Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Shop Review: My Local-Broadway Bicycle School--Everyone Should Love This Place

Broadway Bicycle School is located on Broadway near the intersection with Inman St. They sell both new and used commuter bicycles and operate a full service repair shop. They also offer repair stands, tools and expertise that you can rent in quarter hour increments. They have parts bins that you can rummage through to find that one of a kind, reverse threaded locknut. When you rent space from them, they will leave you alone, unless you are stumped and then they are happy to help. Also, you get to hang out with the bike shop people, but with a task to do, it makes you feel included and purposeful.

BBS is a community bicycle shop, they offer classes in bicycle repair, help break down gender based barriers to women engaging in mechanics (more women fixing bike=yay!) and facilitate bicycle commuting. While a bicycle racer can find items to fill certain needs, the shop is not geared towards racers. There was no carbon fiber in evidence on my visit last week.

I bought my first bicycle with character from BBS back in the dark ages, the 1900's. It was the brown Team Fuji that I still ride around town. When I bought it, I knew nothing about bikes and Broadway got me on a great bike for $450, including pocket sized Kryptonite lock and cable. I have upgraded some of the parts and replaced items that have worn out or broken, but it is essentially the same bike. The build and frame has stood up to all-weather riding for almost ten years without flinching. Only last month the bottom bracket finally succumbed to the salty abuse. When Tom at CB pulled the BB out of its rotting shell, it was still covered in the grease the some conscientious mechanic slathered on there ten years ago. The frame is showing some rust structural rust. I now have many bikes, many of them exotic and flashy, but this is still me favorite, as it was my introduction to real cycling; this bike was the gateway drug.

I have stopped into the small shop periodically ever since my first fruitful visit. Despite the lack of floor space, they always have what I am looking for. Be it 10 speed chain or Bondhus Ball end Allen wrenches, it is in stock. Currently I am sweating a handlebar mounted brass ding ding bell for my commuter, such a rich ring.

Recently, I had to change a Campagnolo Record 10 Speed Chain. Campy recommends that you use only their proprietary chain tool to do the job. I have never had $100 to burn on a single tool that I'd only use a few times a year. I walked over to BBS in my pajama's to see if they had the tool, expecting to be turned away. I was shocked to find out they had it.

I went home, got dressed and brought my bike and new chain over. The ever personable David Wilcox helped me to learn that, while the Campagnolo Chain Tool is a great tool, it is not vital to properly changing a Campy chain. Basically, every time that you do mechanical work at BBS, you are learning skills that make it so that you won't need them in the future and they are happy to do it!

Last spring, I was looking for a condo to buy. My Realtor showed me one that was 4 doors down from BBS. In between BBS and the condo is the building that currently houses the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library. I am not going to gush and tell you that I bought the condo because of its proximity to this great bike shop, but it certainly was a consideration.

Broadway is a great community asset and I strongly encourage you to drop in if you are in the neighborhood, you'll be glad you did. Perhaps you will get a bike that remains your favorite ten years and 20 bikes later!

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