Normally, if you need a bike store, there is only one place in most towns that can help you out. Davis lacks quite a few things, but one thing it has in quantity is bicycle stores – a specific one that fits the consumer – which is you.
There are numerous places you can go to learn about each store. I would suggest DavisWiki for an intense breakdown, but to take a step away from my usual style – which is to mock, judge and deride consumer behavior – for this article, I will behave as an investigative columnist for once.
Bicycle retailers in Davis are not about pushing product. They are about catering to a select group. As a very small-time bicycle salesman, I cater to a very specific niche; my clients are an even mix of hippie, cheap, hipster and lazy. The shops all know their audience and hope you frequent their shop throughout your time in Davis.
Which niche do you belong to? Oddly enough, it might be easier to pick out which niche you don’t belong to. There’s one shop, called Wheelworks, that lets you know you are in the wrong place. This particular shop has never made me feel welcome, and I’m a bike-encyclopedia. They sell premium-racing bicycles to professional (leotard-wearing) cyclists and don’t need to waste effort on being kind because hospitality is not going to make a difference when someone drops $8,000 on a single bicycle. (In fairness, several ministers liked Wheelworks: super rare parts, knowledgeable staff, etc.)
I’ll admit to being a bit unfamiliar with Freewheeler. Many friends like it and are quick to point it out as having the friendliest staff in Davis. It’s owned entirely by one family and is great with warranties. It might not have all the parts you need, but in terms of buying one bike and having it supported through your time in Davis, Freewheeler came highly recommended.
Blissworks and Apex are two shops that come by Bike Forth to get parts. Apex is a cycle shop specializing in fixed-gear bicycles and high-quality bikes for the hip kid. They support local bike products, such as Foothold gear (which is making custom panniers for me right now!). Blissworks sticks out for location and novelty, being new and over on Pole Line. Bliss and Aaron (Apex) are both nice owners as well. All the other shops suffer a bit from their owners and their nuances.
I do a lot of shopping at B&L. I’m not a big fan of the owner; she seems to approach everyone as an annoying task to get off a list, but hey, owning a small business in a town with a Target can only be so fun. They routinely deal with the most difficult of requests, as you can imagine me making in my construction of retro-bicycles. They also send people to us (at the Bike Collective), which is cool.
Ken’s Bike and Ski is where I do the rest of my shopping. The high-performance parts I need are there (along with infinite free cardboard for mulching and composting). Some of my friends don’t shop there because its owner gave money to the Yes-on-prop-8 thing, and I feel that. I’m sure each Davis business owner supports something we are bound to disagree with. To me, big-box retail and car dealerships are much worse for the planet than a local Christian bike shop.
I haven’t touched on Davis Bike Exchange yet. I’ll leave its description to the wiki, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
I also have many mixed feelings on the Bike Barn, which is unfortunately too well positioned to not exploit new students and novice cyclists. They used to be run a lot like the Bike Collective, with a tool share and an emphasis away from profits. When they moved away from a cooperative mantra, it spurred people to form the Davis Bike Church six years ago.
Then, there’s of course our facility. We are not a bike store. The Bike Collective would give you a bicycle for free, if money were not an issue. We are into donations and volunteers. We don’t hurt local businesses, because we have our niche, which is ____________. We go out of our way to recommend a shop when it fits one of our patrons (that’s what we call them, instead of customers), and we see our shop as operating mutually with other bike stores. Honestly, someone who started out on a bike that we gave them will eventually make it into one of these bike stores if they get really into bike riding, and we like it that way. We all need each other if we want people to start using their cars less. Thanks for reading everyone, hope to see you riding around town!
CHRISTOPHER SALAM is a minister and takes out the trash at the Davis Bicycle Collective. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in DIY bicycle repair visit the DBC at its Bike Forth location, on L Street and fourth. Monday 1 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 4 to 8 p.m. & Saturday 12 to 6 p.m.