As a St. Louisan this Summer, you may have seen several weird, quirky, urban bike culture “happenings”. Let’s recount, for posterity: There was a World Naked Bike Ride, lots of urban group rides and events like FBC (F*cking Bike Club), Wolfpack Hustle STL, and Spoked STL Alleycat races, among the plethora of other urban biking adventures on two wheels. There was even a Robin on the silver screen, flashing his cool fixie up and down Manhattan in a late summer action flick. These events typically happen at night, and typically without the level of lycra and spandex you may be used to, when discussing cycling in the city. Whether or not you’re into it; whether or not you care, a lot of people in St. Louis are having the time of their young lives. They have DIY alleycat races (underground, unsanctioned bike races), weekly group rides/cruises, and bar-hops. They are riding their bikes every day, throwing their own races, and creating their own culture based simply around “putting the fun between your legs”.
At the center of all of this madness, there is Cherokee Street Bikes, providing the bikes. These shiny, steel machines propel their customers through the night, while the rest of the city catches up on reality TV. Specializing in single-speed, fixed gear, track bikes, and urban commuting in general, Cherokee Street Bikes’ workers are not only experts in this culture, but founders of it, as far as St. Louis is concerned. In the words of the owner of the shop, and co-founder of the Cherokee Bike Folk (his urban cycling club), Jeremy Schwartz: “Once kids find out just how much fun we’re having on our bikes, for free, they’re going to want in. We’ll be here to make sure the next generation rides safe, and doesn’t ride junk. Lots of smart people see this, and are trying to capitalize on it, with cheap bikes, created solely to satisfy a trend. We are here to preserve our quality, and thus, our culture. “Track bikes in the street” is not a passing trend for us. Cycling in St. Louis City is our life.”
Upon strolling in, Cherokee Street Bikes looks like a hallucinogenic mash-up of a toy store, a bike shop, and your friend’s punk rock basement. A few local cyclists are hanging out and chatting about the news of the day: what happened on last night’s ride. The racks are filled with colorful fixed gears, speedy track bikes, vintage single speeds, and urban commuters. The walls are decorated with flyers from alleycats gone by, and the ones to come. The record player is spinning The Pixies. The ceilings and shelves are adorned with an array of colorful “Deep V” wheels, and a rainbow of parts, all especially forged to support these solid, light, simple vehicles. Shop mechanic, professional bike courier of 4 years, and founder of Wolfpack Hustle STL, a weekly group ride, Micah “Big Wolf” Goulet says, “I’ll always ride track bikes in the street. It’s the cheapest, fastest way to get around this city. I have geared bikes too, but they rarely get ridden anymore. I work here because Jeremy genuinely cares about the urban cycling community in St. Louis, and I am addicted to the smile of someone when you put them on a bike they love. I think about all the fun they’ll have, because of our help.”
Stop in and hang out at Cherokee Street Bikes, next time you get the chance. You may just have a lot of fun, with their help.