I've lived in New York City for just about my whole life and have always been obsessed with getting around. When I was a little kid, I would race walk down the street and brag to my mom that I beat everyone to the corner. When I was 10, I got a Razor scooter and pushed around everywhere, zooming down the sidewalk and weaving in and out of pedestrians. I’m about 3 decades in to my New York residency now, and I’ve commuted on (or in) pretty much every type of vehicle you can imagine. (I’ve also chilled out a lot with the zooming and the weaving.)
There is really nothing better than riding a bicycle. It’s fun, it’s good for you, it’s simple and practical, and it makes you happier and healthier.
When you bike, you actually get to know your city, it’s streets, parks, architecture and people. You don’t have to go underground and wait in a hot smelly station avoiding eye contact. Biking improves your mental and physical health and helps reduce stress and depression. People are usually really happy when they get a bike, and that makes me enjoy my work a lot!
I like getting people on bikes. I like seeing the smile on their face when they come back from a test ride. I like lending my expertise to answer their questions and better their riding experience. I think that bicycles should not be terribly expensive because they are, for most people, simple machines and they often need to be locked up outside where they can be stolen.
Bike Truck bikes are simple, reliable, affordable, and easily personalized. I’ve designed a new store in Bushwick to make the process of buying the perfect bike as easy and straightforward as possible.
I’ve developed a way to hack the bike buying experience. Before, bike buyers had to choose between affordable and customized. Normally, customers are given options of fully assembled bikes to choose from. If you want to customize certain aspects (i.e. you like the handlebars on the red bike, but the seat on the blue bike, the gearing of the green bike, and the weight of the silver bike, etc) then you have to pay a high price for swapping parts just to get your basic needs met. Most people pick the bike they like most overall and wind up sacrificing something that they liked better about another bike. It can be very stressful and confusing making multiple decisions at once, and it’s especially hard to make these decisions if you’ve never ridden a bike in NYC before.
At my shop, all the decisions about the bike are broken down into separate stations where the options are laid out clearly in a way that’s easy to process. They can be physically tested out to really get a feel for what you are buying.
If you don’t want to customize, you can always just buy the “standard” build. They are pre-built and ready to test ride when you come in. Even so, you will get to choose your saddle. It is by far the most personal component of the bike and paramount to getting the right fit.
In the general consumer landscape, most items are not very customizable. If you buy a phone, you can’t take the camera from the iPhone and the processor from the Samsung and the screen from the Motorola and build your own phone. But a bike is being built up by a mechanic in house, so the bike really lends itself to a customized purchase. Especially considering that people come in all different sizes, with different athletic abilities and personal riding preferences that shape which bike is right for them.
There’s probably a dozen websites offering cheap customized fixies, but the customers are essentially all buying the same bike, and can customize it with a yellow front wheel, a green rear tire, purple handlebars and a gold chain. TBT appeals to the same desire to customize your bike, but adds a more functional element.
The Bike Truck started out as one bike -- a 1974 Raleigh 3 speed cruiser, given to me by my neighbor Marjorie. It was covered in about 3 pounds of dust and dog hair after sitting unused for nearly a decade. It looked terrible. "Maybe you can sell the basket" she said.
I took it home, spent hours cleaning it up, put air in the tires and sold the bike on Craigslist the next day.
This was in 2011. Manhattan bike shops were expensive and I was a college kid with only dog-walking income, so I learned how to fix my own bike at Time's Up, a non-profit which still offers free classes to this day. I decided to take the money from Marjorie's cruiser and buy some tools and a bike on Craigslist that needed some work.
I started buying more broken bicycles, fixing them in my bedroom - getting shards of metal and bike grease everywhere - and flipping them on Craigslist. I had no bike shop experience, but I would fix obvious flaws on the bikes, test ride them until I found more problems, and fine tune them.
I graduated college and quickly grew tired of a boring office job. I quit after a month, and was much happier when "going to work" meant traveling to a new part of Brooklyn, picking up a poorly maintained bicycle, fixing it on the street and riding it home.
The bikes started to take over my mom's tiny apartment. I wanted to continue serving Manhattan without the cost of renting a Manhattan storefront, and opened The Bike Truck in 2013. Operating from a truck turned out to be a little more difficult than expected, and I realized that Brooklyn was becoming way cooler than Manhattan anyway. By the end of the year most customers preferred to shop for their bikes at the truck's headquarters, an old warehouse on the Greenpoint waterfront. But a year later, the warehouse was torn down to make way for luxury condos.
I moved shop to a storefront in Cobble Hill, and began designing and importing my own brand of bikes that addressed the two main issues people had with the vintage bikes -- too heavy and too much maintenance. This led to a focus on single speed and internally geared bikes that were simple, light weight, and low maintenance.
Having a full service repair shop was incredibly valuable because the customer feedback was direct: I got to see first-hand all the warranty issues, complaints and requests for changes. Every year I would redesign the bikes and upgrade parts based on what we had seen in repairs. But running the repair shop meant that I couldn't focus entirely on improving the bikes and the buying experience. So I've handed the repair shop over to two of the employees so that I can focus on what I really want to do -- getting people on Bike Truck bikes!