SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


Bike Shops from My Past

I just discovered that Google's Streets View completely covers Pittsburgh, PA, which is where I started cycling "seriously" as an adult. As such, I used this feature to nab some screen shots of bicycle shops I have known and loved (some, not all).

Pittsburgh Pro Bicycles in Squirrel Hill was the first shop I discovered in the early years, since they were closest to my apartment (in South Oakland). I'd purchased an old, beat Peugeot UO-8 for $60 when I moved into my first college apartment in 1990, intending to use the bike to get to and from class a couple of miles away. Of course, I caught the bug, and soon decided that I needed a pump, helmet, and cleated cycling shoes -- which I bought from this shop whenever they had a clearance sale. At the time, I think PghProBikes was at a different location (on Murray Ave in Squirrel Hill), it appears that they've since moved to a larger location and have also opened a second store.

Another shop I found was Snitger's Cyclery. I visited this shop a few times but I don't remember buying anything there; I was looking for old French parts for my UO-8, and the guys there kept directing me towards Kraynick's instead. Once, in the midst of winter, I bundled up and headed out, determined to ride to all the bike shops in the area. When I stopped by Snitger's, I found a 1986 Nishiki Prestige on consignment for $150. It was my size, and I fell in love with the bike. I few weeks later, I bought the bike (after talking them down to $130) as a sort-of consolation gift to myself after my then-girlfriend had dumped me. A few years later, I tried to get a job there one summer but they didn't have any openings -- but that inquiry led to me getting a job at Gatto Cycles, another shop in the area. Snitger sold the business to Gatto Cycles a short while after that, and ironically I wound up working at that store a couple of times, filling in during the holiday season. It looks like Snitger may have moved to a new location in Beaver, PA.

Snitger's pointed me to my all-time favorite shop in the whole wide world, Kraynick's Bike Shop. If you've ever been to Da 'Burgh and ridden a bike there, you've probably heard about this shop. Four floors of old-stuff goodness, run by Gerry who inherited the biz from his dad, who originally started the shop in the prehistoric era. I used to hang out there nearly every Saturday and bought many, many cheap components to first upgrade my UO-8 and later repair and rebuild many other bikes. I eventually memorized where most things in the shop could be found ("seatposts are on the 2nd floor in the back corner") which made people incorrectly assume that I worked there. Oh, how I wished for that, but Kraynick's was (probably still is) strictly a one-man show! I still have some "Gerry parts" in use on at least one of my bikes! Although Kraynick's focused mostly on older parts, unexpectedly he was also the area's first (and only?) recumbent dealer. Due to health reasons, Gerry had started riding recumbents -- first there were some homebrews, then the original aluminum Linear long-wheelbase models, and later some fast-looking rigs from Lightning, including a red P-38 that I often drooled over. I sobbed the final time I left that place. This article describes what makes Kraynick's such a special place at least as well as I can, so just read it. Hallowed ground indeed!

I mentioned that I worked for Gatto Cycles. When I asked about jobs at Snitger's they told me that they weren't hiring, but that they'd keep my application on file in case anything opened up. A month or so later (this'd be Spring '93), I got a call from the Gatto Cycles store in Verona, PA asking whether I was still interested in a job. Joe, the manager, was looking to fill a couple positions and in conversation with some of the Snitger guys my name had come up. Verona is about 10 miles north-east of Pittsburgh, so I hopped on my bike and rode out there to meet Joe. I don't remember details, but he asked me a few questions, checked out the details on my bike (the same Nishiki Prestige I'd bought from Snitger's and overhauled), and offered me a job for $5/hour, 10am to 6pm, 6 days a week. Gattos is (or at least was) family-owned, one of the largest bike-dealers in the area, and at the time they owned a chain of around five bike shops, plus a large Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership. The Verona store sold road, mountain, and hybrid bikes from Cannondale, Schwinn, Trek, Specialized, and Giant. We sold exercise equipment (mostly Schwinn AirDynes -- man those things were heavy!) and kids' bikes, too. We were the basic neighborhood bike shop -- we didn't really have a focus on any specific style of riding or racing. The brown building in the photo looks like it's now a copy center, but that's where the store used to be. I still have the Silca floor pump I found in the shop's basement and repaired. Gatto probably decided to leave Verona because of the competition: directly across the street from this location is Dirty Harry's, who were focused on higher-end MTBs and into the racing scene. I think Dirt Rag magazine was also somehow affiliated with Dirty Harry's. Quite expectedly and given that MTBs were most popular at the time, most of the bike sales in the area went to Harry's. I remember spending two or three hours with one guy who was shopping for a mid-level MTB; pouring over the details of the similar Trek, Specialized, Giant, and Cannondale models and setting him up on multiple bike test rides. I was probably pushing the Giant ATX770 -- one of my favorite bikes to sell, since I thought it had a great combination of frame, wheelset, components, and details at that price point. At any rate, after spending all that time with him, educating him on what I thought were the key things to look for when bike shopping -- he went across the street and bought a bike from Dirty Harry's. Oh well. I worked in that shop during the summer of 1993 and then sporadically that fall and winter. I rode my bike (the UO-8) to work 20 miles a day, 6 days a week, and got really skinny (I think I weighed 138lbs. at one point) despite eating everything in sight. I was in quite good cycling shape, despite the fact I did little weekend riding -- I remember riding a century with friends one weekend with relative ease. I recall working sometime right around Christmas, filling in for someone on vacation, riding to work on snow covered roads that had stopped traffic. I think that was the last time I worked for Gattos -- I'd moved on to a different job by then...but that's another story!


Post a Comment

<< Home