job on basic customer service, by repeatedly breaking promises and failing to provide information, and general lack of politeness. I think this is an endemic problem in the staff they have – they just didn’t care about the customer. Given that I went into the shop wanting to spend money, they didn’t really encourage me to do so.

Avoid Pedal Bikes in St George, Bristol.

3 Comments

  1. July 10, 2013
    Reply

    Hi Jonathan, thank you for your review, I’m very sorry that you feel so dissatisfied.

    As you pointed out in your lengthily and factually incorrect blog post we are a new business and have had a few teething problems as all new businesses do. We have been extremely busy since we have opened and to my knowledge you are the first unhappy customer.

    We do not book bikes in for service as people have a tendency of not turning up so we strive to do a professional but quick job once we have a customers bike in our hands – we all ride bikes as our main mode of transport and appreciate how inconvenient it is being bike less. Unfortunately the Monday you came in we were very busy and unable to do the work and get the bike back to you the same day. I can only apologise for the breakdown in communication that led to you not getting a call back, this is definitely not good enough and something we need to look at. As you couldn’t possibly wait until wednesday and demanded at 4pm that your bike be ready for the end of the day we decided to take your bike to our other shop where we could do the work for you. Our stokes croft shop is also very busy but we dropped everything and started work on your bike, we close at 7pm but all stayed late to try and get your bike done and back to you because we didn’t want to let you down. We didn’t intend do a rush job on your bike but because of your impatience and self imposed deadline we didn’t have a chance to test ride the bike and make any further adjustments after the initial work was carried out. If you had given us the time to do our job properly we would have done so and you would not have had any problems 2 days later. I was at stokes croft when you collected your bike and you were more interested in getting money off than letting us adjust the saddle height or gear cables. I cannot apologise enough for the lack of contact and breakdown in communication between the staff at pedal and the stokes croft shop, we were simply very busy that day.

    As for the catalogue of problems with your bike after the service I don’t think we charged you for us to break your bike – I think that is a slight exaggeration. If you could have given us more time we could have taken the bike for a test ride and sorted the brakes and gears – that’s what the test ride is for and we would have happily worked until 12 o’clock if it meant that you would have been satisfied and the bike had been perfect for your next journey.

    We care very much about our customers and their bikes and strive to offer the cheapest, most comprehensive service in Bristol. Ultimately I take this complaint very seriously and I will deal with it accordingly however i would like to point out you did not help this situation with your demands and deadlines and any damage to a tyre could have been from you bundling the bike into the back of your car in a bad mood or from your short but problematic ride a few days later.

    On top of the discount you have received and the free parts you have already had I would offer you free bicycle servicing for the rest of your life.

    Regards
    Matt

    • July 10, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. I don’t believe my post was factually incorrect but if we have different understandings of the situation then I would be inclined to blame your poor communication.

      I have a couple of issues with some of the things you said. My “impatience” was due to the fact that you didn’t have my bike ready by the time we agreed when I dropped it off, and I think this was reasonable.

      As for the service not being properly finished – I did ask for my bike back without any work done to it if there wasn’t time to do it. You then started the service and rang me to say it was complete (8pm ish) without any hint that the bike had not been test-ridden or finished properly. How am I to make an informed decision if you don’t give me the information? When I picked up the bike, there was no discussion about a half-job being done, a test-ride being needed or anything like that. I was simply given the bike and asked to pay. Naturally I asked for the discount because I was unhappy with the service.

      You’re also right that the damage to the tyre could have happened anywhere. I am fairly sure it happened while the bike was with you, as I check my tyres before riding every day, but obviously it can’t be proved and I shan’t say anything else about it.

      Thanks for your offer of free servicing. I think it is unlikely that I will take you up on it, however I hope you manage to get stuff sorted out and improve the standard of service. Everyone needs a good, reliable, local bike shop, especially at a time when others are closing down.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

  2. Matt
    August 7, 2013
    Reply

    I would appreciate it if you remove this post as it comes up on google now.

    We have taken your comments on board and you have been compensated. You know we are a new business and we have as all new businesses do a few teething problems.

    If this was a blog full of posts about every company that has ever left you dissatisfied it wouldn’t be so bad but, as you have singled out a new independent publicly without a direct phone call or private email I think you are being a bit unfair.

    Regards

    Matt

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