Maple Leaf Test Rides

The continuing saga of test riding a Supercycle SC1800 (Canadian Tire product # 71-1556)

Friday, January 13, 2006

One more thing...

Forgot to mention I superglued the computer onto the harness. That way we can be sure that correct kilometrage is measured.

Also, found this neat little rant check it out:


July 24, 2005
The Canadian Tire Supercycle Curse

I am, it must be said, an avid cyclist—well, avid enough to use it as a primary means of transportation and a way to keep fit. I don’t own any spandex shorts, for which I’m sure the public is somewhat grateful. However, cycling this year has been anything but fun. It would seem that either my bicycle or myself has a curse put on it.

I’m not entirely sure why I would merit being cursed. Perhaps I pissed off one driver one day when I crossed a road I shouldn’t have. I actually suspect it’s one of the hapless pedestrians on College Street who had to put up with me riding on the sidewalk between St. George and where I worked (sorry, it’s half a block and there’s nowhere I else I can cross College). Whatever the case, I would appreciate some consideration, for this curse has now cost me hundreds of dollars and almost a dozen trips to the repair shop.

This all started to happen in late March. As soon as the snow stayed away for longer than a week—which took quite a while this year—I took in my green retro-looking CCM Supercycle bought at Canadian Tire for a tune-up. Said tune-up, at a Bike shop in Oakville (I had stored the vehicle at my parents last winter) included replacing the back wheel and cost me somewhere near $120. I gave the Bike shop some money, I took the bike to the GO Train, rode it on the GO train to Toronto and then rode home from the GO station. A good ride all in all, except for the flat I got a mere six blocks from home.

When I first became a bicycle owner I did the math of cost of outside repair divided by my mechanical nincompoopery multiplied by my propensity to respond to stressful situations with screaming and swearing and decided it was worth the $10 to have someone else repair my tire. Next morning, I take the bike to my local shop and get it fixed.

Get the bike back that night. Next morning, I take it out, get another flat.

Two flats in two days. That’s just a fluke. It was day three’s flat—transpiring three miles from home and three miles to work—that really made me smile, particularly as I had to hail a cab to get me and my accident prone tire to work. That night I went to the Much More Expensive Downtown Bicycle Shop. Try not to sound too crazy when I explain I want them to do something to my tire to make it less accident prone. The solution is a new tire which, I must confess, seems to have excellent nail-repellent qualities.

Time passes, nothing eventful happens to my bike, leaving me to deal with more mundane concerns like losing my job. In June I’m in Ottawa, borrowing someone else’s bike and riding along the Rideau Canal. Make a gear change—okay, I have to be honest, I’m a complete incompetent with bikes with speeds over six—and the next thing I know I’m dragging the chain behind me. A not-so-pleasant walk trying to find the nearest bike shop ensues. It’s at this point I believe I’m suffering from a bicycle-related curse.

But the big kahuna is still to come.

For weeks my back wheel has been making a horrible gutteral racket much like a dalek being garrotted. When I started getting some pedal trouble, I brought it to my local bike shop. “The back wheel is squeaking,” I say to the repair guy there, “Can you have a look at it?”

I had forgotten what happens when you say such things to bicycle repair dudes.

First of all, bicycle repair dudes all seem to be cut from the same cloth in the same way funeral home directors and suburban United Church ministers are. They’re all rake thin people with a trendy hairstyle that should come from a salon and yet probably came from just waking up in the morning.

And they’re all fucking snobs when it comes to bicycles.

I’m not a proud man, so I’m happy to admit I took possession of my Canadian Tire-bought CCM Supercycle for two reasons: 1) it had a retro design that made it look like a 1950s bike, 2) it was what we could afford at the time.

This criteria flies in the face of bicycle repair dudes, who have nothing but contempt for Canadian Tire bought Supercycles. In fact it’s pretty much a necessary ritual for them to tell you ad nauseum how crappy and poorly made Supercycles are. And maybe they are, but the $900 behemoth they want to sell me ain’t going to be bought this week, and my crappy, poorly made Supercycle is going to help keep your shop open this week, so why not shut the hell up?

Suffice it to say, saying the back wheel is squeaking unleashed a torrent of Supercycle-bashing the likes of which the world has never seen. Should have known better. The upshot is they think the bike needs a tune-up. Never mind that it already had one three months ago, the anorexics in the funky t-shirts say that’s what needs to happen, that’s what happens.

Come back for my bike two days later. The squeaking is even worse.

Take the bike back to the shop and explain to them that the squeaking I just paid for a $35 tune-up (not including $15 for new pedals) to eradicate is even more loud and pronounced and it tends to show up when you actually sit on the bike. So they sit on it and agree there’s definitely a loud and strange squeak. But they have no idea what it is. Which I think turns on those sort of people, a little. I leave my local repair dudes to determine what it is. Turns out to be the rear wheel, which needs to be replaced. I was able to silence the tirade about crappy Supercycle wheels when I point out that it’s not the original wheel, but that doesn’t take the sting out of the fact that the wheel is only three months old—part of the spring tune-up where I was assured that the wheel was of the highest quality. The only good news is that the repair dudes redeem themselves a little by only charging me for the part.

The next time I take the bike out, for some reason I’ve made the absolutely idiotic decision to go for a ride on the hottest day of the year (it’s some macho thing with me; I have no idea why). Which would have been okay had I not somehow managed to bend the crank on my bicycle somewhere near the lakeshore in Toronto. My hastily constructed emergency plan, to walk the bike to a repair shop I knew of on Queen Street, might have worked were it not for two problems: 1) it involved walking the bike through the sun’s anvil; 2) the bicycle shop I walked through the sun’s anvil to get to was not actually open at 3pm on a Monday.

This left me spending an hour in 37ºC humidex attempting to flag a taxi during rush hour to take my wounded bike and me. During this time my rage toward Toronto cab drivers grew almost as much as my self-loathing for thinking it would be a fun thing to do to ride my bike on the hottest day of the year.

Back at the local bike shop, repair dude notes a certain degree of sarcasm in my voice and suggests I’m insinuating his repairs had something to do with it (it probably just high-centred a curb, as they say in BikeDudeSpeak). I placate him by paying for another week’s rent for his shop.

Five days later, I take the bike out again. And wouldn’t you know it, like clockwork the derailer has somehow become fucked. I’m closer to Expensive Downtown Cycle shop this time. I explain to them recent curse upon bicycle (“I’ve been out five times and to the repair shop five times”) and they smile sagely at me and promise they’ll fix everything.

I know they’re making jokes about me over doobies after work.

What’s really funny is that I probably ended up spending on bicycle repairs (and incidental costs like cabs when stranded) something in the neighbourhood of almost $500 —or put another way, the cost two crappy Supercycles at Canadian Tire that could be condescended to by bicycle repair shop owners.

One day I’m going to buy the $900 bike these people want me to buy and on that day I’ll rejoice because I won’t need to constantly visit them for repairs like I am with my retro-looking Supercycle that seems to be modelling the second law of thermodynamics. On the other hand, I’ll probably have to put up with my bike being stolen. The curse will continue, I’m sure, just in different ways.
Posted by graeme at July 24, 2005 11:51 PM

Brave Heart weary cyclist.

I have a similar curse when it comes to technology. I'm just not allowed to have a piece of technology that works properly...and add that to my propensity to be a cheap old bugger and not purchase warranties.
Posted by: Scott at July 29, 2005 11:46 AM

As someone who works in a bike shop I would like to say a couple of things.

#1 I am not in the least bit surprised that you have been having trouble with your bike. And the reasons are a follows. More than likley the kid who put your bike together had a picture of what a bike was supposed to look like and imitated the picture. There was no understanding about how a bike works and what happens when it is assembled wrong. This would probably explain the initial problems that you were having with your bike. The frame of your bike is also made of a material that is heavy and poorly welded. If your bike falls apart on the road do not abuse the people who work on your bike but on your decision to purchance a cheap bike. Interestingly enough there are bikes that can be bought from a pro shop starting at $300 that are better than the bike you are currently on.

#2 To generalize mechanics the way you did was not only ignorant but untrue and really idiotic. It would be comparable to saying that all people who ride supercycles are fat uneducated morons. That is just not true. On many occasions the people who by supercycles are uneducated about bikes or just don't know that there is something better out there. personally I have been around mechanics all my life and I have worked with only two who fit your close minded description.
#3 Why do you feel the need to abuse other when it is infact the way that you are riding the bike that has been causing all of these flats and problems for you. for example when you got your flats what was your tire pressure because as everyone knows low tire pressure can cause pinch flats.

#4 your crappy bike is not keeping open any shop in the GTA.

Thank you
Posted by: Tynk at August 9, 2005 06:50 PM

Thanks for your lengthy and thoughtful reply Tynk. I appreciate your effort in providing an alternate viewpoint.

I wrote "Curse of the Canadian Tire Supercycle" as a good old fashioned rant. Nothing more, nothing less. I don't say that to defend what I said, merely to situate it. I take a lot of shots at people who repair bikes for a living, but I also take a lot of shots at myself as well. I didn't hide the naivete and sheer idiocy in purchasing the bicycle I now own and suffer with, and I'm pretty upfront about the stupid choices I've made while owning it. I hardly come off as a terribly intelligent bike owner.

Nonetheless, taking a look at the actual column a couple of weeks later and I see that I probably needed to tone down the references to anorexic, bed-headed, doobie-smoking bike shopkeepers by about 95%. You have a right to feel insulted and I'm sorry about that. They were all cheap shots and I apologize to purveyors of bicycles and the people who repair them for my intemperate remarks. Feel free to call me a fat idiot all you like.

I'm not going to back down on my frustration with the arrogance of some people in your profession, however. I've encountered everything from sneers to outright hostility toward my crappy bike from several bike shops around Toronto. As I mention in my column, I've even encountered it toward high-end replacement parts added later on because they just assume it's rubbish. Last year, I followed a friend around a bunch of places when she bought herself a bicycle and it was amazing how, like clockwork, they used the Supercycle as an automatic comparator. What I describe exists.

I think remark #4 "your crappy bike is not keeping open any shop in the GTA" is in fact illustrative of my point. *Of course* I know that my bike isn't *really* paying anyone's rent as I said in my column repeatedly (that's just me employing heavy-handed sarcasm like what you just gave back.) However, my business is contributing to the financial health and success of someone's else's livelihood, even in a small way. Kvetching about how terribly constructed my bike is does not create an environment that makes me want to do further business with someone-- not for future repairs, parts or indeed the purchase of another higher-priced and superior bicycle which I will indeed be purchasing in the future. I expect that out of anyone doing repairs for me on anything from a car to a computer.

As I said in the column, I bought a bike for stupid reasons-- I ride the fucker in an urban centre and I've had a steep learning curve when it comes to cycling (yes, I did check the tire pressure!) I'm well aware of the stupid limitations of my purchase. All i'm asking is to s dispense with the repeated sneering and just get on with doing the best we all can under the circumstances.
Posted by: Graeme at August 10, 2005 03:58 PM

I stopped riding bikes ten years ago, after I broke my arms falling off one.
Posted by: Eric at August 12, 2005 05:47 PM

You know how everyone says that something you never forget how to do is "like riding a bicycle"? I completely disproved that rule yesterday. I got the hang of it again after a while, but it hardly came leaping back to my mind like an embarassing memory or recalling your first kiss. Why do people say that?
Posted by: Richard at August 13, 2005 07:08 PM

Nah id say the dumbasses who work at bicycle repair shops are out for supercycle owners but i do have to say i dont understand your problems i have a 170 dollar supercycle that i even take mountain biking and boy is it ever good i bet it can beat any 900 dollar bike out there(unless lance armstrongs pedalling) it has dual shocks and a very heavy metal frame(just the way i like it!)but i think im very lucky because i dont think there is any supercycle that can take what myn can i got over 35 kmph and myn goes on trails---ofcourse i take care of myn very good and i even named it (the general after general lee on dukes of hazzard!)it can jump tree trunks etc.
Posted by: peter at August 16, 2005 01:17 AM


I am looking to buy a bicycle pretty soon....nothing too expensive....something to get me by with some riding to school and so on. Any suggestions on some good bike shops and brands in the Toronto area would be welcome.
Posted by: Priya at August 20, 2005 11:28 AM

one good little bike shop in scarborough I know of sells used and new bikes. Not too fancy but the prices are right. Bicycle Warehouse at Progress and Brimley. (416) 321-2521
Posted by: john at August 22, 2005 02:18 AM

Posted by: The same guy at August 22, 2005 09:31 PM

Hello Graeme,

I am an old man just surfing the 'net' here on this rainy Saturday...I came across your very entertaining rant 'The Canadian Tire Supercycle Curse'...I laughed so hard my aging bladder felt utterly strained...damn near burst.

I have been into bikes all my life and I have done my own repairs. I do, however, frequent local bike shops to purchase come the guys you described who work in the bicycle repair shops that you frequent look like the guys in the bicycle repair shops I frequent?

AND...I too own what used to be a total Canadian Tire Supercycle as a second bike to use for those utility trips because my good bike would get stolen for sure.

When I inherited the Supercycle it was pretty much new...ridden only a couple of times. I had to really re-build the thing...replace the entire gruppo...everything except the frame and the handlebars...good thing I had all the parts.

Yep, I replaced the wheels with the twisted rims, the clanking rear sprocket cassette, the derailleurs (front and back) that ripped the chain off the gear sprockets during those gut-ripping 'indexed' gear shifts, the index 'thumb' shifters that took the strength of Sampson to move, the V brakes that chugged and banged, the seat that really got up my butt, the tires that would not sit properly on the crooked I have a re-built Supercycle...just the frame and the handlebars are original. Oh, I had to replace the bearings in the headset as well to stop the stem from clicking back and forth. I re-did the entire still rides like a piece of crap because the frame, the heart of any bike, is, in my opinion, a piece of crap...but the bike does get me to the local store.

Anyway...when I ride the once total Supercycle I have great visions of what I consider to be the crappy frame welds giving and my becoming impailed and forgotten by this world. When I ride to the store on my re-built hideous mock metalic blue once-a-total Supercycle I never lock it far, in a town plagued by bike thieves, there have been no takers.

Love your article, Graeme...I think the irritating (my opinion) Canadian Tire Guy should be forced to ride a Supercycle from here to eternity. Now that would be new and only from...well, you know.




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