by Kristin Butcher
When it comes to bike shops, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of finding “the one.”
It’s usually a shop that’s equally happy to explain the difference between Schrader and Presta to a newcomer as they are trading stories of elastomer suspension and BioPace. They know the big race is this Sunday and that the beginner-friendly group ride is next week. And even though your decade old bike isn’t shiny and new like the ones on the floor, they know how much you cherish it?and they will too.
In shops across the country, from one-person wrenching operations to echoing chambers of wheeled wish lists, people are passing along their love of bicycling. Here are four stories of bike shops going above and beyond to spread that love.
The Calm After the Storm: Redstone Cyclery, Lyons, CO
When Boulder County, CO was hit with a 100-year flood in 2013, the bursting St. Vrain Creek rendered the small town of Lyons nearly unrecognizable. Amidst the tedious task of rebuilding?a process that is still ongoing?Redstone Cyclery gave the weary community the escape it desperately needed.
With inaccessible trails, roads littered by debris, and bicycles collecting dust while more pressing issues were addressed, Redstone Cyclery began a tradition of weekly happy hours where riders set aside sodden realities to laugh and talk. ?The happy hours are filled with people who love bikes,? says Lyons resident Bryan Ganzel, noting that sometimes food trucks and fire jumping make their way into the fray. The flood may have isolated the town of Lyons and dampened residents? spirits, but it couldn?t stop the community from coming together at Redstone.
An Oasis in the Desert: Oasis Bike Workshop, Nashville, TN
?The low-income areas in which a lot of my students live don’t have any bus routes, any public transportation for that matter, not a whole lot of bike lanes, not a lot of greenways, or green space in general,? says Dan Furbish.
To increase access to bicycling in these transportation deserts, Dan founded the Oasis Bike Workshop, a year-round earn-a-bike program where teens participate in a 7-week-long workshop building bikes from the ground up. Surrounded by supportive people, mentors, and community activists, the kids come away with more than bicycling skills. ?I was proud of what I did,? says Oscar on his experience with the workshop. ?I built something with my own hands. If it gets broken, I can fix it.? Upon completion of the program, participants take the bike they built home with a single requirement: a pledge to spread their newly learned skills throughout their communities.
?They don’t just show you what a bike’s about,? says workshop graduate Benjamin. ?They show you what’s outside, what you can do to change the community.? One grain at a time, the oasis is taking over the desert. Learn more about the program in this video.
Build It and They Might Come: Bluedog Cycles, Viroqua, WI
In 2005, Pete and Alycann Taylor moved to Viroqua, WI with a four-month-old daughter and plans to open a bike shop. There was just one small problem. ?When we moved into town, there wasn’t a mile of legal singletrack in the county. We sold all of five mountain bikes that year,? says Pete. Pete and Alycann set out to change that and within a year the non-profit trail advocacy group, Vernon Trails, was born.
Ten years later, Bluedog Cycles is a thriving bike shop and Vernon Trails has contributed to the creation and maintenance of more than 35 miles of trail. With regular trailwork days, group rides and public bike maintenance clinics, Bluedog Cycles helped create a community of people who love bikes. ?But the highlight of our entire season is a weekend long mountain bike youth camp,? says Pete. ?These kids are tomorrow’s trail stewards.?
About That Broken Chain?
Image: Thom Carroll
When Marni Duffy walked into a bike shop with her mom’s dilapidated bicycle, she had no idea that moment would change her life.
?I brought my nasty, old bike in, embarrassed about my lack of fitness and equipment,? says Marni. What she found were employees who supported her efforts to get back into riding in every way they could. Like many of us, Marni fed her newfound enthusiasm for bicycling with excuses to drop by, always lingering to talk about bikes with the mechanics in the back.
When she ran out of excuses to pop in, she received a call from a mechanic she?d taken notice of before. After stumbling through awkward conversation, Marni’s brothers pointed out that?maybe, just maybe?the mechanic didn’t call to talk about bikes after all.
?Long story short, many bike shop hangs, road bike rides, tandem rides and cargo bike rides later, here we are: married for nine years with a 7-year-old, 6-year-old, and 3-year-old (named Ryder). [My husband] is still working in a bike shop and I run my small business by bike!?
These are just a few stories of bike shop love. Across the country, there are stories of bike shops singlehandedly spreading the word about fundraising events, buying local clubs tools or just changing a tire for someone down on their luck.
Do you have a story to share? How did a bike shop earn a place in your heart?