When it comes to writing, or I suppose life in general, I’m an advocate of a balanced approach – to every ying there’s a yang. Today I hope to provide some positive ying to yesterday’s negative yang. Mellow Johnny’s left me flat, but the Bicycle Speed Shop in Houston’s Houston Heights district elevated my two wheel stoke.
Located in a fixer-upper neighborhood the first thing I noticed about the shop was how carefully, and artfully, the owner had restored the building. It’s clear that the proprietor of this shop is investing in the long-term health of the neighborhood. The shop literally draws you in.
In these days of online retail, physical shops have to offer something that you don’t get while sitting behind a computer. The space needs a verve, a pneuma – an essential spirit – that makes you feel welcome, that here you are among like-minded friends. Two shops in Seattle that do this very well are Hardwicks Hardware and the Filson Store. I also have to give credit to whoever redesigned the REI stores, that’s some good stuff. The Bicycle Speed Shop has this verve in spades.
The first thing I noticed walking in the door was that that space was broken into three sections: repair, fit and retail. All spaces were clean and minimal. The retail space wasn’t cluttered with a bunch of ordinary stuff, but instead contained well-displayed curated gear, some of which I’d neither seen nor heard of before. The items that first attracted my attention were the handlebar and saddle bags made by the Australian maker Skingrowsback. It took me a while to figure out that the name isn’t Skiing Row but I’m slow.
The next thing I noticed were the bikes: a couple of built in Boulder Mosaics and a custom painted Open. It turned out that the titanium Mosaic is owned by one of the sales staff who had recently moved to Houston from Seattle. The reason for my visit was to buy a new pump as I’d lost my existing one during a recent over the handlebars event. I ended up with a cool new pump as well as both a saddlebag and a handlebar bag – money literally flies out of my wallet at these places.
I spent at least a half an hour talking to the sales guy about bikes, gear, the Seattle scene, the Houston scene and all around general BS. In the background a mechanic was installing a bottom bracket on a slick Moots and that induced an entirely new conversation on disc versus rim and 700 vs 650B. I could talk that stuff all day.
All in all I’m stoked that the cool local bike scene is alive and well here in Houston. For the person who is looking for an introductory level bike, perhaps a more traditional shop is in order, but for the cyclist who has ridden around the block a few times and is interested in increasing comfort, speed or distance (or all three) the Bicycle Speed Shop is a worthy destination.