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Northwest Bicycles changing hands after 32 years

Posted by on September 18th, 2006 at 10:51 am

Northwest Bicycles
[Former owners Matt Labadie and
Ron Hinckley]

After 32 years, the owners of Northwest Bicycles have decided to move on. The well-loved shop in the heart of Northwest Portland (21st & Lovejoy) has been sold and a new bike shop will open in its place November 1st.

According to co-owner Ron Hinckley, the shop has been pruchased by the owner of Fat Tire Farm, a nearby mountain bike shop on NW Thurman. The new owner will renovate the space but will maintain the basic product mix and feel that has worked for Northwest Bicycles for over three decades.

I visited the shop last week and asked Ron a few questions:

Northwest Bicycles
[Shop Manager Jose Cano]

What are you going to do with yourself now?

“I’m gonna ride my bike. My wife and I have a tandem and we’re going to do a tour in New Zealand and explore every corner of the state.”

What was this neighborhood like back when you first opened?

“See all these coffee shops? Those were all drug houses and bars. This was a really bad area…there were gun battles in the streets.”

How has cycling in Portland changed in the last 30 years from your perspective?

“In the ’70s there wasn’t much of a commuting community. That’s been the most exciting change. It used to be that only the die-hards rode their bikes to work. It’s amazing how many cyclists there are now. I give a lot of credit to the BTA.”

While owners Rob and Matt will move on, long-time shop manager Jose Cano and popular mechanic Hugh will remain.

You’ve still got until October 8 or so to bid farewell and say thanks to Matt and Rob for their service to the bike community.

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  • Ethan September 18, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    The end of a love affair for me.

    I’ll never forget the night I was hit by a car on NW Everett enroute to a Critical Mass. I wobbled over to NW Bikes (right before closing) and they threw a loaner wheel on my bike and had me on my way in under 2 minutes. I did not miss the ride OR even provide ID. Hard to find that kind of service these days. End of the week libations will also be missed by many.

    Best of luck to you both, and glad to hear Jose will still be around.

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  • Scout September 18, 2006 at 5:35 pm

    Northwest Bicycles has just this year been at the center of my heart. After finally being fed up by the encroaching corporate mentality at several “local and independently owned” bike stores (who shall remain nameless), I found my way into Northwest, and my bike found its way into the capable hands of Hugh.

    I have never been happier with a bike shop or with the results on my bike. A week after I had Hugh make almost $150 in desperately needed upgrades on my beloved bike, I was riding to work and my derailleur ate my back wheel. The derailleur and hanger were bent, the wheel was unmoveable, and I had just spent the last of my saved-up cash.

    All the same, Hugh told me to haul it in so someone could take a look at it. The next day, I met Ron, who put everything in working order and swapped out my brand new Armadillo tires when he discovered I had bought ones which didn’t fit correctly. When all was said and done, he rolled the bike out from behind the counter, and told me everything would be fine. Woo-hoo! “What do I owe you?” I asked.

    He responded with a shrug, then said, “Don’t worry about it. Just go out there and ride your bike.”

    If I wasn’t tough as nails, it would’ve brought tears to my eyes.

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  • WOBG September 18, 2006 at 8:20 pm

    Um–I don’t mean to put a damper on things, Scout, but if your derailleur shifted into the spokes a week after major upgrades, it may well mean the shop didn’t adjust the derailleur right. Ron likely realized this and just practiced good customer service in fixing things up again for you. But everyone makes mistakes–so in any case, good on Northwest for having your back.

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  • Ayleen September 19, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    I’m really surprised – and glad – to read that Jose and Hugh get to stay on. Ron and Matt have made Bikeworks a special place and Jose and Hugh have contributed to that.

    Though I don’t get my bike worked on there because it’s not in my neighborhood, Bikeworks has always been my favorite shop to visit and hang out.

    Portland is losing a true gem, but Ron and Matt have earned their time off.

    Hey, you forgot to mention that Ron is an uber-commuter, riding his bike to/from to his house by the zoo every single day. I rode with him once (needless to say he kicked my ass) and that is no small journey after a long day of work on his feet in the shop.

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  • SKIDmark September 29, 2006 at 12:22 am

    I got my NJS certified KKT toeclips there. They have a lot of cool old stuff that they are happy to dig out and sell to you. I thought that the shop would close and something like a GAP would move in. I am glad it will still be a bike shop. With the Fat Tire Farm influence I see lots of fixed/freewheel (singlespeed) mountain bikes rolling around in the near future.

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  • John October 6, 2006 at 11:47 am

    Good luck Ron and Matt in the next phase. These guys have been the mainstays (sic. chainstays?) of biking in NW Portland and will be missed. I bought all my family’s bikes there. I’ll miss the Area 51 momentos, the Brahms, and talks about astrophysics with the gang. Thankfully there won’t be yet another Starbucks there, but the next shop will have big shoes to fill.

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  • Todd October 14, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    I lived right around the corner from this shop, and am sad to see it closed now. I bought my first road bike from them a little over a year ago, and being so close to them, they saw a lot of me. I would pop in frequently when something wasn’t right with the bike. They were always willing to fix me up quickly…mostly right on the spot, and always earlier than they said when I left it with them. Thanks guys!

    The shop had such a great neighborhood feel to it too. There were always people in there chatting it up, or needing minor repairs on the spot. Ron, Matt, Hugh and Jose were always more than willing to fix them up and get them on their way again. Ron and Matt will be missed, but I’m glad that Hugh and Jose will still be holding it down in the new shop.

    Thanks Northwest Bicycle for hooking me up with a sweet bike and keeping it in great shape. You’ll be missed!


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  • Gary G. October 26, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    I was just shocked to learn that NW Bicycle has closed, and that Matt and Ron are gone. I am in mourning. Not really in mourning yet, but still in the denial phase of the grief process. For the past 25 years I have relied on their wisdom and advice, unique parts inventory and wheel-building virtuosity to keep me and my machines running. Because their work was so excellent, I did not need to visit regularly, and so missed the advance notification of their departure.
    Ron and Matt…Thanks!!

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