Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Let’s thank River City Bicycles for 20 years of service

Posted by on March 20th, 2015 at 12:14 pm

River City 20th Anniversary promo video narrated by owner Dave Guettler.

What makes a great bike shop?

20th-Anniversary-BW

That’s a question bike nerds like myself could debate and discuss forever. Or, we could save our breath and just roll over to River City Bicycles on SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and see a living, breathing example of one.

Since 1995 River City has set the standard for bike shops — not just for Portland, but the entire country. Owner Dave Guettler and his solid core of long-time employees have been keeping it real for 20 years.

For the past few weeks the shop has been running local ads saying “thank you” to the community and telling us they wouldn’t be here without such loyal customers. That’s technically true. And it’s a nice thing to say. But I’ve been thinking, would we all be here without River City? Shouldn’t we be thanking them?

This shop is an institution in Portland. It’s won all the awards and accolades from the bike industry (including “Retailer of the Year” in 2010 and “Most Female Friendly” in 2008) and they have sold over 75,000 bicycles. But as with any great shop, there’s much more to it than that.

Here’s a tiny sampling of the type of things River City does that sets them apart from other shops:

– The shop funded the publication of Rubber to the Road, a guidebook to local rides that introduced me to some excellent routes.

– River City has been an unwavering title sponsor of the Cross Crusade, which happens to be the largest (in terms of participation) cyclocross racing series in the world.

– Remember back in 2008 when they gave a free bike to the person who could guess when gas would hit $4 a gallon?

– River City has always had a flair for creative and subversive marketing. Their print ads are legendary and they’ve even done TV spots.

– How to make a bike shop appealing and welcoming to women used to (and still does to some degree) baffle the industry. Things have come a long way in recent years, and River City was one of the first to truly get it. In 2008 they were named the most female friendly shop in the entire country.

– River City was one of BikePortland’s original advertisers and still supports our work today (thank you Dave!).

– River City has always fostered and promoted local framebuilders. Joseph Ahearne, one of our most veteran and respected local builders, is a former employee. Before he made it on his own, Dave would give Joseph space on the sales floor to display his bikes. More recently, we covered an event where the shop held a party to highlight Cielo and Argonaut, two local bike brands.

And of course at the heart of any great bike shop is the owner. And in the case of River City’s Dave Guettler, we simply could not be luckier as a city that he has made this shop his life’s work.

Dave is a humble and honest guy who’s just as comfortable in his hard-rocker wig playing guitar with his band as he his racing cyclocross (on Belgium racing legend Sven Nys’ Colnago), building new hardwood fixtures for the shop, or schmoozing it up at the BTA’s Alice Awards.

Crusade and SSCXWC 09-52

Dave at the 2009 SSCXWC.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-19

Racing ‘cross in 2013.

Like many people who weren’t born in Portland but came here to see if their bike dreams would come true, Dave had an idea (a large independent store instead of a multi-store chain), took a gamble that this city would embrace it, then went all-in. Not knowing what the future held, he dumped his entire life savings into one brick-and-mortar bike shop.

And it worked. I think I speak for a lot people when I say it’s hard to conjure an image of Portland’s bike scene without River City in it.

Like he said in a heart-felt blog post earlier this month, “It seems to me that there is a lot of ‘us’ in Portland, and there is a lot of Portland in River City.”

Thank you Dave, and thanks to the whole crew for an awesome 20 years.

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12 Comments
  • shuppatsu March 20, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Plus, beautiful vintage bikes on display, wood fenders, reacharound fender brackets, free espresso…

    The only downside is location. Getting there by bike is not pleasant, and test rides are kind of a pain. Same could be said for Bike Gallery’s flagship store.

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  • Eric March 20, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Great shop! Cheers! I remember going in there a few years ago and I was quite surprised that they were still hand-scribbling sales receipts. How the heck did they keep track of inventory? or anything really!? They finally jumped into the modern age, and if you go in there now, they whip out a bar code scanner. Luckily, still the same great people. I have had nothing but good experiences there!

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  • Pete March 20, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Bought a Cannondale there years ago and they treated me (and the bike) quite well. Thanks RCB!

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  • Dave March 20, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Tip to Guettler for cyclists who play rock and roll–lose the wig, just go for a quick ride with a cap under your helmet on a warm day. Headgear off–instant Richard Hell look!

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  • PNP March 20, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve bought two bikes from them, and had a great time each time. Yeah, test riding is interesting, but once you’re off MLK, it’s fine. The last time I did a test ride, I wound up going south along the river and somehow found the start of Springwater. The bike was so great that I didn’t want to head back, but I did and then I bought the bike.

    What I particularly like about going there is how I’m treated. I’m a 60 year old woman who is far from a stick figure cyclist, but I’m treated well every time I’m there.

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  • Matt F March 20, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    I’ve had good experiences with the mechanics there. Nice job y’all!

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  • danny March 20, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    This post does a nice job of summing up River’s City’s great store and its many contributions to the community. Just walking into the shop puts me in a happy mood, and I feel good about spending my money there (with my BTA discount, of course).

    Here’s to the next 20 years at RCB!

    p.s. I want some posters of its ads…

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    • joeb March 20, 2015 at 8:28 pm

      Just walking into that store makes you want to spend money.

      “it’s hard to conjure an image of Portland’s bike scene without River City in it”

      I’ll agree with that.

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  • Kyle March 20, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    They’ve treated me very well at RCB since I bought my bike at the outlet last summer; although brand new, it had some problems initially but they totally stood behind it, went above and beyond to make things right, and the bike has been great since!

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  • John Lascurettes March 20, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    I bought my last commuter from RCB. And though I usually go to Velo Cult for service, I do love my experience at RCB.

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  • BikeEverywhere March 22, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I live far out on the west side and think nothing of traveling east to patronize River City. The mechanics have always been so kind and taken the time to explain things without sounding patronizing. I wish I could I could report the same about other shops on the West side. Thanks River City, you are the best!

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  • Jon March 26, 2015 at 7:23 am

    I have driven from Seattle to buy a bike there, with the discount, no tax and sometimes promo discount it sure beats the retailers up there.

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