The tiny bike shop on the hill: The latest experiment

I call it an experiment.

Wheel Simple is a very small shop, measuring only 600sqf in rented space – including the restroom. We therefore necessarily focus on repair and maintenance, and I also do wheel building. We fill up at around 25 bikes in so naturally, new production bicycles are not stocked. Used bicycles are also not a factor in our business model for the same reasons. I started this when the shop I was at, Cyclus Bike Shop, reached the end of its natural life. That was located at 2225 E. Clay St, just a half mile away. I closed one and opened the other in 2 weeks in winter, barely interrupting service for the area.

You’ve ventured into my site beyond the home page so I assume you might be interested in learning a little more about the shop and its purpose. My goal with it is two fold: build it into a business from which I can reliably draw a decent income for myself, WITHOUT shunning and pricing out HALF or more of the people who ride bicycles in my immediate vicinity. I want to be community grounded and a true neighbor.

These two goals are counterpoised sure, but I’m creative and very patient. So here’s the plan!

Create a Community Tune Up Fund and continue to fill it. CHECK

Raise funds to install a public work stand out front so folks can do some of their own minor repair. I don’t need a monopoly on flat fixes here, guys!

Cost of repair: begin low, but move toward market value.

Look, I come from the more radical arm of the bike industry. Squatting in the Southern Tip, I flipped bikes for my neighbors in Highland Park for free. For 4 years I helped two shop owners run their shops while volunteering a ton of hours a week at Rag & Bones Bicycle Cooperative. I am fundamentally concerned with the bicycle’s ability to reduce or remove misery from the lives of working people and poor people, and also elders. I will continue to service department store bicycles when reasonable to attempt, even though they take more time to fix.

This is all to say, I DON’T want to empty your wallet. But….

$40 for a decent tune up is absolutely unacceptable compensation. A good Basic tune can take a good mechanic an hour an a half or more depending on how bad your bike is when you bring it to us. Being unable to pay for the correct tune up is one thing which we can work with sometimes, through our Tune Up Fund, but being unwilling to pay for the correct repair is another thing!

So, yeah, my rates have gone up since I opened and we are mostly interested in doing the most comprehensive repair possible per bicycle. Tune up and piece meal pricing can be found under the service drop down.

Meet the Staff

A VCU Arts grad, Mish started working at Wheel Simple in July, 2020. They got obsessed with bikes when they accidentally landed a job as a bike courier. They are progressing in leaps and bounds as a mechanic and proving invaluable to the shop brand and vitality with their great illustrations and graphic design work. Recently, Mish has fallen in love with mountain biking and has spent most of their free time out on the trails, and even raced in Mountain Cat and plans to go for Dirtbags 100 in July. Mish has a pup named Wink.

He’s a college drop out, we think he’s from Lakeside? Has been referred to as “unbearably optimistic,” and a little weird. For some reason people says he’s really good at fixing bikes.

Hi. I’m Luis. I ride pretty much anything and any way I can — fixed gear, mountain, road, gravel, touring, and whatever between. Before getting into the shop to work on bikes, I worked on my bike, as a courier here in Richmond. That job is really what got me into bikes, besides commuting, which I’ve done since 2013. I love the pace of traveling by bike: not so fast that it is hard to focus on one particular thing you are passing, but not so slow that things don’t seem to move around you. It’s almost as if what is in front of you is always stretching away, but at the same time it rolls by so easily on one side or the other of your handlebars. I can’t really decide which of my bikes is my favorite, it depends on the day I guess. Hard to choose between a zippy Cannondale road bike, a super fun single speed Kona mtb, a Soma double cross all-arounder, or the trusty Fairdale fixed gear. And, of course, they all look different month to month as I mess around with different parts and fits. I am also studying to get my teacher’s certification within the next year, so I can start teaching English in middle or high school.