Paradise by Reflector Light
You’ve likely seen that prolific biking idiom on a Harley Davidson cutoff tee—or more ironically—a bumper sticker attached to a Prius.
Although predominantly used in motorcycle circles by hefty chaps named Tiny, I can’t help but extend its philosophy to the everyday bicycle. After all, cycling has transcended the mere “environmentally conscious option of getting from A to B” into its own unique and flourishing counterculture, one that accentuates existential release.
But in order for a flourishing culture exist, there is typically a hub through ideas can be propagated and digested, a meeting spot where its affiliates can assemble and embrace their shared cultural mores.
It was this type of fraternal camaraderie that allured Dan Monning, owner of Short North’s Paradise Garage, into cycling culture.
“There was a great shop that I discovered in high school that really turned into a peer group and social atmosphere—from giving us rides to organizing races to helping us work on our bikes,” he said.
So, with the help of his wife Emily, the pair created a space within Columbus for cycling enthusiasts to congregate. Sure, they fix bikes and sell bikes and biking accessories, but to them and many others, their business means so much more.
“In my opinion, Paradise Garage is the most active bike shop in Columbus due to their contributions to Columbus cycling culture,” said Jen Malik, who joined the Paradise Garage mountain biking team last year.
Paradise Garage’s involvement with the cycling scene is the foundation of their success. It is the countless events, fundraisers, gallery showings, and even dance parties that separates them from the pack.
“You always hear companies saying, ‘We care about the community, our customers, and making a difference,’ but a lot of that is just empty corporate jargon,” said Chris Arndt, Paradise Garage’s cyclo-cross captain. “Paradise Garage owners and employees genuinely care about the community and those who are customers of the shop.”
You may recognize Paradise Garage from their High Street real estate, but they’re not just a retail store—far from it, in fact. Their business plan encompasses that jolt of uninhibited energy while riding on a dirt trail, racing for your life, mud whizzing past the spokes and onto your helmet in a fury of competition. This is what they are about—organizing, arranging, and unifying a culture of speed freaks, all exemplified by an outstanding track record of event organization.
“Hands down, there is no other cycling club in Columbus that is more involved on all levels and disciplines of racing (road, mountain bike, cylcocross, track), community rides (Pelotonia, Bike the CBus, TOSRV, Goldsprints, weekly Paradise Garage group rides), and volunteer events (ClungerBeats, COMBO Trail Days, Kids on Bikes),” Arndt said.
“It’s a new form of adventure,” said Emily, reflecting on the rush of competitive trail racing. “It feels like you could be almost anywhere in the world when you are going down a gravel road, especially when there are like chickens and a horse that crosses the road, and you’re like, ‘I could be on any continent in the world, but I am only an hour from my house.”
Walking into the shop, I was immediately struck by its familiarity—from the stained timber walls, the tall standing ceilings to the smell of newly crafted rubber. It has that cool, artsy bike shop vibe one can come to expect from the most prolific bike shop in the Short North. A younger mechanic with an armful of colorful tattoos and bright green gauges worked somberly on a custom Schwinn as Dan and Emily came out to greet me.
Back in 2008, the couple was looking for a place to settle down and own a business that coincided with their shared passion. Not surprisingly, they landed on Columbus.
“Well, one reason was the actually topography. It’s not intimidating,” said Emily. “There are not many hills, lots of great multi-purpose trails, especially north to south, and there are lots of types of riding you can get into. All of that is kind of represented in Columbus.”
Both agree that it wasn’t their divine hand that created a community. After all, cycle culture had already existed in Columbus long before 2008. What is important to note is the reciprocal nature of their relationship with the community, in that they have received just as much support as they have doled out.
“The very first year we opened, we morphed and changed based on the people that worked for us—the people that hung out at the shop and our team,” Emily said. “All of these personalities come together to create this community. Sure, it’s a clubhouse for some, but its really more a place where people have enthusiasm that they want to share with others.”
On that note, the couple emphasized that you don’t have to be a cycling aficionado draped in reflective spandex to enter the scene. Dan and Emily and the Paradise team welcome all into the community, even the newbies, like me.
“If you have never ridden before, are interested, and you want to know how to get into it, you will totally find people here who would love to share that information,” she said.
With that in mind, I asked them for a quick buying guide to get me in gear for the upcoming season. After all, my car is on her last leg. With a genuine set of smiles, the couple divulged the type of things you should have in mind when walking into a shop for the first time:
What style of riding are you interested in?
Are you looking to ride the bike trails, get to work in a timely manner, or race on top of a mountain? This question really helps you get in tune with what type of bike you want to buy.
1. Ask all the questions that you have.
A lot of people have a misconception that you are supposed to go in with a lot of prior knowledge. Our people absolutely love answering questions—it makes us feel useful. We are interested in what you are interested in, and after all, we are the experts.
2. Ride some bikes.
The proof is in the pudding. Riding the bikes helps you match up with what you like, and help gauge the size of bike that fits you best. What feels good to you? At that point you can narrow in on the bike you want.
Get a helmet, a lock, lights, comfortable clothing, that sort of thing. There are lots of things even casual riders will need to be safe on the trails. After all, safety is sexy. •
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