Cyclists commuting downtown via Milwaukee in the last few weeks have probably noticed the wooden "Bike Shop" sign on the sidewalk near the intersection with Thomas—or maybe the "Bike Shop Open Soon" sign in the window for a month or two before that. Let's Roast Cycles
, a BMX-focused shop that also stocks commuter bikes and gear, officially opened August 28th, and I stopped in last week to look around.
Logan Beyhl, who owns the shop with fellow BMX biker Bob DeLaat, noted that they're still stocking up on inventory, but plan to carry "everything a commuter cyclist would need"—like fenders, lights, saddles, etc—as well as commuter and BMX bikes. Both men have been BMX biking for more than 15 years—they met while working at indoor mountain biking park Ray's MTB in Cleveland.
They decided to open a bike shop specializing in BMX bikes, Beyhl said, because there are a lot of people in Chicago who ride BMX, and no stores that cater to them. He also wants to host community events like weekly social bike rides (BMX on Tuesdays, regular bikes on Thursdays) and yoga.
Beyhl says that Sunday Bikes, a BMX bike company he worked for in Austin, Texas, used to host cycling-centered yoga. "It wasn't the spiritual side of things, it was like, you ride bikes, you should stretch this. To work muscles that you don't normally use—you don't use your lower back at all. I look very strange without a shirt on, because my upper back is really muscular just from being bent over and pedaling, but my lower back, there's just nothing there."
The Let's Roast space is full of reclaimed wood, from the counter to the bike racks to the display cabinets; Beyhl says they made everything themselves with wood from the Rebuilding Exchange. They also painted and resealed the ceiling tiles, painted the walls, put in new lighting, and refinished the floors. "It was kind of a rough space when we got in here to start things. I don't have any background in that stuff, so before each task on the list it was like, 'learn how to do this,'" Beyhl says.
They took possession of the space June 15, and Beyhl says they've been ready to open for a while, but getting the permits took a long time. According to the city, he says, it can takes anywhere from four days to nine weeks.
- Julia Thiel
- The storefront, with shop dog Hershel (who belongs to Beyhl) keeping watch
He's a little worried about opening at the end (for most people) of the cycling season, but says he thinks it'll be OK. They haven't sold a lot of bikes but they've been working on quite a few, and Beyhl is counting on their community-oriented events to get people into the shop. He also believes that the prices Let's Roast offers—both for gear and for repair work—are competitive enough to keep customers coming back. "If somebody comes in and needs something fixed creatively and they're on a budget—doing stuff that people can afford is important. I can make something work with what you've got.
"I hate condescending shops. That is the biggest pet peeve that I have. Especially riding BMX, because people look at you like—at least before BMX was more accepted—you kind of got laughed at if you went into a shop to get a BMX tube. Like, look at this guy, he's a grown man and he's trying to get a 20-inch tube!"
While BMX has become more accepted, Beyhl says, it's still not easy to find public places to ride here. There's the Garden, a set of dirt jumps that's open to both BMX and mountain bikers, but Beyhl thinks that the jumps are often intimidating for beginners because they're big. And bikes aren't allowed at skate parks in Chicago—which doesn't stop Beyhl from riding them. He says it's rarely an issue—the skateboarders are usually fine with it—but if they try to get a group together, the police inevitably show up and make them leave.
Its slight illegality nothwithstanding, Beyhl says he loves BMX biking in Chicago's skate parks. "Wilson Skate Park, that's my favorite park in the world. I've traveled to Asia to ride, all around the country, and that is the best one."
Beyhl also missed Chicago's non-BMX bike scene when he was living in Austin (though he says the reason he moved back here was that he couldn't handle the Texas heat). "The first time I came back, sitting in bike traffic, I was like, oh, this is awesome. It's very cool to see."
Let's Roast Cycles, 1116 N. Milwaukee, 773-278-7820, Mon-Fri 8 AM-8 PM, Sat 10 AM-8 PM, Sun 10 AM-5 PM