Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Visit to Mellow Johhny's Bike Shop

Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop is Lance Armstrong's new bike shop in downtown Austin. Ive heard a lot about it recently, and someone forwarded a link to this article in Momentum Magazine talking all about the shop and what Armstrong's motivations were and so forth. I decided that since I work so close to the shop I might as well bike over and check it out.
Mellow Johnny's is tucked into the corner of 4th of Nueces on the western side of downtown Austin. This is the heart of the area experiencing reinvention in the new urbanism mold. (That's the shop in the lower right corner.) The photo is deceiving because this is actually a neat part of town, close to both Lady Bird Lake and the Shoal Creek hike and bike trails. The fenced off area is a soon-to-be-built-on construction site for more new urbanism...
So where does the name Mellow Johnny's come from? It's a pun on the yellow jersey won by the race leader in the Tour de France, which Lance has won seven times. In French, the word is maillot jaune, and do I really need to explain how an English mispronunciation could yield Mellow Johnny's? I didn't think so.
They're not exactly in your face when you walk in, but sure enough, there on the wall toward the back are the winning jerseys.
So what's it like inside? This shop is all about promoting biking for everyone and making biking accessible to everyone, from the weekend recreational rider right on up to world-class racers. This is actually a tricky thing to do in a single bike shop. Most racing bike shops I have been in suffer terribly from bike snobbery, and finding staff who can adapt to a wide variety of customers had to be quite tricky. I talked to several of the staff at M-J and found them all to be friendly (even the guys behind the counter working on $3000 bikes). Maybe it's just the newly-opened store smell but they did a good job of making me feel welcome.
Inside, I found offerings from Trek (of course), Schwinn, Swobo, and Masi. (There may have been others that I missed.) There were plenty of high end racing bikes, but a lot of floor space was given (photo on the right) to urban/commuter bikes, and there was even a semi-decent selection of kid bikes. (I think I'll bring my kids here when it's time to upgrade.)
Then there was the window display, which had a mannequin not in lycra and holding on to a bike with panniers stuffed with groceries! I think I like the message.
So I realize that I've done a bunch of gushing here. Was there anything disappointing? Just two little things. First, I was shocked to discover a rather glaring lack of bike racks around the building. I asked Todd about this inside, and he sheepishly explained that the racks were on their way, and yes it was a little weird, but please to bring my bike in and park it inside. That brings me to my second thing: the big sliding glass doors of the main entrance have a step outside, not a ramp. This means you have to carry your bike in instead of rolling or riding. Seems just slightly odd to me...
Anyway, it's worth a visit, whether for supplies, repairs, curiosity, or coffee (did I mention there's a coffee and sandwich shop there, too?). Stop on by if you get a chance.


Mase said...

Armstrong actually won the Tour seven times, not just five ('99 - '05).

Tim said...

My bad! Thanks for correcting my brain cramp. I think seeing five jerseys hung in view subconsciously made me type the wrong number. I believe there are two more out of the view of this picture, and overall he has worn the maillot jaune 83 times. Anyone know how many jerseys he actually has? Has he worn it in a Tour he didn't win? Do they give multiple jerseys per Tour?