Having narrowly avoided being run over by a speeding Aston Martin in the financial district, as well as being pursued by someone clearly going a bit crazy en route to one store, Mystery Shopper dislikes London. However, was the experience redeemed by cycle stores fulfilling the search for hardtails?


E1 Cycles, Aldgate
First impressions count and sadly, if I were a buying customer, it’s likely that I wouldn’t have spent long in E1 Cycles as there were no staff members to be found. I browsed the bikes for a few minutes before hearing a noise towards the back of the store. Following the sound, I found two mechanics tucked away in a back room and managed to grab the attention of one for a moment.

The experience was redeemed by the assistant who, despite acknowledging there was little they could do in terms of a mid-to-high-end, off-road hardtail, did explain the lower-end stock. I was told the workshop had previously built custom bikes, which may better suit my needs and spend.

Having been given a guided tour of a £300 Claud Butler, I asked if any high-end builds could be ordered, to which I was told only if it’s a Raleigh or Claud Butler.

When asked about the correct frame size for a six-foot person, the assistant assured me that a 20-inch frame would be fine, although I personally felt this to be a few sizes too big. I had earlier been told the store only had 20 and 21-inch sizes in stock.

Cycle Surgery, Spitalfields
Perhaps a little out of the way, this Cycle Surgery is probably only known to locals, but it’s a well-laid out, tidy and spacious store.

On entry, I browsed both the hardtail and full suspension models ranging from £600 to £800 and was approached by a staff member shortly afterwards. The employee evidently spoke from experience when he warned that a proper full suspension build for tough XC riding would cost from £1,000. I then turned my attention to the comprehensive range of hardtails.

The enthusiastic staff member recommended an Orange, though did sensibly add that it’s always worth trying before you buy. I was then shown to a number of Marin bikes and Specialized builds.

My needs were further met when the assistant explained that the bikes could be modified to suit my usage, and included explanations of extra fittings such as mudguards.

Based on my six-foot height, the assistant suggested a frame size of 17 to 18 inches, dependent on which suited the length of my leg. His information reassured me that he had been properly educated in bikes. Top marks here for the store, the staff and the service.

Evans Cycles, Canary Wharf
Located in the heart of London’s financial district, this store is conveniently located outside the tube station.

I began browsing some of the hardtails before catching the attention of a staff member, who immediately led me to a selection of bikes suited to my brief. Of those suggested, the assistant began to highlight one model, removing it from the rack. I hinted towards another bike, although this suggestion was either ignored, or not picked up on.

When asked about full-suspension models, the assistant recommended sticking to a hardtail with the quoted price range of £600 to £800. This was followed with correct advice about the frame’s size and a few of Evans’ seemingly drilled-in sales finishers, including the offer of a six-week service.

When I asked about the possibility of modifying the bike to better suit my needs, the assistant went quiet and was unsure of what to say.

Overall, being one of the few stores to remove a bike from the rack and offer a test ride, I felt the assistant answered the majority of my questions well and could secure a sale.

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