“Ferndale’s an awesome town for riding bikes,” says Jon Hughes, owner of the Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop. “In the middle of summer there’s fifteen, twenty bikes locked up in front of the bar. You just don’t see that in other places… everyone’s real laid back and really nice. It’s just a great environment to be around.”
While DFBS is only now toughing through their first winter, bikes and bike shops have been in Hughes’ family for generations. His grandfather Mike Walden, who is enrolled in the cycling hall of fame for coaching multiple Olympic superstars, previously owned Continental Bike Shop in Hazel Park and opened several others in the metro Detroit area. Hughes was raised building fixed-gear racing bikes with his father (who owned shops of his own) and eventually built them throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East. After becoming one of the nation’s top-ten riders, Hughes spent years as both head mechanic and manager of several shops. “I ended up working more than I was riding for a while,” he says, “and it just came time to open up my own place.”
DFBS sponsors some of the best teams in the country and often holds in-store trick sessions on a rickety quarter-pipe, complete with stationary roller race competitions (or “gold sprints”), conducts weekly rides from the store, and will soon be offering mechanics classes.“That’s what I like doing,” says Hughes. “All sorts of crazier stuff that other shops don’t really want to do.”
“It’s gonna be professional quality when it comes to the workmanship on the bike,” says Hughes. “When it comes to riding, we’re just trying to ride and have a good time… we’ll congregate and just decide, alright… we’re gonna ride up to this school, or we’re gonna ride up to this bar, and we’re gonna go have a couple of beers and we’re gonna ride back.
“That’s totally that’s what I’m about,” Hughes stresses. “Every time you get on your bike it should be a good experience. I wanna make it that way, whether you’re buying a bike from us or if you’re just coming in to go riding with us.”
You’re having a party this weekend?
Yeah we’re having a party on Friday night from seven til midnight. We sponsor a trick fixed-gear team and they’re gonna be in here. We’ve got these ramps, we’ve got a grind box coming in, we’re gonna be doing a little photo shoot. Should be pretty cool. So that’s kinda what we’re doing in the winter right now, getting amped up. Getting ready for spring.
We’re gonna do our $50 tune up for $25 this year. It’ll be February first through April first. Coming up in springtime we’ve got all the new 2011s are starting to come in, which, some of them are here and there. We’re doing fifty bucks off of any 2010 right now, twenty-five bucks off any new 2011 and that special will be through April 1st too. So we’re trying to blow out some new and some older bikes, this time of year as well.
The mechanic classes, is that happening?
We actually had to postpone it. We had a bunch of people that were gonna do it and then when it came down to the different times and dates, it didn’t’ quite work out. So were hoping to be able to do it in spring or summer when everyone has a little more free time. So I was actually really disappointed. I was really hoping to do it right now. But hopefully next year, I’d really like to do two sessions of it next winter and that’s gonna be a really cool class. I’ve got a whole thing written out. I was ready to go and then I was like, man everyone backed out in the last second! It was only like, three people and I was like, I don’t wanna… it’s too much of a commitment for three people to do it.
What does it entail?
That was basically gonna be, teach you how to do pretty much everything on your bike. We’d start out with the wheels, doing tires too, learning how to treat wheels, how to adjust your breaks, how to adjust your gears, and then we’d go through and we’d take apart your whole bike. It would come with a tool kit and a maintenance manual. And that’s valued at like $135 retail usually so it’s like you’re paying sixty bucks for the classes. So it’s a killer deal, but it just didn’t happen quite yet. So we’ll see. I got a ton of emails on it, just when it came down to it most people were like, “you know if you do it in April I’d love to do it!” So I’m hoping that, I’d really like to, it all depends on… we were so busy last April that if we’re that same amount of busy it wouldn’t be something til midsummer at the earliest. So we’ll see how that goes. It’s something that I’d definitely like to do sometime in the future. We do that, and then we also do… we do a lot of rides out of here. We ride out of here usually, well if you’re on our Facebook page you know… I try to post them early but a lot of times I’m like, “hey, were riding tonight out of the shop, if you want to show up and come on out and have a good time, have fun riding your bike…” that’s kinda what our whole thing is. We’re gonna make sure your bike’s running. It’s gonna be professional quality when it comes to the workmanship on the bike, but when it comes to riding, you know we’re just trying to ride and have a good time.
Where do you guys go? Just different places every time?
All over the place. We do a lot of rides into Detroit, we do a lot into Royal Oak and up that way. We’ll congregate and just decide, alright we’re gonna go check out… we’re gonna ride up to this school, or something, we’re gonna ride up to this bar and we’re gonna go have a couple of beers and we’re gonna ride back. And that’s usually what our rides consist of. And it’s just more about having run. we sponsor a trick team and we also sponsor… we have a new team that’s coming out that’s a road track racing team and these guys are gonna be, probably the fastest guys in Michigan. Definitely the top three in the fastest teams in Michigan. They’ll be the fastest on the actual track and hopefully they’ll be up in the top five of the nation this year. So we’ve got a really high-end elite team that we’re sponsoring. We also got a nice trick team that we’re sponsoring, doing all sorts of kind of crazier stuff that other shops don’t really want to do. And that’s what I like doing. I’ve been doing the bike thing forever.
How’d you get started?
My grandpa owned bike shops, he used to own Continental down the street. He opened up most of the bike shops in the metro Detroit area. He was a big time coach. He coached Olympic champions, multiple, multiple world champions, and he was in the cycling hall of fame as a coach. My parents owned bike shops.
What’s your grandpa’s name?
Mike Walden. There’s actually a picture of him up there and those are some of his riders. Those are the world championship jerseys that they won. And then they also… then my parents owned bike shops and me and my dad, we built fixed gear bikes. Those are actually, I have pictures of those somewhere around too. I built those over in China, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Italy, Germany, all over the place. So started out doing that and I’ve always worked in bike shops. I was top ten in the country for a while, racing on the road and the track. I was also a big mountain biker, and you know, you gotta work to pay the bills, so I needed… I was working more than I was riding for a while, and I was head mechanic at a couple shops, managed at a couple different shops, and it just came time to open up my own place. And it’s fun. We get to have fun, you know? And that’s totally that’s what I’m about. I’m about… every time you get on your bike it should be a good experience. So I wanna make it that way, whether you’re buying a bike from us or if you’re just coming in to go riding with us. So I can’t complain, yet.
When did the store open?
This is our first year. We opened on April first of last year. We’re coming up on a year and it’s been really good. Last summer I was… I couldn’t have been happier with how busy we were. I mean, Ferndale’s an awesome town for riding bikes. It’s a huge cycling community. No other towns you go around where out in front of the bar in the middle of summer there’s fifteen, twenty bikes locked up in front of the bar. You just don’t see that in other places. That’s one really cool thing about this place. Everyone’s real laid back and really nice and it’s just a great environment to be around. We’ve done really well. We’ve been really happy with it. Hopefully, I mean, I can’t imagine that next summer’s gonna be less crazy, and then just continue on with it. The winter’s always slow. You just gotta push through it. We’ve only got a month left, hopefully.
How do you plan to spend the next month?
We actually have a lot of stuff going on outside of the shop. With the shop itself, our hours, we cut down a little bit. We’re 11-6 Monday through Friday, 11-4 on Saturday. Normally our summer hours would be 11-7 or 11-8 in a couple days, and that’s Monday through Friday, and then 11-5 on Saturday and 11-4 on Sunday. So our hours are cut down a little bit but we’re doing, we actually have, these right here these are rollers. This whole system it’s actually not set up right now but this all runs. There’s timers that get put down here, these little electric light switches I guess you could call them, they catch the magnet as it goes around. And they run to sort of like a router which goes to the computer. And I hook the computer up to the big screen, and that actually, when these races are set up, they’re set up so you race against the guy next to you. And it shows everything up on the big screen. It looks like a giant clock and you have different second hands for each racer. You can have up to four racers. And one full rotation is the entire race. So you have the guys racing and you can see their progress as they’re going. And it’s a heads up race. The speed tells how fast they are, what the distance is and the winner overall, and then we set these up and they do… it’s like a whole series of indoor racing. Called roller racing, or gold sprints. And we’re actually, we’re doing these, we did it a couple weeks ago at the Loving Touch. We’ll be doing this Sunday in East Lansing for the Michigan mountain bike… they have an annual convention and then after that we’re actually… I don’t have the exact date pinned down yet but we’re talking to the New Way Bar cos they got a stage and everything, where we’re gonna hopefully do a big event there somewhere in the middle to the end of February. Then actually February 25th we have an event down at the Park Bar in Detroit.
So you bring these down to the bar and set em up and you have people sign up to race?
Yeah people sign up and they race and they do heads up racing. We actually have, like I said we have the ability to do four of them, so probably most of that time we’ll do two, but when we have some more experienced riders we’ll have the other ones out as well. And it’s really a lot of fun. It’s a short, really exciting, just beat your own ass type of workout. it’s only like a minute that you’re on the bike, you’re just going as hard as you can for the minute, and then you get off and you wait a little while. Basically it comes down to bracket racing. So you’ll put in, you’ll get your initial time, and then by that time we’ll set you up with someone that you’ll race against. If you beat that person then you go on to the next race and so on. And then there’ll end up being a champion. The one that we got going on that’s going to be going on at the New Way, probably actually the Park Bar too, we’ll have a bunch of different age categories. We’ll have junior categories, different levels of skill, different skill levels, and also hopefully we’ll have a nice sized prize list too. We’re trying to get to like a 3-500 dollar prize list together so that way people will have a little more incentive. We do that and then with the shop, we do all the ride sessions inside the shop here pretty much every other week. We’ll be doing that for the rest of winter, and then starting as the 2011s trickle in we’re starting to build em up, kinda get those going, learn all the new stuff and just get ready. We’ll be remodeling the whole back of the shop in the next couple weeks here and then our tune up special will start. So hopefully we’ll start getting crazy busy with tune ups. And that’s kind of our goal.
I’m thinking probably the first week of March I’m gonna have a huge used bike sale as well, cos I got a ton of used bikes that we’ve been working on. And I think I’m gonna probably like, chop down the prices on a bunch of used bikes and try to move some of those real quick so we can get a bunch of new stuff in. So probably like the first couple weeks of March we’ll do some crazy deals on ‘em where it’s just like, get em out the door. Half price. So that’ll be coming up too. I can’t think of much more. Just tell people to come out and ride with us.
163 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale; winter hours: M-F 11-6, Sat 11-4, with sales on bikes and half-off tune-ups until April 1st. Look for upcoming roller race competitions at the New Way Bar in Ferndale on 02.15 and the Park Bar in Detroit on 02.25. Befriend the shop on Facebook.