[This piece also runs in Momentum magazine.]
Great bicycle shops often feel like community centers and Uptown Bikes definitely fits that mold. It’s located in the ethnically and economically diverse Uptown neighborhood on Chicago’s north lakefront, where Charlie Chaplain once made films at Essanay Studios and Al Capone held court at the still-popular Green Mill jazz club. The store sits on a gritty stretch of Broadway under Chicago Transit Authority elevated tracks. A lit-up cruiser bike mounted on the roof greets train commuters, and an Indonesian pedicab with a volcano painted on it sits outside the front door.
Uptown Bikes focuses on affordable repairs and bikes for practical transportation to keep all community members rolling. The small, scruffy but well-organized shop sells new Raleigh, KHS and Rocky Mountain bikes, plenty of rehabbed rides, Planet Bike accessories, Detours panniers and other useful commuting gear. Collections of old cruiser saddles and rear-wheel “pie plates” line the walls. I talked with owner Maria Barnes about the store’s history and philosophy, and her perspective on the local bike scene.