Mike Rodriguez has both yours and your bike’s best interest at heart. We went out to his Brooklyn shop “Bicycle Station” for a chat about his 30 years in the bike business, and ended up on one of the most unique rides we’ve ever been on.
Text: Silje Strømmen
Photos: Mari Oshaug
Have you ever found yourself in the position where you feel like you are about to go into free fall? When you are 100 percent sure that what you are doing is, one of the dumbest things you have ever agreed to do and, probably extremely unsafe. Well… I have. As I clinch on to the handlebars of a bike as if my life is depending on it, I realize that my pedaling doesn’t get me anywhere. I am merely a passenger on an extremely exclusive and rare version of a tandem bike, where the person I’m riding with is located next to me, rather than in front/behind. “This will not end good”, I think to myself…. And then, as my co-rider is sensing my fear, he says “relax, I got you” and for a few seconds I believe him.
Because how could I not? After all, Mike Rodriguez, my co-rider, had just been telling me about how he used to take his girlfriend out on this bike. If he risks her welfare on this, I guess I’m safe. Not to mention that Mike has worked with bikes since the age of 10, adding it up to over 30 years of experience in bicycle mechanics.
This whole affair started when we walked into Mike’s bicycle shop “Bicycle Station” and spotted this wonder of a bike hanging on the wall and exclaiming “wow, we have never seen anything like that!” That was the only cue Mike needed to open up and tell the story about its origin:
“In 1975 I was about 15 years old and I went to a trade show with my godfather, who I was working with. I saw a gathering and it turned out to be a couple riding this exact bike. They were balancing and explaining the bike and it ended up getting sold for $1000, which back then was a lot of money.
That was the first and last time I ever saw it, until years later I saw a couple riding the same thing! I asked them where they got it and the kid replied “my dad used to make these back in the 70’s”. It turned out to be the son of the man I first saw riding it!”
The son told Mike that his dad didn’t produce that many of them and Mike secured himself one of the last ones.
With his big smile Mike is the kind of person you would definitely trust your favourite bike with. He leaves nothing in between, he is unpretentious, passionate and direct, and he would never do anything to your bike that you wouldn’t approve of. He got into fixing bikes at age six, started working at his godfather’s bike shop when he was 10 and by the time he was 30 he had opened his first shop.
One can only wonder, after thirty years in the business, what is the most valuable thing he has learned?
“Customer attention”, he answers.
“By looking at this place, you can see that it is a place of passion. It has soul. I don’t have that flashy manicure boutique kind of shop. “How can I help you?”, that is the bottom line. It is a workshop and it is my organised chaos”, he says.
When Mikes’ not working on bikes, he’s riding them. Being his own boss gives him the freedom to “play as I like”. As a young man, bicycle racing was his sport and he did actually “get a trophy once”.
“… for doing a fast lap in Prospect Park. I was 25 and beat out a lot of guys who were fast too. I completed the 3,3 miles lap in 7 minute 40 seconds”, he tells us proudly and quickly comes back to what biking for him is all about:
“Riding gives me the energy to go back to work. You have to have a passion for bikes in order to do a good job. Bikes have their own personality, each and every one of them has their own issues. Some people are really connected to their bikes, and you have to appreciate that, you know?”