Words & Pictures by Jesper Grundahl
It is a fact that what keeps us firmly rooted on the ground is; Gravity. Some will argue that some people are more aloof than others, and I might second that opinion, but let’s leave that discussion for another day. The fascinating thing about gravity is that it appears it doesn’t only work downwards towards Earth itself. I have, to my surprise, discovered many times that gravity also works sideways. You are forgiven for thinking I have been drinking from the chain cleaner again!
Years ago, when working as a professional DJ and traveling Europe playing gigs, I found myself being endlessly drawn - sideways - into record stores. As a pro DJ you spend untold hours in record stores hunting for that secret weapon no one else has. Even when telling myself NOT to venture into an upcoming record store it was as if my body, upon approaching said store, would make a gravitational, sideways turn, and before I knew I’d be in the store.
These days my record store roaming has been replaced by bike stores. If you are a hardened cycling fan you will at this point already nod your head approvingly. Going for several rides a week you do go firmly nuts by riding the same routes all the time. I often find myself riding in an already mapped out loop, where I am going somewhere but in reality not really going anywhere except moving from where I started and then directly back again. A fixed destination can therefore be an interesting break in your weekly training rides. For some it may be that special café or bakery, but I often visit bike stores. Not always to purchase something, but simply to smell the atmosphere, meet the staff and be part of the shop culture.
A good bike store needs to have not only have a great selection of components and apparel, but even more importantly, a thrilling decor, atmosphere and a friendly staff. Most stores can only muster a few of these criteria, and a lot fall very short on atmosphere and friendly staff. You can have the coolest gadgets, components and apparel, but if you’re not able to create an atmosphere, a friendly, inviting environment, where your consumers want to actually live, you can be sure no one is interested in supporting you.
One such cool place is close to where I live. Velo Pavé was established 3 years ago. Its owners - Jensen and Petersen - came from completely different business backgrounds, but both had a dream of creating the coolest bike store they could imagine. The key objective on their initial business plan was: “Be Friendly - Don’t Be Negative”, and to this day this remains one of the key points in their daily life when opening their store every day.
Situated some 30 kilometers from central Copenhagen Velo Pavé is a small shop in two levels with a cool selection of new Italian bikes from Deddacciai and Cinelli combined with vintage Colnago’s and other newer bike manufactures. The decor of the store is vastly different to what you normally see in any other glistening bike store in central Copenhagen. Inspired by american bike culture from Portland Velo Pavé was created with a mixture of vintage wood, industrial iron and a lower level seating area with vintage Chesterfields. Within this space its owners, and the young mechanic Nicky, has created a thriving club environment with a membership counting 120 riders with the store as its centerpoint and alternative club-house. Arriving here, on any given day, you are always greeted welcome and offered free coffee, but on Saturday morning you may have to fight for your right for coffee as the third club-ride of the week heads out.
A great bike store doesn’t always have to be a pristinely designed space. Again, atmosphere and friendliness is of the highest order, and during a recent visit to New York I found myself drawn - sideways - through Airbnb to a wonderful bike store in Williamsburg above which I rented an apartment. NYCBikes is owned by William Wood, a super friendly guy from Pennsylvania who lives above his shop with his family.
The shop itself is an adventurous mix of city frames mixed with Fixies, and imported frames which William builds himself. Within these slightly chaotic, but fascinating surroundings, you get the feeling that time has to a certain point stopped. All sense of order has seized, but the bike shop atmosphere is dense and William greets you welcome and will happily talk for hours about everything from components to Amish. As I left my apartment each morning, to head out in New York, I was greeted on the staircase by that smell we all love; A mixture of rubber, oil and sweet new bikes. Some of you may have thought: “Freshly baked cakes!”, but hey, we all have our preferences.
In a digital market place it is easy to remain confined to your own space and computer when shopping for bike parts or digesting cycling in general. It is however important to remember that true bike culture is created when people meet. Prices may be lower on the digital market, but your local bike store, your local GREAT bike store, needs your help. You are part of creating a community, a club vibe - an atmosphere. Whether in Denmark, New York or anywhere else a friendly bike community is a simple meeting between people with a mutual interest; Bikes and bike culture.
So, for your next ride try the sense of sideways gravity. Get yourself drawn into a new bike store you’ve never been to before. Who knows, you may find the coolest spot on Earth and the friendliest people around. Go places on your bike.