Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Evans Cycles review - tough but fair!

Evans Cycles - the FAST review

Evans are pretty great.  Click here to find out more about Evans Cycles…

Evans Cycles - the longer review

Evans Cycles  - can you trust them?

Evans Cycles shops are now in most towns in the UK, but until recently there were no Evans Cycles shops close to where I live in Ipswich.  But a few weeks ago a new Evans Cycles opened up just down the road from me in Martlesham (although Evans Cycles call it Ipswich).

We have a number of cycle shops already in and around Ipswich.  Some sell very cheap bikes, others are very high-end places where many a smiling cycling can be seen handing over several thousands of pounds for a new steed.  But before Evans Cycles arrived there were no bike shops that I felt catered for people who were keen cyclists who might not have the budget to casually fork out a few grand on a bicycle.  I’m not saying that Evans Cycles is a bargain-basement type of bike shop.  Evans has a reputation for selling good quality bikes at very competitive prices.

So the ‘can you trust them’ question is possibly the wrong question to ask.  Passionate cyclists are a loyal bunch, in both positive and negative ways.  If a chain of cycle shops consistently disappoints cyclist then cyclists will stop using that chain.  We cyclists love to celebrate good service, but transversely we will also cheerfully make very public any grievances we have.  Usually on any one of the brilliant cycling forums, like CycleChat.

If a large chain of bike shops like Evans gets a bad reputation then cyclists stop giving them money.  Without cyclists giving money to a brand, that brand can’t develop and open new shops.  However, Evans Cycles appear to have a very healthy reputation.  However, it’s worth considering that you will find some bad reviews for Evans Cycles if you scan the web deep enough.  Even the very best brands get bad reviews.  Nobody can be perfect all the time.  Therefore I’m usually more interested in how brands like Evans deal with complaints.  It’s just not possible to entirely avoid complaints.  On the whole Evans Cycles appear to be very good with their customer service.

Evans Cycles - the review

I have used Evans shops in London (and other large towns) several times, but never for any significant purchases.  I have been in need of inner tubes, or a pair of sunglasses, or a water bottle.  Never anything worth a few quid.  Therefore never anything that I felt was worthy of a written review, however brief.  But a few weeks ago my wife and I decided the time had come to buy my daughter a proper bike.  She has been bimbling around on several frankly crap bikes for the last couple of years.  You know the sort of bikes; they always have a sticker of a Disney character or some other crap on them.

When I had taken my daughter to Halfords the ‘fashion’ and Disney bikes were a bit of an issue for us.  She couldn’t see past the stickers of Disney ‘stars’ on the cheap bikes, and I couldn’t see past the fact these BSOs weighed more than a wheelbarrow full of spuds.  The other issue, and one of the reasons we never bought a bike from Halfords, is that all the bikes came fitted with stabilisers.  My girl has never used stabilisers.  I removed the crank and pedals from the first bike someone gave to us and she used it as a balance bike.  But because the Disney bikes had stabilisers you’d better believe she (thought) she wanted stabilisers. Yes I know I could have removed the stabilisers after buying the bike, but that wasn’t really what was stopping me from buying.

Even the most cursory glance over this type of cheap bike made me wonder how much of the production costs were spent on Disney or Marvel licensing fees, and how much was spent on the actual bike.

I wanted my daughter to have her first ‘proper’ bike.  She is seven years old, the time for toy bikes has past.  Hopefully.  I wanted to buy her a bicycle that would inspire a love of cycling.  Not a heap of shit that would put her off a life on two wheels.  So for a good long while I struggled to find a good way forward for buying my daughter a bike.

Evans Cycles at Martlesham Heath
When Evans Cycles opened at Martlesham Heath I was keen to go and speak to someone there about buying a proper bike for my daughter.  I had what I considered to be a generous budget in mind.  I build my road bike myself, mostly from bits from our local Bike Doctor’s spares box.  I have 9-speed Dura Ace, so it’s not the best, but it’s certainly not the worst.  While I wasn’t heading into Evans with the intention of buying my girl a bike with the latest groupset, I wanted to buy a bike that would be a pleasure to ride, not a mechanical frustration.

Naturally, my daughter was keen to join me on my visit to Evans Cycles, so one sunny Saturday afternoon we headed over to Martlesham to see what was what.

The Evans store at Martlesham is brand new, so naturally, everything was looking very nice.  Although that being said I don’t think I’ve ever been into an Evans Cycles that was anything other than spick and span.  After a minute or two of wandering around the road bikes, I remembered why I was there and went in search of children’s bikes.  It was a brief search.  A very friendly member of staff called Louis (I think) took me and my daughter over to the collection of children’s bikes.  There was a selection of maybe twenty child bikes to look at.  Not a huge range, but I get the notion that for Evans a modest selection of high-quality bicycles is more important than a massive range of ‘stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’ bikes.  But that’s just me guessing; let’s get back to the facts.

I was really impressed that Louis spent as much time talking to my daughter as he did speaking to me.  More importantly, he was listening to and paying attention to what my daughter had to say.  This is a skill that is sadly lacking in most adults, let alone most shop assistants.  After a few minutes of chatting Louis asked my daughter if she would like to try riding some of the bikes.  She was keen. 
Very keen.

The first bike my girl was keen to try was a very nice looking Cannondale Kids’ Mountain bike.  This Cannondale was kitted out with some of the same groupsets as the adult-size Cannondale bikes elsewhere in the store.  That’s a very good sign that this is a real bike, not a fashion toy.  The price tag was around the £400 mark, which might make some readers blink a bit.  But £400 for a quality bike is nothing at all.  I’ve got friends who have thought nothing of spending triple that amount on a new set of wheels.

The test ride on the Cannondale went reasonably well.  Although I reassured the Evans employee that my daughter can ride bikes if she relaxes enough, he thought nothing of support (us both!) while she bezzed around the store getting a feel for the bike.  I held onto the back of the saddle, just in case, but all of the staff we rolled past looked just as pleased as my daughter did.

The final bike my daughter tried was a Pinnacle.  This was not a brand I have previously heard of, but it turns out to be Evans Cycles own brand.  As soon as my girl sat on the bike it was clear that the Pinnacle was the bike for her.  It looks a bit like a hybrid.  It’ll be fine on the road and just as comfortable nipping down public footpaths.  I was impressed with how light the bike was as well.  With a bike like this, we’re clearly miles away from carbon components but weight is still important.  The cack bikes my daughter has owned in the past were incredibly heavy, and that made balancing while learning to ride a lot more difficult.  One of her previous bikes was so heavy she could barely lift it off the ground when she fell off it.

Although the price wasn’t the biggest influencer I was somewhat astonished to find out the price tag on the Pinnacle bike was only £225.  This was considerably less than I was expecting to spend.  My wife was particularly pleased with the price tag.  The bike felt solid and had a transmission that I’ve seen on half-decent mountain bikes.  Unlike the crap fashion bikes I’d seen in other shops the Pinnacle also had proper bike components, meaning I can easily fix and maintain this bike. Hallelujah!    The only way to ‘fix’ previous bikes has been to take them to the municipal tip.
Evans Cycles review - conclusion
The staff were attentive without being overbearing.  Everyone I spoke to was knowledgeable without being a ‘know it all’.  The prices were fair and the selection well-considered.

Within hours of collecting her new Pinnacle bike my daughter was racing around a local car park unaided.  No stabilisers!  I’ve known for many months that my girl could ride a bike with a bit more confidence and with the right bike.  I am very grateful to Louis and everyone at Evans for helping us find the right bike and a great price.  I was even offered some cash to bring in one of the terrible bikes my daughter owned previously. Bike Scrappage! I like Evans Cycles!

Find out more about Evans Cycles…

About the author
Andrew Culture is a professional writer and reviewer who has been writing about everything to do with bikes and cycling for many years. Andrew is also a musician and award-winning zine author.

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