When we set out to profile Peterborough’s local bike shops our goal was to highlight the essential character of each shop in order to help people connect with a shop that made them comfortable and met their unique needs. Besides the better service and value for money, we feel the personal connection is a priceless benefit of an independent bike shop. We did our research on the series by polling fellow cyclists and through a set of questions sent to the managers and staff of each shop. This all went well, as the responses we received aligned well with our perceptions and what our cycling friends were saying…until we got to Wild Rock Outfitters. Here our perceptions only partly matched up with what we found out. OK, we’ll admit it, the main thing that came to mind when we thought about Wild Rock was the road bikes and the connection to the road cycling scene, especially through the Peterborough Cycling Club (PCC). After some thoughtful feedback from Kieran Andrews (co-owner) and Jamie Elcombe (bike department manager) at Wild Rock, we would like to go on record and admit how wrong we were (and how wrong we suspect many others may be).
First, let’s examine what we had right. Wild Rock clearly appeals to those who are more active and serious about fitness than the average person. This makes sense as Wild Rock Outfitters is a complete outdoor equipment shop. Whether you are into camping, paddling, hiking, skiing, travelling or cycling, Wild Rock has the equipment and clothing you need (and advice if you need that, too). While staff confirmed the active lifestyles of their cycling customer base, we were surprised to learn that the main body of their clientele is made up of mature adults.
This showed up when we asked about the types of bikes Wild Rock sells. About half are quality hybrid bikes sold to people interested in fitness, recreation and social riding on the trails and backroads in and around Peterborough. Road bikes make up about a quarter of their sales, mountain bikes come in at about a tenth and the rest is an interesting mix of kids bikes, tandems, pedal assists, custom bikes and the odd cargo bike.
When asked about a common philosophy about all their bike sales, the response was clear: they want everyone to ride and believe everyone can ride. In their words, “Many, many people do not ride because they were uncomfortable on a bike at some time in their past. We take fit and comfort very, very seriously and many of our customers now ride much more than they ever dreamed possible. We like to believe that we help our customers turn from people who ride a bike sometimes into cyclists; preferably lifetime cyclists”. This shows up in the comments they receive from their clients. Customers repeatedly state how they felt listened to and how staff addressed concerns that clients often didn’t realise they had and in ways they never considered possible, especially when it came to fit. The importance of bike fit and the idea that every client is an individual came up repeatedly in our discussions on how they operate their shop.
Wild Rock are distributors of Trek and Specialized bikes and also deal with Marinoni, Santa Cruz and other specialty brands. Within the shop, Marinoni is a house favorite. These bikes are still custom made in Montréal by cycling legend Guiseppe Marinoni (who was in town in January 2015 for a screening of the movie profiling his amazing work). Wild Rock also stocks or can order almost any cycling-related accessory a local cyclist might need. Locally, their strong suit is a deep inventory and wide experience with cycling shoes, pedals, helmets and cycling clothing—key items to improve every cyclist’s experience and keep cycling a pleasure (remember that cycling for life thing?). All of this is backed up by a full service department staffed by a skilled and dedicated team (or should we say underpinned, as they are nicely set up downstairs?).
Service to their client base beyond the product is clearly important to the folks at Wild Rock as they are at the core of the cycling community. They are closely tied to the local cycling clubs and work hard at developing infrastructure that makes cycling better for local and visiting cyclists. They often have a hand in or help sponsor local cycling events and were a key partner in the efforts to establish the wonderful Peterborough & the Kawarthas Classics Road Cycling Routes. Kieran currently sits on the Peterborough Bicycle Advisory Committee. While not limited to cycling equipment, their gear swaps are an integral part of the local cycling scene.
Looking ahead, they see great things for cycling in Peterborough. They see how people are coming together to travel farther afield on their bikes and, while they note the emergence of “gravel grinder” bikes, it is what people are doing with them that matters. People are “exploring with a more playful nature than ever and that is the important part.” While people are ranging wider, either alone or in small groups, Wild Rock is supporting this growth with an expanding series of guided cycling tours, locally and to international destinations. When asked about the cycling community in Peterborough, they remarked on expanding infrastructure for both urban and road cyclists, improvements in the mountain bike trail network, continued growth of the Peterborough Cycling Club and the blossoming youth cycling program—all indicators of a healthy local cycling community.
They note running a bike shop and being part of an increasingly active local community is extremely rewarding. That said, “watching our clients morph into lifetime cyclists is also fantastic. These are people who, after discovering the joy of cycling, take their holidays on their bikes, develop their fitness on their bikes and share time with family and friends on their bikes. Magic.”
Beyond the philosophy, the brands, the services and the connection to community, it is clear that a love of cycling is the driving force behind the cycling department at Wild Rock (which makes sense, given it appears a love of the outdoors is the driving force behind the whole store). As they said at the close of our interview, “Nobody ever lay on their death bed thinking, ‘wow, I wish I had spent less time cycling’”.
We can’t agree more.
Wild Rock Outfitters
169 Charlotte Street
Wild Rock Outfitters is a valuable part of our local bike shop network. When you shop local you get a better return on your investment: you get the bike you need, you get better customer service and your money stays in our community.