With spring finally upon us, at least we hope, an Ottawa entrepreneur is pushing to make your yearly bicycle tune-up a personal, educational and fun experience, while in turn growing the city’s cycling culture.
After six years as a master mechanic at Mountain Equipment Co-op, Lukasz Dybinski went out on his own to start Woodward Bicycle Co. last summer, operating out his Carlington home workshop.
Offering customized bikes, built from to scratch, to regular repairs, what Dybinski says sets him apart from other bike mechanics is his personal touch, thorough work and taking interest in what a rider wants.
“Let's sit down and have a coffee, tell me about the kind of riding that you do. What do you expect out of your bike? When was the last time you had it serviced? Let’s go over it together,” he said in a sit-down interview with OttawaMatters.com.
Dybinski wants to liken the experience to going to your local barber, given he’s the only one working on the bike and it's on an appointment-only basis.
“You set an appointment, they’re expecting you, they’re waiting for you,” he said.
This experience allows him to point out things that may need to be addressed and since the customer is there during the process, they’re learning, too.
In other places, Dybinski said, a customer may drop off their bike and go to pick up with a bill, but there is no thorough explanation or the mechanic who worked on it isn’t working that day.
“So it’s another kind of thing that drove me to go off on my own is that when you come in, we’ll talk…when you come back, I can tell you everything that was done and answer any questions,” he said.
With the monstrous growth of cycling over the last decade in Ottawa, both for commuting and for leisure, Dybinski wanted to get ahead of what he feels is the upcoming “tipping point” of its popularity.
“I feel like we’re on the verge of getting to the point where you’re going to see so many bikes on the road and then all the sub-cultures that come with cycling will start to flourish,” Dybinski said.
He adds in big cities like New York or Toronto, there’s movements towards fixed gear, single speed, urban or bike messenger-style riding, while others simply use paths and streets to commute to work.
With Ottawa’s great system of bike paths and growing density in its urban core, the city is seeing more of this similar growth, according to Dybinski, with more options for both leisure and commutes.
“That’s why I’m hoping this business is a little bit ahead of the curve, where there will be a culture of people who will be like, ‘I want to commute to work but I want to do it in my nice clothes and I want a fun bike that looks good and feels good.'”
His tune-ups include taking the bike completely apart and putting it back together, going over a whole checklist with the customer and answering questions or ‘jargon busting,' letting a person feel like their best interests are being served.
“I find one of the things that happen often is if you don’t know how a bike works and you don’t know the lingo, you don’t necessarily know what needs to be serviced, the things that go unseen that perhaps a mechanic didn’t point out to you,” he said.
His service package is set up to be thorough and protect the customer, so a ‘tune-up’ won’t mean you’re back in the shop three months later for another expensive replacement part.
“The tune-up is designed to go over every critical component of the bike so that when you leave here, you can rest assured that everything on the bike is working and the bike is ready to roll for another season, two, you’re not about to get a big surprise,” Dybinski said.
“I love bikes, I like people, I’m here to help. I hopefully put people at ease enough that they can ask those questions they thought were dumb questions they didn’t want to ask a hardcore mechanic at another bike shop because they were kind of embarrassed.”
Eventually, Dybinski said the goal is to open a whole ‘hub’ for cycling that would include a workshop, educational classes at night and a place to have a coffee or even a beer “after a long ride on a hot day.”
He said he hopes to eventually create a space and atmosphere where everyone is welcome, from those with $10,000 carbon-fibre bikes, to those who bought theirs for $400 at Canadian Tire.
“Everyone would be welcome.”
To find more information or to book an appointment, riders and rookies can head to woodwardbicycle.co.