Taglocal bike shop

The seventh day wasn’t a day for rest, it was a day to sell bicycles

You won’t find this chopper bike at any shop. Photo by Seth Anderson. 

A friend of mine works in a local bike shop (read: not a chain store, not a department store) so I get to hear stories about the kinds of bikes people bring in for repair, and when he sells someone a brand new, or new used bike. It’s cool to hear about people getting on bikes again, or replacing their own in decent condition with a new one that runs smoother and perhaps a little faster.

I sent my friend this text message today:

And on Day Seven, God created the local bike shop and said, “Get thine brothers and sisters on bicycles”.

I later added that it wasn’t God who created “Mart bikes” (the bikes sold at Target, Walmart, and other department stores with names like Magna and Roadmaster). Satan created these hunks of junk. Their main attraction is their $89 price with 1 penny shipping. But to make a bike that cheap, every corner has been cut. It will rust faster, break down faster, become disabled faster. Unfortunately, this is not intuitive or well-known to potential buyers of these machines.

And as my bike shop friend tells me, they usually cannot be fixed. They use proprietary parts, or will cost so much to fix, the person could get a used bike from the shop!

Other shortcomings of “Mart bikes”: no one is at the store to help find one the right size, or fit the brake levers, seat post height, or saddle angle to your body. Bikes are misassembled. My friend told me that a customer came in with a brand new “Mart bike” and asked the shop to make sure it was assembled correctly.

If you’re in Logan Square, I know some great bike shops: The Bike Lane (2130 N Milwaukee) and Boulevard Bikes (2535 N Kedzie).

N.B. I’d prefer that department stores don’t sell bicycles. I’ve thought of a few ways to change situation and ensure people ride quality bicycles that they enjoy. Riding a bicycle that later breaks down discourages some riders from correcting the issue, thus stopping them from riding a bike again. One of those ways is to hire a local bike shop to staff the bike department in the store on weekends (and sales would only occur on weekends). The staff would find the right bike for the buyer, and fit the bike to the buyer. Another idea is to ban certain kinds of stores from selling bicycles unless they meet certain requirements, like bikes were assembled by a certified bike mechanic.

The local bike shop: first line of education for smart city cycling

I left this as a comment on Better Bike, a campaign for safe streets in Beverly Hills, California, on a post about cycling and mobility education, and driver’s ed.

I don’t think cycling classes in Chicago are well-publicized. If someone asked me about them, I would just say, “Go see the Active Transportation Alliance website”. But I don’t actually know if that information is on there.

Occasionally the REI in Chicago holds free informational classes, but can someone sign up for a smart city cycling class there? Or anywhere?

In addition to the all of the things that the smart city cycling class you describe in the post offers the students who sign up (a self-selection bias to mobility and cycling education), bike shops are a place where people can receive education on how to ride safely, assertively, and defensively on urban roads. The bike shop salesperson or mechanic is the last person one sees and listens to before they put their new wheels on the asphalt.

I’ll add that bike dealers can do a lot of other things that make cycling more convenient for people:

  • Register bikes, at the sale point, with the police so if a bike is found the owner’s contact information is in the database
  • Teach people the ABC Quick Check, or whatever’s in vogue.
  • Invite the purchaser to ask questions at the sale time, and ask them to come back any time to ask questions. Create a relationship with the purchaser and set a tone that there are no bad questions.

I believe there are bike shops that do these things (I haven’t purchased a bike myself in a while, nor do I feel I need this education), but I feel that not enough do. I think that if bike dealers were educating customers I would be witnessing fewer hairy maneuvers on the road, and bikes in better condition (like tires with air).

This is next to impossible when so many bikes are purchased from department stores.

Note: Bike dealers in Chicago are required by ordinance to submit sale information to the Commissioner of Police: “Every person engaged in the business of buying or selling new or second hand bicycles shall make a report to the commissioner of police of every bicycle purchased or sold by such dealer, giving the name and address of the person from whom purchased or to whom sold, a description of such bicycle by name or make, the frame number thereof, and the registration number, if any, found thereon.” 9-120-080.

It doesn’t say when or how often. And it says “frame number”, which I don’t understand as this doesn’t identify the bike uniquely. A different ordinance requires bicycle purchasers to register themselves the serial number.

New bike shopping

I know it’s winter time, and it took 2 hours, but it was worth it.

The showroom at Working Bikes Cooperative expanded after their move to 2434 S Western Avenue, giving my sister a lot of choices to peruse. She needed a new bicycle. Her current one had poorly working brakes, wheels in bad condition, and lacked features every urban bike should have: a way to protect the rider from puddles, snow and wet pavement; a way to carry stuff; an appropriate number of gears; a way to protect the rider’s pants from grease and getting them caught in the gear.

Over 50 bikes for sale right now, along with countless parts like seatposts, brakes, handlebars, fenders, and chain guards.

Working Bikes had road bikes, hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, and vintage cruiser bikes from Huffy, Schwinn, Miyata, Nishiki, Trek, and Schwinn. It’s no wonder Schwinn dominates – their bikes were made in Chicago for decades after the company started here. Bikes are still made under that name, and even though the quality may not be the same, the brand still has power and relevancy.

After walking around the showroom several times where I pointed out my preferred bikes for her (3-speed cruisers) and asking her questions, she selected, on her own, a Schwinn 3-speed cruiser that had been spray painted black. I supported the choice as it also had fenders (this helps keep the bike and the rider free of snow) and a chain guard (yay).

She talked to a staff member about test riding the bike and went off down 24th Place. She said of the ride, “I felt like I was cheating on Big Blue but it felt soo right.”

She bought a black Schwinn – not pictured. The day’s rain didn’t stop us.

I test rode the bike to ensure it was in working order. After more than twenty years, the internal gear hub still works – but I completely expected this.

I found a used Wald quick release basket and after showing my sister how easily it attached and detached, she was sold. The manager priced it on the spot at $10. When new it costs about $19. I pointed out the oddly short rear fender so my sister picked out a long blue one from a parts bin that the manager priced at $5. The blue was for flare. And finally, we found a slightly longer seatpost for $1. After tax, my sister’s new urban-appropriate bicycle came out to $119.

Our journey took two hours because it first took us longer than 30 minutes to get there as we yubered there on my Mundo. After she test rode the black one, I wanted her to test ride another Schwinn that came with an already long rear fender and had different gear ratios. I don’t remember how long it took us to get home, but we enjoyed some pan fried veggies and pasta when we arrived.

Related: Working Bikes Cooperative, which uses profits to send rebuilt bicycles to poorer countries, blended with West Town Bikes, a learning bike shop, gives you B.I.C.A.S. in Tucson, Arizona.

What summer wants you to buy

According to an ad I heard on the radio, Summer is the perfect time to buy a new Toyota Corolla or RAV4.

I wholeheartedly disagree. Summer is the perfect time to have an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, closing beaches and damaging Gulf economies.

Take a ride to an un-oiled beach with your friends and your bikes.

I mean…wait. It’s the perfect time to get a new or used bicycle for yourself, a neighbor or a friend!

Blue City Cycles, along with the 100+ other local bike shops in Chicagoland, are ready and willing to help you select or build a new or used bike.

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

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