Travis Peebles and James Rychak have about them that certain hipster-cyclist vibe. The jocund co-owners of Blazing Saddle Bike Shop on Detroit Avenue, just west of Gordon Square, are so eminently mustachioed and complexly pierced (respectively) that they could very well be poets from Akron.
This is their second full season in the space on Detroit. It's a former hardware store with all the rustic charm of a frontier saloon. Rychak says they wanted to preserve the store's heritage by keeping a sort of "mechanic's garage" feel to their outfit.
Both Rychak and Peebles are bullheaded savants when it comes to mechanics. In fact, they became friends living in Detroit Shoreway a few years back, drinking beers and working on "random projects": restoring obscure vehicles, building guitars from scratch, making custom bikes.
For a while, they were operating out of a garage in the Armstrong Laundry building, across the street from their current location.
"We couldn't even have a sandwich-board sign without our landlord jumping down our throats," says Rychak, "but word spread and our customer base was growing, so we decided to get a storefront and a little more legitimate."
Peebles used to work at his grandfather's car lot when he was younger, and brings an attention to detail that Rychak says is incredibly rare. Coupled with Rychak's experience working in bike shops, they're a potent team for making and outfitting custom bikes.
"We set out to do one thing when we started," says Rychak, "putting people on the bikes that they belong on. And that's what we're still doing."
Blazing Saddle caters primarily to commuters and road-bike enthusiasts — "We may come on a little strong to the super casual rider"—but they're psyched to tune up, restore and customize almost anything.
"We're just the type of people who can see, when something's broken, exactly what's wrong," Rychak says. "We love fixing stuff. We love building stuff."
They're certainly building a name for themselves on Cleveland's westside.