Events have conspired to keep me off the bike this spring (weather, bronchitis, a marginally successful attempt to filet a knuckle with a putty knife), but I have been trying hard to remain relevant in my local cycling community. To that end, I’ve been stopping at the bike shop on my way home from work most Friday nights.
In early March, there would be no customers and no one minding the store except for the CCTV camera. John would see me on the screen in the upstairs workshop and yell to come up. Grabbing a beer from the fridge in the back office, I’d trundle up the stairs to find a small coven of regulars harassing him and Kevin as they built the season’s bikes, adjusted balky derailleurs, or installed baby seats and back racks for, I dunno, busy parents or hapless hipsters. Occasionally someone would lend a hand. Sometimes we’d plan rides for the weekend. Mostly we’d just bullshit. If you want to stay welcome, you don’t be an asshole, and you bring a six pack every couple of weeks.
The weather broke this week, and last night there were customers. The same regulars hung around drinking beer by the bike displays, but dropping fewer F-bombs and mostly staying out of the way while John and Kevin waited on customers. At least half the time, someone knew whoever walked through the door. That’s how I met Krag, the first stranger who admitted to reading this blog. We follow each other on Strava now, have a bunch of mutual acquaintances, and I can’t tell you how cool is was to know that someone who isn’t obligated by the bonds of prior friendship reads my stuff.
But enough about me and back to the bike shop. A good local bike shop can be the hub of a cycling community; a place where people do know your name; a place whose worth transcends the store front. The advice comes from someone you know rather than a YouTube channel that may be well-curated, or not. They’ll make sure the part you ask for is the part you need. Stuff really isn’t any cheaper on the internet. When you do screw up your bike beyond your own ability, the price of your dignity when you bring the bike in for a real fix is a six pack. I doubt that most bike shop owners make real bank, although they should. I hope my appreciation, and yours, goes the rest of the way to convincing them to keep the doors open.
Because I really like having a place where I can stop for a beer on Friday night.