Retail Therapy - Cycle Central
Get on Your Bike and Ride
By Elise Proulx
All you need to get from the lake to the hills is a good bike. And with one, you can get fit, take a scenic tour and spare the air--all at the same time. For those looking for pedal pals, a good place to find them and others active in the Oakland bicycle community is the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (www.ebbc. org). For riders seeking trails, bike lanes or bike routes for winding their way through the city, the Walk Oakland! Map & Guide is a good source and retails from the stores listed here (though do call first to check availability).
Located a few blocks from the Grand Lake Theater, Cycle Sports is a big, professional bike shop, boasting employees who specialize in pairing customers with the right bike. Expect to plunk down $125 for a full custom fitting to determine the right bike for you or a size evaluation to determine proper adjustments on your existing bike, but buy a bike from Cycle Sports, and the store generally waives the fee. Cycle Sports backs up its recommendations, exchanging handlebars, saddles and stems of any of its bikes for up to 90 days after purchase if the customer's not satisfied. Spend more than $1,500 on your bike, and Cycle Sports adds free tune-ups for the life of the bike for the original owner. Cycle Sports sells many brands, including Trek, Scott, Cannondale, Serotta, Parlee, LeMond, Felt, Santa Cruz, Ritchey and Surly. Cyclists will also find a huge number of accessories, apparel and bike components. If you're interested in getting into racing, check out the store club, Cycle Sports-Trumer Pils, which is open to riders of all ability levels and races throughout the region. 3530 Grand Ave., (510) 444-7900, www.cyclesportsonline.com, open every day.
The Bent Spoke
The Bent Spoke is a scrappy "lower" Rockridge bike shop that beckons to two-wheeled commuters with its signature graffiti-style sign. The shop's vibe is punk-rock; a wall sports a drawing of multi-chained Mr. T urging bicyclists to use proper hand signals when riding in traffic. The Bent Spoke, which specializes in commuter bicycles (especially hybrids, which meld road bikes with mountain bikes) and wheels for kids, is stocked with an equal mix of new and used bikes and offers a good selection of used cycles. Don't head here for the latest accessories, gadgets or flashy racing duds--the Bent Spoke sticks to the basics--but make sure to swing by for repairs and advice. 6124 Telegraph Ave., (510) 652-3089, closed Mondays.
Hank and Frank Bicycles
Hank and Frank Bicycles can fulfill the most fantastic bike-gear fantasies. From tools to clothes and fenders to safety gear, this spacious Rockridge bike shop is stocked to the brim with superorganized cyclist fashion and accessories. The shop was founded by the eponymous Hank Stahl and Frank Drury in 1925 and sponsored BMX races in the 1970s and '80s. The shop still caters to the BMX crowd but also carries a wide variety of mountain, road and hybrid bikes ranging from $200 to upwards of $3,000. "We try to be as full service as we can," says Mark Varian, the service manager. Hank and Frank also runs a bustling repair business, serving everyone from commuters to students cruising down College Avenue to University of California, Berkeley. 6030 College Ave., (510) 654-2453, 3377 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925)283-2453, open every day.
Wheels of Justice Cyclery
No, this isn't a center for political action; it's Justice Baxter's 4-year-old Montclair bike shop. Baxter practices missionary zeal for the sport of cycling, priding himself on customer service and striving to make sure every type of customer--pros, racers, enthusiasts, commuters, kids and parents-- gets the right bike. Ninety percent of the bikes here are made by Specialized, so employees are whizzes on the brand. Also available are innovative and funky-looking Softride bikes. WOJ bikes go from $350 to $8,000. Baxter accepts trade-ins on kid's bikes, so when your child outgrows a bike from WOJ, trade up and get what you paid for that one off the price of a new one, while your trade-in goes to charity. WOJ also offers customers free tune-ups for life on the bikes they buy. 2024 Mountain Blvd., (510) 339-6091, www.wojcyclery.com, open every day.
This newish Piedmont Avenue shop is molto elegante (very stylish)--decorated with vintage European bike team jerseys on clotheslines with a vintage Django Reinhardt soundtrack in the background. When it comes to bikes, the store is all business, stocking European racing bikes, including Cervelo and Pegoretti, as well as Giant and Burley cycles. Montano Velo also has all varieties of twowheelers: from fixies to kids' bikes and road bikes to mountain bikes and is extremely well-stocked with tools, clothing, bags, accessories, safety gear and more. Montano specializes in expert repair, hand-built wheels and custom fittings. Owner Jason Montano takes customer service very seriously, and was busily giving fittings or making repairs every time I called or stopped by. 4266 Piedmont Ave., (510) 654-8356, www.montanovelo.com, open every day.