Portland bike shop boom continues with openings, expansions

Western Bike Works-7-6
New storefront for Western Bike Works
at NW Lovejoy and 17th.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Even in a down economy, Portland’s bike business boom shows no signs of letting up, especially when it comes to bike shops. Throughout the city — from Northwest to East Portland — shops large and small are expanding or opening their doors for the first time.

On the corner of NW Lovejoy and 17th, Western Bike Works plans to open their gleaming new, 10,000 square foot shop this weekend (ironically, the former tenant was a car dealership). I stopped by yesterday for a chat with co-owner and GM Jay Torborg.

A sneak peek inside Western Bike Works

Western Bike Works has been around as an online retailer since 2003. The company s owned by Velotech, the same company that operates, which has been around since 2000. Velotech maintains a large warehouse with a small retail shop for Bike Tires Direct attached to it near the Portland Airport, but it’s mostly a place where locals can pick up orders.


Jay Torborg

Torborg says they’ve been considering a new store location for years now. “We wanted to have more of a downtown presence that was easier to get to and has more foot traffic.” He adds that Western Bike Works has been “remarkably successful,” and pulls in about $4 million in sales each year. “About a year ago,” says Torborg, “we thought, now’s the right time.”

Western Bike Works’ new corner location features a large cafe in front (“Corsa Cafe”) and an impressive selection of bikes and parts. Bike brands they’ll sell include Focus, Cannondale, Felt, Cyfac, Terry, Lapierre, Torker and Soma. There’s a grand opening planned this weekend.

Another local shop with a large online business, Universal Cycles, has moved into a new and expanded location. Universal was formerly based in Northwest Portland but they’re now at NE 22nd and Burnside — directly adjacent to the popular bike street of SE Ankeny.

Universal’s location boasts windows
on both Burnside and Ankeny.

Universal’s new retail location is attached to a large warehouse; one of four the company has throughout the U.S. (others are in Minnesota, New Mexico, and Utah). In addition to a huge selection on the showroom floor, customers can also search Universal’s entire inventory via in-shop computer and then send a print-out of their order to employees. If the products are in stock in Portland, they can be picked up immediately.

Universal is open for business and there’s a grand opening planned for June.

Further east on Burnside, at 57th, a new shop called Cyclopedia has just opened their doors. I haven’t met the owners yet, but the website says,

“We’re a small neighborhood repair shop that likes to keep it simple and local. We offer affordable rates on repairs and accessories for your daily commuter or your sunny-day cruiser. We specialize in vintage restoration and single-speed conversions but, of course, we also do general tune-ups and repairs.”

Clever Cycles’ storefront on Hawthorne.

And finally today, one of Portland’s most famous bike shops, Clever Cycles, has just announced yet another expansion. The shop — which almost single-handedly spurred the Dutch and cargo bike craze in North America — will buy the corner space next door to their existing store at SE 9th and Hawthorne.

Writing on their blog, Clever owners say the expansion will mean 2,200 more square feet and four times as many windows to dress up with beautiful bikes and accessories.

A bit further south of Hawthorne, iconic and beloved shop, Sellwood Cycle Repair is slated for a move from their current location on SE Milwaukie Ave to a larger space on SE 13th (7953 SE 13th). Shop co-owner Erik Tonkin says given that the shop turns 20 this year, “It feels like an appropriate time” for a big change.

Sellwood’s new location will have over five times the square footage. They’re already Kona’s largest U.S. dealer and the increased size, Tonkin says, will allow them to stock even more popular models (they also stock bikes from Yuba and Scott). Customers will also notice an expanded repair and service area.

Here’s more from Tonkin, whom we contacted via email today,

“I see this move as a major investment in bikes, in our neighborhood, our customers, and, of course, our business and ourselves. We’ve put a year’s worth of work into the building, and it really shows.”

Sellwood will be settled into the new location by early June.

With all this bike shop news, one thing is clear: Bikes are a good — and growing — business in Portland.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @BikePortland on Twitter and
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