Our Picks For The 15 Best Bike Shops In Chicago
By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 26, 2017 5:37PM
It wasn't all that long ago that our friends at Bicycling magazine declared Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the country. Part of what makes our town such a great cycling spot is the plethora of shops around town that can get you rolling, and keep you rolling. Whether you're an urban-cycling novice looking for his or her first refurbished roadster—and a place to learn some basic-upkeep skills—or an intimidatingly diehard triathlete type who's after a pinpoint-precise fitting, the list below should offer a helpful cross section of Chicago's best destinations to help. From progressive, youth-outreach co-ops to cargo specialty shops to BMX trailblazers, they'll get you tuned and moving.
For nearly two decades, this beloved not-for-profit has been salvaging bikes that were scrapped and neglected. Every year, the volunteer-run organization donates thousands of repaired bikes to people in need of reliable transportation around the globe. That mission includes Chicago, too, of course: Working Bikes helps connect transitioning homeless and refugees with a ride. So, needless to say, if you buy a bike from their loaded storefront, you’ll be helping out more than just yourself.
Located at 2434 S Western Ave.
Ciclo Urbano & West Town Bikes
The recently (slightly) expanded Humboldt Park favorite is an exemplar of community outreach, offering after-school repair shops for kids and apprenticeship opportunities for young adults, and working with projects like Tour de Fat long before it was a household-name ride. They clearly tutor the kids well, too. Newcomers won’t get dirty looks for not knowing, say, the difference between a Presta or a Schrader; and it’s a good place to dive in deeper from there.
Located at 2459 W Division St.
Chicago boasts several woman-owned or -co-owned bike shops—not to mention female-focused cycling resources (Women Bike Chicago, CWEC)—but BFF Bikes is unique as Chicago’s only specifically woman-focused bike shops. The Logan Square outpost sells new rides—including the women-dedicated make Liv—and stands apart with a variety of women’s bags, saddles, outerwear and apparel that many shops either under-stock or pass over altogether. And the “BFF”-ness extends beyond the co-owners’ own racing-scene-forged bond: there’s a genuine pleasantness that you certainly don’t always find at surlier spots. Go for the gear and approachability, stay for the rides.
Located at 2113 W Armitage Ave.
Green Machine Cycles
So the ol’ Burley trailer has served you well, but now you’re ready to graduate to the large-load-workhorse world of cargo bikes. This Ravenswood store specializes in the increasingly popular Dutch-style cargo and utility option—which is elongated, reinforced and/or outfitted with racks, platforms or boxes to allow for maximum kid-hauling and grocery-getting. Green Machine options run the gamut from heavy-duty “Long Johns” to relatively streamlined, adjustable “longtails.” Also check out the highly respected, similarly focused J.C. Lind Bike Co., where Green owner Ezra Hozinsky cut his teeth.
Located at 1634 W Montrose Ave.
Green Machine Cycles
From welcoming web forums to employee-stakeholder courier outfits, the Chicago bike scene pedals a laudably egalitarian streak. So too with this small-but-stout West Town focal point. You’ll find the owners working there at the shop; and Comrade provides a path for employees to buy into the company. From simple flat fixes to full tune-ups, we’ve always had prompt, friendly, affordable experiences there. They even once talked me out of buying a tool I probably didn’t need. You know you’re not getting bilked when the counter tries to down-sell you.
Located at 1908 W Chicago Ave.
Blackstone Bicycle Works
Honestly, the existence of Blackstone’s awesome bike-safety anthem (not an oxymoronic phrase) “Stay in Your Lane”—courtesy of Rhymefest and Donda’s House—alone would merit inclusion. This community bike shop at Hyde Park’s Experimental Station hub does fantastic work by training more than 150 kids from underserved neighborhoods each year in its free bike-repair/job-training program. You won’t drop much green for either repairs (a full tune-up runs $65) or one of the rescued-and-restored bikes (starting at $90), but what you do spend will go to some great outreach.
Located at 6100 S Blackstone Ave.
Blackstone Bicycle Works
Let's Roast Cycles
The opening of the bike-park playground that is Big Marsh finally convinced us to, um, make the jump into the shreddable world of BMX—derision from road-bike-or-bust intransigents be damned. If and when you follow suit, Chicago’s first and only BMX-focused shop is a good way to go. (They also sell and service other types of rides, too.) Be nice and they may even show you their amazing ramp.
Located at 1116 N Milwaukee Ave.
The Recyclery Collective
Another non-profit community bike shop that cranks progressive values, this member-run Rogers Park co-op connects needy residents with bikes through its Freecyclery program and tutors kids on repairs and safety with a range of outreach. So if you pick up a restored used ride, sign up for advanced classes or hit up one of their thrice-a-week open shops (plus monthly options that cater specifically to Spanish speaekrs and female-identified riders), you know you’re running out a good cause.
Located at 7628 N Paulina St.
Get a Grip Cycles
Get a Grip Cycles
Overseen by technical guru Adam Kaplan, Get a Grip has one of the best reputations in Chicago—and the broader region, really—for bike fitting. They utilize video motion capturing at their Fulton studio, conduct a physical evaluation and interview riders about how they bike and how they want to bike—a hyper-thorough $325 process known to last hours. Like the ultra-high-end, made-to-order rides that the shop—a favorite of triathletes and the gizmo-y SRAM set—also deals in, it ain’t at all cheap. (A video-capture fitting at Kozy’s, for example, runs $200.) Though if you give a budget, they’ll work with you. Turin Bicycle, in Ravenswood, and the fancy Retul system at Element Multisport, in Lincoln Park, offer other sworn-by options.
The Studio is located at 621 W Fulton St.; the shop is located at 4359 W Irving Park Rd.
Pedal to the People
As the name might tip off, this bike repair service inverts the script, taking the shop to the cyclist rather than the other way around. They’ll send out a mechanic to provide roadside assistance (great if you blow a tube and are nowhere near help); or do house calls, where techs will walk you through on-site fixes rendered. If you’re feeling old-fashioned and not into the whole TaskRabbit-for-bike-repair thing, you can also take your bike to them, at their West Town garage, for a mend.
Village Cycle Center
Best known for its huge selection of Trek bikes (check their annual summer sale), this spacious, National Bicycle Deal Association-nodded room in Old Town also has an extensive range of accessories, all-weather clothing, travel racks and other accessories. It’s also a good spot to jump into that e-bike craze our West Coast friends won’t shut up about; boasts one of the more reasonably priced bike-fit studios in the city; and is well situated for any North-Side-to-downtown commuters in need of a quick fix.
Located at 1337 N Wells St.
Blue City Cycles
Bridgeport was home to the very first Kozy’s Cyclery location back in the day, at 35th and Ashland, but they left a void after a move up north, in the 1980’s. This unassuming gem stepped in to fill it in 2009 and has since grown into one of our favorite South Side spots. The staff is reliable and good-natured, selling a wide range of mostly new known-brand road bikes and providing services that run from basic upkeep to more advanced (custom frame-building/repair, painting, powder-coating). Bonus points: they have a shop cat named Vanya VonTickles.
Located at 3201 S Halsted St.
Blue City Cycles
Back before the mezcal lounges and when Johnny’s Grill was still a genuine greasy spoon, Boulevard Bikes was there at the Centennial Monument square. Owner Kevin Womac manned the modest corner shop into an institution, hooking up many a Logan Square cyclist with his or her first fixie, touring bike, single speed, or vintage throwback. After 14 years, they’ll relocate in the fall to make way for an elevator to service the Logan Square Auditorium above. But they’re not going far: just a half mile northwest, to 2769 N Milwaukee, near the Diversey/Kimball intersection, to remain a neighborhood fixture.
Located 2535 N Kedzie Blvd.; relocating to 2769 N Milwaukee Ave. in October
Ancien Cycles & Café
The best bike shops feel as much like a neighborhood “third space” hangout as they do a retail market, so the bike-shop-as-café trend actually feels like a fairly natural progression. Truth be told, we’ve never grabbed a coffee, took in live jazz and got a custom bike-fitting all under the same roof, but we love knowing we can at this Hyde Park “hospitality cycling lounge.” Beyond the kitchen, they specialize in the sportive road bike style that builds a useful bridge between competitive (Ritte) and commuter (Bianchi) impulses. For another cycling café option, check out Heritage Bicycles, in Lakeview.
Located at 1558 E 53rd St.
Ancien Cycles & Cafe
Perhaps the most prominent name among Chicago bike shops, Kozy’s extends a wide footprint with five locations across the city. You’ll find the best variety (of bikes and accessories), unsurprisingly, at the two “megastore” locations, one in Avondale and one on the Near South Side (just a few miles from where the business first started, more than 70 years ago). But we’ve had smooth-ride experiences at most locations, from grabbing an affordable pair of Pearl Izumi wind mitts or Showers Pass weatherproof socks to ducking in for a quick, reasonably priced flat fix or a rainy-day fender.