Great bike shops have a soul. They have a personality. They exude love and enthusiasm for the sport. They’re often housed in cool buildings. Sunflower Outdoor & Bike is a classic example. I still call it by its old name, Sunflower Surplus. When I first wandered into the shop as a college freshman 27 years ago at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, the store mostly sold high-end hiking gear with some Army-Navy surplus mixed in. Over the years, it has expanded and now has a wing devoted to cycling.
The shop was founded in 1972 in historic downtown Lawrence in the Baker-Ridenour building, once the home of a grocery company. A water heater fire burned the building in 1997, but the structure was lovingly restored and still has the same feel it had when I first walked on its hardwood floors. The store’s front awnings have a nice touch, supported with old steel bike frames. You don’t see this type of thing at the bike shops in bland strip malls and big box stores in nearby Kansas City.
A great bike shop is also a shrine, cathedral and museum for the sport. It gets us thinking about the past, present and future of cycling. It’s just not a showcase for the latest pieces of buffed-up, shiny carbon eye candy. In Sunflower, the new bikes are displayed along a long wall of rough exposed brick and sandstone. On the wall are all kinds of memorabilia. Some of it is on loan. Much of it belongs to store owner Dan Hughes, who started working at the shop in 1989 when he was studying anthropology at KU. He eventually bought the store. (Eddy Merckx didn’t actually ride the below bike. But it was certainly Merckx worthy, after a few seatpost adjustments!)
More great memories, history and cycling lore.
The shop is small and doesn’t have a deep inventory of parts. But it has great suppliers who deliver quickly. I needed some Campy bottom bracket bearings, and the Trek shop in Kansas City said it would take a week in a half to order them. The Sunflower guys got them in three days. (More about this later in a separate post). Needless to say, the service is great. When I needed a front derailleur clamp for my new Moots frame, the guys needed to know the seat tube’s diameter. I wasn’t sure, so they said: “OK, we’ll just call Moots.” Within minutes, they had an answer.
When I recently saw the below parts-storage system, I almost cried. I was fresh out of China, where most of the bike shops were a cramped, chaotic mess of parts. At my neighborhood shop in Taiwan, the mechanics worked on the sidewalk next to a convenience store. The below level of organization blew me away.wafflesandsteel | Filed under: Great bike shops, Lawrence, Sunflower Outdoor & Bike | 1 Comment »