Thursday, August 13, 2009

What Makes a Bicycle Shop Good?

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to discover Open Bicycle in Somerville, Mass. Recognising a good bicycle shop is similar to meeting a person you really like for the first time: It's hard to describe the feeling, but when it's there you know it. That is how I felt when I walked into Open Bicycle.

Open can best be described as a bicycle shop, art gallery and community project in one -- executed in the most unpretentious and inviting way possible. In addition to the regular bike shop stuff, there is a lounge area with a sofa and coffee table, and an adjacent exhibition space that is home to the Chorus Gallery. The cavernous shop is softly lit and exudes a club-house coziness. The merchandise is lovingly arranged and placed on display like specimens of a precious personal collection.

A gorgeous display case of saddles, hubs and cranksets.

Nitto handlebars.

Hand-sewn leather U-Lock cozies!

A treasure chest of grips.

Leather helmets!

A lovely tool-wrap and wool socks. Other products include crocheted gloves, leather toe clips, cycling shoes, messenger bags, and clothing. The items for sale sport typewritten tags, and some are wrapped in twine like little gifts. Even if you are not looking to buy anything, just viewing these things is an aesthetic treat.

Oh yes: and they sell bicycles too. Open focuses on urban and commuter needs, offering mainly quality vintage bicycles and new bicycles made by local frame-builders, including Icarus, Royal H Cycles, and Independent Fabrication. There is a strong fixed gear vibe, but roadbikes and touring bikes are available as well.

If you are looking for a custom project involving building up a vintage frame, or having a unique bicycle made by one of the local frame-builders, Open will guide you through it (pictured above is a prototype frame by Icarus). They also repair bicycles with a good turn-around time and give honest advice. Their product prices and labor fees are very reasonable, and their customer service is top notch. The staff is enthusiastic about bicycles and caring about customers.

As an artist and a velo-lover, I truly appreciate what Open are doing for the local cycling community. If you live in the Boston area, you really must visit this wonderful shop. They are having a gallery opening this Saturday, so that's a great opportunity to stop by!

18 comments:

  1. You are truly fortunate to have such a shop in your proximity.

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  2. That's a great selection of bicycle accessories!
    I haven't seen anything like that in Dallas. I have seen a couple of shops like that in St. Louis, although not as extensive a selection of many different things, including that nice lookin' frame from Independent Fab.

    Also, I am happy that no one bugged you there. Otherwise you would have mentioned that in this post. Now, that to me is very important when I shop --- the ability to browse without sales folks' hindrance!

    Peace :)

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  3. Wow, gorgeous! You're really lucky with such a bike shop.

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  4. How fantastic! We have a great bike shop in Manchester, run by young lads who are truly crazy about cycling! They are so relaxed and laid back, everytime you pop in you end up having a really nice chat! They never overcharge and they never talk to you in geeky cycle jargon so you feel really at ease! Their shop is pretty small so unfortunately no coffee nor art, but I can see them expanding soon :)

    They make some amazing custom bikes, my boyfriend worked with them to create his fixed gear which turned out absolutely stunning!! I want one now too, although I have my heart set on a vintage peugeot :) if I will ever find one!!

    L xxx

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  5. I like the name and how they answer the phone: "Open!"

    Never have been to a bike-related art opening before, can't wait to see what that is all about.

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  6. Love the handsewn u-lock cozies!

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  7. Chandra -- that's right, it is not a stand-over-your-shoulder kind of place at all. You can walk around the shop and explore at your own leisure. At the same time, if you ask a question or want to buy something, you will get their undivided attention.

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  8. the u-locks just might make me want to rethink my thoughts on U-locks.... Wow, that place looks really cool.

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  9. I want a cozy for my New York STD (standard) lock, preferably in black leather to go with my all-black bike. Is that crazy?

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  10. I am torn about the U-Lock cozies. On the one hand, they are so beautiful and I would love an opportunity to get rid of the neon orange aesthetic of my Kryptonite lock, which I can't stand. On the other hand, will covering up the proprietary Kryptonite markings on the lock encourage thieves to approach the bike? I have not decided yet, but I am leaning towards the leather cozies; my orange U-Lock is just too ugly.

    MDI -- I'd actually get a brown one to go with your bike; it would stand out more.

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  11. Nice! I haven't found a shop that cool in my city yet.

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  12. A shop like this speaks to your bicycle culture. I am envious.

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  13. There was quite a turn-out at the opening.

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  14. Wow! They seem to have everything.

    I love Absolute Bikes in Flagstaff. I always feel welcome.

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  15. As a veteran bicycle retailer, all I can say is good luck! Great on the outside but what do the financials say.... Low margins , can't pay my rent, why did I only last three years?

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  16. Anon., are you talking about bike shops in general or about Open specifically? They seem to have a pretty good business model, where the goal is to build community ties and a solid customer base. The quality of their work speaks for itself when compared to most other shops in the area.

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  17. I envy the plethora of good bike shops and frame builders in your area. I thought I found THE shop in KC but I'm beginging to wonder if there really is a good bike shop here.

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  18. Looks like this place closed?

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