Sunday, January 4, 2009

Shop Review: ATA Cycles Cambridge: Beware!!

I have been considering offering reviews of the various shops in Boston for a few weeks. Obviously they all have their upsides and as well as weaknesses. My recent visit to ATA convinced me that I needed to offer these reviews so that people new to the Boston area or riders who are just starting out will not get ripped off or mistreated.

ATA has nice bikes. Look, Museews, Wilier, Fondriest and Colnago are a few of thier high end offerings. If you are looking to inspire bike lust, ATA is the place. They have more candy per square foot than any place else in the city.

But your bicycle experience with ATA should end there. Walk out. No matter what they say to you, walk away. I have found ATA to be dishonest, misleading, condescending and at times downright fraudulent. I have caught them in lies only to be told another lie. You've been warned.

In reporting on these miscreants, I write only about my personal experiences, but be aware that I have material that is even more scathing that I am uncomfortable using, since the witnesses may not be comfortable substantiating their stories.

I used to live around the corner from ATA when I first became serious about cycling. Since they were around the corner, I went in there looking for a bike. Repeatedly, I would be told that a certain bicycle was the current model year, only to find out online that it was two years old. Furthermore, I was assured that various bikes were "stock" from the manufacturer only to discover that a choice component had been swapped out for a lessor one, without a corresponding reduction in price, which were faithfully at MSRP. Of course, this was many years ago, so I am unable to remember the exact models and componentry. Luckily, I was wise enough to see the writing on the wall and formed my close relationship with International Bicycle Center by purchasing there.

My second ATA experience even more illustrative and easier to detail. I was looking for a set of Mavic Ksyrium SL's. I forget the date, but it was the first model year where the SL Ksyriums were silver. Prior to that year they has black decals with silver lettering.

This was at least the second year that the Ksyrium SL rim was machined in between the spokes to remove extra material. In short, there was a simple and quick method for telling the model years apart.

When I walked into ATA I was descended upon by a pushy and condescending salesman. I told him what I was looking for(Ksyrium SL's) without letting him know my level of knowledge, my budget or that I had already been to another shop (which had been honest and ultimately sold me a wheelset). The salesperson began showing me wheelsets by LightWeight ($3500-5000 per set), implying that I my purchase of a sturdy alloy wheelset was a mistake.

I insisted that I was interested in Ksyriums and asked if he had any in stock. Reluctantly and somewhat exasperatedly, the salesman went in back and shortly returned with a set of Ksyrium SL's that were Black and Silver, but more importantly, had no machining between the spoke nipples. These were quite obviously two model years old. I didn't say anything, since I figured that I was about to be offered a deal (which I would not have been opposed to). Instead, I was told that ATA had just gotten these wheels in from Mavic, that they were the new model and that this was the wheelset that all of the pro teams were currently riding. In short, they were trying to fleece me. Furthermore, the salesman didn't even flinch when he quoted me the MSRP of the model that was current at that time. In fact, he told me that he was cutting me a deal.

I thanked them. I made a point to thank the owner, who was behind the register. I said that I would think about it and left.

I wish that I had the fortitude never to return. But I did...there are so many great frames to ogle.

The next time that I went there, the owner, without asking me a single question about my riding style, my goals or my dimensions grabs a frame and says, "this is the best frame for bicycle racing." No explanation, no comment. The frame was garish and flashy. I didn't really care to go into discussing diffent types of frames for different riders. I kind of just wished that he would go away, which he did not. In fact, he was so pushy, that I left before looking at half of the bikes that I wanted to.

But again I returned. Just last week, I was having my car inspected next door. I had half an hour to kill.

This time there was no pushy salesperson. Apparently, all of the pushy staff, including the owner, work in the newer Concord location, probably since there is much more money to extract from that clientele.

So, I proceed unmolested through the store. The helpful saleswoman answered my questions with valuable information. She explained the purpose of the flax fiber in the Museeuw frames and clarified the difference between the 2008 Look 595 and the 2009 (paint job only).



They had a 2008 Look 595 on display. It had clearly been built, likely ridden. It had grease in the bottom bracket shell and appeared to have road dust at the crotch of the fork and the frame where the recesses bolt for the front brake is (a spot even the most thorough bike cleaners often miss). Upon closer inspection, I found minor scuffs and nicks. I forgot to note if the seatmast had been cut. I asked if the frame had been ridden and the saleswoman said no. I then asked if it had been built and she replied that it had not. I picked up the frame and showed her all of the evidence of use. She was nonplussed. I didn't push the issue further.

I thanked her for her help and picked up my car.

My conclusion: This is the most pushy and dishonest bicycle shop in the Boston area. I know of no experienced cyclist who frequents the shop. Most everyone who I know has a horror story from this shop, ranging from a falling out over a major Boston team's sponsorship to delivery of subpar goods for premium pricing. They repeatedly misrepresent products. Most area cyclists just steer clear. If this post helps prevent one cyclist from being ripped off, swindled or lied to then it was worth my time writing this post.


zack said...

I went in several years ago to buy Tufo tubular tape since no one in Boston stocked it. Usually on-line it can be found for ~5 dollars a strip. I went to the checkout and the total came to 36 dollars for two. When I said it can be found for a third of the price online at most stores, the salesperson simply told me that since they are the only people who stock it, they can charge what they want.

While I was at the counter a kid was in the store and picked up a superlight display cassette--one where it is cut in half. The salesperson grabbed it from the kid and he started crying. Unbelivable.

S Davis said...

International sells TUFO tape now, its still marked up from online, but i think its only about 12$ a box.

Also they are friendly there if you chat them up.

RMM said...

Quad Cycles in Arlington stocks Tufo Tubular tape. I seem to remember that it was under $10 a strip, but this was several years ago. But I know that they have it in stock still.
Also, they don't make children cry.

zack said...

Prior to this experience I was in there when I first moved to Boston, and was asking about group rides and such. One guy was standing around(Asian dude racer from Harvard, Cho? Wang? Wo?), and proceeded to tell me about some awesome group ride every week. Then he told me I couldn't show up because he was a cat 2 and I wouldn't be able to keep up. Has to be the biggest dick move ever.

C-BOMB said...

Actually, after reading this post I'm definitely going into ATA next time I'm in Concord. Sounds like a fun time if you want to do some arguing. I want to heckle the owner and tell him he is full of crap.

Anonymous said...

Owner is Hassam, ask for him by name.

Yash Katsumi said...

The sleaziest experience I had there was when I went to buy a set of dura ace cranks from the shop owner, maybe in 2002 or so. He told me that he can get them for me 10% above wholesale since I just bought a Fondriest from them.

As he was bringing up the cransket page on his computer, I saw him change the wholesale price from $199 to $399, like I would not notice! Then he had the audacity to tell me that I was getting the deal of a lifetime.

And, yes, Mike, the owner also said to me when I was looking around "This is best bike you can buy. It cut my commuting from 45 minutes to 40 minutes."

That place still sells Fondriest's from 7 years ago at full retail.

What a joke.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for anyone who has been forced, through ignorance, goodwill or misfortune, to purchase anything from these people.

Dave said...

I went into the Concord location twice both times to get a few last minute things I needed almost immediately, no time to shop around or order online. The first time, we started with shift and brake cables that moved straight to a ridiculous attempt to up-sell me a multi-thousand dollar tacx indoor simulator thing. The second time I needed carbon road brake pads, they weren't labeled with a price, but Hassam said he'd give me a deal on them and when I home and double checked the price he had charged me 200% more than the MSRP.

This shop is everything that is wrong in the world, it's not even worth going there to ogle the exotic framesets for sale and the amount of trash talk that the employees spew to justify why they don't carry something from basics like frame/pocket pumps to other brands of bikes is disgusting.