“How do I love thee, let me count the ways.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s 43rd Sonnet is easily recognizable as one of the greatest love poems of the English language. People often quote the first line not just for their beloved but for stuff and things too. Possibly even bikes. What do you mean you don’t write sonnets to your bikes?
I do love bikes. The beauty of design and geometry of each and every machine is a marvel. The ending of the poem is where she hopes God will grant her the ability to love even after she has passed. I don’t know about bikes and the afterlife, but I do know that in this life I love bikes. That means that I also love bike shops.
One of my all time favorite bike shops closed recently. All six of them closed and then morphed into Trek stores. The first 1974 iteration was owned by a local man by the name of Jay Graves. Then in 2012 the 2.0 version opened with some changes but generally the stores still felt local. But a few weeks ago the 6 stores were sold to Trek.
When I saw the official announcement on Facebook with the name change then it sunk in.
I can have all the mixed feelings I want but it happened regardless. Bless me Father, I have a confession. It has been over a year since I’ve visited either the Broadway or Downtown Portland shops. Pandemic year and then add another year where I was crowned a Specialized Ambassador and I wasn’t popping in as much because of the Specialized connection. Don’t get me wrong though. I love bikes. I do have some favorite brands, and Trek is one for sure.
The Bike Gallery was the start of something beautiful in my biking life. It wasn’t just about the bikes though. It was the people. My biking life started at the Bike Gallery. The fine people at The Bike Gallery never missed a chance to say hello or chat with me. I always felt welcome. Such a phenomenal bunch over the years. I can’t even name them all but there was an ethos, a mindset that set them apart and set the bar by which I measure every bike store. Is it customer service or it is who they are? It’s a “You can do anything” sort of attitude that filled every conversation, every purchase and every goal. Simply said, they believed in their customers. Well, that’s a broad statement. They believed in me. There wasn’t a single sales person or mechanic that every made me feel like I couldn’t win a race or ride to the ends of the earth. They looked you in the eye and said, let’s figure out what you need. The customer experience was a conversation.
When I couldn’t fall asleep the other night I stated counting Bike Gallery bikes instead of sheep. I was musing about how much I enjoyed Bike Gallery and wondering how many bikes I had bought there over time: I came up with 9.
Trek 520 touring
Trek Portland 2006
Gary Fisher Tasajara MTN
Kona roundabout 2012
Trek Lime (gift for my mom)
Electra Townie orange
Trek road bike, (For a friend who had his bike stolen)
Trek mountain bike (for husband)
Trek stache 5 (Fatty)
That doesn’t take into consideration a few friends who bought bikes from them as well. I even have a few that did a fitting with a fit expert.
Bike Gallery always had an incredible selection of bikes on display for you to admire. I always felt my eyes grow big with desire and plans. As a woman it’s always hard to find people (men) in a bike shop that take you seriously. I’ve always had this challenge. One man from another store even asked me if I was there to buy a gift for the “ol’ man” and I left. Note to bike any/all shops: never do that!
Bike Gallery always had great gear for women too. I never felt like gear for me was an afterthought like most bikes shops. “Let’s order a few bike tops for the ladies.” Of which most would be extra small. Instead I felt like buyers knew what I wanted. I was a priority. Women’s gear was not at the back of the shop or even behind the men’s gear, it was alongside and there was equal parts, right down to shoes and socks. It was impressive. They carried SheBeest, SheilaMoon and Sugoi products that no one else ever carried. Nearly every visit meant I’d buy a bike, something for a bike or gear for me. I rarely left empty handed. I have a few pieces that I are as timeless as pearls. They are key articles of clothing that continue even after years of use to perform superbly! Investment pieces. One of my favorites it a racing style sweater with Bike Gallery, Portland, OR on it. That’s the warmest layering piece I own and my go to when temps dip. I did notice a change in gear in 2012 when it was first sold. More Bontrager and less about accommodating more types of riders. I’m not a racer and bike shops need to think about the everyday rider.
I always felt comfortable and not in the least intimidated by their experience or athleticism. Just good people selling good bikes and excited to share their passion of the ride and commitment to the community.
Their $180 winter overhauls was the best deal in town and so thorough you’d think you were getting a brand new bike. My bikes always came back feeling like they’d spent a week in a spa. Perfectly lubed and cleaned and ready for the next adventure.
I wish I’d said thank you more.
I wish I’d bowed down and kissed their cleated shoes.
I wish bought them a round of beers.
I wish I’d bought 9 more bikes.
I wish I hadn’t taken them for granted.
I never ever thought they’d be gone one day.
Nostalgia is like an upset stomach. Take an antacid, go to bed an hour earlier and it will pass. This has lingered. I feel sad that a Trek superstore bought them up, or they got sold or whatever the circumstances. Here are the details of the change.
Every bike event I ever attended always had a Bike Gallery tent and the mechanics helping people get back on the road. In the Seattle-to-Portland ride when some jerk put a mess of tacks in the road causing a massive pile up of flats, they were fixing tires like something out of Nascar, and getting people back on the road. Every Reach the Beach, Bridge Pedal, every event you knew to pop over and say hi and ask for some air or you could count on them to tighten, loosen or just be there.
As the saying goes, don’t be sad it’s over; be glad it happened. I am glad I have such fond memories and while I am not a poet gifted with the skills to write a sonnet, ode or even a haiku, I can take a moment to thank the good people of Bike Gallery for a great ride.
Thanks for reading.
Thank you for visiting me on WordPress. I appreciate it. Feel free to add your Likes and Comments. If you really want to make my day, you could Follow the blog through WordPress. Re-blog and Share as long as you give credit. All photos are mine. Please contact me if you wish to use them.
Have a great day!
Trek bought the five Bicycle Sport Shops here recently, as I’m sure, ahem, you read in my blog. Kidding. I didn’t have the same relationship with you and the BGs (ha!), and like 95% of the staff stayed. I had a short conversation with Half Fast Cycling Club, a nice writer from Madison, WI, which is nearby Trek HQ. Basically he felt like they weren’t the evil empire. And my feeling is that if they keep bike shops open during a pandemic and after, even if limited in brands, it’s better than Walmart or someone else. Anyway, my condolences. RIP Bike Gallery. Maybe they were welcoming to women, and you especially, because the word “gal” is right there in the name!? Anyway, thanks for this good if sad piece, BG. Hmm…. same initials as you, too. [Insert Twilight Zone theme here.]
The word “gal”… you crack me up! Yes, I did read that and it is good and sometimes a bigger company provides a work ethic and ethos not present, buuuuut, I still miss what was. Probably just the familiarity. I do need to check ‘me out. Research, y’know. Wink, wink.
I remember Robin Williams once saying, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry, and you’re all alone.” Not sure he made it ut but so true. So I’m glad I gave you a little laugh.