Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dust Off Your Bicycle, Richmond (and get it fixed up)

As the weather is starting to warm up, maybe it's time to dust off that bicycle of yours and see the city from the two wheeled perspective. Before you ride, I think you would be well served to take your bike in for a tune up at either of my two favorite bike shops in the city. Snappy breaks and a cleaned and oiled drive train make the ride so much smoother, carefree, and safer* (please see the safety disclaimer/dedication at the bottom). Already a bike rider? Chime in with a comment about why you find bicycling so satisfying.

Misunderstanding the machine can make biking a chore. Luckily there is help available. Sure, you could do some of those pesky maintenance tasks yourself, but bike grease is really messy. Nothing gets it out of your clothes. Wouldn't you rather help some of Richmond's most competent grease monkeys to stay in business by letting them do the work for you? Let me entice you with some details. But first, let me explain this picture. My office threw me a baby shower yesterday (oh yeah, Karen too) and these balloons were presented. At quitting time, I tied them to my bike and rode the 2.5 miles home, a little pudgy from too much cake. But, you don't gotta be shaped like bike to ride one. Did anyone spot my balloons trailing behind me through the Museum District and Carytown?

Bunny Hop Bicycle Shop

A cute little shop gets a fittingly cute name. But, you don't need a chic bike to fit in here, cuz the proprietor, Luke, will turn anything you've got into a high performance machine. VCU students seem to think he's a guru of single speed track bikes (because he is, simply by meeting the high demand for trendy two wheelers). But the Luke that I knew prior to his bike shop proprietorship was all about cobbling together high quality parts into a sweet ride WITH GEARS, lots of gears! Bring Luke your old 10 speed and you'll make his day. Or better yet, dust off your mid-80's Italian steel frame with a full set of Campy components, cuz he'd probably enjoy working on that one too. Either way, when you get on your new and improved bike after he's finished with it you'll be pedalin' thru butta on your ride home (on W. Grace, across from Ipanema).

Richmond Re-Cycles

This place is more than a bike shop. It's a multi-platformed campaign for bicycling accessibility in Richmond. Although they started in 2005, turning old used bikes into ridable bargains, today they're an expanded storefront treasure trove of used and new parts and accessories. Amid the menagerie of salvaged wheels and handlebars, two or three mechanics are always busy working on repair jobs. Bikes for sale are fewer and far between these days compared to their initial few months, but a call ahead will let you know if they're going to have what you need (located at Cary and Robinson). Is there another bike shop in town that lets the neighborhood kids hang out all day? Surely a sign of wholesome goodness.

In my humble opinion

By this point, you might be asking what makes these two bike shops "Richmond's Best?" Considering that there are more than 15 bike shops in Greater Richmond, it's a wonder that they've all found a niche even though the city is not particularly bike friendly. Well, I'm not saying the other 13 places aren't worthy, it's just that these two shops have given me good service, and they tend to support my world view. By that, I mean that they share in common a couple attributes that are really important to me and bicycle ethics in general.

First, they don't try to sell you high end stuff that you don't need (hi, Agees!), or crappy parts that won't last. Instead they're likely to find cheap replacements to help you keep your bike riding hobby relatively inexpensive. Second, in the spirit of community service, they teach the do-it-yourself approach, if you're interested. When these shops aren't slammed, they'll often show you how they're fixing your bike so you can maintain it yourself between visits. That kind of personable skill sharing builds community and, possibly, a more bicycle conscious city.

Safety first: Wear a helmet, please

*I want to dedicate this post to Ronnie Graham and Jonny Zanin, two young men who died in bicycle crashes in the past year. I knew them both and they were similarly extroverted, generous, and full of energy. Both died in bizarre freak accidents, which makes it hard to present some kind of moral. But, another parallel should be highlighted. I don't think either of them were wearing a helmet when they wrecked on their bikes. Here's the helmet that I recommend, cuz it doesn't look like you're off course from the Tour de France. I know that Ronnie and Jonny would smile knowing that I promoted bike riding (and safety) in their honor, even though I clumsily affixed their invocation. With that, all I ask is that you enjoy the ride, and don't let the stress of sociopathic car culture ruin your still point.


  1. Pibby's in Carver has been good to me,

  2. I hear Pibby is a wonder with wheels, building'em, truing'em, etc. Pibby's is another recent addition. I wonder how many shops have openned in Richmond in the past three years. Any more bike shops that we should spread the word about?

  3. I've been meaning to check that Bunny Hop shop (where None Such used to be). I used to bike all the time up until I got a vehicle again last Nov. Now my bike sits neglected and in desperate need of breaks, tubes, and adjustments on the rims. I should drag it on in.

  4. Bunny Hop just moved from Broad and Lombardy to W. Grace. I haven't seen the new spot, but at the old storefront there was just enough space for Luke and a customer or two. Before moving, he helped me create my "all black bike" and it's the most comfortable, personally customized machine of all the bikes I've ever owned. I'll bet the new space represents some growth in his business. So, yeah. Bring your ride to either one of these two places and you'll be glad you did.

  5. Chip at Pibby's has been very helpful to me and operates on a very obscure corner @ 731 W Marshall, a very brave, but smart move. He has good contacts in the community and he's surrounded by VCU peddlers. Last I saw, he was doing a landslide business.


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