The announcement in March of a partnership with Boulder-based People for Bikes, the organization that will work with the city of Denver to add protected bike lanes, was great news for cyclists. This was music to the ears of Zach Hepner, owner of Velosoul Cyclery on Pearl St. near Washington Park who sees this as genuine incentive to get more people on bikes.
Hepner says, “I love bicycles. I’d been in the industry for a few years, working in shops. I learned what was good and what was bad.” In 2011, he took over ownership of Velosoul Cycles and adds, “This was just the right timing.” He must be doing things right, as Velosoul Cyclery won Denver’s A-List award for Best Bike Shop in 2012 and 2013. He claims, “It’s because we’re different. A lot of bike shops have an attitude. Some are elitist—a lot of shops talk down to people. We like making the experience better and more fun.”
Velosoul primarily sells Jamis bikes. Hepner says, “It’s not a benefit to customers to sell a cheaper used bike. We sell a quality bike, we know they work.” He adds, “We like Jamis—they’re a smaller company which helps us because we’re small. They are family owned, as we are. It helps to have just a few brands in the shop. They are one of the only manufacturers making steel bikes.” They also carry Velo Orange, a boutique company making frame-only bikes, which the shop can customize for clients. They have recently become a Velo Orange Grand Cru dealer, so will always have a custom bike available for a test ride. One might think that their customers are mostly professional cyclists, but not so. “We have a wide range of customers; people who are brand new to Denver and cycling. We have seasoned veterans who know what they want. We help some pros, and we help get them sponsored.” They will do some children’s bike sales, but those are usually special orders. “The bikes at the big box stores get built by the guy who showed up last to work. We are specialists, we build bikes.”
But service doesn’t end with the sale. Hepner and his staff love helping people with bikes. “I do free classes: get to know your bike, commuting classes, tire change clinics. I find that selling bikes is okay, but there’s more to my job than that.” He’ll help you find a good route to get to work, too. According to Hepner, there are many bike commuters, and while the bicycle infrastructure in Denver is good, he anticipates that the new protected lanes will be amazing. Most people are concerned about biking to work because of car drivers who don’t seem to care. He adds, “I live about six miles from my shop, so I ride to work, different routes depending on how much time I have. I went four years without a car, so I rode in all weather. I built a bike for winter commuting, and teach some winter commuting classes here. It’s do-able and it’s fun.” Then he says, “Sometimes it gets chilly, but that’s okay.”
So how does Denver compare to other cities for being bicycle-friendly? He notes that Portland, Oregon, or Minneapolis, Minnesota are great, but says that Denver is by far the best. “There are great road rides and trails, like the Platte River or Sand Creek. You can pound out 100 miles, or do a leisurely 10-mile with the family.” Of course, one of the advantages to Denver is world-class mountain biking, as well as world-class road biking. “Even biking in the city is great with the 6th Ave. trail, or the Lakewood Dry Gulch trail.” Bicycle accessibility on light rail makes it easier to get to some of the trails, another plus for Denver’s bike-friendly attitude.
Velosoul is a great community participant as well. In 2012 and 2013, they provided tech support for the Death for Ride Tour—The Ride for Life. This three-day tour leaves from Silverton, travels to Telluride, then Durango, and back to Silverton to benefit Children’s Hospital of Colorado and other Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Velosoul has also become a regular sponsor of the periodic Washington Park area bike rides organized by Cruiser Rocks. These are like block parties on bikes, as riders stop at several pubs along the route. The cycle shop provides bike check services, and donates bikes to be auctioned off at the end of the day. While providing a lot of fun activities, the ride does exist to raise funds for the LOVE HOPE STRENGTH Foundation.
Then, of course, there’s the annual Bike To Work Day, where once again Velosoul will partner with Whole Foods. Bikers can stop by the market for breakfast, and get a free bike check before heading to work. If there is one thing Hepner would want readers to remember, it’s this: “We’re different. We appreciate our customers. We love bikes, and my staff is well-qualified.” Now just get on that bike and ride.
1109 S. Pearl St., Denver
BIO: Joy Lawrance is a freelance writer living in Golden. She writes regularly for the New West Publishing family of magazines.
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