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.