Columbus, OH USA

Pedal Pusher
December 2007
by Greg Knepp

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Two Bike Shops

Illustration by Greg Knepp
The brave new world, now in its infancy, will look and feel more like the Short North than like New Albany or Upper Arlington. As the automobile culture crashes in the wake of diminishing petroleum supplies, folks will become more attuned to living and working locally. Driving to Easton for a shopping spree is a fast trip by car from almost any central Ohio location; but it’s quite a long bike ride and damn near an impossible walk for the vast majority of Columbus residents. Most readers of this article may well live to see Easton become a ghost mall – one of thousands that will dot the suburban wasteland of the near future; malls simply won’t be accessible. Draw an imaginary circle around your home that has a five mile radius – this will be the extent of your new stomping grounds, because that’s about as far as most reasonably healthy adults can comfortably bicycle and return within a typical workaday schedule.

If you haven’t bought a serious bike yet, it may be time to get about the task. Fortunately, today’s bicycle manufacturers are, for the most part, turning out excellent product, and Columbus has a number of good bike shops. But in the interest of buying locally, I will review the two that are closest to the Short North. Proximity is important. Your bike shop should be within walking distance of your home, as you may need to leave your bike at the shop overnight for maintenance. You’ll have to be able to walk home from the shop after delivering your bike, then walk back to pick it up when the work is finished. In time, you may learn to perform many maintenance tasks yourself, but critical hub and crank bearings as well as gears will need to be serviced by a pro. A respectable cycle shop will have a good service component. This is one of a number of reasons why it is unwise to buy bicycles at department stores.

Handy Bikes USA
Handy Bikes USA, a Columbus fixture for decades, is located at 1055 W. Fifth Avenue just a few blocks west of the river in what I call Near Grandview. It occupies an early ‘60s commercial structure that has a utilitarian, almost industrial look about it. The store’s front yard is lined with all manner of odd and used bikes – ostensibly sale items – and its side lot is filled with spanking new mopeds and small motor scooters. (Call me an apostate, but I simply adore mopeds, noisy smelly little devils though they be.) Cycle snobs would most likely pass by this store, but inside, Handy Bikes is strictly business!

On my most recent visit I browsed for a few minutes before being approached by John Paul. He’s been the shop’s bicycle mechanic for over five years and was the only worker in the store at the time. John Paul seemed a serious, quiet individual, and didn’t give me the hard sell – just straight, courteous answers. He informed me that the business had recently opened a second location on High Street north of Campus, but that Handy Bikes is not associated with any retailing chain. He also expressed the establishment’s philosophy: “We sell good, basic bikes.”

No truer words; while the side offerings at this store can be anything from kid’s bikes to adult three wheelers to low-end tandems, the rather spacious showroom floor is dominated exclusively by solid, mid-priced ($250 to $400) commuter and recreational hybrids. These are your basic workhorse transportation machines. And only two brands are represented: Raleigh and Giant. The fact that these two venerable companies are among the best manufacturers of hybrid bicycles indicates that someone has made some informed choices as to this store’s offering in the market. Additionally, Handy Bikes has a comprehensive selection of components and extras, all at very reasonable prices.

Serious about getting into no-nonsense commuting without dropping a bundle? Forget about department store bicycles and check out Handy Bikes.

B1 Bicycles
B1 Bicycles is a brand new shop and occupies an entirely different cycling universe than Handy Bikes. It’s a tiny storefront establishment at 124 E. Long Street in what was once (and may be again) downtown Columbus – an odd location, but one that suites proprietor Casey Karnes nicely. Karnes, you see, is a bike courier. This is a daredevil job that involves transporting important business and legal documents from one office to another through hectic city traffic – an occupation that, if survived, is guaranteed to hone one’s cycling skills to a T. His life-long interest in serious cycling led him to open his own shop. B1 Bicycles has an inventory consisting of only high-end road bikes: gorgeous Bianchi and Jamis racing and touring machines, a few with price tags pushing four figures!

Normally, a shop sporting such an exclusive stock would intimidate even an old pedal pusher like me. But Sally, manning the shop during my most recent visit, made me feel right at home. She talked enthusiastically about the B1 Bicycles’ products and maintenance services without resorting to the cyclebabble that is often part and parcel of the ‘performance’ bike scene. In fact, without even trying, she damn near sold me a sumptuous Jamis tourer – one of the most beautiful bicycles I’ve ever seen, and a steal at $780. Fearful of reaching for my credit card, I was barely able to rip myself away from the store. Gazing back longingly at my beautiful Jamis, I cried plaintively, “I’ll return for you in the spring.”

B1 Bicycles has a complete service shop and a selection of components as well. If you’re interested in distance touring or fast road cycling, or if you just want to salivate over some delicious two-wheeled eye candy, you’ll want to stop in and visit Sally and Casey. Just stay the hell away from my Jamis tourer!

Greg Knepp is a Short North cyclist


© 2007 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. all rights reserved