This summer I was lucky enough to land a job at Knapp’s Cyclery in Lawrenceville, NJ. Ever since I got into mountain biking, I would walk through bike shops as an extremely well-behaved child might walk through a toy store. I would find myself touching everything, testing the brakes on display bikes–why does everyone, including myself, feel the need to do this?–checking prices, and occasionally buying something I don’t necessarily need. Working at one of these chain grease and tire-scented wonderlands always seemed a distant possibility, yet due to some unexpected free-time this summer, I am able to say that I work at a bike shop.
My qualifications exist more in my extreme interest in bikes rather than years spent doing bike repairs, so I’m happy to be working on the sales end of things. I don’t have any previous retail experience to compare this to, though I’m almost positive that it’s one of the better work environments one has the luck to be a part of. It’s safe to say that anyone who works at a bike shop loves bikes and the people at Knapp’s are no exception. It’s also a more than fair assumption to say that anyone who steps foot in a bike shop at least likes a bike enough to use one, or want to use one. I would also say that generally, those who ride bikes are amongst the happier people.
On my first day, I actually met the owner of the shop at his house at 9am for a bike ride with his wife. I was shown around the Baldpate trail network, which I had never had the pleasure of riding. As someone who consistently rides alone–not by choice, but through lack of biker friends–getting to ride with the owner and his wife was awesome. The concept of riding with a new boss on a new set of trails is great enough, but for me, it was more exciting to adjust to riding with other people. I had the good fortune to follow them, noticing the lines they took and switching down a gear in anticipation for a climb they knew approached. Riding alone, I never have to match anyones’ pace, and it was actually really refreshing to try and keep up with someone for a change. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s someone there to share in that adrenaline rush of a rocky descent. The only downside was that I had to tone down my usual whooping and shouting.
One of the wonderful things about working at this shop in particular is that just about everyone that comes leaves extremely satisfied. In just my first few weeks, I’ve had countless people tell me they were recommended by a friend to choose us, and were really glad they did. It’s great to see the relationships customers have formed with the longer-standing shop employees.
The shop is located very close to both Princeton and Trenton, two wildly different socioeconomic areas. It’s a real pleasure to be able to help such a wide range of customers. We see everything from people needing a flat repair on the klunker they use for commuting, to a technical fit adjustment on a couple-thousand dollar bike. Hanging from the ceiling is a decades old Redline BMX bike. On display in the same room is the exact bike that Craig “Crowie” Alexander of Australia used to win the Kona Ironman, complete with electronic shifters and built-in hydration pack. In a shop that sells only Specialized brand bikes, there is a surprising amount of rider diversity.
I’m learning more about bikes every time I work. So far, I haven’t minded not being able to sit all day, or re-stocking shelves of clothing and accessories, because talking about and being surrounded by bikes all day is worth even the most menial tasks.
Check the shop out at www.knappscyclery.com, or if you live in the area, stop by.