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Uptown Bikes: building relationships with bike commuters

Updated: May 24

Located under the red line, near the intersection of Wilson and Leland in Uptown sits a bike shop that caters to bike commuters. Appropriately named, Uptown Bikes, I recently interviewed Store Manager, Nora Gallagher. As the sound of the "L" trains rumbled in the background we talked about the shop and its customers.

Part of the team at Uptown Bikes.

Tell us about the shop.

​We focus on bike commuters - all types of riders and bikes, trying to treat them all equally. We like to work with customers to understand what best suits them. All of us here are bike commuters and many of us have over 10 years experience working with our customers.

What can you do for me as a bike commuters?

I would ask you what type of stuff you need to carry, what kind of weather you commute in; what type of roads do you ride - city streets or the bike path? And then use that information to direct you to what might be most useful.

What kinds of bikes do you sell?

We generally stock three models of bike from each brand that we carry. that are appropriate for city commuting. It will vary depending upon the individual's needs: A road bike may be most appropriate for some people, or a hybrid, or a dual-sport bike. We'll have specifications to support the rider's needs. For instance, is the bike adaptable for racks, for baskets, and other equipment. We carry KHS, Torquer, Marin and Surly.

"What makes Uptown Bikes so special are the people that walk in the door and the interactions we have with them."

What makes Uptown Bikes special?

I think what makes Uptown Bikes so special are the people that work in the door and the interactions we have with them. Being in Uptown, we see a wide range of individuals, who walk in the door, all of who ride the heck out of their bikes. The relationships are important and we love starting with people who are just getting into riding and helping them progress.

Personal note: The team at Uptown helped me to build-out my current commuting bike which uses the Surly Long-haul Trucker frame. It was a terrific learning experience and they supported me at every step in the process..

How did you personally get involved?

I was going to school and being a messenger part-time. A friend asked me to check out what was then Urban Bikes. I ending up putting in hours to learn about bikes and it became an apprenticeship of sorts. As I came back each season, it eventually turned into a job. And, as the shop evolved, I was able to develop my skills and grow with the business.

Do you have a favorite bike?

My favorite bike is a '84 Schwinn Cimmaron which was an early mountain bike. Let's say it is my favorite frame and its changed many times. Right now I'm in the process of putting drop bars on it.

How have you seen bike commuting change in Chicago?

A lot more riders. There are so many more bikers!

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