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Female-Focused BFF Bike Shop Opens, Embraces 'Roller Karaoke'

By Alisa Hauser | March 20, 2014 11:46am | Updated on March 20, 2014 12:05pm
 BFF Bikes, a women-focused bike shop, opened Saturday at 2113 W. Armitage Ave. in Bucktown.
BFF Bikes Opens in Bucktown
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BUCKTOWN —  Within an hour of opening last weekend, business was booming at BFF Bikes, a new female-focused bike shop in Bucktown, as one customer brought in a bike with a flat tire and another, a rusty chain.

"My chain is slipping. It's old and rusty," said Lisa Hilleren, a 24-year-old Avondale resident who rode what she calls her "spring bike" to the new shop at 2113 W. Armitage Ave., which opened Saturday.

Publisher of the Tiny Fix Bike Gang blog, Hilleren said she was taking her spring bike in for a tune up, in hopes of ditching her "winter" bike soon.

Located just west of the Damen and Armitage intersection, BFF Bikes' full-service mechanic station offers tune ups, flat tire fixes and replacements, front and back hub overhauls, brake adjustments and more.

BFF Bikes has two mechanics, Steven Blum and Lauren Wiscomb, who know each other from working at another bike shop.

Blum is serving as the shop's head mechanic, while Wiscomb, who relocated to the Chicago area after working at a bike shop in Madison, Wis., is filling in part time as business picks up.

While assessing the chain on Hilleran's bike, Wiscomb said, "One of the most intimidating places in a bike shop can be at the mechanic station."

Wiscomb said "women sometimes feel like they are being spoken down to" when talking with mechanics, most of whom are male.

Wiscomb said the job appealed to her because it was woman-specific and because she would be working alongside Blum.

Blum is described on the shop's blog as "our requisite Bearded Burly Mechanic!"

Owned by Annie Byrne and Vanessa Buccella, two friends who met when they were part of a Half Acre racing team, BFF Bikes exceeded its goal of crowd-sourcing $12,000 for start-up costs.

A grand opening "She-Bang" party with roller karaoke, a fashion show, beer and a live DJ is scheduled for 7-10:30 p.m. March 28.

Roller karaoke involves singing while riding inside on a bike attached to rollers; watch Buccella perform Beyonce's song "Countdown," in this YouTube video, which has received almost 40,000 views. 

Byrne and Buccella said their shop, packed with bicycles, apparel and accessories, hoped to serve what they believed was "an unmet demand from a growing and underserved market: women who bike or are interested in starting."

The name BFF (Best Friends Forever), which is also the name of a female racing team that will serve as the official BFF shop team, was chosen "because it's fun [and] playful with a little bit of feminine feel to it, but not girly-girly," Byrne said.

Men should not be deterred from hanging out at the shop, the owners said.

"All of the bikes are unisex and not women-specific bikes. We know not all women need or want women-specific bikes. We totally hope men shop at our store, too," Byrne said.

BFF Bikes sells three brands of bikes including Public Bikes, a seven-speed lightweight cruiser bike that is geared more for commuting and touring than racing.

Among the models on display Saturday was the Bianchi Torino Dama, a lightweight aluminum frame bike with a comfortable saddle seat, described on a baby blue sales tag as, "Super fun for tooling around town!"

BFF Bikes, 2113 W. Armitage Ave. Hours vary; open every day except for Tuesday.  Ph: 773-666-5153.