Making it in NOLA: City CycleWorks
City Cycleworks, a new and refurbished bicycle shop, is impressing NOLA residents with bikes as funky as the Mid City neighborhood it sits in. The shop’s industrial warehouse vibe suggests that the store might be a pre-Katrina staple when, in reality, it’s the evolving brainchild of owner and bike-lover Neil Stevens. “I started fixing bikes when I was a kid…when I would beat my bike up everyday in the woods and my dad wouldn’t fix it!”
Stevens started making a name for himself selling recovered and refurbished bikes on Ebay and Craig’s List nearly five years ago. With the support and encouragement of his wife, City CycleWorks opened its doors in May of 2012. Keeping marketing campaigns to a minimum, Stevens stuck to just a website, facebook and the power of Google Maps (plus a sign handmade by his wife). “I could smell the market for this kind of place before I started. I give people a reasonable service that they need.” That need, says Stevens, is one that’s more about transportation than recreation. “A good amount of my customers…don’t even own a car. Their bike is a means to live. It’s their livelyhood, you know? I’ve got artists that pedal all their wares down to Jackson Square on a bike. That’s what I’m about.”
Though Stevens is a New Orleans transplant (by way of Ohio and Florida), he says the city has been great to his business. “The kind of style the city has…it’s a unique bike market. People commute around. It’s a very social city.” Stevens says that compared to the rest of Louisians, New Orleans is a great bike city. “I enjoy the government down here supporting cyclists. I’ve got a good amount of City Planning folks commuting to work on my bikes. They’ve got cars, but they choose to bike. In terms of drivers, New Orleans is pretty much like anywhere else. I think the younger generation embraces it a lot more. They’re more sympathetic to bikers, more respectful.”
Stevens believes everyone has a bike that fits their style and personality and it’s just a matter of trial and error to find that fit. “I like that little blue one for you, it’s got the original paint,” says Stevens as we start to walk out of the shop. “Or maybe that cream-colored one with the dark seat.” We met a little over an hour ago, but Neil has my style pegged pretty spot on. As I walk out promising I’ll come back for a test ride, I can’t imagine a man or a business better suited to put NOLA bikers on the road.
Neil’s Advice for Letting the Bike Choose You:
- Be one with your bike. If it doesn’t feel good – no matter where you shop – don’t buy it.
- Test Drive. Get on a few bikes and see how they feel and what your comfort level is on them.
- Consider a Refurb: If you’re going to use a bike for commuting, an affordable new or refurbished used bike is sometimes the better option. If it gets stolen (which happens, unfortunately) it’s not as major of a financial loss.
- Hit the Streets. Once you find something that feels good, ride heavily. It’s very rewarding. It becomes very rejuvenating You’ll feel better about yourself.
City Cycle Works is located at 2901 Lafitte St. Visit their website for more information.