When you walk into Standard Bike Repair of Boulder, Colorado it’s immediately obvious that you’re not going to have the typical bike store experience. Located in the heart of Boulder with a charming back-alley entrance, this shop doubles as a home for its two owners, Ryan Kelley and Jen Reeves (like Keanu and no relation…she joked during our interview). Now in its fourth summer, this bike shop is churning out finely tuned bikes so that they can hit the Boulder streets and sustain the amazing bike culture that this Northern Colorado town is proud of. Sitting down with Ryan and Jen was for one purpose: to learn the ins and outs of creating a biking community. What we got was something much more organic, real, and useful for bike lovers and shop owners alike.
But first thing’s first; we toured the quaint shop where various multi-colored parts hang from the walls like Christmas ornaments and where a bike garden invites shop visitors to watch Ryan hard at work amongst aluminum bike skeletons. More than once, Ryan gestured lovingly to bikes, mentioning proudly and passionately that bike frames tend to last forever, which is one of the reasons that bikes are such sustainable machines for our communities. As it rained softly, we sat under their umbrella’d outdoor table and hit the ground running by asking how their love affair with bikes began.
Hope Gately: Tell us a little bit about how you got into biking? Can you remember one specific instance that really ignited your passion or was it just a combination of events?
Ryan Kelley: Jen got involved when it was so busy. I was working with US Bank and loved it but I was looking for a certain amount of freedom. When you own your own business, there’s no ceiling. A couple years into US Bank, I went to a coffee shop and saw a book about the top resources in countries all over the world, such as manufacturing, farming, retail. I asked myself, what is one of the main resources of Colorado and Boulder? Ultimately, one of the main resources was bikes.
The beautiful part about bikes is that there will always be repairs. There will always be work. That’s good and bad, we have to work every day, but you don’t see an end to it. Those steel frames are going to last forever.
Jen Reeves: Ryan taught me how to love bike riding. The first bike I had was heavy and awful to ride. I felt like I was supposed to like riding a bike but I didn’t. He taught me that a bike that’s easier to ride and made
of higher quality of components, will be more enjoyable. It’s so community oriented and we’re providing a personal service because it’s someone’s personal machine. Also, welcoming people into our space and creating a personal connection was a big draw for me. I also love ‘the learning piece.’ We do something called ‘Watch, Teach, Learn’ where we invite people to come in and learn about the various aspects of bike maintenance. This helps us create a community of empowered bikers.
HG: What do you love most about the cycling lifestyle and biking culture of Boulder?
JR: Bike culture in Denver is more geared toward the hipster biking community, but in Boulder I feel a lot safer. There are more bike lanes, I can explore the whole city and still feel safe. There are so many creek paths and there are so many people on their bikes. It inspires me to opt out of taking the car. The exercise piece of it too. You’re not stuck in a little box and you can get the wind in your hair.
RK: Piggy backing, because there’s a lot of it. That’s the business angle…the fact that you come into town and you’re like ‘I’m in Boulder, I need a bike’ that’s good for our business. I think it’s amazing that we’re allowed to do this business. The people of Boulder accept it as sustainable and support us.
HG: How can the average person help to build and sustain a biking culture in their community?
RK: The average person would simply own a bike and take care of it. Ride a bike that’s sensible. If the bike is squeaking and your knees are hitting your chin, you aren’t gonna enjoy biking. Attending community bike swaps. They’re also a great way to get people involved with bikes. In 2011, I worked with the Boulder Bike Swap. We hosted pretty close to 1000 people, gave them free attendance and we sold our parts. These bike swaps open up the opportunity for people to buy parts and learn. They also involve multiple aspects of the community: food vendors, a group of volunteers-handing out flyers, local bands. This business would not survive without this community. If you wanna be successful, you get the person next to you to believe in you.
JR: Using their bikes for things they might have used their car for in the past: take their bike to the grocery store, return movies, don’t use it as a recreational machine. Your bike is useful.
HG: What are some events that local businesses can do to promote bike culture?
JR: Bike to Work Day, Bike Swaps, events similar to the Boulder 360 which is an annual ride of 12 or 26 miles. It’s family friendly and gets everyone out and on a bike. Also, citizens advocating for infrastructures for bikes lanes. Community bike rental programs like B-Cycle downtown (bikes in downtown Boulder that people can rent on the street). Finally, ride your bike. Plain and simple.
HG: What would you say to those who are still skeptical about why a biking community is beneficial for everyone?
RK: If you’re riding a bike that isn’t enjoyable to ride, then you’re not gonna wanna be a part of a biking community. So don’t buy cookie-cutter bikes. Get a bike that you’ll enjoy and then take it to your local bike repair shop to maintain it.
JR: If you have a bike, encourage a friend to ride it. Take them on a bike ride. Let them experience it. Reintroduce people to the experience of being out in the open air. You can talk up something but people need to experience it for themselves. Make it fun for someone. You can also organize cruiser rides where people ride from place to place every week, maybe to bars or restaurants but it doesn’t always have to be bar related. If they don’t have a bike, then they can’t participate in this fun, community oriented activity.