My tools are organized with the precision of surgical instruments. The madness of my organization stems from years of 10+ hour days and countless repairs passing through the work stand. A solid order to my tools allows for efficient work, no time is lost searching for the 4mm Allen key or the cable cutters.
A stroll through my tool chest reveals many of today’s tools: the Campagnolo UT-BB110crank tool, Mavic’s metal Ksyrium spoke key, and the King hub servicing tools, each designed to service the latest machines and interface with the industry’s most advanced components. But dig a bit deeper into each of the drawers and there among the modern offerings resides a treasure trove of tools from seasons passed. Their presence serve as a reminder of the industry’s hunger for evolution (or de-evolution depending on your view) and, despite a healthy dose of logic, there is a side of me that can’t part with them. I relied on these tools for my livelihood; they facilitated my survival and helped me hone a skill I would rely on to live out my cycling dreams. I shed blood, sweat, and tears with most of them. Many were used countless times during their peak and bore witness to some of the most stressful days in the shop, days where I would have been better served to be on roller skates. They hid out in the pockets of my apron and served as an outlet for my idle hands as I stood on the sales floor and talked about presta vs schrader for the 1,000,034,984,885,769th time.
Tools are like teammates or co-workers; a respect develops over time, a respect grown from working toward a common goal, sharing time together, and acknowledging our mutual reliability. All of my tools serve as an account of my journey through cycling, for they remind me of bikes, components, customers, rides, races, and shops where I focused my energies and passion.
I doubt Shimano has plans of returning to the UA-110 headset, but if they do, I will be ready.
Inevitably, when the cycling discussion turns to which shops “do it right,” One on One Studio is always mentioned. For years, I’ve heard about the magic going down in Minnesota and often the buzz is hitched to One on One (OoO). If you were a mountain biker in the late 80s or early 90s, then you have heard of the shop’s founder, Gene Oberpriller. Gene is as much a part of early mountain bikes as Tioga’s tension disk and Suntour XC PRO. Through his years in the sport, the industry, and the city of Minneapolis, Gene understands his clientele and the local cycling scene. In a word, Gene gets the importance of creating a community environment. With so much talk about the bike scene in Minneapolis, it was time for BKW to hit the road again, this time in an effort to get some One on One time.
As I stepped foot into the shop, I was greeted by the creak of the worn wooden floors and the growl of an espresso machine’s milk steamer. To my right sat a row of tables and a couple sharing a bowl of soup. Upon first glance, I had to wonder: Where are the bikes?
The shop is divided into three distinct areas: the coffee and sandwich bar, the studio, and the service area. Each section acts as a stand-alone space. As I passed through the sweet aroma of the daily brew and then through the bike inventory, I landed in the service area that buzzed with activity. To my right, running the full length of the space, rested every incarnation of Bianchi’s single speed MTB and to my left, was a wall of printed memorabilia and current events. Upon my arrival in the service area, new inventory was being diligently entered into the database and repairs were underway.
One on One is a curious mix of coffee shop, bike shop, ecelctic art gallery, and junkyard; a bit of a museum of useful things, if you will. In many ways, One on One is the bike room that you dream of and, to a cyclist who loves Bridgestone and its history, this shop just can’t be missed. Herein lies the evidence that Gene knows a thing or two about what makes a cyclist tick: sweet machines, all the tools you could imagine, never-a-bad-cuppa espresso machine, cool art, and all the keepsakes from your years of racing. What more could a cyclist want?
A walk through OoO:
When I first entered the door, I turned around and resting above the front door is Gene’s orange X0-1 from ’93, the very bike Gene rode to victory at the famous Chequamegon 40. This piece of history remains outfitted with all the bells and whistles from the era: a Softride suspension stem, Shimano 737 SPDs, moustache bars, and even an orange Silca frame pump. For a rainy October day, the shop was alive with the sights and sounds of a traditional bike shop.
The first third of the shop is a fully functioning coffee house, complete with artwork and a menu of delicious items. The coffee is excellent, the treats fresh, and the soup is good enough that you’d be proud to call it your own. Sandwiches round out the menu and prove that One on One is good for more than replacing a broken spoke.
Gene’s studio portion of the shop displays bicycles as the works of art that they are. Featured on waterfall type racks, each model is represented only once. Here, there’s no “big box” approach where the inventory is spilling out of every nook. Whenever I visit a shop where the bike display emphasizes the bicycle itself, I’m reminded of how beautifully simple the bicycle is, and how it’s certainly worthy of the prime space above your fireplace. The “studio” feel of Gene’s shop is the idyllic backdrop for the aesthetic beauty of a Bianchi, and whether it’s the pedigree of their high-end road machines or the smooth swoop of the Bergamo’s handle bars, One on One provides the right canvas for these masterpieces.
The service area is located in the rear of the building, which provides those seeking service with a direct alley entrance. This area was the gem of my entire experience and I spent the majority of my time closely eyeing it’s very facets: cabinets housing both old and new bike components and frames, CD collections, historic machines, and a selection of handlebars that would make a stem rattle with excitement. Among the treasures I uncovered was an old velvet lamp, a fallback to the edifice’s previous life as a sizzling “massage parlor”.
Words can not do justice to describe Gene’s basement. Floor to ceiling. Wall to wall. Get yourself to Minneapolis and see it for yourself.
One on One Studio is an unparalleled and unprecedented shop for the cyclist who relies on his machine for transportation, livelihood, or just plain ‘ol mental wellness. With all the cycling-centric activities offered in Minneapolis, it would be easy to time your visit to catch a handful of memorable cycling events both on and off the bike, year ’round.
One on One Studio
117 Washington Ave N. – Warehouse District
Minneapolis, MN 55401
They say a rolling stone gathers no moss. In this case, a road-hardened, neutral support mechanic is tough to catch at idle.
We have seen Jose at the races, exchanged greetings with him, and even passed his caravan on remote stretches of America’s highways, but we’ve never had the chance to actually sit and have a conversation with him. If Jose wasn’t setting up or tearing down at an event, he was bustling to switch a wheel, pulling Gs on a race course in the NRS Volvo, or making last minute tweaks to a competitor’s ailing machine. BKW cornered race mechanic Jose Alcala a few weeks ago while he prepared the neutral race support (NRS) machines for the 2008 season. Although his hands never stopped turning wrenches, we managed to talk for a bit with Jose and learn more about what life on the road is like for he and the team at Specialized Event Management, LLC.
Jose has made his living in the bike world for the past 16 years. Beginning his tenure working for Competition Bike and Sport in Larchmont, New York (a shop that no longer exists). It was here that the fire was kindled and, like many of us, Jose was unable to shake the habit. Jose’s years as a mechanic range from long hours in a shop to long hours on the road. During the years on the road, Jose has worked with the best of the best: 7 years with Campagnolo/Saeco, 2 with Lampre/Caffita, and 1 year with Saunier/Duval.
Jose’s career didn’t always center on the mechanical aspects. He was head coach for New York’s Century Road Club, and during his years on the East Coast, Jose met fellow NRS mechanics, Hank Williams and Butch Balzano. Jose credits Hank with providing him with an early introduction to the ways of PRO wrenching and Butch with getting him out of the shops and on to the road.
Jose continues to work with Butch as part of Specialized Event Management, LLC, a company hired to provide rider support at races and to groups and industry events. Specialized Event Management relies on key sponsors to bring their resources to over 200 events annually. Sponsorship for 2008 comes in the form of vehicles from Volvo Motor Cars, frames and forks from Orbea, and rubber from the folks at Michelin.
A side note on Butch: Butch has been a neutral support mechanic for 20+ years and, to his credit, 20 of those years were spent delivering reliable service on race day to the competitors at Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic. Butch has really poured himself into these events as a true labor of love. In the early years, resources were thinner than they are today, Butch drove his own car, lent his own wheels and bikes and, got by with a little love from Campy in the form of a discount. Despite the high hurdles, Butch kept at it. The cycling world is truly blessed to have people like Butch who keep the flame lit.
Jose and company spend a lot of time on the road, roughly 290 days per year. Like all professions, work becomes a stream of familiar faces and Jose is careful to also keep in mind that his profession is unique in that he sees his clients when they are highly stressed and many are facing the day for which they have spent months training. With this consideration, Jose is careful to treat his clients with respect, remembering to simply be nice and do his job well. Jose laid it out very succinctly: he says his job is “a marketing job with a small dose of mechanics thrown in.” For Jose, his presentations aren’t done in a board room but rather in parking lots, expos, and road courses.
BKW: What items make life on the road tolerable, what can you not be without?
Jose: The Volvo, wheel sets, SRAM components, coffee, and good music.
BKW: What gear will be packed into each of the 5 Volvo NRS vehicles for the 2008 season?
Jose: 5 Orbeas built with SRAM components, 25-30 pairs of Zipp wheels, a mix of 404s, 303s, CSCs, and 808s, tools, spares, 3 Silca pumps, 2 Ultimate work stands, an A-Frame Ultimate display rack, a smattering of components, 4 boxes of SRAM parts, 2 Force and Rival, 2 Red, chains, spokes, saddles and Michelin Tires.
BKW: What gear/tools are most critical to your day?
Jose: Yellow Snap-On #2 flathead screwdriver and my Chicago Case Tool Box in limited edition white.
BKW: What is the best part of your job?
Jose: Seeing familiar faces far from home and the ability to continue playing a key role in racing. Without question, I have the best seat in the house!
BKW: And the worst part of your job?
Jose: Sometimes the travel, there is an element of danger we always have to be aware of.
If your summer plans take you out to the races, make sure you drop by and say hello to Jose and his team. And if your plans include pinning a number on your jersey, then it is a must that you drop by and say hello to Jose and Co. Who knows, it may be you who needs the lightning quick wheel change.
The Specialized Event Management L.L.C team
Jeff “Jasper” Mattson
Jose Alcala by the numbers:
Years in industry: 16
Number of songs in iTunes: 4,000
Miles driven annually: 60,000
Total dollar value of bikes handled annually: $1.5 million
Number of events attended by NRS in 2008: 120 (200 when you count stage races)
I can’t remember sitting down for more than a handful of lunchs in the 20 years I worked in a bike shop. The majority of lunches were consumed while lean against a counter. Lunch in the bike retail world is a phenomenon unto itself.
If business is slow, order lunch. This may be a question for lawmaker Murphy, but what is it with food and shopping algorithms? If lunch were a 12 noon thing, one could argue that people use their lunch to run errands. In a bike shop, there is no set lunch time. In the heat of the Saturday battle, lunch is an afterthought that presents itself long past noon, a fleeting memory like faces in a crowd. Hey, I recognize that rumble in my stomach. That shaky feeling in my hands. Oh yeah, my dear old friend lunch. Good to see you, old man.
Once the food has arrived, it sits in a box, cooling off, breaking down, and seeping its grease into the cardboard that houses the nourishment. There it will sit until it reaches room temperature and begins to congeal. At that point, five minutes will surface, enough time for three bites and a splash of beverage. If you’re lucky, you will repeat these actions until the indigestion sets in, and the tempo of the shop resumes its break-neck pace.
Whatever the meal, whatever the time of day, there’s a very good chance your meal will be consumed in a vertical position.