The Capitol Hill biking community is a little flat following the exit of the neighborhood’s most significant cycling retailer. CHS introduces you to two nearby spokes-focused retailers ready to help you keep a tight chain — including the last bike shop on Capitol Hill.
When you walk into Capitol Hill’s Branford Bike, you enter a space that’s about the size of a large bedroom. The walls are plain beige, the merchandise racks modest. It’s not exactly a luxury showroom. But don’t let the looks fool you.
The average road bike here – made of titanium or carbon fiber – will set you back about $5,000 and the more expensive models go for more than $12,000. Consider it the Ferrari of bikes.
“Our customers are willing to pay that. They seek us out because they’re looking for a certain quality,” said owner Rodd Wagner.
CHS visited Branford Bike on 10th Ave E, just south of 520, to learn more about what is now the only bike shop on Capitol Hill. As we reported last week, Velo vacated its shop at 11th and Pine and rode down the Hill to a new location in Belltown.
Chatting with Wagner and Doug Steers, the main salesman and bike mechanic, you instantly feel their love for two-wheeled transportation. Wagner owns 12 bikes, Doug has 8. (Jerry, the weekend shop manager, owns about 40.)
“I still remember when I was a kid and my sister steadied my bike from behind and then let go,” Steers recalled, his eyes lighting up. “I think the bike is the coolest thing ever invented. When you’re ripping down the hill at 40 mph, it feels like you’re flying. It’s awesome.”
It’s that same kind of love for cycling that steered Wagner into the bike business. For years, he had been a customer of BranfordBike.com, an online seller of high end bikes and accessories. In 2006, he decided to buy the company from a man in Montana.
Two years later, the storefront on North Capitol Hill opened up and Wagner just happened to know the owner. “Yeah, my business partner and I own this building,” said Wagner, whose main business is commercial real estate in Seattle.
Wagner said the brick and mortar business has been good, even outgrowing online sales. Bike enthusiasts travel from around the city to place orders for specially-customized bikes. They pick the wheels, the drive train, the brakes and other components. Wagner and Steers then build the road bikes according to the customers’ specifications.
Cyclists from as far away as Australia, France and Japan continue to place orders via branfordbike.com.
Ferrari-free in the CD
Alex Kostennik’s 20/20 Cycle on E Union is a welcoming, laid back shop, and the people who work there are mostly just interested in getting your ride rolling again. The store seems fully interested in keeping costs down and cycling, affordable.
20/20 — named such because its address is 2020 E Union — might be the most likely to patch the hole left behind by Velo’s exit.
“We cater to moms with duct-taped Burley trailers with their kids inside on their way to Montessori school,” Kostennik told an interviewer recently. “People who ride in the rain, in the snow, it’s those people. Then it radiates out from there. If you were going to make a tree, the trunk of the tree is them. We’re super practical commuter people, me included.”
20/20 cycle, originally uploaded by pablotrdinc/SCOOP 169/P.pistachio B.bicycle S.syst.
Back on 10th Ave, while the business is successful, Wagner said he doesn’t see Branford Bike expanding any time soon and it definitely will not replace Velo as the community bike store. It wasn’t designed to serve the mass market. “We’re not trying to be elitist. We’re just trying to do one or two things really well.”
Wagner and Steers say they don’t turn business away and have often fixed a flat tire or adjusted the gear for the many bike commuters who pedal down 10th Ave on the way to and from the University District.
“We want to carry really nice stuff but we don’t want to have an attitude,” said Wagner.
Information from our sister site Central District News was used in this report.