In addition to pre-ride coffee shops and post race champagne/money/podium girl parties there lies another institution that rests comfortably within the pantheons of the cycling umbrella. I speak of your nearby bike shop. The local hub that draws cyclists from all disciplines uniting the two wheeled community in their universal thirst for components, chamois cream and carbon fiber. With the now burgeoning online e-commerce market taking over the cycling community it is becoming more and more rare to actually make substantial purchases at bike shops. Online proprietors often have new products sooner and at much lower prices than neighborhood shops. Yet what ebay and PBK.com will never have is the constant cast of characters that frequent a shop creating a Cheers-ian tragicomedy complete with running laugh track and end credits. While all shops are different, similarities in the casts run deep and methinks you’ll be able to recognize a few, if not more, of the characters listed below.
Latin Mechanic hails from somewhere you can’t remember in South America. His is rarely referred to by his actual name instead going by some nickname like “Maestro” or “Pancho Villa”. His skills are unrivaled and inexplicable at the same time. He doesn’t use tire levers when replacing a punctured tube and he owns lubricants and greases that may very well be homemade. Latin Mechanic can true a carbon wheel with a Pez dispenser and has questionably believable connections in some way to professional cycling. Almost always Latin Mechanic has another completely unrelated business on the side that you’ll probably never know about.
Shop Boss: Hello? Yes I’ll accept a collect call from Tegucigalpa.
Latin Mechanic: Hola boss, it’s me Conquistador!
Shop Boss: Oh hey Conquistador what’s up, where have you been? When are you coming back?
Latin Mechanic: Oye boss I’m away visiting family, I’ll be back in dos meses! Hasta luego!
Shop Boss: Wait, hold up…
Cheers Drink of Choice: Numerous scattered half finished Coca-Cola bottles
Bike Shop Nerd Employee
Bike Shop Nerd Employee is a supremely helpful individual who thrives on providing top notch customer service generally when it’s not wanted. Bike Shop Nerd Employee many times doesn’t even ride a bike preferring, rather, to just be immersed in the culture. He is most helpful to customers new to cycling and quite adept at excitedly talking about products that you read about on Cycling News 2 months ago. Bike Shop Nerd Employee is universally accepted as a nuisance but is such a genuinely nice person it is literally impossible to be mean to them lest you be labeled a sociopath. The resemblances to Stacy from “Wayne’s World” are striking but there’s a very real chance Bike Shop Nerd Employee will probably save your cycling hide one day when you’ve flatted 60 kms from the nearest form of civilization.
Bike Shop Nerd Employee: Hey bud! Couldn’t help but notice you got a flat out here in the Mojave! Need a hand?!?
You: Oh hey, uh, yea…yea I do man.
Bike Shop Nerd Employee: Man have you seen these new CO2 cartridges? So easy to use, easy to store and effective too!
You: Yea, yea I have seen those. Hey what are you doing out here by the way?
Bike Shop Nerd Employee: And only $5 a piece at the shop! Hey you like my Fat Tire jersey?
Cheers Drink of Choice: Blue Powerade
Old Foreign Guy
Old Foreign Guy is, shockingly, both old and foreign. Commonly from a traditional European country, Old Foreign Guy is almost always adorned in a complete cycling kit from at least 15 years ago and tends to hang out near the service counter communicating (poorly) with Latin Mechanic. He used to race as a junior and still rides a steel lugged Colnago. He pulls income from an unknown and seemingly endless source and it’s nearly impossible to ever actually see him ride a bike on the road. Old Foreign Guy constantly references old race results and still eats a raw egg during his cold shower every morning. Old Foreign Guy likes to make borderline uncomfortable references to your current form and physique which you’ll do well to just chock up to his being old and foreign.
Old Foreign: Ah, yes, I see your legs looks aggressive and supple. Very provocative, very provocative indeed.
You: Heh, yea, thanks Angelo.
Old Foreign: Yes very slim, very slim. Good to be young and virile no?
(cue slow exit to the cashier’s desk)
Cheers Drink of Choice: Whatever he keeps in that old tin Campagnolo bottle he always has.
Fixie Riding Employee
Fixie Riding Employee would appear to hate his job nearly as much as he hates mechanical shifting. He can be found trolling HipsterTits.com nearly as much as he frequents Facebook on the shop computer. Hilarity ensues when an unsuspecting customer has the audacity to actually ask him for assistance with something in the store. Fixie Riding Employee is usually still in school ergo exercise supreme caution in the month of September lest you get threatened with a U-lock.
Unsuspecting Customer: Excuse me, could you tell me the difference between this dual suspension MTB and that, uh, “Si-nelli” bike thingy there? Is that how you pronounce it, “Si-nelli”?
Fixie Riding Employee: (pinching bridge of nose while simultaneously Tweeting frustrations) Fail…
Cheers Drink of Choice: A super exclusive micro-brew you’ve probably never heard of.
Local Pro rides for a small elite-amateur/professional team and specializes in mid field crit finishes and blowing the legs off of unsuspecting riders on the weekend group rides. He is impossibly fit in comparison to a normal human with a work schedule. His tan is rich, his marital morality stance questionable and his inclination to helmet application whilst riding absent. Local Pro appears to live a life of luxury yet little is actually known of his personal or domestic orientations. He is usually waited upon with bated breath and revered with blind acceptance walking about the local bike shop with near regal authority. Upon further investigation no one can actually remember Local Pro’s last win.
Local Pro: Are these the new Power Bar gels?
Shop Owner: Yea! Yea you want some? Take some! Just have em you can totally take some!
Local Pro: Throw them in the bag, I’ve got a personal training appointment I can’t miss.
Shop Owner: Classic! Good luck this weekend champ!
Cheers Drink of Choice: Whatever your wife drinks.
Bike Fit Advocate Customer/Entrepreneur
Bike Fit Advocate Customer/Entrepreneur relishes the opportunity to speak to you about your current position on the bike. He has watched far too many physiological videos on You Tube and is violently ergonomic. He carries extra cleat shims in his wallet and plumb wires in his fanny pack. He trolls the cycling shoe section of the shop waiting for the opportune moment to pounce on the unsuspecting customer and inundate them with kinesiology catch phrases. His affiliation with the shop is not entirely known but he does drive around a Scion xB with his company insignia emblazoned on the side. You will have his card.
Bike Fit Man: So like what’s your pedaling style?
You: Huh? Uh, I dunno, effective?
Bike Fit Man: Like are you pedaling squares or circles dude? C’mon!
You: I don’t know I’m just trying these Sidi’s on.
Bike Fit Man: You need a shorter stem bud and lower your ankles on the climbs next time. Here’s my card, you’re welcome.
Cheers Drink of Choice: Water for its ability to take any shape gracefully.
The bike shop is finding itself in a current state of flux, a once reverential institution now struggling for a solid foothold on what was once a stable foundation. The internet and social media have issued significant first blows but the bike shop is not an opponent to lie down so easily. Online commerce certainly has provided a forum for near instantaneous selections, impossibly low prices and unrivaled inventory. Yet. Yet, there is something soothing about walking into your local shop and seeing Virenque get shelled in the ’99 Tour de France on the TV for the 276th time. Something reassuring in passing the signed USPS jersey framed on the wall near a vintage 7-11 poster. A sense of calm when making your way around the beach cruisers featuring a new Paul Frank iteration along the fenders. A familial hand of guidance in the never changing selection of bar tapes gracing the particle board display walls. A palpable sense of community in watching the social ballet of shop regulars interact with one another. The local bike shop fits like your favorite pair of summer bibs and gives you that certain qualcosa you can’t find online. Cause making your way in the world today takes everything you got and sometimes you just wanna go where everybody knows your frame.