Few items in the cycling world dovetail simplicity and functionality as beautifully as the toe strap.
In the 80s, the toe clip and strap enjoyed its most glorious existence, not only were roadies using them, but mountain bikers, and in small but selective numbers, BMX racers, too…all hooked on the power a rider could produce by strapping foot to pedal.
Like all inventions, a need and available technology turned to evolution and in a move reminiscent of the birth of music videos, the toe clip and strap was killed off the “clipless” pedal. Cue the Buggles…
To the newer generation of cyclists it is unimaginable that riders would have resorted to such manual operations as to reach down after placing their foot into the toe clip and pull the strap tight before really cranking out the efforts. Or, that knee issues were far more prevalent and a head-over-heels wipe out resulted in a pavement meets body collision with your bike still firmly attached to your person. Despite the widespread popularity of the clipless pedal, the toe clip remains a strong entity, achieving an almost cult status among track racers, restoration projects, and, of course, those who commute.
The toe strap, however, has been elevated to an entirely new level of functionality. It is incredibly simple with the clamp being a symbol of perfect design, a flawless blend of simplicity and reliability. The toe strap is the perfect item for any cyclist with an almost limitless number of useful outlets.
Off the bike, the toe strap serves as a third hand during maintenance, pairing wheels during cross season and securing a spare tube under the seat. It’s an amazing stand-in for the plastic wheel strap that continually breaks on your roof rack, and for a trunk-mounted rack, it keeps the bars straight and free from unintentional top tube damage. The toe strap is the cycling world’s equivalent to duct tape. You can fix almost anything with a toe strap.
Over the years, I have amassed many orphaned toe straps; the majority of my collection consists of nylon straps, durable and cheap versions that during the bike shop days were ordered by the thousands. Aside the mountain of cheap and utilitarian nylon straps lies the coveted supply of classics that are used for only special applications. The classics range in age and brand, but all are made from leather. Leather toe straps have an element nylon does not. Leather seamlessly blends equal parts class and function. The leather toe strap has a feel unique to itself: the leather pulls differently than the nylon, the amount of stretch differs, even the feel against your foot is different. The leather strap is as useful as the nylon, but in my world, the leather straps are given the light duty jobs, the jobs that are more show than go. What better way to display their elegance?
There are so many uses for the toe strap that a cyclist is limited only by the imagination. If you don’t have a few laying around already, dig into that miscellaneous parts pin or head to the shop and pick up some new ones. Toss them into your travel case, your travel tool box, or just leave them accessible on your tool bench. Like me, you will be continually amazed at the ways a toe strap can assist in daily life.
Few things complement each other as well as bikes and coffee. The crew at Laguna Cyclery have mastered this concept. However, don’t show up expecting to enjoy a “mocha frappa whippeo” while bumming some Wi-Fi. Quite the contrary. Laguna Bikes is the kind of bike shop with decades of nostalgia decorating the walls and a passionate, knowledgeable, friendly staff.
More and more, the bicycle retail experience feels cookie-cutter and sterile– a bit like a Crate and Barrel with bikes and the smell of rubber. The creative and individual shop style has been replaced with fancy counter tops and gallons of white paint. There was a time not too long ago when shops separated themselves from their competition by putting a professional foot forward presenting themselves with a streamlined appearance and miles and miles of slatwall. Somewhere between 1993 and 1999, this became the look everyone strived for and now, there’s a backlash that has given the shops of yore a warmth and charm that sets them apart from the crowds.
Laguna Cyclery rests a few steps from the Pacific ocean. The golden glare of the midday sun taunts those from places east, as the sobering realization takes hold that Laguna Beach’s weather is ideal for cycling 12 months a year.
When I step out of the hot western sun and into the doors of the shop, the initial sensation was that I had been whisked thousands of miles away, into a remote dry goods shop in Vermont. The charm of Laguna Cyclery’s aged wood, exposed and lofty attic, and plank-covered walls give the shop the feeling of an old-world barn, a classic simplicity one would find in New England. And a feeling that is just as warm as the golden sun.
When visiting shops there is no formula that equates to bicycle retail greatness, so I look for shops that motivate me, stir memories from my cycling journey, and enlighten me to see the sport from new aspects and vantage points. In bike shops, often a great experience for me is driven by the attitude of the staff, the decorations on the wall, or the bikes and products they choose to sell.
To a cyclist, Laguna Cyclery holds hidden gems everywhere. Dig into the nooks and crannies and there before you resides a treasure trove of machines and gear from days of old, stuff that you have ridden, wished you could have ridden, or items currently residing on your “if I only had a few extra bucks” list. Look more closely and you are sure to find at least one, “I never should have sold that” item. This shop is passion from floor to ceiling, adorning the attic and atop benches. When you visit, do yourself a favor and allot ample time to take in the entire experience and completely absorb the shop’s subtleties.
There is a clear PRO influence at Laguna. Their main frame lines represent the best of the best: Pinerello, Colnago, Willer, Cervelo, and Time. If you stroll through their blog, you see a smattering of each marquee built in various forms and price points…some SRAM, some Shimano (even a Di2 kit way ahead of the Shimano production schedule). When in the shop, however, the team’s love for Campagnolo is undeniable.
There is no question, the gear inside the shop is top-notch and qualifies Laguna Cyclery as a PRO shop, but stopping there would only scratch the surface and highlight the superficial aspects of the shop. Need to know a great riding route? Advice on selecting a training tire? Need an opinion on SRAM vs. Shimano? The crew here has it and they will take the time needed to make sure your riding experience is better when you exit the shop than when you entered it. The entire staff in the shop is passionate about our sport and as friendly as they are approachable.
Laguna Cyclery’s products are not limited to exclusive high-end kits. Laguna offers bikes at price points that suit everyone from beginner to PRO. Beyond pricing, what Laguna does so well is treat each rider, no matter the experience or budget, like a fellow cyclist. It’s this approach to cycling that separates great shops from good ones and builds a wicked local riding scene that endures. Laguna has been around since 1971 and, without question, has helped shape the area’s cycling scene.
I mentioned at the start of this post that I don’t employ a formulaic approach when highlighting shops; however, there is one business formula that I have seen deliver success time and time again: Foster the love for cycling in all of your customers. This formula is simple and basic, but crazy when considering how often it’s overlooked.
Drop by Laguna Cyclery, bring your sunscreen, and your passion for bikes. Look deep inside the shop and talk to the staff. If you are a local to the shop, drop by and buy a tube, introduce yourself, and see what the excitement is all about. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll offer you an espresso while you take in the sights.
240 Thalia Street
Laguna Beach, CA
The photos featured in this post were shot in February 2009 just prior to a massive renovation but, rest assured, the passion and the feel of the shop remain firmly in place.
The ride began with a climb on a tree-enveloped road that took us up over the shoulder of Mt. Tamalpais and suddenly opened to sunlight and bright azure heavens.
The day alternated between cool shade under trees and earthen walls and the brilliant sunlight of a day uncommon to Marin County.
The group was as calm as it was adept at navigating challenging terrain. I felt like I’d been riding with these guys for years.
Fausto gained everyone’s respect by staying near the front the whole day. There is no doubt he rides regularly and with a strong group.
Chad stayed near the front as well, stopping the group periodically to let those with less spring fitness rejoin and enjoy a drink.
The Bissell Team members rode with the relaxed air of guys out for a Monday morning recovery ride. Many remained in long sleeves and leg warmers for the whole of the day, despire temperatures that entered the 80s. More impressive, they would gently slide into gaps allowing lesser riders a chance to catch a wheel rather than get dropped.
After climbing up the long grade of BoFax from Stinson Beach, riders were treated to vistas of rolling hills, the beach below and sheer hillsides.
The rolling terrain gave everyone a chance to enjoy some short decents on which to recover.
In the birthplace of mountain biking, singletrack beckoned, despite the quality of the road.
Gita’s Nicholls, at right gets important feedback on the DMT shoe line the team wears.
The final descent back to town offered the group an E-ticket ride with distracting views and constant switchbacks. Disneyland was never this much fun.
A group with this much skill can make any descent seem effortless.
Morgan Schmitt, who won the crit at Sea Otter days before, grabs a bottle on the descent.
DS Eric Wohlberg was joined by his girlfriend. It was an incredible display of power, grace and gentleness.
Bicycle retailing is a tough business. To succeed, a shop needs someone steadfast in their devotion to daily routine. Opening on time, merchandising, assembly, repairs, orders, accounting. It’s not sexy, but the success or failure of any retailer can hinge on the most mundane of details. But what makes us love bike shops, more than our love for the bicycle itself is the passion that some owners put into their shops.
That passion can’t be imparted by adding square feet or more bicycles; instead it comes in ways as diverse as the colors frames are painted. Tributes to favorite pros, sponsored racers, a hall of fame of those who have passed through, each front door is another chance to revel in what makes cycling our sport of choice.
Chad at Above Category in Mill Valley recent held a special—invitation-only—ride with one of Italy’s living legends, Fausto Pinarello. The man who shepherded the Prince to its place beneath kings came to heaven itself (okay, Marin County, same thing) for a ride with the devoted.
Not everyone rode a Pinarello, but they all were fans.
Our ride leaders for the day, Skyler and Spence. They are already amazingly strong. Remember these faces: You’ll see them in VeloNews in years to come.
The Above Category team riders rode in the black and white Giordana kits.
Sometimes, good taste starts early, Assos for the cradle set.
Fausto talking to a devoted customer.
A stunning collection of Assos clothing.
Sandy Nicholls of Gita Sporting Goods, Pinarello’s importer, Chad’s wife Kalara and Chad.