Quintessential Montreal: The Little Bike That Fit

I give up, I said to my friend John. The bike shop bicycles are soooo expensive! I’m gonna go the Craigslist or Kijiji route.

“Just give it one more try,” he said. “Go to the Rosemount place. It’s not really so far.”

I’d been on the hunt for a bicycle to help me adapt to my soon-to-be ‘car-less’ state. I was about to sell my 1998 Tercel, so that I could afford to retire from my half-time job and live on my pensions alone. Without car-related expenses, I’d just barely manage, but I’d have time to write, to explore, and be free of regular working hours.

But here’s the thing. All the fancy bike shops I called or visited that day were selling shiny new specimens for, well, nothing less than $400 or $500, and even at that price, the bikes were considered low-end!

I’d been warned off cheapo models sold at the big-box stores, as they are apparently built rather shoddily and tend to be heavy. I wanted something lightweight and small, to fit my small stature. (I’m only five feet tall, or should I say, five feet short!)

Despondent, I had gone through the whole list of stores until I came to one that at least didn’t seem like it was a day’s drive away. It was in Rosemount. Rosemount? I asked myself. How do I even get there from here…? That was when I called John.

Let it be known that Montreal is made up of French areas, very French areas, and  all-French areas. And then there are several small English enclaves, as well as what we slangily call ‘allophone’ areas: neighbourhoods that feature a particular immigrant community. Of course there’s some intermingling, I don’t want to give the wrong idea that we’re a city of segregated cantons! I’m oversimplifying… because this is the way many Montrealers view our city, exaggerated a view though it may be.

My point is that when I contemplated going to Rosemount to search for a bike, it was like plotting a course to another country. Google Maps helped me plan my route, which actually wasn’t complicated. It’s just that somehow I’d never been there before. For one thing, it was east of the Main, i.e. our boulevard Saint-Laurent, the street that divides our city into East and West. Like many Jewish anglos who grew up in the 50s, I’d rarely had any occasion to travel east of the Main before. My French was very poor, taught in stilted form by schoolteachers who weren’t even French themselves. Sad to say, I’d been cut off from most French and immigrant culture for most of my life. It was, in effect, as if I’d grown up in a small English-speaking town. C’est dommage, as they say in French. What a shame.

In only 30 minutes I arrived at the bike shop – having been urged to go there by John. And therein lay a time warp. I felt as though I’d gone through the looking-glass, back to the 50s, almost. Maybe it was the street – fittingly, boulevard Rosemont (French for Rosemount). The stores seemed older, dustier. There was a certain… tranquility, it seemed to emanate from the very streets and sidewalks. I found a nearby parking spot easily. Already, a miracle.

Within five minutes of entering the store, I felt I’d come home. It was a feeling reminiscent of the 50s, back when my own parents had a store… when attentive, friendly customer service really meant something. When store owners took pride in their merchandise and their premises. When customers were prized and respected.

Turns out this shop repaired and refurbished bicycles, and then sold them. They were good bikes, quality brands. Customers came and went while I was there; most were French-speaking. I was helped by the two amazing gentlemen who were running the store that day. One was a garrulous, friendly little fellow, an older man, Chinese, he couldn’t have been more than 4’10”. I didn’t catch his name; but then there was Jean, the knowledgeable bike-mechanic fellow who fitted my chosen bike (happily just my size! and in my budget!) with a better seat, and a kickstand, and found me a basket, and a helmet; and even with all this, I ended up paying considerably less than a bare-bones larger bike would have cost at the fancy store I’d been in earlier that day, further west. Jean even wrestled it into the trunk of my car for me – helpfully folding down the rear seats so it would fit. (I hadn’t even known those seats fold down! And I’d had the car for 16 years!)

My point is this: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you need a great bike for less, go to Velo Rosemont, 2700, boul. Rosemont, Montreal H1Y 1L4. Tel. 438-386-9666. On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/velomakak1/. Bring cash – they have no Interac or credit-card machine. (Or you can go to the ATM at the corner store a block away, like I did.)

I owe a great big thank-you to my friend John, who lives in Sudbury now, but hails from – Rosemount! 😀

Ellie's new bike
My precious…


8 thoughts on “Quintessential Montreal: The Little Bike That Fit

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