MEC Premium Bike Service: A Review

In early June, I brought my bike into MEC Calgary to be tuned under their Premium Service which includes just about everything you’d want done to your bike and only in an 8 to 12-hour turn-around. As anyone knows, at the height of the cycling season, it usually takes weeks to get your bike back from servicing. This is MEC’s way of beating the rush. You pay, you play!

A request for the “Primo” gets you noticed. It’s big bucks (roughly $300) so once you’re at the head of the queue, you’ll get the attention of a senior mechanic. In fact, he took me into the back service room, put my bike on a stand and privately reviewed the service and my additional needs. I had the same service on the same bike (2013 Cannondale SuperSix, Ultegra-equipped) last year when it didn’t need a lot of attention but this year I brought in a new bar to be installed and bar tape. I was curious to see how he’d mount the brakes on the new bar and wrap the tape. Both can be fairly personal but I trusted he’d do a good job. Also, I brought a new chain to be installed such that I could start fresh. My more serious concern was the increasingly poor-shifting and a developing BB creak.

I got a call the next morning to confirm a few things. My new bar was only 40 cm as opposed to the 44 cm on the bike originally. The freehub body on my PowerTap rear wheel was gouged and this was likely affecting the shifting so I said I’d bring in another wheel to complete the work. I did so and the next day, assuming the work was done, I went to collect my bike.

The Premium Service includes new cables and housing (always nice), wheel truing (not required on these nearly-new Dura Ace wheels), re-installation and tuning of the drivetrain (again, I had a new chain). They also clean and detail your entire bike. When my bike was returned, it did look brand new. They’d done all the promised work and in addition, they’d replaced a tube with a slow leak, which I knew about. I rode it home and it was as the saying goes, silky smooth and the bars looked great! On closer inspection, however, I did notice some small missed details: The newly installed tube’s valve stem wasn’t quite square. That’s sometimes hard to do with a long stem. Secondly, the seat post and clamp were both dirty. The clamp still had old residue on it suggesting they hadn’t fully removed all parts and the post was a bit greasy suggesting they hadn’t wiped it down after the final clamping on the stand. That said, I’ve seen similar failings at other bike shops to be sure.

In all, I was very pleased with MEC’s Premium Service. Despite the fast mid-summer turn-around, I’m still not sure I’d pay $300 for it unless If I had an older bike with lesser parts that I’d ridden hard for a few years. A lot of people don’t put much stock in MEC as a reputable bike shop but I do think that impression is changing. My experience is proof positive that they do solid work and as anyone who has shopped there for a few years knows, their bike square footage has increased dramatically. They’re a major player now and they have a service shop to back that up.

Are you ready for PUMPHOUSE CROSS??……Poor bike handlers BEWARE!

The PUMPHOUSE CROSS is just around the corner! If you haven’t heard about this race yet you must be living under a rock or to focused on where you can shave precious ounces off your bike to make you faster….Regardless we are excited to see a lot of great local support for the event and excitement from racers about what they can expect for this upcoming race.

If you’re unfamiliar with this Park in Calgary, you are in for a treat…..a delight to the bicycle senses you might say. This unique and tucked away venue known as Pumphouse Park (home to the historic Pumphouse Theatre) is an underutilized park within the City of Calgary that has cyclocross embedded into the landscape with short punchy climbs, off cambered slopes, natural berms, sand pits, a variety of surface mediums and the allowance for a mix of course features guaranteed to push and challenge the technical bike handling of racers in all categories.

Without spilling too much of the beans on what to expect the day of, much like any race the course is what really draws the crowd and builds the hype. On that note, if you’re a rider prone to washing out on corners, known for poor bike handling skills, don’t like running,  or are not quick out of the corners……..Well…. you will suffer and may find yourself looking like a “Course Tape Mummy”.  To that regard I present you with the course design for the 2014 PUMPHOUSE CROSS (subject to change).

Race registration will open shortly. Stay tuned for more event details, media posts, etc as we lead up to what may soon become a course favourite amongst the Alberta CX circuit.  #GETSTOKED

If you haven’t done so already join the event page on Facebook!   

And check out the racers Tech Guide which is now live on the ABA Wesbite! 

MEC – Premium Bike Service Review ($305 Value)

With bike service in the city routinely taking 2 weeks or longer at this time of the year, one can imagine how excited I was when I was offered to secretly shop MEC’s Premium Bike Service with its 8-hour turn-around. Normally I don’t think of MEC when I think of getting my bike service but that’s simply because I’ve been riding for a while and I’m not in the habit of thinking of MEC as being in the service—let alone bike—business.

The service is a $305 value and they check your bike quite thoroughly. As listed, the service includes: The Premium Bike Service Package includes:

– Complete overhaul of your bike (all parts are removed from the frame, cleaned, and degreased)

– Loose bearing points repacked with new bearings and grease (headset, hubs, bottom bracket)

– Front and rear wheels trued and tensioned

– All housing and cables replaced with Shimano replacements (shift and brakes)

– Frame completely cleaned and detailed

– Service completed in eight hours

Given most of my bikes are either track or old commuters and wouldn’t really benefit from such detailing, I decided to bring in the bike I’ve ridden most of the year, my Cannondale Super6 road bike. It only has about 3000km on it since I just bought it last August and didn’t actually start riding it again until February. The bike could mostly benefit from a cleaning and new derailleur cables.

When I approached the MEC service centre about bringing my bike in, the lad there informed me that he’d need to look at it prior to making the appointment. I was happy to go get it from home since I live nearby and drop it off. He said from the start that although “it says 8-hours, it may be 2 days since our master mechanic is the only one who can do the work. I have a second road bike so I wasn’t concerned but since the idea seems to be that you’re paying a premium for a fast completion, it seemed that they were already failing on one count. Still, I had heard first-hand from at least two bike shops that they were booking 2-weeks in advance so 2-days seemed great all the same.


The master mechanic, who seemed a cross between Axel Rose and Mick Jagger, was welcoming and polite and came to greet me at the service entrance. He invited me into the back shop, put my bike on a stand and described the service. We looked over my bike together. Given I take fairly good care of my bikes and my bike was essentially 4-months old, I could tell this was going to be an easy job. The Service includes loose but no cartridge bearings, which my bike has so that was out of the top. My wheels were—as far as I could tell—still true. Both the brake pads and brake cables were fine. I absolutely love my bar tape so I told him not to touch it. That left replacing derailleur cables and housing as well as cleaning and detailing the frame.

Think about that for a second: I was about to pay over $300 for new derailleur cables, housing and a cleaning. He admitted that they were swamped with service requests and that I should check back in a couple of days.

I swung by MEC two—maybe three—days later and my bike as the groovy young woman told me, “hadn’t been touched. It’s safely stored in the back, though!” It had taken her a good while to actually find it. I wasn’t concerned. I can appreciate that bike shops are nearly all overwhelmed at this time of year and in the back of my mind, I knew this service would be reimbursed and, most importantly, I was re-acquainting myself with my other road bike. After all, I was told up front that my bike wouldn’t be done in 8-hours and that there was only one guy to do the work so it only follows that when he’s off, my bike won’t get done!

I got a call from the MEC service centre a week later. My bike was finished. I happily collected it and ghost rode it home while riding my commuter. My bike was cleaned, detailed and polished as promised. There were new cables (and assumedly housing) and my shifting, which was a mess going in, was back in good order. As the cables stretch, I’m free to go in for a follow-up tuning. Just yesterday, I rode this bike seriously for the first time since I collected it. The bike has looked so good on the wall, I haven’t wanted to get it dirty!

In conclusion, if you have an older bike that hasn’t seen attention in a few years, MEC’s Bike Service is solid. The Premium Bike Service (PBS), however, is a questionable offering, which I think misses its mark. I imagine PBS is aimed at cyclists dropping their bikes off prior to work. That said, I can also imagine that a cyclist who wants his/her bike back in 8-hours is also a cyclist that cares for their equipment such that this service isn’t worth the money. Moreover, I don’t know how MEC could anticipate the needs of every type of bike that came in for this service. What if they don’t have the parts? What happens when the one guy doing the servicing is sick or off work for a few days?

I don’t know what one pays for this same service at other stores but at this time of year, you’re likely going to have to wait 2-weeks or longer. MEC’s Master Mechanic did a masterful job—even if he didn’t have to do much to my bike.


Rider Profile of The Month

Photo Credit: Masa Higuchi

Known for her Silky Cyclocross and Mountain Bike skills Shawna Donaldson, is the clubs most experienced women racer and the results show it. Standing on the Podium seems to be a  regular weekend occurrence for this ripper. With a strong focus on Mountain and Cross, complimented by a carefree and fun attitude, Shawna definitely knows how to balance the pain for pleasure factor; which will prove to pay off as the season progresses and her competitors start to burn out/fade.

Photo Credit: Marcus Henry

 Shawna Donaldson Quick Facts:

Age: 29 and holding
Years Racing: 5
Race Category:
Expert Women
Sugar-D, Little Hercules
Main Disciplines of Focus:
Mountain Bike (XC) and Cyclocross
Favorite Bike You Own:
Favourite Place To Ride:
Solvang, California and Trails of Fernie, BC
Favourite Pre-Race Meal:
Most Memorable Race:
USGP Cyclocross Race, Bend Oregon

Keep on the lookout for the next Synergy Racing Rider Profile.

2014 SEA OTTER CLASSIC – Beer, Waffles and XC MTBing


If you ever want to race at a BIG SHOW with an atmosphere like no other, The Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California is the place to do it. Breaking out the New Synergy Kit for the first time on foreign soil for 2014 definitely turned some heads with the locals, as i wasn’t a regular face in their usual crowd. The announcers also made it a point at thImagee start line to call out the only Canadian in the group with a cheeky comment about how he didn’t like what we did to bacon. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant so I quickly chirped back with a “Ohhhh…… You love us”, which seemed to get a few smiles.

After a few jokes and chuckles things got real as the announcers went quiet, the minute countdown started and the music got louder. The start was lined with spectators. It was time to see if the winter training had paid off. I Got off to a solid start, we all rolled out of the raceway in a solid group. Once on to the double track, a group took off the front and I managed to keep them in sight for a while but eventually lost them pacing myself, trying not to explode. At about the halfway point (approx 20km), I figured I was warm enough and it was time to step in to the hurt locker for a while. After some huffing and puffing up some gravel/sandy climbs I was able to put my descending skills to work and bridged the gap and caught the leaders at around the 30km mark; as we all shot out on to the double track slog back to the finish (approx 8km to go). A group of us TT’d to the final climb where we ended up catching some of the riders in the heat/ age bracket that started before us. In my head I knew this was my attack spot if the legs were there. I dropped it in to a big gear and punched it on the outside right to go around the group on the climb, when one of the riders pulled out infront of me and couldn’t make it and had to hop off.  So i went from Turbo to Turtle mode and got caught in a gear that was way too big and ended up watching a gap open up from the group I was with. That’s bicycle racing for you though, expect the unexpected.

Closely watching the leaders, one rider was fighting to hang on so I made it my personal vendetta to wheel him in. Lone behold, SUCCESS! I had caught him and he was panting like my dog after a long run. I managed to follow his wheel down towards the last leg of the race where there was hundreds of people blasting air horns, ringing cow bells, banging bike parts and cheering their faces off.  As we approached the final switchback before the 100m dash to the finish, I heard some spectators amongst the chaos say “take the inside line”. The racer I had wheeled in, took it wide around the switchback so I cut the inside along the course markings and shot out on the straight about two feet ahead of him. As I finished negotiating the turn, I looked back only to see a face of surprise. We made eye contact and I immediately knew IT WAS ON. As we sprinted to the finish the announcers got right in to it along with the crowd. I had timed my attack on point and took a look back to see where he was (as seen in the pic below) and realized I had the sprint and took the 4th place finish. Funny thing about the finish, was that after we crossed the line I chatted with the guy I was sprinting with, and it turned out he was from the heat/age bracket ahead of us so we put it all out on the line for nothing. I suppose it made for some good entertainment at the finish though. In the end I was hoping for a podium, but I took the 4th place with a smile and left quite content with my race result/performance on the day. Image

Beyond the XC race I took it all in, watched the dual slalom finals, some of the crits, the downhill, roamed the grounds and endless product booths, chatteImaged with a few pros (like Todd Wells, Canadian  Geoff Kabush and wild man Brett Tippie).However, the cyclocross races were probably the most entertaining. Free waffles and beer from the Raleigh crew for about 3 hrs straight in the beer garden’s was pretty Rad. However, probably not the best idea before race day. But how can one resist free beer and fresh waffles? As the CX races aren’t UCI sanctioned it definitely brought the fun to a new level. Racers were stopping to chug Texas mickeys, pounding beers while they rode, sharing shots with the commentators from flasks in their jersey, it was quite the scene. That being said, my only regret from this whole trip was not bringing my CX bike (note for next time though). On that note, If you haven’t been down to check out this festival of AWESOME I highly recommend you put it on your race bucket list.

Posted by – Marcus Henry (Synergy XC/CX Racer)

Connor Toppings – The Silent Assassin

Rider of The Month – Connor Toppings

Talk about starting the season of HOT, Connor took a clean sweep at the Bikes on Broadway Stage Race in Saskatoon this month winning the Cat 5 Road Race, TT and Crit. Cat 1-4 racers should keep a close eye on this young gunner, as he’ll soon be taking their podium spots. Here are some quick facts about Connor you may not know.

Age: 18

Years Racing: 2

Race Category: 5 (BUT NOT FOR LONG)

Main Disciplines of Focus: Road and Track

Favorite Bike You Own: Felt AR4

Favourite Place To Ride: R.M. of Foothills, Alberta

Favourite Pre-Race Meal: Pasta

Favourite Ride/Trail: Township Road 214A

Most Memorable Race: Getting on the podium in my first CAT5 Crit at Banff Bike Fest

Keep on the lookout for the next Synergy Racing Rider Profile.

The McConnell Files: Fidea Cyclocross Leuven, BEL

Mark McConnell, Fidea Cyclocross Leuven, BEL

So Mark is going to try to send us back some news from the front, out there in Belgium, and I’ll try to find photos or other snippets to include. We should’ve thought of this but he’s already had all the little kid fans ask him for a trading card. Might see if we can slam something together ASAFP to get out there for the last couple of races. Help MM win over young hearts and minds.

#1  //  Sunday, 16 December 2012. Fidea Cyclocross Leuven, BEL

“Unfortunately I had an unlucky first race. I rolled a tubular on the second lap and got my chain jammed about 750 meters from the pits on the third, forcing me to run. Shortly after I pitted I was pulled as Neils Albert came rocketing past. Overall, great first taste of racing in Belgium, but hoping to have better luck for the next race, Sint Niklaas.

As for the crowds, we were parked a couple campers down from Sven Nys. Fans amass, snap photos, and request trading cards as we were warming up. I’m in good company too, you may have recognized him recently on velonews, Alexander Revell, or the man with the moustache. Aaron and I are residing in the same house as him while staying in Belgium. While racing, he gets just about as many cheers as the top pros from an otherwise quiet crowd for us back of the packers.” 

All for now,


Click for highlight video. Watch for Mark around .41 seconds in, creeping round the outside.

Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 4.16.54 PM

The European Adventures of Marl, Mike, and Mark McConnell


Mark McConnell is continuing to lay 700cc knobbies to fertile dirt from here, to there, to California, to Belgium, to everywhere. Mark raced in LA and then promptly went down to Bend, OR, to race in the USGP there, against fields that are getting faster and faster and faster. Shortly after, he and HR Block/SRI Importing’s Aaron Schooler packed up and headed off to Belgium to do some World Cups. Mark is currently riding roads in and around the Koppenberg, likely eating pastries with Nutella in them, and will kick off the trip with some uber fast race this weekend, the Soudal Classics race in Leuven. You can find a live stream of it from at some unholy hour, like 6:30. Jonathon Page is racing and there’s a number of US based women, too.

16 Dec 12 – Fidea CX     (Leuven, BE)

19 Dec 12 – Sint Niklaas UCI     (Sint Niklaas, BE)

23 Dec 12 – Namur World Cup     (Namur, BE)

26 Dec 12 – Heuseden-Zolder World Cup     (Zolder, BE)

29 Dec 12 – Bredene UCI     (Bredene, BE)

The season that went on and on and on #2: BEND USGP


Nationals has just been washed out of our skin suits and bib shorts but a few Synergists were still scheming and dreaming of more CX to come. My season got off to a shaky start and I really wanted to have an improvement over last year. My recent more flexible schedule helped it make sense to pile into my car and drive south, to Oregon, the homeland of CX in North America. The East Coast produces the fastest racers in the US but it’s Oregon that holds the title as CX Mecca for the club racer. My plan was to hit the Psycosis race in Eugene, then go do the GBTP race in Washougal, then finish up by meeting Mark and Shawna in Bend to do the two USGP races there. My first two races were great, my last two not so great as I was beset with failing tires and tubulars two races in a row. I was only able to ride 2.5 laps the whole last weekend. Bummer, but that’s cx. I learned to better stack the odds – spare wheels whenever possible, especially at ‘bigger’ events, leave nothing to chance, be better prepared not just physically but mentally and logistically. It’s not high level racing for me, but its still the same methodology and it still feels the same.

Sweet Rides From Sugar-D

The big story from USGP Bend was Shawna-D, aka Sugar-D. She had a stellar weekend, taking home the silver on both days against some strong competition! Pretty rad, especially considering that Shawna started racing in something like April and hasn’t backed off the pedals since. I was a bit worried she was getting burned out – ok, I think we knew she was getting a bit burned out – but she stuck it out, kept it up on the trainer, and produced some awesome racing. Bravo, SD! She’s still at it, prepping for Master’s Worlds in L’Ville. Awesome. I’m going down on Air Miles just to sample bourbon and take some photos and blog about it. So we’ll have some news and stories, for sure.

Synergy Racing Cycle Club, is a Road, Cyclocross, Track and Mountain Bike team focused on youth development and racing. Based in Calgary, AB, Canada.

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