We opened Hoopdriver Bicycles in Toronto’s Dufferin Grove neighbourhood in April, 2009 to serve the area’s cyclists with general parts and service, but also the wider sport-road and touring community with more specific, high quality, harder-to-find parts, accessories and steel bikes and frame sets. We aimed to appeal further to customers who were eager for a well-stocked, inspiring and pleasant, brick and mortar shop with great guidance, whether building or refurbishing their own bike or a new custom build, or seeking a trustworthy shop to perform the mechanical work for them.
After almost 7 years at our original location, we had developed an excellent reputation for custom work and product knowledge that was hard to find elsewhere and attracted clients from well out of town, so we decided to move to a quieter neighbourhood to focus more on those specialties. We re-opened about 6 kms away on Annette in Spring 2016.
With the arrival of the pandemic in the Spring of 2020 we were forced to reevaluate our business model due to various factors, particularly serious supply chain issues.
Enter 2023 and Hoopdriver Bicycles is a more streamlined operation with two major bicycle brands and a handful of specialty parts and accessory lines, all of which represent the best selection in Canada. We generally only service what we sell and now offer country-wide delivery. We’re also working on providing online sales while constantly refining our brick and mortar store experience.
About the people
We are Martin and Lori Neale.
Martin came to the venture equipped with many years of retail experience, a creative bent, handyman skills, training and experience in bicycle mechanics, particularly custom builds, a stable of personal bikes and a pretty large selection of tools.
Lori provided a level head for financial planning and solid bookkeeping practices and provided the inspiration and encouragement for Martin to get through a challenging business course and resulting business plan prior to startup, all of which was instrumental to our immediate and long-term success.
We both possessed a passion for, and experience with, bicycle commuting and touring. Most recently we’ve enjoyed day rides and week-long tours with our daughter on “rail trails” (multi-use converted railway lines) throughout Ontario and Quebec and possibly beyond in the near future. We aren’t focussed on racing or grueling torture fests. Instead, we simply enjoy the surroundings, casual riding and the hospitality of local people.
We’re happy to talk more about it and encourage you to give rail trails a try!
About the name
The company name is borrowed from a little-known, 1896 novel (and 1922 film): ‘The Wheels of Chance – A Bicycling Idyll’ by H.G. Wells (of ‘War of the Worlds’ fame). Though Wells is known primarily for his works of science fiction, he was a prolific author in many genres. ‘The Wheels of Chance’ is a romantic comedy involving a draper’s assistant (retail customer service associate); Mr. Hoopdriver and the “Young Lady in Grey” a 17 year old in “bloomers” (an early symbol of womens’ emancipation) of a higher social class who has run away from home with the intent of “living her own life”.
They meet while on intersecting bicycle tours, the comedy provided by Hoopdriver, who hasn’t yet learned to ride his bicycle properly.
Wells created a pun with the protagonist’s name since a bicycle rim is also known as a “hoop” and bicyclists more accurately “drive” their bikes than ride them as they provide the motive power.
Martin started using the name as a pseudonym in the early 2000’s while writing a mechanical how-to column for Momentum magazine with the idea even then that it might become the name of his future bicycle shop.