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Portland bike shop gets “female-friendly” award

Posted by on February 7th, 2008 at 3:49 pm

roof of River City Bike Shop

The roof of River City Bicycles.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Southeast Portland-based River City Bicycles has been named the most “female-friendly” bike shop in the country by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN).

The shop’s co-owner and head buyer Mark Ontiveros attributes the recognition to their long standing commitment to women’s products and a staff that includes four female managers and eight full-time employees (out of 45 total).

Ontiveros says the shop has a large women’s clothing section, “I think we were ahead of the curve as far as our focus on womens clothing.” River City also has a sizable selection of women-specific bike models — and the person in charge of fitting customers to those bikes? That would be Ms. Ward Griffiths.

The magazine recognized six retailers nationwide for excellence in specific categories as determined by its Top 100 survey conducted by Boulder Sports Research. River City was chosen for the honor by industry sales reps.

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  • Jessica Roberts February 7, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I have no doubt that RCB is women-friendly, but let\’s also take a moment to recognize Sellwood Cycle! In my experience they are kind and patient to all beginning cyclists, including (maybe especially) women…as a beginning female cyclist I felt incredibly intimidated to go into a bike shop. I didn\’t know the name of any of the parts of a bike, didn\’t know what accessories I needed, didn\’t have much money, and didn\’t even know how to care for my bike. For heck\’s sake I didn\’t know what fenders were or that you had to lube your chain! Steve and Erik were so patient and never made me feel stupid. They taught me how to take care of my bike, and they may be the reason I made it through that first long winter. I never hesitate to send my newbie lady friends to their shop, confident they\’ll get good advice and fair treatment. Thanks, guys!

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  • Toby February 7, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Is that four managers plus eight other employees, twelve total? That\’d still be only a quarter of the workforce. Unlike some other local shops, I don\’t seem to remember seeing any women mechanics at River City…

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  • chris February 7, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I\’ve seen one at river city weilding a wrench.. But really… does it matter?

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  • alice February 7, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I\’m a big fan of RCB but wanted to also add my experiences with the Hub Co-op in minneapolis. I would safely say that at least half of the employees are women. The shop is also cooperatively owned so many women are part-owners as well.

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  • vespa February 7, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    props obviously should go to all cool bike shops in pdx, but why the need to drag down river city by implying that other local shops have a female mechanic? Don\’t get me wrong, I love sellwood cycles and many of our other fine shops. But river city got the award; a NATIONAL award, which is from bicycle retailer – the industry mag. larger shops are of course going to get the nod for such awards because they get national attention. Just because RC doesn\’t have a female wrench doesn\’t mean that a qualified female wouldn\’t get a job wrenching if they applied. And I imagine that if you looked nationally at other shops of similar size, RC has a pretty high percentage of female employees in comparison.

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  • Quincy February 7, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    RCB has women wrenchers.

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  • Stripes February 7, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    I notice a lot of the smaller, cooperative-led bicycle shops appear to have far more women. City Bikes has stood out to me as having lots of female staff & is a great example (although I haven\’t been through their doors in a good 8 months).

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  • Disco D February 7, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Not that any of this matters, but the last time I took one of my road bike wheels in RCB it was a woman mechanic that fixed it.

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  • \'jefe February 7, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Keely is the shit

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  • Joser February 7, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    I couldn\’t agree with Vespa anymore. Yes, we all love the fact that we have soooo many great bike shops, co-ops & organizations here and they all have many great qualities, but RCB just won a National award. Let\’s not use this post to name drop, knit-pick, or try to down-size anything. Lets use the post to express our joy that Portland just won another bike award. Props go out to River City Bicycles. Let\’s keep tacking on those awards & soon enough we\’ll have our Platinum status.
    Way-to-go RCB & keep on doing your great work.

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  • Jessica Roberts February 8, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Sorry, didn\’t meant to derail the thread. I just got excited about my own personal woman-friendly bike shop. I don\’t know RCB well enough but I congratulate them.

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  • Moo February 8, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Is the experience at Sellwood forwardwed to the male riding population as well? I mean, the service industry can be quite unfair sometimes when the type of attention a customer gets is because of who they are or how they look- I mean c\’mon!

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  • a.O February 8, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Moo, I have a bit of a pet peeve about the arrogant know-it-all bike shop employees who drive people away from biking with their customer \”service,\” but I have had nothing but good experiences at Sellwood Cycles even though I don\’t look the part of the gear-head. I can\’t say the same for River City, but they do seem to have a lot of female employees and *they* have always been very nice.

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  • Moo February 8, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I agree a.O. – with the know-it-alls around town. But it\’s always good to get the word out on the shops that do get people in and keep them with the good ol\’ five star customer service. Good to know SC is one of those. Hate to see folks get a kick out of Bike Portland and all that is great about biking in this city, and then have them turn and run away from the know-it-all \”bike dudes\” at some shops,thinking that they are typical of all the other shops around.

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  • Darren February 8, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Maybe Jonathan would consider an open forum on local bike shops so we could praise the good, the bad, and the awful. My guess is that the managers of the good shops would appreciate the good and bad feedback and work to improve everyone\’s experience.

    Kudos to RC and the women that work there.

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  • Harriett February 8, 2008 at 10:46 am

    As I was reading Jessica Roberts memories about her first experiences with Sellwood Cycle I remembered Glen at Coventry Cycle. He was such a kind and gentle spirit. He explained everything to me from cleaning my bike to stopping at red lights. He always took time.

    I never had good experiences at River City. Even with the women who work at the counter. They seem arrogant and one of them even rolled her eyes when I asked a question regarding a possible purchase. I don\’t know if they\’re still paid commission but that was something that always struck me, as well. If I was buying something substantial I had plenty of help from the men. If I was buying say something like gloves or lube – forget it. It seemed to me that the women staff were behind the counter and the men were either selling bikes or were the mechanics. One of the women was a manager but I remember that she had to keep asking someone about the price of a bike I was interested in. I was trying to negotiate LOL and she couldn\’t say for sure on her own if I could have an extra %10.00 taken off because of a scratch on the frame. I ALWAYS thought of River City as sexist. Perhaps the award was bought or is some sort of insider political thing.

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  • Harriett February 8, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Yikies – that was an extra $10.00 taken off not 10%. Typo

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  • David Guettler February 8, 2008 at 11:16 am

    I\’m sorry about your experiences at River City. All of us do the best job we can, but we are not perfect by any means. We try to treat all people who walk through our door how we would want to be treated if we were a customer. Thanks for your feedback, and we will continue to try to earn your business.
    David Guettler, Owner

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  • Mmann February 8, 2008 at 11:25 am

    My RCB 2-cents worth. I will admit to disliking the shop in the past. I had a hard time getting courteous help and felt they were a bit elitist. However, my numerous experiences there in the past year have completely reversed my opinion. I don\’t know if it was intentional on their part or just my personal experience, but their customer service has radically improved. It takes a lot to reverse 1st impressions, but RCB succeeded in my case. And their women CX riders rock!

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  • Kirsty February 8, 2008 at 11:33 am

    I\’ve found service at River City to be wonderful! The staff all seem incredibly friendly and helpful. They also seem understanding of bicyclists like myself who are perhaps not quite so tech-savvy. They\’ve always taken the time to answer even the dumbest of dumb questions from technophobes like myself.

    My only gripe is sometimes the store hours listed on their website are inaccurate, which has resulted in a couple of bikerides in the rain to a shop that\’s shut, boo hoo.

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  • Moo February 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    My only gripe with them, like Kirsty, are their store hours. I would like to drop off my bike for service before my work day begins, and maybe get some extra gear or what-not before heading for a weekend ride. After work means more traffic, and the late opening on the weekend gets in the way of an out of the city ride. Would it kill them to open two hours earlier? But all-in-all, I can\’t say anything negative about my experiences there to this point.

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  • tonyt February 8, 2008 at 12:52 pm


    During the peak season, RCB is open til 8pm, and it stays busy. To open at 8, like you suggest, means 12 hour days for employees. Do THAT enough, and I think you would feel like it was killing you.

    Having done it, I can tell you that working a 10 hour days is hard enough.

    Customer service can only go so far until it becomes worker exploitation.

    In our consumer oriented culture, it\’s important to remember that when everyone wants what they want, when they want it, there are people who have to do it.

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  • Loree February 8, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    In our consumer oriented culture, it\’s important to remember that when everyone wants what they want, when they want it, there are people who have to do it.

    Good point, tonyt. Though it doesn\’t seem unreasonable, if there\’s adequate demand, for RCB to hire different people for early/late/weekend shifts, and still adhere to labor laws. Still, you\’re right: nobody can make all the people happy all the time, nor should they be expected to. 🙂

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  • Moo February 8, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    No, it doesn\’t mean 12 hour days for employees. What about 8 for most and part-time or staggered full time for others. It\’s only as hard as any owner or manager will make it for themselves. Sure added hours means added clock time, utilities, paper work, opening and closing out registers, on and on…. But it can be done without 12 hour a day employees. So, I want in earlier!!! There.

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  • Ruhbie February 8, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Way to go River City!!! you put nice bikes under people, support the community, and have fun doing it. Keep the passion.

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  • velo February 8, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Props to RCB! I love the fact that PDX is a bike town for all. Sure River City caters to a high end market, but some folks want that and can pay for it. It is one of the best shops in the country, bar none, for its segment of the market.

    As a former service manager in a small shop they have my respect, if not my dollars (except for Sidis!). We all make choices and I can get cheaper elsewhere and do all my own work.

    As for the number of female wrenches I\’ve never seen one at RCB, but I don\’t really fault them. My girlfriend wrenches and at times people have been amazed to see a women doing high end, professional bike service. The number of women wrenching is tiny. All the same 1/4 of the staff being female is better then any large shop I\’ve worked in.

    Other shops to great work too. Sellwood Cycle, Veloshop (female owned) and Seven Corners Cycle all do really good work in my experience and are very welcoming to a variety of folks. It is nice to live in a town with real choices.

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  • 2GOAT February 8, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Hmmmm…yes in 1998 they were one of the few places to carry the \”latest and greatest female cycling fashions and shoes\” and their bike fitting service is excellent. But after having there mechanic department try to sneak a Shimano derailleur in with the rest of the Campy parts on my custom Waterford and tell a \”newbie\” the Campy part wouldn\’t work on such a small frame…only to later put the Campy derailleur on \”when it finally arrived\” and then tell my husband the bottom bracket threads could not be reversed on his 20 year old Peugout…easily accomplished by Coventry cycling, we haven\’t been back.
    All of our subsequent purchases and repairs have been from Bike Gallery.
    Get your bling from RC, get a bike from BG.

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  • Tweety February 9, 2008 at 6:50 am

    As an older woman cyclist, who often comes straight from work to local bikes shops (in business attire), I am frequently treated as a worthless old geezerette who is likely there to try to buy a $50 tricycle for the grand-kiddies, of which I have none.

    This happens at ALL bike shops and River City hasn\’t been an exception. I really, really resent it; arched eyebrows, amused stares from the mechanics… I can do my own wrenching, as a grad of UBI, but I don\’t know it all and humbly rely on local shops for a LOT. I always, without exception, have to track someone down and ASK for their help or I am never even approached. Ever. And then I have to stew in my anger until the smug smirks of \”this old bat can\’t know a thing\” pass from the unlined faces as they find out I really AM a cyclist.

    I log thousands of miles every year. I have no choice but to subject myself to the arrogance of mostly youth in the shops when I do go in, since everything can\’t be done on-line.

    I will say that the mechanics and sales staff who now know me treat me absolutely great – as an equal, but I should not have to go through what I endure to get that kind of treatment from the get-go.

    See you at the Sebring 12/24 in Florida, where I\’m doing the RAAM Qualifier on Feb. 16th, Kiddies. I won\’t set any speed records, but I\’ll give it my best shot at \”gettin\’ it done\”.

    The Old Bat

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  • Duncan February 9, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I bought my road bike from RCB. I really like d there test drive policy (\”wear a helmet, we close at six), plus the fact they let me think about it for a month and test drive it three times..

    The other thing I noticed was the customers seemed to be a wide variety of levels of exp. and abilities. I saw a lot of older/new/returning bikers there instead of the usual collection of uberbikers.. but thats what I saw.

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