Saturday, January 1, 2011

BikeNüt, my local bike shop

Over the past two and half years, since I’ve bought my first and only road bike, I’ve come to rely on BikeNüt not only for fixes minor and major, but also for moral support. I’ve stopped at the store pretty much every week, asking silly questions, reporting my progress, and occasionally buying a few things, such as tyres, bar tape, a bottle of degreaser, a jersey, or even a new cassette. During this time, my bike has changed quite radically; few parts have remained the same, perhaps just the frame. Even that was stripped of all paint and graphics as soon as I bought it. Everything else has evolved, keeping pace with my understanding of bikes and cycling in general.

This is my bike, shortly after I picked it up. It is a Giant TCR Composite, vintage 2007. It is stiff
and light, with a compact geometry that pleases my eye. It came equipped with a Shimano
Ultegra gruppo. We changed just about everything, except for the frame.

I quickly realized that the lighter the bike is the faster it is, and there began the search for parts that would reduce my bike’s weight: wheels, handlebar, crankset, derailleurs, shifters, saddle, seat post, brakes, and pedals. By the end of the process, the weight of the complete bike had dropped to 13.8 lbs, competing with much more expensive bikes, such as the Stork Fascenario 7.0, that were the standard features on the showroom floor. Could I have made it even lighter? Of course I could, by buying a Lightweight wheelset for example. But the increasingly light and expensive—very expensive—carbon parts convinced me to put a stop to all this nonsense. I began to understand that, rather than focusing on the bike alone, I should instead ride more and more often, develop a better cycling technique, lose weight, and go faster.

This is still my bike, as it looked a few weeks ago. Bar, saddle, gruppo
(SRAM red, wheels, pedals, and seat post are different,

During the whole time, the BikeNüt gang have educated me about bikes and cycling. Huseyin Guler and Sam Kroyer, the wonderfully soft-spoken mechanical magician, have encouraged me with free advice: keep your knees warm, this is a better product, you need to adjust your seat, or, don’t be discouraged. They did so in a gentle manner—neither intimidating nor pushy but always enthusiastic. They could have easily steered me towards more expensive items but cared enough about my quest to recommend only what was appropriate for my bike or me.
I’ve always felt at home at BikeNüt. There were times when I would have easily spent even more time there than I did, and it seemed to me like that the atmosphere was a bit that of a local coffee shop, with its regular customers and lots of goodies on the walls. In the summer, at the end of a busy day or a long ride, a beer would appear like magic, and the discussions would continue behind the closed doors. I enjoyed the talks and the camaraderie.
What else does set BikeNüt apart from other bike shops? During the past few months, in a series of entries in this blog, I have tried to define its attributes, but I have come to the conclusion that it all boils down to the bicycles they sell: no one who buys a bicycle from BikeNüt walks out of the shop with something off the shelves. Every bicycle is a special build. For some customers, this is just plain nonsense; they would rather get something, pay for it, and then never think about it again. For others, and I belong to this second group, a bike is never complete, there is always something to add, it changes as we change as riders. A store that sells complete bikes can do set up easily an online catalogue. Perhaps this is the way to make money by selling bikes.
BikeNüt is different: the selection of a bike is an individual process, and, as we are all different from one another in weight, height, body shape, and all the other biometrics, the bike must mirror those differences. As soon as the customer selects the bike, Huseyin schedules a fitting. The original saddle does not fit the anatomy. Out it goes. The length of the cranks is wrong. We must order a new set. You get the idea. The shops gives credit for the original parts, and new components are sometimes cheaper. In the end, there is little difference in price but a tremendous difference in the pleasure derived from riding our new bike.

Huseyin Guler, standing in front of BikeNüt

There is no question that BikeNüt has also made a difference in the local culture. Their bikes are recognizable for being understated, no flashy graphics on most of them, very serious pieces of machinery, updated constantly with the latest and most sought after equipment. I see riders wearing their jerseys, and even when I don’t know them personally, a nod is sufficient to establish a common bond. These riders are serious cyclists and are very discriminating about their bikes. Not all of them ride the most expensive bikes available to the public, but are sure to get the most of what they have. BikeNüt has spawned at least one other shop. Kevin Bailey, the bike fitter until a few months ago, has opened his own bike-fitting studio in Sausalito. There will be others.
Huseyin has announced that he wants to close the shop down by the middle of this month. This is sad news indeed, especially for those of us who thought of BikeNüt as our local bike store. This could be the last entry in this blog. Perhaps he can be convinced to change his mind. If not, perhaps he will return with BikeNüt 2.0 in a few months. We’ll be waiting.


  1. It's a sad day for sure we all agree, but what will come is a relief and a new beginning for all involved. I hope that we can all stay in touch and support one another in the crazy world of bikes.

  2. I don't think the world of bikes is crazy. I think the world is safer, saner, and wiser with bikes than without bikes. Of course we'll stay in touch.