Bikeshop Candids: Counterbalance Bicycles...
As bicyclists we get used, and I suppose comforted by the normal sounds of a well-running bike - hum, click, ratcheting type sounds. There are certain other ones that bring a frown to our faces, curses from our lips - hissing from tires, the clacking of a chain in need of lube, for instance. For most of us these are probably more annoying than anything else. Bang, crack, or the clatter of many little bits and pieces bouncing off the pavement are a little more serious. And when you are in an unfamiliar city, far from home ... well.
A recent ride along the Samammish and Burke-Gilman Trails in Seattle and outlying areas brought me to the University of Washington, which I rambled around taking photos of some fascinating architecture and stunning sight-lines, before realizing that the sky was going to get dark soon, and I should give some though to returning from whence I started. It wasn't long after hitting the trail home when I heard one of those awful sounds mentioned above. Ping, clatter, ding, to be exact. I go to unclip from my left pedal and realize that I already am - what the? Seems my left Speedplay decided that this was an opportune time to fall apart. I picked up all the pieces (excepting one of two bolts holding the two halves on the spindle), but without the proper size hex wrench I resigned myself to riding back on the bare spindle. Then I remembered passing a bike shop right beside the path, maybe a mile away.
Thank goodness they were open, and they quickly got me going on my way. But, not before I snapped a few shots for this post. It was the least I could do. Counterbalance Bicycles have two locations (their website seems to be undergoing maintenance right now), one in Queen Anne, and this one in University Village. The UV shop has been at its current location beside the Burke-Gilman for five years. Walk up the ramp, through the sliding doors, and into a whole other experience. Most, maybe all, bikeshops I have ever visited have clearly defined sales and service areas. Not so at this shop. Inside these cozy walls, work stations are set up in a sea of bikes for sale, shelves of product, racks of kit. Meanwhile up above your head, every foot of ceiling space is occupied by hanging two-wheelers. It is a fantastic visual experience, maybe a little like a trip to Alice's Wonderland. It is chaotic, but well organized both at the same time - any other place this would be an uncontrollable mess, and you would expect it to be so, but here, it completely works and adds to the character of the place. I was only planning to take a photo of the outside of this shop as I rode by, so that broken pedal proved a blessing in disguise, and forced me through the doors. I will let this serve as a wider lesson - never pass on an opportunity to visit a new shop, you might be surprised by what you find on the inside.
Burke-Gilman Trail-side facade