In another sign of a changing Portland, Citybikes is closing the doors of its flagship sales location and consolidating its business.
The shop has been run as a worker-owned cooperative since 1990. It expanded from its original repair shop location on Southeast Ankeny near 20th to a second location, the 5,000 square-foot “Annex”, on the corner of SE Ankeny and 7th in 1995. Because of dwindling sales, the Annex will close for good by the end of this year.
“The main factor,” said Citybikes owner Ryan Smith in a phone interview last week, “Is that people who used to come here, don’t live in Portland anymore.” Smith is one of nine current owners of the shop and he expects that the total number of worker-owners will be reduced to just five once the transition is complete. Citybikes used to have as many as 25 owners in peak season.
“It’s not the same old weird portland it used to be, and being the same old weird bike shop we’ve always been isn’t working anymore.”
— Ryan Smith, Citybikes
Smith, 37, says times have changed in the Portland bike market and his shop hasn’t seen positive sales numbers for nearly a decade. Smith started at Citybikes in 2006 and was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm for bikes in Portland — and Citybikes’ role in stoking it. But after experiencing 22 years of consistent sales growth, Citybikes reached a peak in 2008 and has experienced a decline ever since.
2008 was a great year for everyone in the bike world in large part because gas prices reached an all-time high and droves of people were looking for an alternative to driving. The amount of bike shops boomed along with the amount of bike riders, and there’s been a gradual shake-out ever since. In recent years, with the massive influx of new people moving to Portland, places like Citybikes that didn’t do any traditional marketing and relied solely on word-of-mouth, have had trouble competing.
“Portland is a different city than what it used to be. We need to educate ourselves on how to appeal to Portland now. It’s not the same old weird portland it used to be, and being the same old weird bike shop we’ve always been isn’t working anymore.”
Citybikes has always catered to the price-sensitive, utilitarian/DIY bike rider — the type of demographic that defined inner southeast of “old Portland.” Now, with thousands of people moving to Portland every month — people with more money and often less bicycling in their lives — Citybikes is a shop without a constituency.
“The people who used to come in here don’t live in Portland anymore,” Smith said, “There’s no affordable housing… The people who live in the five square miles around the shop have a different idea of bicycling. They either want high-end stuff or are not familiar with who we are. We have people who come in and say, ‘Wow I didn’t even know about you guys,’ and they’re our neighbors.”
Smith added that these new customers expect freshly remodeled stores and he acknowledges that Citybikes hasn’t kept up appearances as much as he’d like.
The good news for Citybikes is that they own both of their buildings. The repair shop location is much smaller than the Annex, but since they own the large, three-story house it’s attached to they’ll have room for storage and employee offices. And once the Annex space is rented out that will provide some stable income as well.
No matter how you look at it, it’s another sign of an end to an era.
You still have a few months to shop at the Citybikes Annex. All their new bikes in stock are 20 percent off and prices will drop until everything is sold. Stay tuned for a big sale of used parts later in fall.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com
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This is sad!
Frustrating. I miss gritty Portland.
And I might be partially to blame.
I love this shop! The staff has always been super helpful and friendly. Sad to see it go 🙁
A good source of used parts, but, speaking from experience, I didn’t trust their repair expertise.
Huh, that’s a bummer that you weren’t treated well there :-/ I’ve been going consistently for a few years and it has always been a good experience for me. I actually had a bad experience at River City one time, but I’ve also had enough good experiences w/ RC to offset the bad.
I agree, I went in there the other day looking for a bolt for my bar-end shifter. Granted, kind of an obscure question, but they didn’t really even try to help. Pointed at the bins and said, “help yourself.” Which I suppose is what the store is all about, but. I went to CCC and they didn’t have the bolt but the mechanic provided a solution for me. Something that I cannot say about City Bikes or that they even tried. Maybe morale is down.
That was certainly my experience. i wanted to make it my go to shop along my commuting route when I was living in Portland, but the workers were incredibly arrogant and rude.
CityBikes Annex provided me with my used KHS Urban X-press (with custom CityBikes mods like upright handlebars) at a very affordable price about 5 years ago, and when it got stolen last year I went back and bought the exact same bike (except new, and a different color). It’s too bad that we’re losing one of the best sources in town for affordable, functional commuter bikes!
Just last week I saw an old sticker on a staple rack in NW Portland from a few years back when a group of “antifascists” accused Citybikes’ founder of being a racist and an anti-semite. Any word on whether that had any impact on sales or the ultimate closing of the store?
Can’t say I ever felt welcome or even visable at the annex. The shop up the hill was always a better experience.
I agree with Jagur. I have contriubted several sets of good wheels and other parts to the shop by 21st. I have bought a few also. It is where I bought my Terry handlebars in 1998 because I wanted a slightly narrower set of drop bars. It is the only one I found anywhere.
I blame Biketown.
Naaah. Biketown is a little symptom of a very big demographic shift that another BP reader called (I’m paraphrasing here) the “Disneyfication of cities”.
Ryan Smith called it when he said that Portland has changed.
I’ll go further and suggest that anything resembling the “old” Portland isn’t coming back. What’s more, The number of customers who work on their own bikes may have fallen off, possibly correlating with the increase in new customers who want everything bright, shiny and decidedly UN-funky — and, by extension, someone else to fix it for them.
In the future, people who need used parts will look for them at the CCC and BikeFarm — both of which will raise their prices accordingly once they realize they’ve cornered the market on locally available used stuff. And so it goes.
It sounds like Citybikes will go back to something close to its first incarnation as a co-op: a repair shop with five co-owners. That’s not necessarily all bad. Except that now there are two other bike shops within walking distance, and that sort of competition changes things a lot.
Again, this isn’t all sad. It’s just change. Every business has an arc. If indeed we’re witnessing the downward slide of Citybikes’ arc, that’s just how things go. Considering that they’ve been in business for thirty years and a co-op for over 25. In an economy that turns on a dime that’s not a bad record at all.
Beyond the coolth of a .coop domain, they’ve been a great source of parts for a couple older bikes for me, as well as new parts that meet my needs. The staff has always given me good advice. Their service to those on minimal budgets is to their credit. I’m sorry the Annex is closing but I’m glad that Citibikes will keep rolling.
Having been a customer since 92 (it’s only one a few LBS I will even consider going to and my oldest of go to shops) sad news indeed. Though in all honestly – I always have preferred the original shop – but that is because my stable is all vintage and I love nothing more than a dusty/rusty parts bin.
Oh no! The Citybikes Annex was the meeting location for the first Naked Ride in Portland (that I’m aware of, in 2002) and the BikeSummer 2002 finale party location. It was part of the street party for Portland Car-Free Day Street Fair 2003. I think that was the year that 20 Foot Man had their big structure built for the street fair and performed? Also this is where I’ve bought each of my Bike Buckets.
I’ve got nothing but love in my heart for Citybikes. I’ve always felt welcomed at both their shops. They used to have nights where they would let you come in with your bike and work on whatever repairs you had need of, patiently answering questions. I’m slightly less clueless with a wrench thanks to them. Sorry to hear they’re having a rough go of it.
The original CityBikes is a great shop, I’m really glad it will still be around.
I’m sorry to see the Annex go. I learned to build wheels there.
Given what a bike shop desert East Portland is, I wonder if the Annex shop couldn’t be relocated there.
As a past Citybikes worker, I too am saddened by this turn of events. Even before I worked there, Citybikes always seemed to me the epitome of what a bike shop should be – knowledgable, friendly, unpretentious, affordable. I’m happy to have been a part of it for a little while.
If you’re looking for a shop in East Portland, why don’t you try out Rosewood Bikes at 162nd & Stark? We’re working on addressing the “bike desert” issue and to serve the community. Stop by sometime!
Sorry to hear the news. Not unexpected…for all the reasons mentioned…
Hey Citybikes…how about following a lot of Portlanders moving to Vancouver??…we are way under bike shopped up here in the downtown.
Repair centric bike shop business (vs new bike retail) was the business upside for Bad Monkey when they were open…[folks are more likely to repair local due to the hassle of transporting a bike twice over the bridge.]
Wow, sad to hear. I rarely visited the Annex, but used to go to the repair shop not-infrequently, and got a lot of cool old parts there, not to mention donated quite a few too. A lot of what I know about tinkering with bike drivetrains I learned with parts I got from Citybikes. I hope they can at least keep the repair shop going.
Of course I’m one of those customers who doesn’t “live in Portland anymore.”
I bought my first bike here when I moved to Portland. It seemed difficult to find shops that had a big selection of used bikes for cheap.
Damn you yuppies on your plastic bikes!
Steel is real. 😉
Most everything else is what I call a “disposable bike”..
Any correlation in closing City Bike’s with the rampant bike theft in this same area? There is an equivalent stock (to City Bike’s) of used bike parts under every bridge and tarp along the springwater… and seem to be a larger quantity of bike mechanics at all the tarp encampments than the 25 listed working at City Bikes. Not sure where all these stolen bike parts from the camp chop shops are going and how they are getting sold, but maybe it’s the opposite and bike theft actually drives customers to City bikes to replace stolen bikes. Like many trends in brick/mortar retail, maybe it’s just hard to compete with Craig’s list.
“Damn good for nothun pop up/ tented repair shops…driving away brick and mortar businesses that pay rent and property taxes…” sounds like a food cart discussion 10 years ago… 😉
Could be an effect on their closing but doubtful…as the tented bike shops have great hours but they don’t take plastic as payment…or they try to keep my card (skim it).
My vote: Its more of a combo: demographics issue (already mentioned) plus Craigslist/ Ebay…why sell your parts for to City Bikes [unless you don’t have the time to CL them?!]
It seems weird to see the 1000s of new customers moving to the neighborhood as a problem and not an opportunity. Also, why no mention of the internet? Seems like that might be a pretty big issue for an LBS these days.
It probably depends on whether those 1000s of new customers want to fix up their old bikes, or are looking for something a bit more upmarket.
The market is changing along with our demographics
Too many of those 1000s of new customser are not interested in fixing their bikes, or even in getting their hands dirty — or even owning a dirty bicycle. Everything has to be clean and shiny and easy. So the old approach of inviting someone to simply help thenmselves to whatever’s in the bins just doesn’t fly anymore for The New Spoiled Crowd.
There. I said it.
And because I don’t plan to work in the bike industry anymore, I’ll say it again.
Citybikes (and before them, the Bicycle Repair Collective, and after them, BikeFarm) are shops designed for people who aren’t afraid to be curious and grow into some degree of self-sufficiency. Citybikes was NEVER the Bike Gallery and that is really okay. But the number of people who are positioned/informed/equipped to truly appreciate the Citybikes and BikeFarms of the world are dwindling in number in Portland.
Unfortunately the majority of those thousands are car drivers. And out of those who actually use bikes, I’d bet the majority are fair weather bikers who only ride on sunny weekend days. Or drive their bikes to trai lheads or parking lots to go on “rides” with other motor – cyclists.
I can say that the people at CB have been really nice over the last couple of years… last bad interaction I had was at CCC, some real alpha types working there.
I really miss the used bike parts room in the back of CB, remember that? I wonder if Universal setting up shop just up the block from the 19th and Ankeny location has anything to do with this as well.
The back room was pretty sweet!
…and the basements swimming with solid 1980s / early 1990s Japanese bike parts cheap don’t existing much in this region anymore…plus the supply is not being refreshed by a lot of the affordable lower end bikes found at bike boxes…thus prices are rising high enough to make it worth your time to sell or trade directly…
Hi Bike Portland,
You may be working on it already, but it might be interesting to do a tally of bike shops that have closed and opened. Shops that I know of that have closed recently: Weir’s, Athlete’s Lounge, Bad Monkey (Vancouver), Hi Five. I know we had a down year also, but are going to hang in there and keep providing our St Johns community with all it’s bike needs, and building bike love.
Block Bikes PDX LLC
Sorry to hear. Lotsa time spent at both locations. The only bike shop in downtown Kansas City is closing at the end of September, so if you’d like to open it back up somewhere else…
What about Revolve KC? Don’t they have two locations?
KC….man you almost need a bike just to get to the store fronts from the massive parking lots there. I swear some of the fast food chains in KC have parking lots bigger than those outside Portland big boxes.
This is a bummer to hear. I frequently went to the repair annex for quick fixes and for some parts that I needed. Usually felt like I was getting a good deal there and some good instruction. And, honestly this was about the closest bike shop to me near 60th and Burnside with Cylcopedia and Bicycle repair collective closing the past few years.
This shop helped me fix my bike many, many times, sold me a kickass bridgestone fully refurbished once, and helped me piece together transportation bikes for several friends.
The new Portland is so lame. I can’t wait for the next recession when these people working remote and living in their over-priced box apartments move on and the city gets its soul back.
CityBikes will probably be redeveloped into another boring apartment building by then, but don’t worry — there’ll be a new bike store on the ground floor, happy to sell you a titanium seatpost for your fixie, or some super wide tire monstrosity, or whatever the hell it is the new kids ride, where you won’t be troubled by the smell of grease…
Oh, screw it. See you in Detroit.
Detroit, KC, Memphis and a host of other cities that most native Northwesterners would’ve sniffed at only five years ago are becoming desirable places to live — at least this week, before the rents go up.
It isn’t just Portland. It may be happening faster here, but really it’s happening everywhere. The growing re-feudalization of our economy will only separate the haves from the have-nots faster and more efficiently.
so much hate for titanium, fixies and big tires. We still ride, why the hate, have you spent any time on a fat bike? STOP THE HATE ALL BIKES ARE GOOD BIKES, only bad riders.
I also hate lycra, but I wear it sometimes because it makes me feel sexy.
I hate those really narrow handlebars.
I hate bikes without fenders… I mean, what the hell? Hello, it’s PORTLAND, folks!
I hate cycling shoes that make you walk like a penguin.
I’ve had some great service experiences at Citybikes and some bad ones, but in my lizard brain, a Citybikes bucket pannier will always be the badge of the Portland I’ve loved most.
I think it’s an open question whether the increasingly rich central Portlanders of today are biking any less than the less rich ones of 2008, but there’s no question that they’re richer. In the Portland I want, central Portland would have thriving bike shops aimed at both rich folks and poorer folks.
That is a lofty goal, but sure isn’t going to happen while developers are running this city. Inner Portlanders are not getting richer, the out of towners moving in have the money, and the city is sure trying to move the natives out. They keep pitching more density and have coined the term “middle housing,” even though the city officials fully admit that none of this housing built in inner Portland will be at all affordable.
We used to have economic diversity in inner Portland. My friends and I used to live great in vintage houses and apartments (without AC) that are all being torn down to make room for transplants that demand finer things and can pay for them.
The developers are making tons of money, and completely filling the seats of the PDC and the Residential Infill Stakeholders Advisory Committee. No one is on those committees without a financial stake in the proposed development, and they are spinning it like mad.
I moved here two years ago and have yet to receive my payout check from the city.
What payout check? Never did I infer the city was paying people to move here. I said the developers are controlling the city committees, and pitching development schemes with liberal language to appeal to us, but don’t actually benefit the current citizens.
And for as angry at Portland infrastructure as you are, why did you not stay and fix the city you lived in? You sure yell a lot for only being two years in.
When you get your check you can pay for those infrastructure “improvements” that any competent cyclist would never need. Oh, I have four steel bikes and two carbon bikes. They are all real. Is your frame material choice based on experience?
Everything that rhymes is automatically true. Nobody talks about this.
Developers know “affordable housing” is a great talking point, but they sure aren’t building much. Mostly they’re redeveloping it.
i blame the garish mural paint-over and the left-fascist witch hunts
Interestingly, the article mentioned that when gas prices went up in 08 bike shops did really well… another surge in prices is inevitable so perhaps there’s some hope –
“… said Citybikes owner Ryan Smith….” I thought it was a worker owned collective? Is he being id’d this way because everyone is an “owner”?
And how does Citybikes “lay off” owners anyway?
I used to ride past this shop daily. The two times I stopped in — to buy a lock, to buy a tire — the staff was incredibly rude, on the verge of hostile. Eventually, I just didn’t even bother, even in a pinch. Sad to see a bike store close, but I’m not surprised by CityBike’s fate. Ryan Smith: Maybe people stopped going there because they were valued more by your competitors. Godspeed.
I was thinking. Maybe Universal was the downfall. I always park at Universal, shop and if I can’t find what I need, walk over to Citybikes. My most recent DIY bike is a mashup of parts from both shops…
Actually, maybe having SEVENTY bike shops in a town the size of Portland is the downfall. With oversaturation like that, there HAS to be a grand shakeout periodically.
Wrong, it’s clearly all the rich hipsters’ faults.
To somewhat briefly respond, yes…I was the one interviewed but I am one of 8 current owners. Not every one shares my opinion on the matter.
I think it’s important to point out here that no one bike shop is a perfect, harmonious place to work or shop. We do our best but like all humans and most animals, we are not flawless. We have bad days sometimes because of long hours, lack of staff, demanding and often times mentally ill customers whose level of compassion is in the negative, especially in our part of town, and other real life circumstances that most anyone in the service industry can relate to. One day you’re treated like gold and given a great deal and the next could be the exact opposite (for lack of choosing more colorful words). I personally don’t write off anyone in the service industry but pay attention to how my experience is handled by the staff of where ever I choose to vote with dollars when my ballot budget is tight, meaning always. Why I think we’re special if you’ll allow me, is because we actually stick up for our staff, owners and seasonal workers because it gets literally crazy sometimes and we focus on providing a safe space for all employees. It’s that “the customer is always right” mentality that we don’t always agree with. I am sorry there are people dismayed by their experience in a shop I often confuse with home but ask people to recognize how tricky this industry is and how being one of the few shops that actually works directly with the under priveldged, mentally ill, homeless and what’s left of the DIY community can be. We don’t just serve the best of Portland , we serve all of Portland. And we shall, proceed.
When the Bicycle Repair Collective moved out of the “mother shop” location at 19th & Ankeny in 1986, I chose to remain and open a 3-speed & “sit-up” bike shop. Having grown up in Europe, I was an evangelist for practical and comfortable all-purpose bikes. I had no interest in fancy road bikes or the new fangled mountain bikes as recreational vehicles, but exploited their potential for conversion to fast &/or rugged urban transportation.
I happened upon a bike shop in a remote corner of New Zealand’s south island in 1975 where I was able to purchase a left French pedal for my Peugeot touring bike. The shop featured a huge array of well organized used parts stored in 1 gallon soup cans & ice cream buckets from the parlor next door. Over time they had refurbished all of the bicycles abandoned after the gold rush and painted them purple, so every bike in the shop and most of the bikes in town were purple – Prince would have loved it (and yes it was raining). This was the inspiration for Citybikes.
The Annex was rented and subsequently purchased because we had outgrown the original shop and needed to separate the used bike and repair aspects of the business. This necessitated hiring more staff and establishing a more complex management structure (with committees & meetings galore) and then there was the response to the ever increasing demand for modern index-shifting hybrid bicycles, which we weren’t able to acquire used. So we had to hire & train more people. Used bike refurbishment became secondary. Lots of competition popped up in the neighborhood, notably Rivercity’s nearby outlet store. I retired in 2008, but check out Citybikes used parts & bike inventory regularly. I bought my recumbent there and the same model of Peugeot that I left in New Zealand after nine months traveling & working there.
It always seemed a bit of an anomaly to have two shops on the same street. Consolidating into one shop seems to be a sensible survival strategy. That old house looks a bit dowdy – it’s begging for a fresh paint job a la Pambiche. (Preferably not an apocalyptic mural like the one that covered Sara Stouts delightful winged bicycle and woman mechanic with bicycle tools for hands images that used to grace the annex’s walls).
“[T]he price-sensitive, utilitarian/DIY bike rider” has more lower-cost options in Portland served by non-profits such as Bike Farm, Bikes 4 Humanity PDX, and North Portland Bikeworks, none of which existed 20 years ago. And today there are too many bike shops in Portland, intensifying competitions, again, something that was not here 20 years ago.
Independent shops including Citybikes also do not have the economics of scale, when DIYers can easily order heavily discounted parts online or from big-box stores such as REI.
Citybikes had fallen into that crack between the low-income/working-class market and the middle-class/upscale market some time ago.
Failing to adapt to the market is sadly what drives many businesses away.
I find most bike mechanics to be rude and arrogant. It’s not just Citybikes. Of course there are exceptions. But I think it’s part of the bike mechanic subculture.
There needs to be more bike shops in Columbia County along the Highway 30, especially considering how many cyclists go up and down there. St. Helens has Barlow Bikes, but that’s pretty much the only bike shop in the whole county.