May 26, 2010

The Shop Cozy

In 1972 my father opened a bike shop with his good friend Mike Brown in the center of Toronto named Bicyclesport. At the time, the bike shop was unique in a city of supermarket bikes as it catered to the serious cyclist. They built custom Mariposa frames in the frame shop, they repaired frames, there was a crew of top mechanics and the sales room was clean, crisp and colourful.

I grew up in the shop. From a newborn to a teenager I spent a significant portion of my life amongst the bikes.  The mechanics taught me how to fix my bike, I worked on my frames with my Dad as soon as I was old enough to hold a torch, and the new bikes, which lined the showroom walls were candy to my young eyes. The shop was a warm and welcoming environment in which to grow up. Being from the UK, my Dad always had the kettle on and the cookie tin full.

Almost four decades later, the shop is now closed and my Dad is retired. But, he still maintains a workshop, which has also become somewhat of a museum. He restores bikes from his significant collection and friends constantly drop by to have a cup of tea, chat about cycling, tinker with the bikes, or page through the old cycling volumes.

The teapot is still insulated by a cozy knitted by a mechanic’s mother. She gave it to the shop for the opening as her fifteen-year-old son Ted, who started out as ‘the shop boy’, had been given the job of making tea. Being from England she understood the importance of a good cup of tea and a good cozy to keep the pot warm. It is a simple woolen hat striped with the world championship bands. It has become a bit of symbol for the shop and has somehow weathered the years of use. Cycling brings unique people from all over the world together and many of those gathered in the shop around the teapot.

Attached are some photos of my father’s large collection of bikes, books and parts. The photos only capture a small part of the vast collection. The shop still feels like a home to me and, I think, to hundreds of people who share a common passion for the bike and have sat around the shop and talked over tea and a biscuit.

For more images of the bikes and shop see: www.bikespecialties.com, mariposabicycles.com and www.bicyclespecialties.blogspot.com

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10 Responses to “The Shop Cozy”

  • Posted by Richard Lee | May 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Enjoyed your post. It looks a very warm place to gather and marvel, chat & have a cuppa!

  • Posted by Lisa Martin | May 26, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Seeing the tea cozy again brought some lovely memories flooding back. Also wanted to congratulate you on your stage last week. I watched it on tv with great excitement. Very proud to see my friend realising his dream. Talk soon. L x

  • Posted by Marcel Zierfuss | May 26, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Wonderful Mike!

    I remember that wooden case being a main feature in the sales room which once was home to a massive Strong Light chainring. I never could figure out how one could possibly turn it.

    Thanks for the post and very fond memories.

    Marcel

  • Posted by Vera | May 26, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    I love cycling and knitting and especially a post that puts both together!

  • Posted by john palmer | May 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Michael,
    The tea cozy is wonderful! I was about to write to congratulate you on your Giro, you have been riding very well and contributed your part to making this such an exciting race. Well done, and good luck on the final stages.
    Of course it was the tea cozy that absolutely forces me to write now, and not wait until the end of the Giro as I was planning. For me the tea cozy just about sums up the whole history. Racing against your father in England in the 1950-60s, building Mariposa track frames in Alan Bentleys basement instead of riding our bikes, Bicyclesport, braking my arm while out riding with your dad to celebrate my 40th Birthday. Meeting Dede for the first time in the Netherlands, wher I told one of the officials that I was her uncle. Your wedding. The 2003 Worlds, and many more memories. All thoughts stimulated by the sight of the tea cozy! We are all proud of you guys.
    The Palmer family.

  • Posted by big ring | May 29, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I dig the tea cozy! I also like the mug – got the same one somewhere in the house. BUT what I like most is that amazing display of bikes.

    I rode your Dad’s race last year, The Hell of the North, and had a blast!

    Good luck with the completion of the Giro!

    cheers

  • Posted by Mike | May 30, 2010 at 2:50 am

    Hi Marcel,
    That chainwheel is still in the cabinet. It is a TA with 130 teeth and is a replica of the one used by Jose Miefret to set a World motor paced speed record of 204 kph. (127 mph).
    Mike.

  • Posted by mjh | June 27, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Great post! As a former Torontonian (now living in London, the one across the ocean, not down the 401) I’m gutted to realize that I missed a real part of cycling history in the city. I have never been to the shop, nor even knew it existed (unfortunately, I was not very interested in road bikes at that time)! I will be keeping my eyes open for Mariposa frames, though. I’d love to add one to my collection.

    And good luck in the coming month!

  • Posted by Sun Lam | July 3, 2010 at 2:52 am

    I got my first bike, a Nishiki, from Bloor Cycles as a graduation present from grade 8. By the time i finished High School, I was riding a Pinellro all bought from Bicyclesport. This was all paid via my part time job at McDonald’s and I visited your Dad’s shop every two weeks or so. I pretty sure your dad must have thought I was insane, but it probably did keep me out of trouble.

    I still have the Pinellro with the black and white Bicyclesport sticker.

    Good memories.

    All the best on the Tour.

  • Posted by Pär Lindén | May 25, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Great. It is not about the bike? Well – It is not only about cycling either.

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