Your Bike Shop: Seven Insider Tips

For some, walking into a bike shop can be intimidating: there are lots of parts and gizmos and contraptions that can seem foreign.

Am I the only one who doesn’t know what all these parts do? How do I know what size I need? (There are different sizes?!) Do I need one of those gadgets? That contraption’s only necessary for more serious cyclists than me, right?

For others, coming in is like walking in to a big toy store or museum. Gear heads, triathletes, bike lovers will drool over the bikes, gadgets and parts at a respectful distance. Whether out of a fear of breaking a really expensive piece of equipment or of drawing the attention of an overly eager sales person, they’re afraid to touch or pay too close attention to anything.

Coming to work at Higher Gear as someone who had not worked or spent time in bike shops previously, I was intimidated too. But I also learned how unintimidating Higher Gear and the people who work there actually are. I thought I’d share some of what I learned with you to help you feel more at home with us.


Higher Gear Wilmette bike shop Chicago


The Place

First of all, the reason our Higher Gear shops have long counters and stools available is because we want you sit down, feel comfortable and stay and chat with us. We want to be the gathering place for cyclists, where you feel comfortable meeting friends, asking questions and otherwise feel at home.

Thomas Elliot Higher Gear Highland ParkStop by the Starbucks in Plaza del Lago or Perfect Blend in Highland Park, then bring your drink in to Higher Gear. Grab a stool and hang with us as we build and fix bikes.

Start or end your rides at Higher Gear. Or swing by mid-ride to refill your water bottles and use our bathroom.



Fernando Rivera Higher Gear 2013 Specialized ShivThe People

We’re friendly folk. Don’t be intimidated by us; no matter how much or how little you know before you walk in.

Since most people who come in are “just looking,” we’re happy to let you wander around as long as you need. Regardless of how long you’ve been in the shop or how many times you come back, we’ll never go in for the hard sell or pressure you to buy something.

We’re not aggressive, but we are available. If there is something you’re looking for or you do need help, just holler when you’re done browsing. Which leads me to my next point, that you may not see exactly what you’re looking for when you come in…


The Space

While we cover a lot in our spaces (which I’ll come back to in a minute), our floor space doesn’t allow us to display everything we offer. If you’re looking for a specific part, it’s very possible that we offer it, but that it’s not out on the floor. We keep most small parts where the mechanics have easy access to them and larger items in our basement areas.

So, please, if you’re looking for something specific (or even not so specific), let us know what you’re looking for, even if you don’t see it! If you don’t know the name of the part or can’t remember the brand, feel free to describe it to us.

And when we say, “We don’t have an item in stock, but we’re happy to order it for you,” don’t fret a long wait time or special order shipping charges. Rather than over-stocking our limited shelf space, we place weekly orders at each of our shops. If you come in early in the week, you’ll likely only have a day or two until your part comes in with our regular order.

If you know that you need something in advance, give us a call. If we don’t have it in the shop, we’ll let you know when it will arrive.


Higher Gear Wilmette Brandon Olson


The Bikes

Specialized SCOTT road mountain commuter commuting bikes Higher Gear Wilmette Highland ParkWith bikes, too, there is more than meets the eye. We keep a sample of our bikes on display on our shop floors, but most of our bikes are in our basements. We offer more sizes, colors and, in some cases, models than you see on our floor. So don’t be afraid to ask. (We promise, we won’t make you buy a bike just because we carried it upstairs. It’s what we do. And we’re happy to do it for you.)

Sometimes we split a size range between the two shops. So, we may have the bike you want when you show up, but your size could be at our other location. If you’re traveling far or dedicating time to come in to test ride bikes, give us a call in advance and we can make sure the bikes you want in the size you need are in the location you’re heading to. (That said, our locations aren’t that far apart. Sometime people plan to visit both in the same day.)

We place bike orders all throughout the year. Even if we don’t have the exact model or color that you’re looking for, we can order it to come with our next shipment. If you need a bike sooner, we can place a special order for you.


Test Rides

We want you test ride a bike before you buy it. Period.

In fact, you should test ride several bikes to get a feel for what you like.

And by “test ride,” we don’t mean take a bike into our parking lot to ride around in a circle at minimal speeds. Plan for spending a couple hours test riding, give us an idea of how long you will be gone and make sure you’re back before closing time. Take the bike out for a real ride on Sheridan Road (or wherever you ride). Really ride. Try out ALL the gears. See how the bike handles. See what you like and don’t like.


New Bikes/Current Bikes

Regarding comfort on a bike, what feels comfortable for ten miles is different than what feels comfortable for 30 miles or 100 miles. And what works well for you one season may not feel comfortable as you put in more (or less) miles on the bike.

When you purchase a bike with Higher Gear, we set you up with an approximate fit. We adjust your seat height and arm reach. Then we suggest you ride your bike consistently for a month or so to get a feel for what you like and don’t like. With your feedback, we can make adjustments to put you in a position that is more ideal for your body and your type of riding.

Higher Gear Highland Park Bike Fit Scott FoilOver time, you may find what worked well before doesn’t work for you any longer. There are so many changes and upgrades you can make to a bike after your initial investment in the frame. Seats can be swapped, wheels and components can be upgraded and the fit can be adjusted. If you’re experiencing discomfort, we’ll help you determine what adjustments can help you.

To help determine the most efficient and comfortable riding position for you, Higher Gear offers full bike fits – for your existing ride or to help you purchase a new bike. For those who put in long hours on the bike or who want to get the most out of their rides, ask us how a bike fit can help you.


More Than Bikes

Getting back to packing a lot in to a small space, we do a lot more than sell bikes and bike parts in our stores. We offer other cycling-related services – like bike fits, bike repair and CompuTrainer classes. We run clinics, including our annual Women’s Cycling Clinic and cyclocross clinics. We can walk you through how to change your own tire – in person, in the shop or on your smart phone on the roadside. And our cyclocross team has the most fun on and off the course!

We offer items that cross over into running, triathlon and other sports. Many of our cycling jackets or jerseys are great for triathlon or marathon training. We sell running-specific Garmin watches. Local wind surfers put our GoPro cameras to good use.

Then there are the services we offer that have nothing to do with cycling at all. See our article More Than a Bike Shop for some fun stories and photos of these.


Chicago Cyclocross Cup CCC Racing State CX Championship Montrose Higher Gear Gearheads Mariachi Todd Ricketts Brendan Sullivan


Bonus Tip: More Than A Bike Shop

Are you familiar with our website? Each week, you’ll find new information on our home page. If you missed a week, scroll up to the top of the page and click on News & Tips. From there you’ll see our most recent stories. From here, you can also narrow your search. To see more information on bikes or cycling gear we carry, click on What’s New In Our Stores?

If there’s something you’re looking for in particular, use the search feature on the right hand side of the page. If you like to hear about our Higher Gear customers, click on Our Customers at the top of the page. And use our Events & Rides page to stay current on our weekly rides and upcoming events.

Are you currently receiving Higher Gear’s weekly newsletter? If not, you’re missing out on our weekly product updates, cycling news and customer stories. Sign up here to have our newsletter come to your inbox weekly.

And never miss what’s going on in our shops by liking our Facebook page. There we share our weekly newsletters, updates on what we have coming in the shop and pictures of our shops.


~ Our resident fitness guru, Joy Sherrick, shares what she learned coming in as an outsider to the bike industry.

Need Help? Have Questions?

Highland Park | 847-433-2453
Wilmette | 847-256-2330

  • E-Mail
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon