There comes a time in every ex-jock’s life when he finds a low-impact, non-physical-well-being-threatening sport that will represent the athletic career of his twilight years. Trail running. Kayaking. Triathlons.
And when he does, big-box retailers like REI represent a great jumping-off point for outfitting his new hobby. But eventually, they’ll leave him wanting more.
The same, of course, goes for cycling.
This is where your LBS (Local Bike Shop) comes in. Not only is your LBS a place to leave your bike with seasoned mechanics for a tuneup, it’s also a center of cycling culture and higher learning.
Below are a few shops from around the country that hit the spot: from high-end cycling boutiques and cyclo-cafés to no-nonsense LBSes and treasure troves of vintage gear.
For Artisinal Types: Above Category
Above Category is, truly, in a category of their own. As premium purveyors and importers of some of the absolute best equipment money can buy, not many other shops can compare (witness their Instagram account). Above Category offers more than just flashy cycling tech, though: they take an active role in introducing their customers to frame builders and constructing a bike tailor-made to any demand from the ground up. They also organize group rides in Marin County on some of the country's most stunning roadways.
For Collectors: King Kog
Brooklyn, NY and Oakland, CA
Both KK locations contain what can only be called a collector's wet dream, loaded with more vintage gear — wool jerseys, lugged steel, technological rarities and minty componentry — than you can handle. Besides curating this collection of artifacts from the glory days of cycling (you can finally track down that beautiful, lugged steel Italian steed you lusted after as a kid), they also stock their own line of retro-inspired branded gear (kits from the shop team are also available) as well as a selection of affordable, modern bikes from the likes of All-City, Fairdale and Leader.
For Trendsetters: Fairwheel Bicycles
The tech wizards over at Fairwheel have been behind the world's lightest bike (6.16 lbs), the ultracommuter and a panoply of other one-off builds, working with such custom masters as Cherubim, Parlee, Crumpton, Rob English and others to make their customers’ wildest bike dreams a reality. Their website is also an essential resource for the "weight weenies" among us, running an expansive Internet-based business alongside their dedicated brick-and-mortar shop. From beach cruisers to this kind of loins-stirring thing, they've got you covered.
For Group-Riders: Velo Cult
The "cult" in Velo Cult is no mere signifier of their monkish dedication to all things vélo — it also stands for culture. Relocated from San Diego in 2012, their cavernous two-level location not only houses a huge shop, but a bar with a damn good brew list (both alcoholic and caffeinated), as well as a theater and a stage where the store frequently hosts a lively assortment of events, from concerts to reading series to live screenings. Moreover, the shop is internationally renowned for the versatility of their offerings, from vintage restorations to Space Age high-end builds (they have their own line of custom frames).
For Globetrotters: Rapha USA
New York, NY and San Francisco, CA
No list would be complete without the UK's premier cycling clothier, Rapha, which has fast become the ultimate purveyor in global cycling couture. From organizing rides all over the world, partnering with the world's best frame builders for one-off custom builds, sponsoring Team Sky and operating boutiques in New York and San Francisco, Rapha has truly been a driving force behind the bespoke cycling boom, connecting with racers and connoisseurs alike while spreading the velocipedal gospel. Beyond outfitting you with the best gear money can buy, expect your average Rapha location to house a café that will satisfy even the most discerning of gourmands — not to mention a year-round calender of events.
For Everymen: Comrade Cycles
Comrade Cycles is the epitome of the LBS — a shop that is integrated into its community, providing cyclists of all stripes with quality service and, most importantly, a lack of pretense. Their dedicated work ethos won them recognition as Best of Chicago 2015's top bike shop; customers gush that their experiences in the shop have no parallel. They strive, as they say, to create a defraying environment where there's "no need to put on your bike shop face" — something even the most seasoned cyclists among us can appreciate.
—Michael C. Brown