Today someone pointed out that I spend more time at other friends’ bike shops than my own. This is true. It’s not that I find shops to be particularly interesting or intellectually or spiritually fulfilling, like I am supposed to. It’s that… after all this time, I have yet to experience the elusive satori, that illuminating moment that defines and explicates this vocation. It’s a feeling that I had as a teenager, toiling away in a poorly ventilated, windowless bike shop basement. Or at least, that’s what I’d tell myself, high from Mastik fumes, wobbly-legged from a five hour ride… misquoting Marx or Engels or someone else Important… about labor or work or something like that. We’re making Real Things That Will Be Used By Real People, right?

These days, it doesn’t feel like that. It doesn’t feel like that at all. FREE SPEED. FREE SPEED.

FREE SPEED.

Sometimes I feel like a pusher. Sometimes I feel like a pusher of plastic crap. Sometimes I feel like a pusher of plastic crap made to break, and if not to break, then to lead a short life due to planned obsolescence.

Bicycles are machines, I realize. Tools. A means to an end. Toys, at best? Bicycle are not art. Bicycles are not culture. And so it seems that what’s left of the decimated retail landscape falls into a few categories: discounters, delusional holdouts, and candy stores. I guess I run a candy store.

If I were more literate, I’d say something witty about the darkness of Roald Dahl here.

So much of what TATI has become over the past several years is a deconstruction of industry, or a series of experiments and commentaries on the larger and indelible trends shaping the direction of things. #milkbar #zefbikes #tatiprix and all the rest are but temporal exercises, ruminations on the failed endeavors of others. They are hashtags’ hashtags. But I feel as if they are necessary laboratories, as I’ve actually learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot of little things and a couple of big things, all of which are prerequisites to what more or less amounts to the Tativille long con: a trajectory which is finally taking shape, in of all places, a quiet stretch of Lincoln Avenue in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

The New Shop

is situated on a block with seventeen yoga studios, a subterranean scuba diving pool, and a hair dresser who charges $200 to trim your pooch’s mane. It’s also in the shadow of St Alphonsus, which, if nothing else, serves to boost the shop’s faux-Euro cred.

A few things are the same as previous iterations of Tativille: there are wheels being built. There are stems being slammed. There is R. Kelly being played. But some things have changed. Big things. Little things. But lots of things. Have you ever tried to solve a really huge puzzle? Like, a really, really huge puzzle - the kind with hundreds or thousands of pieces, that’s too big even for a large kitchen table, with very little chromatic contrast, such that it’s really not until the very, very end that you are able to see what it it that you’ve been solving this entire time? I think that’s what’s happening here. Even I didn’t see it coming.

It is coming, but it’s not here yet, at least not entirely. But the pillars are taking shape.

  • La Gazzetta.
  • Cherubim.
  • Kualis.
  • Pegoretti.
  • Honey.
  • 101 flavors of embrocation.
  • Pocari Sweat.
  • The chamois creme tasting menu.
  • Cafe du Cycliste.
  • Search & State.
  • Tenspeed Hero.
  • Vulpine.
  • Ambrosio.
  • Veloflex.
  • Campagnolo.

No, it’s not really a high end shop, actually. Above Category is high end. Velosmith is high end. Get a Grip is high end. But it’s also not a heritage pro shop. It’s not Yellow Jersey or Vecchio’s or Shaw’s Lightweights. And it certainly isn’t Blue Lug or Golden Saddle or Angry Catfish or BLB. So what is it?

I dunno, but I don’t hate it. Da da da.