It is rare to walk into a bike shop and feel instantly at home. Yet, these are the places that I do feel the most at home when on the road. There is a familiarity with the sights, sounds and smells of a bike shop that that set me at ease that I have yet to find with such a quickness in other places of work. Note: this should all be taken with a grain of salt because bakeries, coffee shops and even that - day old smell of a bar, ammonia and beer, have been known to elicit the same reactions. There is just something about the scent of tires - with that sort of white flaky film on them - tubes - a bit more pungent - and greases, cleaners and solvents - that make me a little verklempt (can I say that?) about bike shops.
Changing and stacking tires were the first jobs that I ever had a bike shop. One summer was dedicated, often hilariously, to the bicycle tire. It was my first job at a shop and being the eager beaver that I was (I mean come on, I was finally given my shot at being a shop rat) I was quickly found out as someone who knew little to nothing about bicycles other than I liked to ride them. Henceforth, I was handed a tire lever and told to touch nothing other than tires.
I would change flats when they came in. That was job number one. It didn't matter what type of tire came in - 26 x 1 3/8? You have a what? Raleigh? Sure, that guy over there can handle that. A Matrix rim? Right (chuckles) he can definitely handle that one. But that was it. Fix them. Take off the single speed wheels, change them and then get their chains tight, but not too tight, and get them back out the door.
But the tires never ended. Since this was what the shop prided itself, and maybe even based a lot of its labor margins on, there was an endless stream of tires that were flowing through the back door. The trucks from QBP and Olympic would drive up to the back and just dump thousands of tires onto the broken wooden floors at the rear of the shop. They would be held together by those hard plastic cords that held together bundles of newspaper or just piled into huge trash bags. Either way, these were picked over for what was needed in the shop and them dumped down the back stairs into the basement. Just picked up, or shuffled over to the rickety stairs next to the front counter and then tossed into the basement (mind you this is in the middle of the summer when not only is it hot, but busy). Then, later in the week, when someone was tired of tripping over them at the bottom of the stairs - someone would shout - and then I would head into the basement to sort them by size.
Which is all to say that I love going into clean and orderly shops. I love going into all shops, but I especially love the clean and orderly ones. I love the ones with hundreds of employees too. But I especially love the one man show. I can find something that I like at almost every bike shop I've ever been into. Although there was one that wanted to buy some magazines that I had made and never paid his bills, but that is another story.
If you are in the Denver area, make sure that you stop in and visit Peal Velo because its owner - Tyler Hardie is one of the nicest guys that you'll ever meet. He's handsome, he knows what he is talking about when it comes to the bikes in his store and he is a one of these one man show shops.
We stopped by for a visit this summer as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge had just come to an end. We had ridden all day in the sun from Boulder to Denver with Pete Webber (WC!) and Tim Johnson to see the final TT of the race, and then made our way through that sun baked town over to see his shop. There is a chance that he even knew we were coming and opened it just for us, it is amazing what that Colorado sunshine and a few beers will do to you.
In any case, this shop took everything that I've ever looked and hoped for in a shop - the tires, the smells and variety of bikes, the handmade bikes, the sweet little bits of ephemera, the kind personalities - and all of it was rolled it all into one sweet little package. There are many things that are not at this shop, but chances are you weren't looking for those things in the first place. So, if you are hanging around this great state of Colorado, for a bike race, or maybe a certain handmade bicycle show that might happen to be there this year. Make sure to check this place out.
4301 Tennyson Street
Denver, Colorado 80212