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What's your local?

I’ve been meaning to write a little bit about some cool bike shops for quite a while now. I know I mention ACME a lot, and I gave Charleston Bicycle Company a shoutout when we were in Charleston, and if I didn’t I should have raved about Rasmussen the summer we went on RAGBRAI. Another that I may have mentioned, and if I didn’t I should have is Joe’s Cycles in Indianapolis. In any event, these fine establishments are about to the their Meetzorp due today.

Starting with my local, I’d credit ACME Bicycle Company with being a major factor in the proliferation of alternative cycling culture in Kansas City. Sure, before there was the ACME Crowd, the original Frank Tuesday crew were putting on their own brand of demented events, the super-underground Boss Cross cyclocross events were available to those-in-the-know, and I’m sure there were dozens of others who were scheming up and running events long before I was aware there even was a cycling community in Kansas City. The point is, that the underground has grown, expanded, and occasionally surfaces to daylight, and the parking lot at ACME has become the preferred convention spot for all sorts of cockeyed bicyclist shenanigans. I think they really helped set the revolution in motion with their iconic Tour De Cowtown, now entering its 5th year this year (or 835th, if we’re being accurate here!) The TDC is one of the top-notch parties in the Kansas City cycling scene, so if you possibly can, you should go!

Christi & Sarah are the go-to women for obscure, vintage, and just plain odd bicycle parts, accessories, and lore. Moreover, they are the only shop in town where you can get a fully custom built bicycle made for you from scratch.

Moving out a little further from home, there’s the fabulous Rasmussen Bike Shop in West Des Moines, IA. I met Squirrel, one of the Rassy crew at Ouachita the first time I went down there with Joel. Squirrel works at Rasmussen and spreads the good word far and abroad. When we decided to do RAGBRAI a couple of years ago, Squirrel finagled a spot for our bikes and gear on the Rasmussen truck, and we shared a lift with them to the start of the ride. They had a mobile bike shop set up in a box truck, a trailer full of additional gear, and a rotating crew of mechanics and sales staff who took turns shifting gear, fixing bikes, and cruising the roads. No less impressive was the Rasmussen bricks-and-mortar shop, which features a knowledgeable, fun-loving crew, an airy, well-stocked sales floor, a back room of archival bicycle treasures, and one of the most bedecked and bedizened beer fridges I have seen to date.

Our last big town before we hit Charleston, SC, was Athens, GA, and we did an overnighter in a motel there, taking a rest day and checking ahead online at the local library. Joel used his Internet time to search out bike shops in Charleston and see which ones looked cool. One of the things we knew we would need to do is scavenge bicycle boxes so we could ship our gear back to Kansas City, so we had to hope for a friendly and sympathetic bike shop to help us out. The Internet was pretty much unanimous in stating that Charleston Bicycle Company was the best place in town to do business if you’re a cyclist. Charleston Bicycle Company seems to be the soul and flavor of the Charleston cycling community. It’s the cool shop in town. They treated us well while we were in town, swapping biking stories, selling us a better lock, and hooking us up with some quality cardboard to get our stuff back to K.C. Also, their shop dog, Chloe, is very cute, let me ruffle her ear-fur, and bumped up my homesickness for Ruby a hundredfold.

The most recent (and newest) cool shop I’ve visited is Joe’s Cycles in Indianapolis, IN. When we were up in Indy for the NAHBS, we were on the lookout for bike shops, also. Someone in our crowd had heard about Joe’s…probably Sean, and we decided to check him out. As it turns out, he’s got a great little gig going on for himself there. His shop is a very cool space…he took a building that had been condemned multiple times by the city and turned it into a homey, colorful, well-designed shop with a great display area, tidy working area, and a kind of lounge area. Sean was so impressed with the aesthetics of Joe’s that he asked me to shoot a set of detail photos to bring back to Kansas City to share with a local shop owner, Britton Kusiak of Volker Cycles.

If you were to cross pollinate Volker’s minimalist aesthetic with Joe’s colorful eclecticism, you might end up with something that looked like Matt Brown’s Emporia shop, High Gear. I got my first look at High Gear last year when I was in Emporia for Dirty Kanza and must say that Matt’s got a darn good thing going on there. I’ve got just a few pics of his setup in my DK2008 set on Flickr, to give you a little bit of an idea of what’s going on there. High Gear is in an old bank building, and the vault is still present, though it has been repurposed as a display room for helmets and skateboarding equipment. The feel of the place is very clean and polished, yet cheerful and inviting. He’s got quite a broad selection of goods, too, from some interesting vintage bikes to the latest and greatest, plus a bunch of skateboarding and other sports equipment. It would be a cool shop anywhere and it’s an outstanding shop in such a small town. Certainly the presence of the college helps provide a customer base, but the quality and atmosphere keeps ’em coming back.

Ah, bike shops…where would we be without them?

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