Performance Bicycle

Best Bikes, August 2005

Performance Bicycle  in Santa Monica is the place to get a good deal on a two-wheeler. We’ve fared well at Helen’s Cycles, too, which got its start 68 years ago in Santa Monica before growing into a six-store chain. Then we went to Bicycle John’s Serious Cycling and realized what we’ve been missing. John Fries’s Burbank shop is small, and it’s tough finding anything cheaper than $750; most bikes are at least three times that. But rather than loading up on mass-produced bikes by Specialized and Trek as everybody else does, Fries concentrates on revered brands—Moots, Pinarello, Seven, Look—and tailors them to each customer. “We build from the frame up,” says Fries. “We go through the whole selection with the customer and talk about their style of riding.” Fitting sessions can be intense, and although the mechanics can get backed up with repairs, they’re also considered unrivaled in the dying art of wheel rebuilding. Deciding between carbon fiber and titanium? Most shops will let you do a lap around the block to test a bike; Fries may point a customer to nearby Griffith Park to log 10 or 15 miles. “I try to make sure you understand what it is you’re buying,” he says. “I want customers to feel the bike underneath them.” The paradox is that amid such solemnity we never detect even a hint of the snobbery that’s flung around at other stores.