Thursday, December 2, 2010

Project 510: Oakland Bike Shops

Your investigative reporter in action uncovering the secrets of "Oaktown"
(click on images for Flashemehscopic large views)

Welcome. I've been riding around Oakland quite a bit this summer. I have a weekly meeting in the northerly, upscale Rockridge part of town which is perfect motivation to get on my bike and explore to and from said district, and I've found many interesting things and enjoyed many a pleasant ride through this media-maligned urban fur ball of a town. Its a nice place to visit during daylight hours, and really, the worst parts have nothing in them to attract me anyway so I won't be going there.

My last post started a self-motivated inquiry into bike shops of Oakland, my goal being to visit each shop personally until all the shops are known to, well, myself, and now to you, the Flashblog reader. It goes without saying that each shop has its own personality. That personality starts at the curb....curb appeal, as it were, and then the interior ambiance, and not least, the friendliness of the staff. A defining tenet of my project is, of course, to visit each shop via bicycle and act as an Ambassador of Alameda, our moated, bridged island of right thinking Americana, which, without the moat and bridges, might have been just another piece of Oakland. I am not saying which shop I think is "best", for that is subjective, and besides, I'm not qualified to say who is best because I don't even use shops all that much as I do most of my own wrenching and use a lot of recycled parts. So consider this a guide, and I encourage you to visit these places and make up your own mind. So without further adieu, here are six shops for your edification.

Manifesto on 40th Ave.
Minimalist storefront dresses a minimalist sized shop, it's small and narrow. Relatively less bikes but of high quality. Emphasis on fixed gears. Highest award for themed store window displays, the Halloween display was, ahem, killer. I need to go back here to meet the staff which seemed helpful to the other patrons, as I was just "looking around" that day.
Marty from TeamAlameda, after reading the blog, had this to say about Manifesto's owners:
"Great blog post, as usual, Flash.
The Manifesto shop is owned by a couple we know - Pamela used to work with the wife, and we attended their wedding. The wedding was a great bicycling oriented affair, with guests asked to arrive by bike at the site, the Camron-Stanford House at Lake Merritt. After the ceremony, the bride, groom, and guests all paraded (on bikes, of course) over to Jack London Square for drinks. After drinks, we all rode to the Children's Art Museum across from Cost Plus, where the reception was held - food was catered by a taco truck. It was an AWESOME wedding.")
The Manifesto web site is

Tip Top, 48th and Telegraph.
Larger than Manifesto, but shares the same minimalist storefront thinking, I missed this shop on the first pass, only the bikes out front gave it away on the second pass. Inside is a different story, more bikes, and most interesting is the out in the open mechanic's work area adjoining the display room. Usually the tool jockeys are sequestered in the rear, out of sight, but not here, I went right up to them and started a conversation. Tip Top is the only shop I know of that takes old tubes and tires for recycling. YES! Pleasant staff, if I lived around here I would definitely use this shop. Did I mention they be HELLA OAKLAND?

Pioneer Bicycles, Rio Vista off of Piedmont Ave.
From the outside, this shop has an ancient hardware store vibe to it. The extensive jail bars window treatment speaks volumes, and this is a nice part of town. Inside, there exists an array of new and old bikes and a sense that time has stood still here, or at least time exists at a different speed. This is my kind of shop, with loads of stuff everywhere, bikes all over the place, and Creedence playing on the radio. The shop owner and sole employee is Edmond, a nice guy who has run the shop for around 15 years if I recall correctly. This place is definitely a find and I will return here for sure to dig up more stories in the near future.

Edmund, the boss of Pioneer Bikes, in his element.

Montano Velo, Piedmont Ave.
This is the shop to go to for eye candy, yes sir. My favorites are the Pegorettis, then the Pinarellos, then the old 50's antique road bike hanging in the middle of the store. This shop appears to have all the palmares for high end road bike geeks and track guys, but they also sell low end Bianchis and work on ordinary bikes. I've purchased a bottom bracket and tasteful Arundel stainless bottle holders for my Lemond here. The feng shui here is unsurpassed---it is a bit like Tip Top in that the mechanics are out in the open and accessible, and there is even a sidewalk couch to sit on. Note the vending machine for power foods out front. Flash's highest rating for ambiance.

CycloSports, Grand Ave.
The most visually under-the-radar shop of the legit shops, this place is almost subterannean. Note it is below street level in a non-descript building, and the tree out front hides the name of the place. Lots of quality bikes, I've stopped here for small purchases, notably tire patches which they sell by the piece. Nice vibe here and if I recall, some "open air" wrenching going on the floor as well. Another shop that I need to stop in for an extended chat with the staff.

Wheels Of Justice, Montclair
WOJ easily takes the Best Name for local bike shops as the literal meaning is cool enough, but the double meaning is that the owner is named...Justice. And a really nice guy he is too. This shop recently moved south a few doors down to the corner where the feng shui is improved.
WOJ is the only shop half way into the hills, so for many mechanical issues that arise while cycling the hills, this shop is the go to place for repairs or parts.

Bay Area Bikes, rental store Jack London Square

On the advice of my French Canadian amigo Jean-Francois, I stopped by Bay Area Bikes today in Jack London Square. This shop takes the prize for closest to the water, as it is on the edge of the estuary. I had passed by here before but always found the shop closed, as it is mostly a weekend operation this time of year. But today it was open for business, so I wheeled on in an met the helpful and friendly Savanna working the rental desk, for BABs at this location is primarily a bike rental outlet. I came in at a quiet time so I was able to talk with her at length about the shop, blogging, and other bike shops/ events in Oaktown.

Savanna at Bay Area Bikes

Turns out she is a fountain of information, and I was scribbling down all the info she was throwing out. The bikes here are all rentals---by the hour, day, or longer. There are some lubes, tools, and other things available here, along with seasonal Xmas tree decorations---bike cogs on clips. Nice. Savanna enlightened me to the second Bay Area Bikes location on Webster st. at Broadway in Oakland, a mysteriously rumored new shop by the lake, and even more places to Flash over to. More on these soon.

Hank and Frank, Rockridge near Berkeley, through a moist camera lens

From their website: Hank & Frank Bicycles was established over 80 years ago! We have held onto some of the best mechanics in the bay area. Our mechanics represent over 70 years of combined experience with the ability to repair all brands and styles of bikes.

Hey, thanks for reading, and check back here as I update the page with even more Oaktown shops. As always,
Ride On, my friends.


  1. Nice one Flash! You depict well the atmosphere of all these bike stores. Cycle Sports often give the impression of being a high end store with its Serrotas and Parlee bikes. I would suggest a detour some day at Bay Area Bikes on Webster behind the YMCA: It is a commuter oriented bike shop open until 7:00. They save my life every other year for instance when a derailer cable breaks or loosens up on my commuter. JFR aka Cookie Monster.

  2. Bay Area Bikes is on my to be continued list, thanks for the reminder. Check back to this post as I will update it after I get to the remaining shops on the list. JFR, nice to see you at Sibley the other day!

  3. I finally finished reading this. You have a nice conversational style. You make interesting comments that are off-beat that avoid sounding glib. Kodos for you.

  4. I like your description of Pioneer Bikes. It and Edmund are just so original!

  5. hey Jim, I just wanted to say that I enjoy your writing and that after trying to write a movie review which was harder than I thought it'd be I can appreciate the effort you obviously put into your post.

  6. @Rondoro I think the goal is to have the piece appear effortless... as opposed to the appearance of less effort.