If a manager of a local bike shop (LBS) asked me “Hey, John, what kind of stuff would you like to see us carry?” this list is what I would suggest. I have no experience in retailing and have no intention of ever opening a shop, but there are some great products out there that I think would sell in this town that you can’t find here.
Most of this stuff can be ordered by a shop, but it would be great to see it actually stocked so I could look at it, try it on, compare it, hold it, etc.
The Surly Long Haul Trucker and the Surly Cross Check are about the best value production bikes you can find. Each bike sells for around $1000 and each makes for a solid and versatile commuter. Any bike shop can order them. I realize that bike shops have to dedicate some amount of floor space to the brands that they carry, but seeing these bikes in shops in other regions always makes me wonder why we don’t see them here.
These are starting to show up, but they should be in more shops. Nutcase is based in Portland and makes really cool looking and high-quality lids.
I’m talking about skirt guards, chain guards, and quality fenders. Part of the problem here is that skirt guards are still almost non-existent in the broader American market. And chain guards are typically only sold as frame-specific add-ons. In both cases, a dedicated shop could seek them out and stock them to become the local expert in mating the guards to bikes. As for fenders, you can find a good set of plastic SKS fenders at most stores. But great fenders are made of stainless steel or aluminum. I would love to see some Honjos or Berthoud fenders carried by a LBS.
For off-the-shelf racks Tubus is hard to beat. They are sturdy, light, and elegant; and well worth the premium price. Tubus carries a variety of racks. I’ve seen one or two around town, but at least one LBS should stock them all.
SALMON KOOL-STOP BRAKE PADS
The best wet-weather brake pads you can buy. Every shop in town can order them, but none that I know of keep cantilever versions in stock on a regular basis.
This is a big one and a really hard one because nice clothes are expensive and people are fussy about fashion.
Big companies like IBEX, SmartWool, Kucharik, and Icebreaker make great wool gear that can be used for commuting and look like normal clothes. Some shops carry one or two pieces by IBEX or Smartwool, but someone should invest in carrying all of the bike-related stuff they make.
There are also many small companies making really good bike-related commuter clothing. For example, Bicycle Fixation is a small company in LA that makes bike-specific clothing from wool and hemp.
COTTON BAR TAPE
Yep, the boring old cotton bar tape. I prefer it to cork and other poofy tape. Most shops have black, but I’d really like to see a rainbow of options here. Colorful bar tape is a cheap way to add a bit of personality to your bike.
Atoc is a company in Lynnwood, Washington. They make the best car-top racks for carrying bikes. They specialize in tandem and recumbent racks, but I like their “normal” bike racks because they handle fenders easily. In addition, the quality is super heavy duty and just beats the pants off the scrawny quality that the bigger rack makers produce.
You can find a big assortment of battery-powered bike lights at LBS. But you can’t go to any shop and compare the different options for generator lights. Generator lights are lights that are powered by the spinning of the hub in the front wheel of a bike. Generator lighting systems make a bunch of sense for people that ride daily and don’t ever want to think about lights. Once you install them, they just always work.
There are a lot of different options for carrying stuff when you’re on a bike: panniers, messenger bags, bike-specific backpacks, baskets, rack top boxes, bike grocery bags, the list goes on. Most LBS carry a few bags, but like clothing, it would be great to see some variety here. Arkel and Ortlieb are great for touring and even for commuting, but there’s a lot more out there for the urban rider. Basil, Velo Orange, Carradice, Swift Industries, Gilles Berthoud, and Zugster are all interesting companies that make a variety of bags.
Hands down, my favorite bike magazine in print today. It’s technical, historical, entertaining, and well-researched. Bicycle Quarterly is published by a small team of uber-bike-geeks from Seattle, WA. Every LBS should have this in their magazine rack.
So that’s the list. Hopefully as the cycling culture in Spokane continues to grow, we’ll see shops carrying more of these types of products for commuters and urban cyclists.
John Speare grew up and lives in Spokane. He rides his bike everywhere. Check out his blog athttp://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com.