Local Bike Shops

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The map above shows several of the bike shops near my home in South Minneapolis. As you can see, I have a lot of options… they don’t even all show up on the map. I have my favorite, but I’m wondering where all my faithful readers buy their bike supplies. Here are the bike shops I’ve visited and a summary of my experience:

The Hub Bike Co-op – This is my favorite local bike shop. They’ve got two locations & I’ve been to them both. The Hub seems to be the shop that lines up with my personal sense of style and bike aesthetic. Plus they’ve always got what I need at reasonable prices. I’d recommend The Hub anyday. I’ve almost always been happy with the service and selection. On one occasion, I received some pretty poor repair advice – and some guy encouraged me to buy parts I didn’t need to fix the wrong problem – and it was just because this guy was more interested in getting me to buy a part than to actually take a look at my bicycle, but it was only one experience, so I let it slide.

Freewheel Bike Shop – This is a pretty popular shop around town & I’ve bought a few items at their west bank location. The midtown greenway location is actually the closest shop to my home so I’ve stopped their a few times as well. I’ve always been happy with the service. They seem to cater to the high-end racing crowd, however, so they don’t really seem to fit my style. In addition, I’ve visited the greenway location no less than half a dozen times trying to buy parts and have always left empty-handed. They just don’t stock anything at that store, so there’s really not much to buy. In fact, as of today, they don’t even have any bikes in the store to sell – just accessories. I stopped there today to buy some singlespeed chainring bolts, which they were selling for $10.99. I thought that sounded a little high, so I went to The Hub, where I bought some for $5.99.
Erik’s Bike Shop – It’s debatable whether this counts as a local bike shop or not. I’ve bought some stuff at the dinkytown shop, but it sort of has the big-box feel to it, so I don’t go if I can help it.
Varsity Bike Shop – I visited this shop a couple times back in 2005-2006 when I lived in Dinkytown. It was great, but they were located in a tiny hole in the wall. Their lack of space really seemed to be holding them back. The photo on the web site, though, looks like maybe they’ve moved locations or expanded since I’ve been last. Anyone know?
Penn Cycle & Fitness – I’ve only been here a time or two. Both times I felt like customer service was very lacking, but both times it was pretty busy, so it might not be fair to judge based on my limited sample size. Their focus on treadmills & stuff is a little bit of a turnoff for no good reason.
Flanders Brothers Cyclery – I’ve only been there once. They also seemed to cater to the high-end racing scene… Service was average. I only bought one item, which they had to special order, and I ended up feeling like I overpaid. In addition, they charged me $.10 or something for brake cable end caps. It’s not much, but compared to the guy at Freewheel that just told me to stick out my hand and he dumped a dozen into my palm for free, I was a little peeved.
The Alt Bike & Board – Only been there once or twice. Both times I received great service. I seem to identify pretty well with their sense of bicycle aesthetics, and I feel like I could be at home there, but their focus on longboards & snowboards & stuff is a little bit of a turnoff.
Nokomis Cycle – I went here for the first time a few days ago. I asked Dwight to unstick my stuck bottom bracket bearing cup, which he did for a measly $10. His shop is pretty small and I feel like that might be holding the shop back a little, but my one experience with his service was pretty positive. This is your classic neighborhood bike shop.
Carlson’s Schwinn Cyclery – Now out of business. I only went there once. Service was great, but like a lot of small bike shops, they didn’t stock what I needed, so I left empty-handed.
One-On-One Bicycle Studio – The ground-level store is more art studio than bike shop – on purpose. They’re really heading in a new direction with the “bike shop” thing. They have a full repair service, but the whole atmosphere isn’t really my thang. But their basement boneyard, complete with a literal mountain of old bike frames and parts is staggering. If you’re into rummaging through mounds of bikes for just the right used part or old frame, this is def your place.
Sunrise Cyclery – They sell only used bikes, but I think they do repair work, too. They sell mostly 70’s and 80’s vintage bikes that are all the rage these days. Mel and I bought our Schwinn Suburbans there a while back. The service is friendly, but they’ve got a reputation for selling bikes in pretty poor shape. This was my experience in buying the suburbans as well. It was obvious they sold us the bikes without even giving it a 5 minute look over. Of course, the bikes came with a 30 day “we’ll fix anything for free” warranty, but the fact that they would sell bikes in such poor condition in the first place causes my brow to furrow. I have also heard rumors that they troll the mpls police bike auctions, buy bikes for $100 or less, and turn around and sell them for $200+ at the store. I don’t know if this is true, but those are the rumors…. If anyone knows more about this, I’d love to hear it.
So what’s your favorite local bike shop? Had any good or bad experiences at local shops? Tell me your worst bike shop experience! How about your best?

6 comments to Local Bike Shops

  • Johnny Utah!

    The Varsity moved just a few doors down on the same block, it is a pretty cool new space.

  • Thanks for the info Johnny Utah!. So what's your favorite local shop?

  • Johnny Utah!

    The Varsity is close to my work so, so I generally am going there or the shop on the greenway. I like a shop to not vibe me out too hard, and those two are pretty cool and laid back. The Varsity has a blog on their site that is growing, you should check it out, it has some cool content.

  • I have been partial to The Hub because the locations were really close to our old Franklin apartment. Their service is great and they don't mind when I ask a lot of questions about things. I took a maintenance class from them last fall to learn how to overhaul hubs and such, it was a small class with plenty of time to ask questions and learn. Plus, it cost the same as it would have to get a tune-up, so it was a great deal for me to start learning about bikes.

    I agree with your take on Erik's bike shop. That's the closest thing I have here in EP. Their people aren't as friendly if you aren't a middle-class SUV driving parent coming in to buy whatever they tell you your kid wants. Plus, their parts selection is poor and expensive.

    I'm still looking for a better local shop down this way.

  • Nathan

    No mention of the Grease Pit! Sure it claims to be open just 3 hours per day, but I think those are vague approximations. It's hard to beat the pricing – "How much do you think it's worth?" – though the parts selection is whatever you can dig out of the filing cabinet.

  • Yea, the Grease Pit deserves a mention. I didn't include it on the list because they don't offer many of the same services bike shops offer. i.e. you can't just bring a broken bike and pay them to fix it (or, maybe you can, but that's not really in harmony with their mission statement). Likewise, you can't purchase any new parts there (that I'm aware of) and it's sort of frowned on to buy used parts there unless you intend to sit down and install it on your bike right then… But they do a few things that are really awesome, too.. like they'll let you store your half-working bike there for free until you can get it working!