Urban Velo

Getting Rad at Shopbike Shootout

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When there is a party in the back alley of One on One Bicycle Studio, it is not to be missed. Over the years 115 N Washington St has become the hub of Minneapolis bike culture and beyond. I first met Gene and his right hand man Hurl as a teenager, and it was an eye opening experience that I look back on as one part of making it all click together for me. An early 2007 visit to One on One is truly what set the wheels in motion to making Urban Velo happen — we owe much of our inspiration to interactions with Gene Oberpriller over the years.

Last weekend was the the first Shopbike Shootout held in the alley behind One on One and Handsome Cycles. Put on by the big brains at Chrome, it was a cold weather party and short track race on the icy pavement. Think barrel fires, sidehack BMX bikes and brakeless freewheel bikes. Rip it over the snow bank and around the short course, winner takes all. The party ran late, the riding was treacherous, and Gene pulled off a wallride as his 53rd birthday approached. Good times as always in the alleyway, with images all that remain.

City Reports Wanted

Urban Velo city-report

Urban Velo’s new City Report will be an ongoing, reader-contributed segment that highlights cities around the world. We’ve prepared one on our own hometown of Pittsburgh, as an example of what we hope you’ll share with other readers.

Visit urbanvelo.org/contribute/city-report

City Report – Pittsburgh

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The following is a new reader-submitted feature we are piloting. We crafted the first one as a model for future contributions, so share yours! Click here to submit your own.

City: Pittsburgh

Nickname: The Steel City, the Iron City, or the City of Three Rivers.

Claim to Fame: Pittsburgh is home to the six-time Superbowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s a drinking town with a sports problem, or vice versa.
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History in 100 Words (or less): Pittsburgh began as a fort during the Seven Years’ War between the French and British. The British won, and Fort Pitt became a city, which in turn became famous for the production of iron, then steel, then the development of aluminum. Pittsburgh played a significant role in the development of nuclear power, and today stands as one of the world’s foremost medical and technological centers. It’s also a big time food city, owing to an early influx of eastern European immigrants, followed by the more recent proliferation of Asian cuisine.

Random Fact: Mr. Rogers is from Pittsburgh. His neighborhood is a fictitious amalgamation of Pittsburgh neighborhoods, but the show featured a who’s who of Pittsburgh citizens, including regular appearances by storied jazz musician Joe Negri as Handyman Negri.

City’s Terrain: Pittsburgh is hilly with narrow streets and lots of bridges. As part of the Rust Belt, road maintenance takes a backseat to other public interests, but bike lanes continue to pop up as the economy continues to rely more on the education, technology and medical fields. As a relatively small city, Pittsburgh is very “bikeable” as long as you’re either young, strong, or you stick to the bike lanes and the bike paths which are flat and run along the rivers.

Weather Forecast: Pittsburgh sees the best and worst of all four seasons, but the climate is generally pretty mild. Expect snow and ice in the winter, and hot, humid summers, but it’s seldom as extreme as the conditions in cities like Minneapolis or Tucson.

Top Shop(s): Hands down, the most famous shop in Pittsburgh is Kraynick’s. The top two shops for urban cyclists are Thick Bikes and Iron City Bikes. But Pittsburgh has more than a dozen individual shops, several of which have numerous locations, such as Trek of Pittsburgh.

Best Watering Hole(s): In this writer’s opinion, Kelly’s Bar & Lounge is the finest dive bar in Pittsburgh, but we would be remiss to overlook Over The Bar Bicycle Café, which now has two locations. D’s Six Pax & Dogz, a hotdog shop located right next to the mountain bike trails of Frick Park, is a beer lover’s dream. Also, the Church Brew Works is a stunning repurposing of an old church that now serves craft beer that’s brewed on site.
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Authentic Local Food: It’s hard to talk about Pittsburgh without mentioning Primanti Bros., home to the greasiest, messiest, most delicious sandwich in America. You don’t get fries with it, you get fries on it. As well as cole slaw and cheese. French fries and provolone cheese are common toppings for salads in Pittsburgh, and if you order a fried fish sandwich, be prepared for the filet to extend way beyond the bun.

Best Coffee Shop(s): Pittsburgh has numerous high-quality coffee shops, but the most notable is Tazza d’Oro, who sponsors weekly group rides dubbed Team Caffeine and Team Decaf. There are also several local coffee roasters, including Prestogeorge in the Strip District.

Must See: The Pittsburgh skyline is beautiful, and the city plays host to a number of cultural attractions including the Andy Warhol Museum and it’s many professional sports complexes. There’s also a bicycle museum just a stone’s throw from the casino.

Must Ride: If you only have an hour or two, you’ll want to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s most famous bike path, locally known as The Jail Trail. It runs from downtown to Oakland, where you’ll climb out of Panther Hollow up to the University of Pittsburgh. Stop and eat some fries at The Dirty O, then head into the East End, or back down and across the river to the Southside for drinks.

Best Time to Visit: The spring and fall are beautiful, but nobody loves fireworks like the residents of Pittsburgh, so come on July 4th and party outside with the locals.
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Need For Speed: Pittsburgh has a rich history of bike racing, including the infamous Dirty Dozen hillclimb race. There are regular crits during the summer, and more mountain bike races than you can shake a stick at, as well as cross races and alleycats. Pittsburgh also has a storied BMX history.

Two Wheeled Celebrities: Pittsburgh’s most notable bike celebrity is known as the Bumper Bike guy. He has several bikes, each with an automobile bumper lashed to the handlebars, making for an unusual but unforgettable sight.

Top Tourist Attraction(s): Sports, sports, sports, sports, sports. The Carnegie Museums are world class, including the aforementioned Andy Warhol Museum. The city hosts numerous gallery crawls, a large annual arts festival, a regatta, and countless theatrical, musical and other cultural events.

Advocacy: Pittsburgh’s advocacy organization, BikePGH has been named the national advocacy organization of the year. With strong support and equally strong leadership, the local non-profit has made big changes in a city that’s deeply rooted in car culture. To date there are nearly 60 miles of bike lanes, and they’re still gaining momentum.

Locals Only: The city has three rivers, and their shores are an excellent place to congregate on warm summer nights. Locals can show you secret party spots, rope swings and more.

Click here to contribute a City Report from your own city!

Vicious Cycles / Metal Guru Shop Tour

vicious_cycles-20 Carl Schlemowitz founded Vicious Cycles in 1994, and has been building custom steel frames in picturesque upstate New York ever since. Like so many many other framebuilders in the northeast Carl’s first inspiration to build came from Fat City Cycles, in his case it was spending the mid-eighties atop an early Fat Chance mountain bike. Vicious Cycles is primarily a mountain bike brand, and mountain bikes are how I first met Carl back in the early 2000s, with path’s crossing through mutual friends and tradeshows since. Having regrettably missed the pigroast invites of years past it was a treat to finally stop into the New Paltz, NY home of Vicious Cycles.

Vicious Cycles was an early 29″ and single speed adopter, making their frames, unicrown forks and signature paintjobs a mainstay of the east coast mountain bike scene. After some twenty years in the business Carl is now opening up the shop to students, offering week-long framebuilding or frame painting classes through his Metal Guru program. Carl works with other guest builders to offer classes and workshops outside of his particular expertise, widening the offerings to those looking for particular facets of continuing education. I’ve heard positive reviews, and seen a great final result, from the Metal Guru program.

Workspaces are as individual as their owners, it’s great to catch a few moments behind the scenes. Learn more about Metal Guru lessons in bicycle manufacturing at metalguru.viciouscycles.com.

Via Bicycle Philadelphia Photo Gallery

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Via Bicycle and proprietor Curtis Anthony are Philadelphia cycling fixtures. There’s no telling how many used bikes of all vintage have found new life under Curtis’ watch since opening in 1982. The first floor is a working repair and used bicycle shop, the upstairs floors a veritable museum of American cycling open by invite only. Mention the password, get the tour. Listen and learn.

It was a priceless couple of hours spent looking at old stock and hearing the history of various bits from Curtis on a visit two months back. It’s a tight space, with a remarkable number of historic bikes and ephemera crammed into upper floors, above a bike shop already housing most anything you could imagine from the past ~25 years of cycling parts. The reverse of geologic formations, the really old kit is in the rarely visited third story. I’m grateful for the time I had to see the treasures Curtis has collected over the years and only wish we each had a week to spend up there — Curtis dropping history, myself playing the role of a wide-eyed schoolboy. The below images barely scratch the surface of Via Bicycle, a taste of one of the more incredible spaces full of bicycles I’ve yet visited.

Engin Cycles Shop Tour Gallery

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Drew Guldalian and his Engin Cycles brand have risen to the top of the custom bicycle market over the past decade. Housed in a large garage space behind his bike shop, Wissahickon Cyclery, the Engin Cycles workspace is as I imagined it from my interactions with Drew over the years. Meticulously organized and clean as it gets, the workspace matches the finish and attention to detail of the bikes leaving with the Engin headbadge. There is a lot of experience at work here with a full shop and framebuilding operation in one location, a rare combination that no doubt contributes to complete bikes being that much better. While past bikes from Engin may have sported steel tubes and braze work, from here on out Drew is putting his focus on making the best titanium bikes out there. Engin Cycles is not for the bargain custom buyer, this is a no-expense spared operation to make the best bicycles possible. It is clear that Drew takes this goal seriously every step of the way, producing the kind of bikes most of us can only dream of someday owning. Always great to see a bike being born and get another perspective on frame construction from a veteran of the craft.

Be sure to click through for a gallery of images of Engin bicycles we’ve shot at North American Handmade Bicycle Shows gone by.
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Circles – Shop Visit

DSC_0762I first met Shinya Tanaka, the owner of Circles at a trade show years ago, and ever since that first meeting I’ve been looking forward to visiting his shop in Nagoya, Japan. Nagoya isn’t a tourist destination, it’s a hard-working city with just under 9 million people in the metro area. It’s home to Toyota motors and miso nikomi (which I’ve heard described as Japanese soul food). What makes Nagoya special are its people, and Shinya is one of the best.

At first glance you might only notice that Circles is a cool bike shop. It’s filled with many of the latest parts and accessories, and there’s a busy service area that’s also visible from the café. A closer look will reveal a carefully selected stock of merchandise that speaks to Shinya’s business philosophy. He prefers steel bike frames because they’re durable. Beginners can crash them and not worry that they’ve compromised their investment. High end bikes from the likes of Cielo, Hunter, Retrotec and Breadwinner are available, but Shinya steers first time buyers towards bikes like Surly.

Upstairs you’ll find the wearables in a separate boutique, called Circles Tailored, that looks and feels like a conventional clothing store. Not only are there amazing offerings from select, high-quality cycling brands, there are a number of items from non-cycling companies who offer suitable products. Think base-layers from Scandinavia and skiing gloves (Shinya was once a competitive mogul racer).

You probably won’t be waited on by Shinya himself if you visit, he’s typically in his third-floor office working on his components and distribution company, Sim Works. Or he’s spraying frames in the on-site paint shop. But rest assured, you’ll be helped by one of the finest employees in the world. I’ve met nearly all of them, and they’re a passionate group. Shinya’s philosophy has roots in traditional Japanese apprenticeship culture. While his employees might not have to spend three years learning to make sushi rice, they do have to be highly educated and immersed in cycling culture in order for him to achieve his goal of creating a bigger, better cycling community in Nagoya.

Check out circles-jp.com

Kato Cycle – Shop Visit

mrkatoKato Cycle was started in Nagoya in 1946. The family-owned, full-service shop features the latest and greatest on the showroom floor, from carbon road bikes to steel fat bikes. But for many people, myself included, the highlight is upstairs. There you can find bikes and accessories from what many people consider cycling’s heyday. The bikes and frames on display (and on sale) read like a history of bicycle technology. And you’ll find a smiling Mr. Kato up there, proudly presiding over his collection. If you speak Japanese, or have a translator with you, he’ll be happy to tell you about his time in Italy, riding L’Eroica and buying armloads of bicycle merchandise. Check out www.katocycle.com

Blue Lug – Shop Visit, Part 1

Blue LugUrban cyclists in Tokyo are incredibly lucky to have access to shops like Blue Lug. Founded by friends Toshi and Wakako, who shared a love of Japanese track bikes, the operation has grown to include an array of ventures including two locations in Tokyo (one in Shibuya, the other in Setagaya), production bicycle frames, custom framebuilding, custom painting, bag-making, a café and more. Every aspect of the business is carried out with precision and a keen eye for detail, as well as with a level of creativity and artistry that’s nothing short of remarkable.

Check out www.bluelug.com

Click here for more photos in Part 2.

Above Bike Store – Shop Visit

DSC_0599Above Bike Store is our friend Shinya Suzaki’s business, located in Kawasaki, Japan. The operation includes the bike shop, a custom paint shop called Swamp Things, the Starfuckers brand, and one extremely cute bulldog. To say it’s a good shop would be a gross understatement.

Shinya’s philosophy is to promote cycling, first and foremost, and to sell bikes and merchandise second. He offers a custom, personal experience for his customers, including one-on-one time where he rides with them and helps them get the most from their bike. The shop is full of smiling faces, creating a relaxed atmosphere where you can browse their unique bikes and many of the latest and greatest parts and accessories. If you’re in the Tokyo metro area, you’ll definitely want to visit the shop.

Check out www.abovebike.com

City Reports