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Conte’s Group Rides Start in Two Weeks

by ARLnow.com April 21, 2011 at 10:22 am 3,356 64 Comments

Conte’s (3924 Wilson Blvd) in Ballston will hold its first group ride of the summer on Tuesday, May 3.

The group rides take about 350 cyclists on an hour-long route through local neighborhoods. The course can get hilly, but the rides are open to cyclists of all skills and abilities.

“No one will be left behind,” Conte’s says. The store also offers an “introduction to group riding skills” course for group ride beginners.

The rides are held every Tuesday, with the second Tuesday of every month reserved for a fast-paced, 15-mile women’s ride. A free Baja Fresh BBQ is provided on the first Tuesday of every month.

The rides depart from Mosaic Park, behind the store, at 6:30 p.m. Helmets are required A police escort is usually provided for safety.

Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief

  • Aaron

    These sound awesome and more incentive to buy a bike. Has anyone gone, any reviews? tips?

  • Hunkles

    Tip? Don’t buy from Contes

    • dcbrewer

      +1

      And, if you have a bike already, don’t take it there to be serviced. Revolution Cycles down in Clarendon and Pappillion Cycles are both better options.

      • CW

        +100 on papillon and also bike club in falls church – they’re both awesome.

        • Hunkles

          Right on with Papillion. Tell me more about this FC bike club please.

          • CW

            Bike club in falls church is a shop in an old building run by this fellow from Vietnam and some teenage/young-20’s guys. It’s stuffed to the absolute ceiling with old bike parts and junk. They sit outside under a canopy and drink budweiser. They’ll let you work on your own bike using their stands if you want to sometimes. There are birds in cages. Get the general picture?

            http://www.bikeclubva.com/story.html

          • Hunkles

            Thanks! I’ll stop by and see if he can hook me up with a used road-bike. This hybrid crap is getting old in the wind.

          • Ben

            Awesome read. Thanks for the link.

          • GMo

            Fuk (sounds like FOOK) the owner is a super nice guy. A former professional cyclist and current professional dart player, with a cool pet bird. He does the fancy/artistic wheel lacing as well.One of the few bikes shops still around like the one from my childhood where the gang could gather, hang out and work on our bikes. I def. recommend!

          • GMo

            Whoops his name is spelled Phuoc!

          • Tyler

            DO NOT take your bike to Bike Club! The owner seems nice enough, but he’s really only good at putting bikes together fast – if you own a nice bike that you care about, don’t bring it here because he will treat it just like any other piece of crap in the store. He doesn’t know much about newer and higher-end components, and he even took some paint off my bike frame putting it in his stand when I had work done there (the first and last time).

          • CW

            I’d agree that his forte probably doesn’t lie with the newest and most advanced technology – the bulk of his business is in vintage stuff. That said, I’ve had my couple-year-old Kona dual suspension XC bike worked on there and he’s done an excellent job.

          • John

            Bike Club is laid-back. I walked two bikes in once from home (1/2 mile away). He serviced them, then gave me the keys to his pickup truck and insisted I borrow it to get the bikes back home. For very minor repairs/adjustments, he often doesn’t even bother to charge.

    • Aaron

      Why not? Looking for real advice as I’m likely to purchase a bike tomorrow. I live in Ballston and drive a small car, so getting it home is a problem. Any tips?

      • Spokes on Quaker Lane. Best bike shop in the area hands down.

        • Jim

          Spokes is awesome!!

      • Hunkles

        You should do a little research first before going out and just grabbing one. Papillon sells Giant brand bikes. Well made and a fraction of the cost. Spokes sells the typical Trek/Cannondale stuff.

      • Jeff

        Yeah- ride it home instead of stuffing it in your car.

      • Unless you drive a SmartCar, a modern bike (both wheels come off very easily) will fit in anything.

  • Ben

    Sweet- I meant to check this out last year. Hope to see everyone Tuesday 🙂

  • CW

    In all seriousness, do they even let you participate if you’re not dbag with a Cervelo? That’s the only demographic I’ve ever seen affiliate themselves with Conte’s. Every time I’ve ever gone into that place (only to buy accessories/tools), I get treated like a child…”Awww…does widdle Johnny want to know where the chain degweaser is? Awww, cute!”

    • Jon

      As a Cervelo owner, I take umbr… no wait, that’s actually about right. These rides used to be fun when they were like 150 people; now they’re just a zoo. There are a lot of inexperienced riders doing very dangerous things, getting in shouting matches with drivers, etc.

    • TQ

      Ha ha. +1000

      I ride professionally and they still treat me this way. My biggest complaint, other than the fact that they are a bunch of d-bag posers, is that their sales techniques are so unethical. They’ll sell beginners 5K cervelos even though many of these people don’t properly fit on the bike and would be both faster and more comfortable on less expensive rigs. I guess it makes them money, but it pisses me off to see stuff like that. either they’re incompetent and don’t know better or they’re blatantly fraudulent in an effort to make more cash. revolution, bicycle pro shop, papillion, are all much better options for buying bikes imo.

  • Rebecca

    Conte’s is horrible. And the owner, Scott, is a jerk.

  • Hunkles

    I was in Contes the other day and they were going to let this guy walk out of their store with a $30 cable lock to protect his 2K bike. I showed him a youtube video right there in the store how easy it was to cut the cable lock he was going to purchase and he got a u-lock instead.

    I asked them why they even stocked that stuff and they got uppity.

    • CW

      +1000. They don’t even stock Kyrptonite products.

  • MM

    Conte’s may not be the best bike shop, but the rides are super fun–they welcome all levels and provide a great way to meet local riders. Plus, you can’t beat havin’ a police escort through Ballston.

    • Eponymous Coward

      you can’t beat havin’ a police escort through Ballston

      For many denizens here, that seems de rigueur.

    • Rebecca

      Really? they welcome all levels? that’s horsecrap. If they don’t allow all levels of riders in their store, why would they allow them in their riding group? I came in for a bike repair and was told my bike a piece of crap and I could have gotten a better bike from Wal-Mart.

  • Does anybody know what’s up with everything in the store being branded FreshBikes? Name change?

    I’ve been to a few of the group rides and while I did notice a few “newbie” cyclists, they were few and far between. Someone new to group riding would be better served at a Revolution group ride (check their site for scheduling); much smaller group, much more relaxed. Looking to get some crit practice in or hammer the hell out of some hills? Conte’s is the ride for you.

    I’ve had mixed results with the shop. When they first opened, I had some very negative experiences. As time has gone on (maybe they took some of the feedback I’ve given verbally and via Yelp? Or they now recognize me?), things seem to have improved. They are definitely not for anyone with a light wallet; high-priced, fancy-named bikes only.

    • Spackle

      Conte’s was a bike shop started in Southeastern VA (Virginia Beach maybe?). They opened about 6 locations but were poorly managed overall. The Arlington location split off over a year ago and changed the name to FreshBikes. Weird name if you ask me. I don’t care if my bike is fresh, as long as it isn’t rotten.
      Side note: there is no name on the back side of the shop (facing west on Wilson). Seems like a sign over there would help them out (but knowing Arlington sign rules, that might not be possible).

  • Spackle

    Is it a great shop? No. Are there some big time bike snobs working and lurking about? Yes. But it is a great group ride. Plenty of options for all levels of riders. A challenging course that almost ensures no drops. Local teams and a police escort that help monitor unsafe intersections and turns. Free dinner and beer once a month. Hate on Conte’s all you want but the group ride is fun and you don’t have to buy stuff from them if you don’t want to.

    • TAS

      +1. The group rides are awesome and they really are for all skill levels (I’m not new to riding, but I also don’t own a Cervelo or a Willier and they still let me ride!). The best part is just getting out there and learning new routes in Arlington. You can mingle with people, or choose to ride along on your own. The experience of riding in a group is really fun.

      I always shop at Conte’s because their staff is way more knowledgeable than any other shop in the DC area. I would 100% agree that some of them are snobby, but if you get to know them, and can avoid the few rotten eggs, you’ll realize that most of them are nice people. If you do work on your own bikes, their experience and guidance is unbeatable.

      • South Arlington

        Why deal with the snobbishness, bad attitudes and high prices? Switching from Conte’s and Revolution over to Papillon was the best decision I’ve made in a while – way more knowledgeable, plus good, helpful attitudes.

        • I deal with them because of their location, and if I don’t want to wait for a part to be ordered.

          • TAS

            +1 I never buy anything in a bike store anymore when you can get it so much cheaper online (even with shipping factored in). Only when I need something last minute do I shop at Conte’s. They’re great for advice, tho. My personal opinion is that Greg, the head mechanic, knows more about bikes than anyone in the DC area. He’s a genius.

  • Spackle

    I don’t shop at Conte’s (I did buy a ridiculously expensive but incredibly warm set of gloves a year ago). My LBS is Revolution but I still go to Conte’s for the group rides, free food, and to stare at bikes I can only dream of buying (best place in town for ogling at bikes).

    • GMo

      Revolution does group rides as well. No police escorts and usually much smaller crowds…

  • Ron

    While I agree that Conte’s is not a low end bike shop, or a shop for those looking for bargain bikes, its pretty clear that there is a segment of the population that desire that level of speciality service. Freshbikes is now the #1 Cervelo dealer on the East Coast and they have quite a wait on tuneups and other services because they have expert mechanics.

    Whether or not you agree with their business model you should really reserve judgement until you get to know the folks in the shop. Yes, customer service did drop off a bit a few months ago in the form of some attitudes in the shop, or short answers that were a bit too curt in some cases, but if you get to know the guys who work there, you’d find that they’re extremely knowledgeable and willing to help with just about anything. Sometimes you get what you receive, and many in the ARL area come across as d-bags and you get that right back. I’ve seen people walk in bike shops and treat employees like crap because they think they’re lowly bike mechanics instead of treating them as hard working professionals with important skill sets. Some of the guys in Conte’s have worked with pro teams and their experience in the area is second to none.

    That being said, I typically don’t send newbikes or those looking for value priced bikes into that shop, because again, they are a specialty shop. You don’t go to the Mercedes dealer if you just want a beater to get around and run to the grocery store with. I will send newbies to Revolutions as that is another store that as of 18 months ago, was very lacking, but lately their management staff has really turned things around and service is noticeably improved.

    For those of you who want chickens with your bike service, I’d recommend stopping at the Ballston Chick Fil A just a block away in the mall. There are shops for everyone but you don’t need to badmouth stores or employees to make your point…

    • CW

      Actually, I’d conjecture that “you get what you receive” 100% of the time.

      And great job of coming across as exactly the kind of person that would shop at Conte’s…arrogrant, blaming the customers for the store’s problems, etc. #1 Cervelo dealer on the east coast? Great. See above post about them pushing the things on unsuspecting moneybags who don’t know what they’re doing.

      • Rebecca

        Well said, CW.

      • AcmePizza

        I was a first time road bike rider and had a great experience at Conte’s. Walked up to me as soon as I got there, showed me a variety of options in all price ranges and spent a ton of time getting my bike fitted properly. They stock the same kind of bikes as every other store. If you’re going to get a aluminum frame, carbon fork, shimano 105 bike… it’s going to cost you the same there as everywhere else. Yes. They have higher end bikes too, but it’s the same as I’ve seen everywhere else. Sorry. Guess I didn’t see the snobbery that the rest of you have.

    • ealarlington

      +1

  • Ron

    CW, please learn to read. I did not blame the customers for the stores problems, but rather have seen people come into the store with attitudes and been treated the same way they present themselves. I clearly acknowledged that the store has some customer service issues but has worked to address those.

    Yes, they are the #1 Cervelo dealer. Whether you like that brand or not, they’re no more overpriced than the other manufacturers you see being ridden around the area. The majority of people in the area are riding bikes whose limits are way beyond that of the rider. Posers, flush with cash, whatever, they’re spending money and if I were in business, I’d gladly take it too.

    If you go into a bike store and have the cash to spend then yes, they are going to sell you a nice bike. Thats business. Well educated buyers should do their research and determine what is the best option for your style of riding.

    And for the record, I shop at multiple shops, including those listed above as well as Spokes, Etc. All the stores have had similar complaints depending on the individual users experiences. If you’re not looking for a high end shop thats fine, but comments like “he’s a jerk” do little to provide any actual feedback about your experience.

    • CW

      Yawn.

      Jerk.

      • Ron

        You’ve clearly shown why you would experience less than stellar service.

        • CW

          What have I shown? The only thing I said actually regarding my personal experience with the store is that I’ve gone in for parts, accessories and tools, and been treated like an idiot. That has been corroborated by multiple posters here clearly. The stink coming from this place obviously can be smelled from pretty far away. You’re the one vehemently defending it by saying that customers come in there acting like jerks and get what they deserve.

    • OX4

      “For the record,” you’re the store owner, right?

  • Aaron

    Ahh, I read more now. As I posted earlier, likely to buy a bike tomorrow. Just for casual rides around Arlington/DC … live in Ballston, where should I go? Tips are welcome.

    • Spackle

      Revolution Cycles in Clarendon or check out Craigslist for a good used bike at a MUCH cheaper price.

      • CW

        +1. But if buying off Craigslist, try to avoid things that are too good to be true. There are an awful lot of stolen bikes on there. So just say no to the $500 all-carbon ride you see being sold as-is out of PG county…

      • GMo

        Buy off of CL can get you great deals but you need to have someone who is knowledgable about cycle mechanics to help you buy. Bring them with or read up on http://www.sheldonbrown.com on what to look for when purchasing a used bicycle.

    • James

      I say this as a fairly experienced cyclist, check out Performance Bikes in Falls Church (on rt. 7). They’re a national chain- for entry level stuff, they have good prices, and the staff there is pretty helpful.

      • Aaron

        Thanks very much everyone!

        • ArlingtonNative

          Aaron:

          Some good shop advice. As a former semi-pro MTB racer, can echo that both Spokes and Bonzai are good shops with great customer service. Would also suggest checking out REI.
          They have good selection of low, mid and high end bikes, well trained staff and as a national store, will be around to support you & your bike well into the future – even if you move. Best plus to REI, join as a member and you’ll get $$ back (dividend) at the end of the year based upon what you’ve spent that year. Always look forward to my REI dividend mailing each year! Good luck with the bike shopping & PLEASE … buy a helmet!

      • Ick! As a former Performance employee, I’d urge you to go elsewhere unless you know of a shop with knowledgeable staff or know what you’re doing already. Lots of dimwits at Performance as they are the McDonalds of the cycling industry.

        • TAS

          +1

  • General Zod

    The rides are fun & the after ride meals are a nice gesture by Baja Fresh. The last ride I participated in late last summer they offered 3 experience levels to ride along with. The group ride route takes you north down Quincy, across Washington Boulevard, Route 29 then up & down Military. The police escort takes you safely across 29 then from there you are on your own. I think the most “advanced” route takes you all the way down the very hilly Military to Glebe & back. The other “moderate” & “beginner” routes take you off Military thru neighborhoods off Nelly Custis & Lorcom.

    I’ve never bought a bike or bike accessories at Contee’s & probably never will but I did take my bike (actually my future father-in-law’s 5 year old bike which he’s completed several ironman’s on) to get serviced here a few years ago & they told me I needed new everything. I’m talking major components here. Contee’s total bill would have been over $1200!

    He told me to go to a place in Falls Church called Bonzai Sports to see what they thought. New tires, brake pads & a good cleaning & I was good to go. I think it was under $125 total. This was 3-4 years ago & since then I’ve had nothing but great experiences with Bonzai in Falls Church. They bill themselves as a triathlon shop but have honest, pleasant, knowledgeable & non-pushy sales people who know bikes & bike repairs/maintenance.

    http://tribonzai.com/

  • GMo

    Steel is Reel

  • Anon

    Let’s focus on the content of the article and the questions about the ride, shall we? Debate which bike shop you like elsewhere. Every bike shop has its fans and haters.

    I’ve been doing this ride for years. I truly appreciate the opportunity it provides, and the first ride of the month meal afterwards, but I have to agree with other posters that this ride has gotten way too big and it is no longer safe (or fun). The group has gotten so large that it creates traffic problems for motorists, who then either have to become agressive to get around the group, or who become agressive towards cyclists out of anger.

    Try as they might to promise not to drop riders and provide opportunities for all ability levels, it really doesn’t happen that way. When Team Z ride leaders are there (which they will not be this year), there is a chance that you’ll get some support, but otherwise you shouldn’t count on it. With the group this large, new, inexperienced riders should stay away. It can be very overwhelming and dangerous, even for those of us with experience.

    • CW

      Ok, fair enough. So their ride happens to attract an inordinate amount of poser dbags who will create dangerous conditions and then drop you, while simultaneously perpetuating all the negative stereotypes that make people dislike cyclists. But let’s not say anything about Conte’s or the customer profile it caters to.

  • scott

    Hi,
    I am the owner of Conte’s / Freshbikes, and while I don’t take offense to any of the comments, I would like to comment briefly. The Tuesday night ride is our major community outreach focus each year and HAS grown too large. We have been working with our ride leaders and the county to make the ride more safe and more fun. The ride is open to everyone of most riding abilities (some level of fitness is required as North Arlington is very hilly). New for this year, we are hosting a women’s only, fast-paced ride on the second Tuesday of each month, and have worked with some of our team leaders to provide ‘intro to group riding’ classes on Thursday evenings this Spring/Summer to teach bike handling and ride etiquette to less experienced cyclists.
    As for the reviews of the shop, I can only add that we have many customers that love this shop. There are others, I understand, that love other shops. Clearly choice is a good thing, and we have have no problems with any of the other shops, the shopping experience, or market segment that these shops are attempting to serve. We are just glad people are passionate about riding.
    Thank you for your feedback here. If you have any direct feedback on the shop or the ride, please drop me a note as we truly want our shop to be special and for our Tuesday night ride series to continue to improve each season. Thanks, Scott McAhren. [email protected]

    • Spackle

      Is Conte’s going to publish the cue sheets or at least post maps online for the A, B, and C rides this year? I know there was a lot of confusion last year when the routes were changed and no one knew where to turn. I think it would make the rides a bit safer.

  • FredTerp

    Contes really sucks. FREDTERP

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