Beer Run: Bike Shop Edition
It’s that time of the month again, folks! We hit another series of local businesses with a case of the new IC Light 24-ounce “Man Cans” and thought it would be appropriate to embrace our inner manliness by going to all the bike shops in the area. This is not to say that broads can’t bike, no way! We just couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to beat the winter blues and go man huntin’ than embarking on a tour du PGH bike shops! With the way winter has been going this year, bikes are still in full effect this season. We decided to warm up these area shops with a bit of our beer cheer. Here’s what we found.
We embarked on this journey during a rainy Saturday afternoon to find the doors of Love Bikes at 212 1/2 44th Street in Lawrenceville closed to the max. Talk about a buzz kill from the get go! The Beer Gods must have been smiling upon the shop’s owner, however, because he just so happened to pull up as we were walking away and happily took the beer off of our hands. He was working an event at Fe Gallery right around the corner, so we didn’t get a chance to peek inside, but we can tell you that this hidden gem of Lawrenceville has been around since spring 2011 and was welcomed to the community with open arms. We were genuinely more surprised that the hip locale of Lawrenceville didn’t contain more bike shops, but if this is all it’s got, then it’s certainly in good hands. Love Bikes is a full service bicycle repair and restoration shop that sells cool digs to boot. The next time you need a sweet pair of kicks to get your street ride on, hit up Love Bikes for that extra bike swag.
We then proceeded to Kraynick’s Bike Shop at 5003 Penn Ave in Garfield. A Pittsburgh bike staple, Kraynick’s has been a go-to spot for many generations of bikers in the area. As we handed the case of Man Cans to Mr. Kraynick himself, he gloated, “I just had one of those last night!” Well done, sir. From this point on in our journey, we noticed two distinct styles of bike shops. Here you have the cave-like shop, a shop you can get lost in, a shop that leaves no surface untouched by nuts, bolts or tools. This shop wasn’t sterile, open or bright – it was a maze of organized chaos. Wheels and bike frames hung from the ceiling. There was an area for customers to repair their bikes in the shop and the shelves were stocked to the point of overflow with vintage boxes, parts and authentic bike memorabilia. A true biker’s paradise, one can get lost here for hours without saying a word or by becoming engulfed in a conversation with Mr. Kraynick, a man who certainly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to bikes.
Next up on our journey was Free Ride, Pittsburgh’s premier DIY recycled bike collective. Located at 214 N. Lexington Street in the same space as Construction Junction in the lovely neighborhood of Point Breeze, Free Ride prides itself on being more than just a traditional repair shop. It is a “bicycle educational facility” which relies heavily on peer support and volunteers to maintain operations. Volunteer hours can be applied towards membership, used parts, classes, and other benefits. The folks at Free Ride won’t fix your bike for you, but they will provide you with the tools to become a knowledgeable and responsible bike rider and owner. During Adult Open Shop, you can fix your own bike, volunteer, donate, buy or Earn-A-Bike – one of their most popular programs in which participants create a contract requiring them to give back to Free Ride for an agreed upon value of the bike (usually $20 â€“ $150, depending upon the quality of the bike). They must attend a basic bicycle maintenance class and then repair their chosen bicycle, using the free access to shop parts, tools and learning resources. The average participant earns their bike anywhere from 8 to 20 hours of volunteering. And not to fret! Before leaving the shop with a completed bicycle, it must pass a basic safety inspection by a qualified staff member. If you’re looking to improve your skills, give back to the bicycling community or are simply on a budget, Free Ride is the spot for you.
Iron City Bikes, located at 331 South Bouquet Street in Oakland was our next destination. Appropriately named, Iron City Bikes has been serving the college community of Oakland for many years now. We were greeted by a friendly fella who insisted on wearing this t-shirt, an homage to the Iron City brand that has been quenching the thirst of Pittsburghers for countless decades. We’re fairly certain he cracked a cold one as soon as we departed, but not before he made sure to give us an awesome tee or two, which you can find here on their website. Their gear is truly one-of-a-kind and Pittsburgh-themed, an essential for any PGH biker no doubt. They’re also a proud sponsor of the best new racing team in the city. You can find out more info about the riders, their races and other deets here.
The second half of our beer run found us heading towards the South Side, but first, a pit stop at Bike PGH, the city’s bicycle advocacy organization that works to protect cyclist’s rights and promote the vision of making Pittsburgh a safer and more enjoyable place to live and to ride. We were sad to discover they aren’t open on weekends, but we didn’t want to leave this crucial organization in the dirt. So hey, Bike PGH! If you’re reading, we have a case of beer for your staff! We’ll keep it cold for you in the meantime. Be sure to check out their award-winning Pittsburgh Bike Map for the lodown on how to get around the city on your bike. There’s also a “once in a lifetime opportunity” coming up on February 2nd in which Bike PGH is asking members of the bicycling community to help shape the future of our streets in which they will create a document that will define what bikeways, crosswalks, etc will look like for the next 25 years. The project is called the MOVEPGH Multimodal Transportation Plan and you can learn more about it February 2nd at CMU’s Porter Hall (Building #3B) – just off of Frew St (adjacent to Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park) from 6-8PM. This organization is doing wonderful things for the bike community of PGH, won’t you join them and others for this monumental opportunity?
Our next stop was OTB, AKA Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe, located at 2518 East Carson Street in the South Side. This place “offers Pittsburgh’s outdoor enthusiasts a friendly, fun place to have great food and drinks in a unique bicycle-themed environment.” I’ve been here quite a few times, and I must say the food is delicious. If you’ve ever craved such things as PB and J on a burger or are looking for a burger that’s off the beaten path, this is the place for you. Their drink selection is fantastic and reasonably priced, the atmosphere is welcoming and the staff is friendly and attentive. We had to stop by and give the hard-working folks of OTB a case of Man Cans to enjoy after a long shift. Pay special attention to the “Dirty Dozen” sign that hangs between the two rooms of the bar. If you aren’t familiar, the Dirty Dozen takes place each November on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and challenges Pittsburgh’s top cyclists to tackle 13 of the city’s steepest hills, including the steepest measured road in the U.S., Canton Ave. – a 38% grade ON COBBLESTONES TO BOOT! DAYOM! Read up on the Dirty Dozen here and watch this video if you don’t believe me.
Thick Bikes, located at 1408 Bingham Street in the South Side, was voted “Best Bike Shop In Pittsburgh” during the 2010 City Paper Reader’s Poll. This full service bicycle shop offers a huge variety of parts and accessories along with new and used bikes of all kinds. The shop increased their square footage and selection after opening an additional entrance on Bingham street and we found it to be the best of both worlds when it comes to bike shops – a bit grittier than some we encountered, but not to the point that the shop feels chaotic. A nice mix of dirt, top-notch selection, organization and know how can go a long way when it comes to bikes. This shop is also special to us because our office used to be right next door above Pizza Sola. We recommend checking out their blog for new and unique offerings and be sure to check out their website for a virtual tour of the shop.
Squirrel Hill was our next destination, and we decided to hit up Pro Bikes, a shop that’s sleek inside and out. Their staff is also not too bad to look at, as they took us directly upstairs to get a picture of the guy in spandex. Located at 5876 Forbes Avenue, Pro Bikes caters to the biker who has some extra cash to spend on a top-notch piece of equipment and is touted as “Pittsburgh’s premiere cycling retailer.” With additional locations in South Hills and Monroeville, Pro Bikes specializes in custom fittings (and dudes in spandex!) The chain gained national recognition as a Top 100 Retailer in 2009 by Boulder Sports Research and Bicycle Retailer and Industry News out of more than 5,000 bicycle shops in the U.S.. The shop prides itself on staying active and involved in the community and sponsors several professional racing teams, as well as bike rides and races that benefit charitable organizations.
Since we were in the area, we decided to hit up Biketek, located at 5842 Forbes Avenue. The shop offers road, triathlon, mountain, singlespeed, hybrid and youth bikes. They also have six repair bays to optimize service. The gentleman working was tied up with a customer when we delivered our case of IC Light Man Cans and made sure not to get distracted by our offering. To me, this exemplifies top notch service and a staff that genuinely cares about their customers. On top of being clean, organized and having a great selection, Biketek has a reputation for going above and beyond. If they don’t have a particular part or accessory you’re looking for, they’ll find it. If they have to keep your bike for a few days for repairs, they’ll give you a loaner. Their genuine enthusiasm for bicycles shines throughout their store and is the key to the success of this shop.
Our final destination was the motherload of bikes. Bicycle Heaven, located at 1800 Preble Avenue in the R.J. Casey Industrial Park in Manchester (near the North Side) was a bit difficult to find, but once we did, we got really, really excited! I’d heard a lot about this bicycle museum popping up in town and was anxious to check it out. With hours friendly for everyone (9-7, 7 days a week) and free admission, there’s really no excuse for any bike enthusiast not to visit! The museum boasts an incredible collection of roughly 90,000 bikes and accessories. Owner Craig Morrow has a comprehensive collection of rare, vintage and antique bikes, in addition to offering sales, repairs and rentals for $25 a day. He also hosts an antique bike show each September. If you’d like to know more about this intriguing fella, read this wonderful piece the Post-Gazette did on him last year. In the meantime, check out the photos we managed to take. We were pooped from a long day, but used every last bit of energy we had to explore the museum.