Building a Pretty Nice Bicycle
September 4, 2014 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Now that I live in Chicago and have more disposable income, I want to get a nicer (and nicer-looking) bike. I actually have a Craigslist find that I want to work on, but I'm not sure what the most economical options are for parts and labor.

Specifically, the things I'm looking for are
1) A good shop for labor (giving the bike a once-over to assess the damage, installing the more complicated things)
2) A good source for parts (could be online)
3) A good resource to learn about various parts

I'm currently living in Logan Square, soon to relocate to Irving Park. The closer the better!
Thanks so much!
posted by zscore to Shopping (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1) A good shop for labor (giving the bike a once-over to assess the damage, installing the more complicated things)
2) A good source for parts (could be online)

SMART BIKE PARTS!!!! They're very kind, not condescending at all (where did this stereotype of bike mechanics come from, anyway?), and their prices are incredible. They do a lot of international business online and can therefore afford to cut deals in person, especially if you buy a lot of things at once and talk to the owner, Erik; he'll just kind of look at the pile of stuff you need and say "tell you what, how about we [quotes fantastic price]."

The other Logan Square bike shop I'd recommend is Bike Lane; they're just as fantastic as Smart Bike, but they're more BMX-focused, so they won't quite have the selection of parts. They're good for accessories, and they've never been anything but sweet and helpful with my dumb questions.

I don't like Boulevard Bikes on the square and Oscar Wastyn is whatever.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:54 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Smart Bike Parts on Armitage/Whipple is my local shop. Very knowledgeable, friendly, and honest staff and low prices. The kind of place that will successfully boot a tire with a folded up dollar, show you how, and charge you nothing, or sell you a perfectly good broken-in saddle for peanuts. Their stock is fixie-oriented but not exclusively so.
posted by theodolite at 9:57 AM on September 4, 2014

Oh and the owner, Eric, is literally Bike Batman
posted by theodolite at 9:58 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've also had good luck with Smart Bike Parts, and because they do so much online business, (a) they actually have a decent inventory, unlike basically every other shop in town, and (b) you can usually figure out from their website whether something is in stock. You can even text them your questions. I bought a freewheel there—their price was cheaper than Amazon's and they installed it for free. He also quoted me a really impressive price on a single-speed Surly Cross-Check, though I ended up getting something used instead.

I also like Comrade Cycles—not a huge inventory, but they stock a lot of stuff that nobody else has locally, like Ostrich bags and Berthoud saddles.

I have more faith in the mechanics at Uptown Bikes than any other shop for weird hard-to-figure-out problems, but that might be a little far for you, and they tend to have very long turnaround times in the summer.
posted by enn at 10:10 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

nthing Smart Bike Parts 'cause Eric is the best and nicest. I've also had really good experiences at BFF Bikes; they're a little pricier but their mechanics are incredibly helpful and willing to talk you through fixing things yourself. Also I like supporting a place with a specifically women-friendly focus.

Your best local resource for learning about parts and leveling up into repair self-sufficiency (should you so desire) is West Town Bikes. They have regular classes and open shop days. My partner built his entire dang bike there 5 years ago and he's been riding it ever since.
posted by torridly at 10:15 AM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

After asking this question, I bought my bike at Comrade Cycles, and really enjoyed working with them. Bike stores are scary for me, and I thought the guys at Comrade were helpful, kind, and knew what they were talking about. And they never tried to upsell me, which is very nice. Plus I think the business model is very cool.
posted by papayaninja at 10:20 AM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

For #3: The late Sheldon Brown's bike pages are still online, and still being updated from time to time. They are a great resource. His bicycle glossary is a good place to start.
posted by brianogilvie at 11:43 AM on September 4, 2014

I've heard great things about Smart, but came in to recommend Comrade because I was sad when they were no longer my LBS.
posted by a halcyon day at 5:05 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've used Boulevard, Bike Lane, Oscar Wastyn, Smart, Village Cycle, REI, and Rapid Transit. My favorite is Comrade, and I bike all the way down from Logan Square to go there now. Great service, know their stuff, and don't make me feel like I'm not worth their attention since I'm a lady.
posted by Bunglegirl at 5:45 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay thanks everyone! When I get my bike in gear, I'll try to post a pic of it here.
posted by zscore at 9:21 AM on September 5, 2014

Babs got all gigged up on some new tires at Comrade Cycles (was not that expensive). Thanks for the recommendation on the bike shop, and you can see her mis-matched handlebars bout here
posted by zscore at 3:53 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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